Monthly Archives: May 2014

John Coltrane: Ole

Ole Cover

Ole is an album that I’ve flicked past when browsing in record stores and overlooked on numerous occasions. I hadn’t taken the trouble to work out where it fitted into John Coltrane’s body of work and somehow the track listing, without any numbers that are commonly listed amongst his essential recordings conspired to relegate this to also-ran status in The Record Collector’s Buying Stakes.

Ole was recorded at the end of John Coltrane’s association with Atlantic Records, at the time when ABC had bought out his contract with the label. The visit to the recording studio was sandwiched between the two sessions of Africa/Brass that were to be released as his debut on the Impulse imprint. Was the album just a half-hearted effort designed to complete and wind up contractural obligations? The music contained within very rapidly demonstrates that Ole was much more than that.

The title track is a modal piece that listeners liken to the ambience that Miles Davis created on Sketches of Spain a year earlier. Everybody, with the exception of drummer Elvin Jones, who is like a solid granite foundation gets to take a solo and plays wonderfully. However, special mention must be made of the dual bass players who are remarkable in their interplay across the entire range of their instruments. Towards the end Coltrane returns, playing his soprano sax with great power and zest, almost at times as though he is trying to test it to the point of destruction.

Dahomey Dance is a lively strolling, striding sort of track, a real pleasure that takes us along with it at a steady pace.

Aisha is a delicate ballad, brought to you here courtesy of Jazz Hole on YouTube.

To play, touch or click on the arrow.

Freddie Hubbard’s solo is a particular delight and McCoy Tyner’s work at the piano is also very pleasing to these auld ears of mine too. Arguably, Coltrane’s sax could be played with a slightly lighter touch and it’s stridency leaves us with a piece that could have been one of the great late night, rainy afternoon Coltrane ballads, but which falls slightly short. Dolphy’s alto sax solo is well-crafted but I’ve personally yet to appreciate him fully.

The LP ends at this point but the CD has an extra track from the session, entitled To Her Ladyship. It sits perfectly alongside its companions and is a great bonus.

My own CD copy came my way from the bargain corner of my local second-hand record store and was a snip at four of those English pounds. Although it is not essential it is a really great listen which should not be ignored. I’m very pleased that I now own it.

It is Friday night (after a hard draining week at the grindstone in the mill). Another post duly posted. Another long train journey nearing its destination. The weekend starts here, Jazz Cats!

The band etc: John Coltrane (tenor and soprano saxophones); Eric Dolphy (flute and alto saxophone); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); McCoy Tyner (piano); Reggie Workman (bass); Art Davis (bass); Elvin Jones (drums). Recorded: 25 May 1961. A&R Studio, New York City. Produced: Neshui Ertegun. Recording Engineer: Phil Ramone. Sleeve Notes: Ralph J Gleason. Cover design: Jagel & Slutzky Graphics. Issued as Atlantic SD 1373 in 1962.

Likes(2)Dislikes(0)

Nadim Teimoori live at East Side Jazz Club. 27 May 2014.

Nadim Teimoori is a very fine young tenor saxophonist. He graduated from The Royal College of Music with 1st Class Honours in 2012, winning their prestigious Humphrey Lyttleton Jazz Prize along the way in addition to a seat in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

When I saw that he was on within striking distance of home at East Side Jazz Club, I took the chance to take a look.

Ably supported by Joe Downard on bass and Chris Eldred on piano, with the ever present host, Clive Fenner on drums and a single-song guest slot for vocalist, Georgie Braggins, the musicianship of each of the performers was beyond doubt.

Teimoori plays with a very full-bodied tenor sax sound and demonstrated some fine trills and nuances which showed him to be a master of his instrument. It left me hoping that the very fine Selmer tenor that I once owned has found its way to a good home where it is well cared for and played regularly, by a better musician than me.

The set list covered a range of standards, most of which, I think, predated the hard bop era, with only Joe Henderson’s Inner Urge inhabiting the territory that I particularly enjoy. As I made my way home I pondered whether the Devil has the best jazz tunes or whether the Baptist Church tradition could stake a claim. What I did ultimately decide was that I prefer songs with passion, fire and drive to standards from the shows and the Great American Songbook. Still, you can’t win ’em all and I’d rather venture out and see good live music than stay at home with recordings all the time.

My response to this gig probably had more to do with my own musical interests than with the very high standard of the performers and I would like to see any of them play again with a different repertoire. My rating for the performance was a very partisan 6/10 because the cup of tea, although served in a fine china cup was not particularly to my taste. However, other members of the audience seemed to really enjoy themselves- so maybe it’s just me.

Likes(2)Dislikes(0)

Sonny Rollins On Impulse

IMG_1258

For some time now I’ve felt that I should have a better appreciation of Sonny Rollins and his music than I do. I used to play tenor saxophone (very badly, I hasten to add) and Saxophone Colossus was amongst the first CDs that I purchased when I bought an early CD player. I listened to it avidly, alongside a couple of his Blue Note recordings which I borrowed from the local library and copied onto cassette tape.

Aside from that, it has only been in the last couple of years that I bought and listened to Way Out West and The Bridge- and I have yet to hear Freedom Suite (I’m putting that right next week).

Sadly, I’ve never yet seen Sonny Rollins perform live, although I had tickets for the Royal Albert Hall concert last year that he was forced to withdraw from due to ill health.

Over the last six months I’ve been listening to Sonny Rollins On Impulse. When I initially came across it in a Manchester record shop, I thought it was a compilation and wasn’t that interested. However, it was in near mint condition and that made me take a closer look.

When he recorded it in 1965, Sonny Rollins was at the end of a recording contract with RCA which had yielded six albums. He followed John Coltrane to Impulse, hoping to benefit from the sort of creative ethos that had worked so well for the other great saxophonist. His association with Impulse was to last for three albums and as Ashley Kahn reveals in The House That Trane Built, it was not recalled by Sonny Rollins as the great experience he had hoped for as he felt that he had been ripped off and exploited by people associated with the label.

What of his first LP with them then? On Impulse is a set of five standard tunes, opening with On Green Dolphin Street. Rollins treats this track in a strange way. The head is impressionistic and offers a only passing reference to the tune. Later he is content to inhabit the margins of the performance in a manner which seems to mimic the irritating buzzing of an insect. Not my favourite version of this fine tune!

Everything Happens To Me is rather more conventional and mainstream. Initially, Sonny’s playing doesn’t exactly set fire to the immediate environment and it is quite restrained but there is some very fine supporting work from piano, bass and drums (with a wonderful contribution from the double bass). However, his concluding solo is an absolute masterclass in the art of playing a ballad on tenor.

Hold ‘Em Joe is the first track on the second side of the vinyl version of this set. It is a calypso, which is full of joy and life and which makes me smile every time I hear it. You can hear and form a view of it too courtesy of khimerak on Youtube:-

To play, touch or click on the arrow

Blue Room is a lush Rodgers and Hart ballad that is sophisticated without losing a light and uplifting quality and featuring silky piano.

Three Little Words is the closest this album gets to straight ahead hard bop. It remains lyrical and Sonny’s saxophone is notably fluent, ending an excellent album on a high note.

It has taken me a while to get round to Sonny Rollins here at downwithit but I’m delighted to have done so via one of his less well known albums, which, nonetheless is well worthy of your attention.

The band etc: Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone); Ray Bryant (piano); Mickeys Roker (drums); Walter Booker (bass). Produced: Bob Thiele. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs. 8 July 1965. Cover Design: Joe Lebow. Cover Photography: Charles Stewart. Released: 1968. Original release: AS-91.

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)

Denys Baptiste live at East Side Jazz Club. May 13 2014

Many years ago I used to get myself along, on occasion, to The South Side Soul Club, which was hosted in a room above a busy bar. It wasn’t quite a function at the junction because it was next to Clapham Common tube station, rather than near the railway hub- but it was a damn fine Northern Soul venue. Indeed, I remember seeing a wonderous declaration of urban romance when a young woman wrote ‘I Love You Seth’ (or whatever he was called) in the talcum powder that the ruler of her heart had spread to ease his terpsichorean endeavours.

Glancing at London Jazz Collector’s fantastic blog the other day, I read that one of his correspondents had recommended the East Side Jazz Club. Two clicks on the keyboard later I had discovered that the venue was within easy striking distance of my home and that there was a great bill on the following Tuesday. Renowned tenor saxophonist Denys Baptiste was set to appear, with Gary Crosby on bass. They were to be supported by club stalwart and resident drummer, Clive Fenner and Joe Armon-Jones on piano.

I’m always excited by a visit to a new club (doesn’t happen a great many times these days though), so off I went to Leytonstone searching for the young jazz rebels.

The short drive was rapidly completed and the venue was another great pub function room, which looked as though it had recently been redecorated. The extremely moderate admittance fee was duly surrendered and we were in.

The band were already on the stand and it was an absolute pleasure to hear great musicians who probably had never played together as a group before coming to terms with classic hard bop and ballads (OK, I’m well aware that Baptiste and Crosby have played together for years).

The first half encompassed a great version of God Bless The Child, Denys Baptiste’s sparkling take on Dear John, Freddie Hubbard’s adaptation of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and a calypso flavoured tune that made me think of a Sonny Rollins.

I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines because the opener for the second half was the Rollins signature piece, St Thomas, ever a favourite of mine. Denys Baptiste introduced it by saying that it was chosen as a direct result of a conversation he had during the interval.

I remain slightly puzzled by the next tune. It sounded like a speeded up version of Charlie Parker’s amazing Parker’s Mood- but then again, it could have been a Thelonious Monk composition. Whichever, it enabled venue debutant, Joe Armon-Jones to showcase his delightful piano playing talents. By this time the band were really working together, with Denys Baptiste and Gary Crosby showing themselves to be masters of their craft.

The evening closed with an adventurous take on Joe Henderson’s Inner Urge. It was a privilege to see such fine musicians conjuring the music from their collective imaginations. What the audience was watching was the essence of jazz. No four musicians have ever played that combination of tunes exactly the same way before. Nor will anyone ever again. In tangible terms, a fiver was paid but in real terms, what we experienced was priceless.

Special mention must be made of Clive Fenner, the resident drummer. I can’t imagine the levels of experience, skill and confidence his role, as an accompanist to the weekly changing cast of visitors, must require.

I didn’t win the raffle (a quid could deliver the choice between a serviceable bottle of Corbieres or Art Blakey Live at Cafe Bohemia on CD). Nor did I find the elusive young jazz rebels who were either preening themselves for a late Tuesday session in trend-central Hoxton with LJC’s fabled East London Jazz DJ Collective, or watching Leyton Orient win through to a Wembley playoff final down the road. What I did have was a fine time listening to amazing live music.

Whilst I don’t suppose Polar Bear will be appearing there anytime in the near future, I’ll be back there soon.

The East Side Jazz Club has a website which you can visit here.

Latest updates about the club are on Twitter @EastSJC

Denys Baptiste’s website is here

Likes(2)Dislikes(0)

Polar Bear: In Each and Every One

IMG_1279

I’ve made a commitment to look at least one relatively new recording each month. So here we go with the third set by musicians that you may be able to see at a venue near you, should you choose to accept the challenge!

The traditionalists can roll their eyes in the direction of the moon and be dismissive- but here at downwithit we will attempt to be adventurous. As I will be pushing well beyond hard bop and even 60’s free jazz, there will be hits and misses, hopefully a few rubies inspite of a little dust.

This month’s choice is In Each and Every One, the fifth and most recently released album by London based, Polar Bear. I’ve been playing it for about a month, slowly trying to get a sense of things.

At the point of writing this, I’ve been pondering whether Polar Bear’s music fits here. Is it jazz? Well, yes, but it relies heavily on electronic sounds. What would Horace Silver think? What would Coltrane’s opinion be? Would Miles Davis find something new and refreshing in it? The question was answered for me, in my own mind, when I put on Charles Mingus’s Black Saint and the Sinner Lady after my last play through of In Each and Every One. Polar Bear are in search of something new and it is important to respect them for that.

The set starts with the aptly titled Open See, an introspective scene setter that I could imagine as the soundtrack for a modern dance piece at Sadlers Wells. Electronics maestro Leafcutter John is working hard on this one and, given his electronic expertise, an imagined three-way conversation between himself, Brian Eno and Miles Davis would have been an interesting one. It is quite a delicate piece that acts as a signpost which indicates that the rest of the album will defy neat categorisations.

Be Free is a percussion centred tune with saxophone that offers a nod in the direction of some of Ornette Coleman’s work. This is a foot-tapper, with a sense of a battle to restrain discord, that is just about won.

Chotpot strikes me as being a little too flippant but eventually it wins me over. It’s a long time since I’ve listened to Penguin Café Orchestra but if on a blind listening I were told that this was one of their tunes I would be easy to convince. There’s a great bassline hidden away in this performance, by the way.

All K’s and Q’s Now gets off to a frenetic start incorporating some engaging horn playing before it gives way to electronica that is reminiscent of Tangerine Dream (not that I’ve spent too much time listening to them). The track concludes with a brief and disconcerting passage that seems to sound a little like an electronic take on human distress. Not everything in Polar Bear’s garden is rosy.

I couldn’t find any material from the album on YouTube (although there’s some great stuff via the website link below), so I have lifted some live footage courtesy of Band On The Wall:-

To watch click or touch the arrow.

WW is an interesting noise, nothing more to these ears that are currently struggling with the beautiful but discordant excesses found on some Albert Ayler recordings. Lost In Death Part 2 wins me back with its possible resemblance to something that could sit alongside Bartok’s folk tunes. Once again, Leafcutter John plays his part and there is some great plaintive saxophone as it ends.

Maliana is a complex piece with several phases and what I perceive as a slight African feel, which is probably conveyed to me by the drums. There is a phase that almost has a Glam Rock edge to it- but don’t mention the Glitter Band! Lost In Death Part 1 Doesn’t have a great deal to commend it apart from some interesting bass but Life and Life unveils a splendid brooding theme evocative of storm clouds gathering and of Jan Gabarek.

Two Storms is a further soundscape: a series of scales and a melodic start giving way to what I imagine the death of a whale by strangulation and its rebirth could conceivably sound like before Sometimes closes this adventurous and pleasing recording with more brooding.

I’ll definitely try to see Polar Bear live this year if I get the chance and I’m certainly delighted to be able to write about the challenges that they present here. However, at this stage, I find their music a bit of a stretch from my comfort zone and for the time being I’ll content myself with what may prove to be a ruby but won’t be immediately breaking my back or pocket to obtain their back catalogue.

Incidentally, the set is dedicated: RIP Stan Tracey. A Wonderful Man

The band etc: Mark Lockheart (tenor saxophone); Pete Wareham (tenor saxophone); Tom Herbert (double bass); Leafcutter John (electronics); Sebastian Rochford (drums). Sonny (Sonny Channel). Produced by Sebastian Rochford. Recorded by Sonny at Livingston Studios. Artwork: Criag Keenan. Released on The Laef Label. Bay 90 1st April 2014. Website: www.polarbearmusic.com

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)

Pharoah Sanders live at The New Orleans Jazz Festival 2014

An old favourite, Pharoah Sanders was in action again last weekend at the 2014 New Orleans Jazz Festival. The performance on Friday 2nd May was witnessed by NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune journalist, Chris Waddington who wrote:-

As for Sanders, his evident frailties seemed to fall away whenever he picked up his horn. Still possessed of a vast, canyonlike sound, rich in overtones, he put it at the service of a dignified, spiritual music that proved funky enough to keep the crowd to its feet for much of the show. And Sanders hasn’t forgotten his expressionist youth, peppering his slowly evolving modal solos with upper register squeals and multiphonic honks that flashed like lightning amid the towering clouds.

The reviewer added further special praise for Marlon Jordan, a New Orleans trumpet player who joined Pharoah’s regular musicians for the show. With that endorsement, obviously Jordan’s is a horn to listen out for, although as the wiki link here points out, he’s been about for some time- downwithit has put on the ‘slow out of the blocks’ hat of shame for the rest of the evening!

You can read this excellent review in full here. There are also some great photos from the performance there too. As the closest I’ve been to New Orleans is through viewings of the excellent HBO series Treme, it’s great to have found this direct line to news from this great jazz city and I’ve got a new bookmark for my browser.

Likes(2)Dislikes(0)

Sonny Clark Trio: Sonny Clark

Time for another piano centred set, a fine trio recording from 1957 featuring the great Sonny Clark.

Sonny Clark Trio is his second session as a leader at Blue Note and it was recorded on 13 September 1957. It is a subtle album that I return to listen to regularly.

It irritates me when critics damn musicians with faint praise and unfavourable comparisons with their peers and Sonny Clark has been subjected to more than his share of that sort of lazy scrutiny. However, in his excellent book, ‘Cookin’. Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65′, Kenny Mathieson offers a more balanced appraisal. He offers the following comment on the Sonny Clark Trio set:-

“…The essentials of that style lie in his massive rhythmic exuberance, tied to sparely applied chordal punctuations and a fluid single line melodic conception in the right hand (with occasional passing recourse to chording for extra emphasis) which suggests the linear influence of horn playing as much as any of his alleged piano mentors. His touch is always sure, and he likes to throw in an unexpected accentuation or shift in dynamic here and there.”

Well said! It is illuminating to hear from a writer who has a musician’s understanding of what is happening.

Dizzy Gillespie’s Be-Bop gets matters off the a slightly frenetic start before it’s time for cocktails with the Rodgers, and Hart I Didn’t Know What Time It Was

Two Bass Hit bops along with great drum fills from Philly Joe Jones before Tadd’s Delight, as the name suggests, a Tadd Dameron composition offers an opportunity for a workout from deft maestro Paul Chambers on bass.

The standard, Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise, a track which has grown on my via covers from a multitude of artists, is one for you to listen to via YouTube courtesy of 60otaku4.

Click on or touch the arrow to listen

Another standard, in the form of I’ll Remember April by Gene DePaul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye closes the album.

Three alternate tales feature as Bonus tracks on the CD release.

The lives of too many modern jazz musicians were cut short by the occupational hazards, pressures, temptations and demands that were in attendance to a hard working life. Sonny Clark’s light burned brightly before it was extinguished following his death from a heart attack, aged 32 in January 1963. His legacy was a series of albums as leader, which will be explored in due course.

You may spot the anagram in the title of Bill Evans’ elegy: NYCs No Lark, which follows, again courtesy of YouTube:-

The band etc: Sonny Clark (piano); Philly Joe Jones (drums); Paul Chambers (bass). Recorded: 13 September 1957. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey. Produced: Al Lion; Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Murray Stein. Issued as Blue Note 1579.

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)