Monthly Archives: December 2013

downwithit.info: Welcome to the story so far

As 2013 comes to a close, a quick review of progress so far seems appropriate.

downwithit.info went live on 19th September 2013- just over 3 months ago.

Since then I’ve posted 25 items. Of these, 12 have looked at specific albums, evenly split 6 + 6 between vinyl and CD.

My attempt to uncover some new information on Freddie Roach has resulted in FR being the only artist, so far, to have more than one album discussed here (I’ve looked at 3 by FR so far). Sadly, no new information has emerged yet.

Lead instruments on the 12 albums are tenor saxophone (4) and Hammond organ (4, although there are those within earshot of my hi fi who would claim that I play ‘that b*^*d* harpsichord thing’ to the exclusion of all else. Not true!). Trumpet (2), guitar (1) and piano (1) make up the remainder, although there was left field action from jazz tambourine when I paid a visit to The Texas Twister, Don Wilkerson.

I’ve offered up two quizzes, looked at one book (by Phyl Garland) and commented on 5 live performances.

As of this morning I’ve had 706 visits from all over the world. On one red letter day I received 28 visits. Most visitors are obviously either shy, in awe of the power of my prose, think that I have contributed nothing new or just can’t be bothered. So there are not many comments here yet.

I had been intending to look at Yusef Lateef’s excellent and interesting The Blue Yusef Lateef next, but sadly, he passed away just before Christmas. Here’s the set opener anyway courtesy Kanemusi1 on YouTube:-

To hear the clip, click on or touch the arrow. Try and check out Othelia from the same album too, especially if you like seriously gritty Barrelhouse blues (I think I’ll dedicate it to you Meirion).

Remember, all comments are very welcome.

Onwards to 2014!

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The Christmas Song: Pharoah Sanders

Happy Christmas everybody and thanks for dropping by. From downwithit.info.

Pharoah Sanders adopts a light touch for his version of Nat King Cole’s classic (penned by Mel Torme and Robert Wells), brought here from YouTube courtesy of Peter W. Bosse. This is the closing track of Pharoah’s A Prayer Before Dawn set from 1987.

Click on or touch arrow to play the song.

Such a beautiful and seasonal ballad. Make it your business to try to see Pharoah live in 2014 if he appears at a venue near you!

The band etc: Pharoah Sanders (tenor saxophone); Bill Henderson (piano, synthesizer); John Hicks (piano); William Henderson (Kurzweil synthesizer); Alvin Queen (drums). September 1987 Recorded at Hyde Street Studios, San Francisco. Produced by Pharoah Sanders assisted by Allen Pittman and Mark Needham. Cover design: Tami Needham. Cover Photograph Richard Blair. Released as: Theresa TRCD 127

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Africa: Pharoah Sanders

Pharoah Africa signed

At the end of each month I anticipate the arrival of Agent Millions, a man or woman of mystery who turns up at the door of the winner of the jackpot prize on the Premium Bonds. Like Diana Ross, I’m still waiting. This month I had already decided how and where I would be celebrating. Pharoah Sanders is playing a short residency on his home turf at Yoshi’s in Oakland, which lies just across the bay from San Francisco. Oh well! I won’t be funding it from the Bonds- but there is still another remaining chance via the lottery!

The staggering thing is that tickets are still available for 5 performances and they only cost £19.90 each. How can this be? Pharoah is a genius, a master of his chosen tool. He can find half-tones and sounds that are hidden away and incorporate them to extend the range of an instrument that even within its standard tonal range resonates with the soul.

I have been wondering for years how it is that one of the remaining greats who is still capable of playing a storming set is not celebrated and is eclipsed by a multitude of lesser talents.

I’ve decided to apportion blame. It’s YOUR fault, or at least those of you who haven’t yet begun to explore Pharoah’s music.

The first Pharoah Sanders I bought was Africa and that’s the one that we will take a spin through here. The eagle-eyed will note that I have updated the picture of the CD cover, which Pharoah kindly signed for me when he played at Ronnie Scott’s on 9 July 2016.

I picked up my CD copy in New York on a visit in the early 90’s. As I was buying on the strength of the track You’ve Got to Have Freedom, which I’d heard via the radio or in a club, I picked up the first set I saw that featured it. What I didn’t realises at the time was that the version on Africa is not the original (which actually appears on Journey to The One, an album recorded in 1980). Both are great, though differing takes. However, it is the visceral free blowing version from Africa that I listen to most often. I can’t hear the honking, shrieking tones that Pharoah deploys at the start of this performance without forming a mental image of a large crane like wading bird being suddenly startled during its early morning feed and crying out its alarm all to all near and far. Here’s a chance to create your own image, courtesy of Darrin Germany on YouTube:-

I wonder what you made of this, especially if it is the first time you’ve heard it! John Hicks piano is very special too.

Albert Ayler famously proclaimed:- “Trane was the Father, Pharoah was the Son, I am the Holy Ghost.” Of that divine trinity, Pharoah is the sole survivor. John Coltrane recognised Pharoah’s talents in the mid- 1960’s and recorded with him. Over the years Pharoah has recorded his own versions of many pieces from his great mentor’s songbook. The second track here is Naima, one of many beautiful slower paced tunes composed by Trane. Pharoah plays with great sensitivity and actually adds something of his own here too.

Origin has a great drum sound, more wonderful piano and a demonstration of mastery of the full range (and beyond, with half-tones and overblowing) of his tenor from Pharoah. Two ballads, Speak Low and After The Morning follow. The title track Africa, is an Pharoah Sanders original- not a revision of John Coltrane’s track which shares the same name. It starts as a great call and response chant, embroidered by Pharoah playing, largely in the higher register of his tenor. This gives way to a second phase, initially with lyrical playing from Pharoah, which then heads for the stars, set up by great bass playing from Curtis Lundy.

Heart to Heart is a delightful ballad while set closer, Duo, is a remorseless duet (which could be said to frighten the horses a little) between Pharoah and Idris Muhammed, who plays drums very capably throughout the entire set.

So there we go, a first visit to Pharoah Sanders here at downwithit.info (which was a pre-Christmas target that I was working to). If you’ve got a few bob to spend after Christmas and haven’t got this set, it is readily available and there really is no excuse.

If anyone can explain why Pharoah Sanders is not yet commonly rated with the greats, please let us know. Could it be his beard? Or his name? Perhaps it’s his age- just a bit younger than the greats of the 60’s? Could it be his choice of record labels? Could it be critics who damn with the faintest of praise and suggest that he is a saxophonist obscured by Coltrane’s mighty shadow. Whatever it is, 1t is certainly not his playing. So, let’s start right here and put that right. Of course, if you are in Oakland from 3-5 January 2014, remember downwithit.info said Yoshi’s is where its at. I will definitely get myself there one day soon too! All being well, we will see Pharoah back in the UK again in 2014 and I might see you at one of his gigs.

The band etc:- Pharoah Sanders (tenor sax); John Hicks (piano); Curtis Lundy (bass); Idris Muhammed (drums). Recorded March 11 1987 by Max Bolleman at Studio 44, Monster (sic?), Holland Produced by Wim Wight. Sleeve Notes: Kevin Sleeve Design: Erik Vos. Released as Timeless CDSJP 253.

By using the search box at the top of this page you will be able to look at content from scores of separate downwithit posts for views and reviews of work by numerous modern jazz artists.

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Brown Sugar: Freddie Roach

FR Brown Sugarjpg

“It was raining as we arrived at the recording studio. A soft warm rain. Not enough to really bother anyone. Just enough to make the earth a darker brown and polish the streets to a high gloss.

The sounds of the nearby highway mixed with a steady dripping from the roof of the studio on a garbage can roof below. Providing a sort of natural set of drums. I stood in the rain listening. Bap…bap…du bap du…bap bap.”

So Freddie Roach begins the self-penned sleeve notes to his wonderful blues and soul centred fourth album for Blue Note. This set boasts a young Joe Henderson on tenor sax and leaves all in no doubt that this great reedsman knew how to play a low-down rhythm and blues lick when needed- especially on Brown Sugar, the opening track.

The Right Time is a slow simmering blues covered by Ray Charles and featuring more great saxophone from Joe Henderson, before it is time for Freddie to soar on his solo on Have You Ever Had The Blues?

I’m not sure about The Midnight Sun Will Never Set, a Quincy Jones track that verges on, or perhaps even steers headlong into the bland. Probably not the greatest opener to a side of music- even a b side! However, things look up with Next Time You See Me a fine blues which smoulders nicely without getting out of hand.

Then its the grand finale, a sultry blues, brushes on the drums and Joe Henderson laying down some lush, luxuriant sound on All Night Long, truly an exceptional soul ballad.

Its nearly Christmas, so don’t hesitate to seek out and purchase Brown Sugar, a further fine LP from the sadly neglected Freddie Roach. As for me, I’ve still to source and hear his last two Prestige titles and his final Blue Note recording All That’s Good which sounds a ‘bit different’ apparently.

I’m still seeking more info on Freddie Roach (see earlier postings). If you can contribute anything, please feel free to let us hear more below.

The band etc:- Freddie Roach (Hammond organ); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Eddie Wright (guitar); Clarence Johnson (drums). Recorded: On a rainy night in March 1964 (18-19 March). Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder Studio. Sleeve Notes: Freddie Roach. Cover photos: Ronnie Braithwaite. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4168.

My copy of Brown Sugar is an original Blue Note mono first pressing bought earlier this year from the USA. It was pitched to the ebay auction as being in near mint condition- but that stretches matters somewhat and in reality it should be rightly graded as VG+ though the cover is in fine nick. Despite that it still sounds brilliant, as one would expect of a BN first pressing. Sorry about the ‘orrible badly lit cover photo by the way- I was in a hurry to get this out and will be aiming to do much better in 2014!

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Nelson Mandela RIP

This week witnessed the passing of a true hero and a person who changed the world for the better.

I’m listening to Abdullah Ibrahim’s Mannenberg is Where It’s Happening and you can too courtesy of artist4africa on YouTube, in a film which Shows Abdullah Ibrahim’s visit to Robben Island:-

A beautiful track, wonderfully well played, ideal for quiet reflection while still remaining joyful.

Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela

artist4africa says:-

For the first time ever, Abdullah Ibrahim, formally known as Dollar Brand, went to Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned. All forms of music were banned. A lawyer smuggled one of Abdullah’s songs into the control room, blocked the doors and played it over the loud speakers. Mandela’s first sound of music in decades.

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Kenny Burrell at London Jazz Collector

There are now a few posts in which guitarist, Kenny Burrell features here at downwithit.info

At the risk of losing you for a while to an excellent blog, you may like to take a look at London Jazz Collector:-

http://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/kenny-burrell-midnight-blue-1963-blue-note/

Great info about a very fine album at a top quality blog destination- but don’t forget to come back here.

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