Monthly Archives: April 2014

Record Store Day 2014

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Record Store Day 2014 took place on Saturday 19 April 2014. It didn’t take too much prompting for me to make a quick trip to an excellent second-hand record store close to where I was staying for the holiday weekend.

I was after a first UK pressing of a John Coltrane LP, first released about 50 years ago, which they had advertised. It had gone, but after a bit of crate digging, I was happy to settle for an inexpensive first pressing of one of Jimmy Smith’s less popular Blue Note LPs that I didn’t have (though four of the six tracks feature both Kenny Burrell and Philly Joe Jones). I’ve yet to play it but the record looks in extremely good shape (at least VG+) though the cover is a bit tatty. That Easter Bunny was good to me this year!

Update (27/04/14): I played Jimmy after cleaning and the sound quality did turn out to be VG+ Softly As A Summer Breeze is a relatively lightweight recording which remained unreleased for seven years by Blue Note. Best regarded as one for the fan, rather than as an essential purchase or listen. Whilst it is gentle on the ear, you may prefer a stronger Kenny Burrell set that you can read about here.

The band etc: Jimmy Smith (Hammond Organ); Kenney Burrell (guitar); Philly Joe Jones (drums) tracks 1-4. Burrell and Jones replaced by Donald Bailey (dr) & Eddie McFadden (gtr) on tracks 5&6. Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio in Hackensack, New Jersey on 26 February 1958.

Support your local record store, if you are fortunate enough to have one!

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Veronica: The Hot Club of San Francisco

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After a brush with the avant-garde sounds and stylings to be found on Bobby Hutcherson’s Happenings, downwithit has decided to have a short excursion to one of my favourite cities, San Francisco.

Actually, I was planning to write about The Hot Club of San Francisco’s Veronica over the Christmas period. There was a long and convoluted reason for this, which involved a short story that I will write one day and the need for a jazz recording containing a reference to a Panda. I couldn’t find much- perhaps, had he lived, John Coltrane may have followed Giant Steps with a set entitled Giant Panda. Sadly we will never know. Anyway, to trim a tall tale, Veronica is released on the Panda Digital label, it’s cover features the Golden Gate Bridge and a painting of a West Coast belle. I parted with my £14.99 and soon the CD arrived.

Hot Club style Gypsy Swing is a bit of a departure at downwithit. I remain focused on Modern Jazz- but sometimes the saying: ‘a change is as good as a rest’ is appropriate. Actually, this music takes me back to my early explorations into jazz at the end of the 1970’s, when I bought and listened avidly to a double Vogue LP featuring Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli and their recordings from The Hot Club of Paris. Very fine music indeed! There’s a fascinating scholarly article from History Today about Django, jazz and the resistance to the Nazi occupation of Paris here.

Veronica is a chip from that block and a product of a Gypsy Jazz scene that has flourished on the West Coast of the USA. The title track displays the exuberant optimism that typifies this style. It strikes me as something of a hybrid with a bit of a Spanish flamenco feel in the mix, perhaps?

I’m Not Impressed is another track to get your blood moving and forget your cares to. If there was a fox in my garden it would definitely be trotting a grand old trot to this. Ersatz Samba is as described, another joyful sound. A Little Waltz For Misha is charming, deft and light, while Swing This swings.

Don’t Panic ups the tempo. With well over 20 Grant Green recordings in my collection, I’m fairly confident that he never played in this style, but I’m sure he would have enjoyed the challenge. Equally,I’m unsure if the great Kenny Burrell has ventured into this territory? Yerba Buena Bounce keeps the party going. Swing ’53 is an extended piece led by violinist, Evan Price. Giselle is a subtle guitar-centred waltz composition which conjures images of sunny summers days. Finally, DKSF closes matters.

While I don’t think I will be buying many more Hot Club style recordings, Veronica and my Hot Club of Paris sets will continue to be revisited from time to time. I’m sure this type of music is great live and I will try to check some out over the coming months.

There’s some footage of a slightly later incarnation of the band from 2004′ courtesy of Youtube below:-

Information about Hot Club of San Francisco band can be found here.

This will tell you that:-
EVERY MONDAY : Le Jazz Hot (the Quartet of the HCSF) plays for dancing, drinking and dining at Le Colonial in San Francisco 7-10pm FREE

Sounds great! If you are passing, pop in- I certainly would!

The band etc: Paul Mehling (guitar); Evan Price (violin); Joe Kyle (string bass); Davey Rickettsia (rhythm guitar); Michael Groh (rhythm guitar). Recorded: 2002. Coast Recorders, San Francisco. Produced by: Andrew A. Melter. Cover design: Dan Gatto (Veronica character created by Claudette Barjoud). Label: Panda Digital PDCD0211.

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Happenings: Bobby Hutcherson

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Bobby Hutcherson made a major contribution to one of my favourite tracks, Joe Henderson’s wonderful Mode For Joe. His vibes solo boosts a strong piece of music into the hyperspace of the outstanding.

This has encouraged me to buy a string of the vibraphonist’s recordings as leader in the hope that they might contain music that captivates me to the same extent. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything that hits the spot in the same way- but every so often I revisit Bobby’s albums to see if I’m missing something.

The root of my difficulty is partly that Hutcherson is probably a bit too complex and avant-garde in his repertoire for my taste. Then, there’s the timbre of the vibraphone, which can introduce a somewhat cool metallic quality to a piece- perhaps because playing the vibes involves banging a piece of metal. Still, I’ll persevere and a long solo Good Friday car journey offered another opportunity.

So another Good Friday without my favourite football team still offered up a contest- could Happenings compete with and defeat the sights of Birmingham, as seen from the M6? The Blue Note gang would be represented by the Crips and Bloods, Birmingham by the Peaky Blinders!

First up, Aquarian Moon, starting as a distant Birmingham skyline comes into sight on my approach from the south. The track has an air of expectancy and excitement and fits with my delight at reaching a significant landmark on a long slow journey. OK, so the Birmingham skyline palls by comparison to New York or even locally to Liverpool’s Three Graces but the tune holds its own. It’s still an early draw in the battle for my attention.

Bouquet is quiet and reflective but it is up against the architectural brutalism of Fort Dunlop. Midway through the first half and Birmingham strikes. One nil to the City of Birmingham!

Rojo has a bit of Latin life stirring and manages to see off Spaghetti Junction and Villa Park (despite a few good visits there to semi-finals back in the pre- New Wembley FA Cup days). Bobby, as fine a striker as you would expect a man with multiple mallets to be, has equalised and it is one all- with everything to play for. A YouTube clip follows:

Click or touch the arrow to play.

Maiden Voyage is up against the climb to the Perry Bar interchange. Both bore me and one is seriously over-rated in my opinion. At one all, we are stuck, veering towards a tedious stalemate.

Head Start plays as I drive down the hill. It is up against mid-table opposition from a distant IKEA and the life and optimism of the music wins through by a narrow margin to find the net. The deadlock is broken. Two-one to the boy from Blue Note!

Well into the second half and Hutcherson’s underwhelming ballad When You Are Near just does enough in defence against a distant Brownhills and motorway signs informing me of long delays through Staffordshire.

Into the last seven minutes of the match with Hutcherson holding a narrow advantage. However, the crash bang percussive avant-gardism of The Omen annoys the referee (me). Metropolitan Birmingham get a late penalty. Hilton Park Services steps up to wrong foot Hutcherson who clearly has his mind on other things.

So there you have it. The game for my attention between Bobby Hutcherson and the Bank Holiday drag along the M6 ends up in an uninspiring score draw (two all).

I will have one more go with Bobby Hutcherson when I can get hold of a fairly priced copy of The Kicker, which can be a little hard to find. In the meantime, I can’t speak too highly of Hutcherson’s contribution to Mode For Joe and he is excellent on Grant Green’s Idle Moments too. However, if you are unfamiliar with his work, he may be a better squad player than an automatic selection for your collection. He is still going strong as a performer, currently working with David Sanborn and Joey DeFrancesco and, if I’m not mistaken, may be joining them for a late summer gig at Ronnie Scott’s. If I go, it had better be incognito for fear of my flippancy being rewarded with a sharp rap on the napper with a vibes mallet. The Reid Miles cover photo and design is great, by the way.

The band etc: Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone and marimbas); Herbie Hancock (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Joe Chambers (drums). Recorded: 8 February 1966. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Leonard Feather. Cover photos and design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 84231.

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Live performance of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’

One of the highlights of this year’s Meltdown Festival at London’s Southbank Centre, in June 2014, is sure to be two performances of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’.

Performed by British musicians, I’m looking forward to seeing Steve Williamson, who is stepping up to the plate for at least some of the tenor duties. I’ve not seen him play live for about 20 years.

Tickets sold out very fast.

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Heavy Sounds: Elvin Jones and Richard Davis

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It’s probably just an impression that I have, but recordings on the Impulse label are made up of a curious mixture of artists and styles. Over the years I have been very slow to start to listen and appreciate these beasts with their orange and black spines. My first three purchases were John Coltrane sets: The Gentle Side, a curious concoction of immediately essential ballads and vocal tracks that took time to grow on me; the masterful creation that is A Love Supreme and then the veritable maelstrom of Interstellar Space, which challenged me and anybody else within earshot and put me off Impulse for a couple of years. Along the way I’d also listened to Albert Ayler’s Live in Greenwich Village, where The Truth Is Marching In is another challenge (but one that has grown on me in the twenty-five years since I first heard it and I expect to return there in due course). I now have over well over 30 recordings on Impulse but that brush with Coltrane at his fiercest has made me wary.

Last week I was browsing in my local used record emporium when I came across Heavy Sounds. ‘What have we here?’ thought I. At first I wasn’t particularly keen, with the title seeming to scream “Danger! Audio Shock Ahead”. After all, this was an album centring on a drummer and a bass player. What could it possibly be like? How heavy would it be? Eventually, I sneered at caution, overcame the unworthy opponent blocking my path and parted with a couple of hard-earned leisure pounds.

I’m delighted that I did. The title is a poor one- Soul-Stirring Sounds would be far better, because it is a work that is diverse and impressive. Raunchy Rita, the opener is a delightful soul flavoured extravaganza. Without further ado, have a listen on YouTube courtesy of Rafael Garcia.

To play, click or touch the arrow.

Next up is a version of Shiny Stockings, a standard which was made popular by Count Basie in a version which featured a solo by Elvin Jones’s older brother, Thad. Elvin makes considerable use of the brushes in his drum accompaniment to this track.

M.E.is surprising. Although only four musicians appear on this track, it has a drilled, big band crispness- almost an orchestral sound. I would guess that this is down to the musical arrangement.

Summertime follows. The recording session was originally booked to feature the guitar of Larry Coryell, but he was unavailable. With studio time on their hands, Jones and Davis began to improvise around the great classic standard, which both men had dreamt of doing with full orchestral backing. The decision was made to record it as a duo and fortune intervened with the result that a special piece of music was created. Starting with bowed bass and atmospheric fills from Jones on the drums, this piece is one that you really should seek out and listen to.

Elvin’s Guitar Blues is next up and features the drummer on acoustic guitar, accompanied by Foster on tenor sax. It’s a delightful blues and sits very well in the context of the set. Here’s That Rainy Day is Foster’s vehicle, featuring a fine extended tone-poem of a saxophone solo that builds from being reflective and almost languid before soaring.

There’s an interesting diversion in quiz territory and if you are ever asked: ‘What links Van Morrison, Eric Dolphy and Bruce Springsteen?’, the answer follows:- Richard Davis played bass on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, considered by many critics to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time, as well as Bruce Springstein’s Born To Run and Laura Nyro’s Smile. He was also the bass player on Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch.

The front cover features a superbly lit, cigarette shrouded image taken by Charles (Chuck) Stewart, who has been responsible for over 3000 album covers to date. Given a basic Kodak camera as a schoolboy, he used it the day he received it to photograph the great Marian Anderson (the first Black woman to perform at NY Metropolitan Opera, as late as 1955!). The photos later sold, which meant that he was a professional photographer from the first day he owned a camera. A previously sourced interview with Stewart outlined his approach as a photographer (sadly the link had expired as of 250917):-‘I just saw a moment that I thought would be rather exciting, that moment when I pushed the button, and apparently it worked.’ He was clearly gifted with the ability to choose the elusive ‘decisive moment’ on very many occasions.

A quick look on Amazon indicates that the CD can get a bit pricy- so perhaps Heavy Sounds is an album to grab If you come across a copy while browsing the second hand music shops. If you do find it, don’t be put off by the title and buy without hesitation.

The band etc: Elvin Jones (drums; guitar track); Richard Davis (bass); Frank Foster (tenor saxophone: tracks 1-3, 5 & 6); Billy Greene (piano: tracks 1, 3, 5 & 6). Produced: Bob Thiele. Recorded: RCA Studios, New York City (not at RVG as sometimes claimed)19 & 20 June 1967. Cover Design: Barbara & Robert Flynn. Cover Photography: Charles Stewart. Released: 1968. Original release: AS 9160.

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