Monthly Archives: June 2014

Grant Green: Iron City

This album is something of a mystery piece. Recorded in 1967 during a period when Green’s recording career was on hold, due to problems stemming from his addiction to heroin, Iron City was eventually released on the small Cobblestone label in 1972. This album may have been recorded in Pittsburgh between shows (Pittsburgh was once known as the Iron City), reportedly for ready cash in hand, although there are other differing opinions.

There is some speculation concerning the identity of the Hammond organist. John Patton gets the credit but apparently he was ambivalent about whether he sat in on this recording and died before he could clarify with a definitive answer. There are those who maintain that it was Larry Young who played on this date. The debate from 2002-2003 can be found on the excellent Organissimo website here. I’ll sit on the fence and leave the advocacy for the different positions to those who are more knowledgeable on the subject than I am.

The set opens with its title track. Iron City mines an easy soul-blues seam and should sound great played with suitable volume in your local bar (note to self- must have a word with the DJ who occasionally entertains at my local).

Samba de Orpheus is a disposable and light shuffling confection. It is little more than journeyman stuff from the great Grant Green and not a great deal that is relevant is present on this makeweight track.

Things thankfully take a more rewarding turn on Old Man Moses (Let My People Go) offers a great vehicle for GG to solo and for the trio to offer what sound like distant echoes of Acknowledgement from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

The pop number, High Heeled Sneakers opens the second side of the album. It’s a favourite tune of mine (with close cousin I’ve Got My Mojo Working). Play this even louder in your favourite disco bar and watch those feet start to move. There’s a link to YouTube, courtesy of groove addict:-

To watch, click on or touch the arrow

You can hear Blue Mitchell’s version of Hi-Heel Sneakers (sic) which I wrote about in the first ever post on downwithit in September 2013 here. I will be writing about a third great version from another artist shortly (it won’t be the Tommy Tucker original though).

Next up, Motherless Child is a rendition of a second spiritual and starts at a very slow pace before the tempo increases very slightly. Finally, Work Song is a pleasing version of the Nat Adderley original and another of the stronger tracks on the album.

Iron City is a good solid organ trio set with several strong tracks and is well worth buying, to supplement or start a collection of Grant Green records, if you find it at a reasonable price.

The band etc: Grant Green (guitar); Big John Patton (Hammond organ); Ben Dixon (drums). Recorded: Believed to be in 1967. Producer, Studio and Cover Photography: All unknown. Originally issued as Cobblestone CST 9002.

There is also a version of the cover in a further alternative colourway, which is the one used on my vinyl copy of this album:-

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What I’m Listening to: Week commencing 26 June 2014.

What am I actually listening to? In an attempt to capture a list of the music I’m playing, I will be trying to keep a record of jazz that I am playing here at downwithit.info. As this is an opportunity for me to switch off and enjoy, I probably won’t offer too much by way of comment or appreciation in these posts. Nor will I list non-relevant plays by artists such as The Clash, Frank Wilson or The Sleaford Mods etc.

Off we go then! Some sets have previously appeared on this blog, touch or click on the red linking text to read more.

Thursday 26 June
John Coltrane: Live at The Village Vanguard. The Master Takes (Impulse 1961). Visuals courtesy South Korea (0) v Belgium (1) in The World Cup (Association Football, as they say, or ‘da match’, as we say).

Friday 27 June
Yusef Lateef: Jazz Mood (Savoy 1957). No World Cup to watch tonight.
Clark Terry: It’s What’s Happenin’ (Impulse 1967) Featuring Varitone trumpet and therefore not for the purist.
Paul Chambers: Bass On Top (Blue Note 1957)
Rip Rap: Snow Blue Night (Rip Rap 2012)

Saturday 28 June
Elvin Jones: Heavy Sounds (Impulse 1968)

Sunday 29 June
Grant Green: Iron City (Cobblestone 1972)

Monday 30 June
Miles Davis Saturday a Night at The Blackhawk (Complete CD edition). (Original release Colombia 1961) To accompany the second half of tonight’s second match: Germany v Algeria
Thelonious Monk: Monk’s Music (Riverside 1957). Half-time of extra time. C’mon Algeria, you can beat these! Or, sadly not!

Wednesday 2 July
Thelonious Monk: Monks Music (as above).
Yusef Lateef: The Dreamer (Savoy 1959).
Sonny Rollins: Alfie (Impulse 1966).

Miles Davis: Saturday Night In Person At The Blackhawk(as above).
Jimmy Smith: Six Views of The Blues (Blue Note 1999- Recorded 1958)
Archie Shepp & Horace Parlan: Trouble In Mind (Steeplechase 1980).
John Coltrane: Coltrane Plays The Blues (Atlantic 1962).

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John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’. Live at The Queen Elizabeth Hall. Sunday 22 June 2014.

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Back in April I got my tickets for a key performance in James Lavelle’s Meltdown season on the. South Bank. Lavelle contributed to Straight No Chaser Magazine, an adventurous magazine published in the early 1990’s, which I used to get every so often- especially as it featured some exceptionally good musical tips and was closely linked to the, then current, jazz revival. He invited Editor, Paul Bradshaw to curate a performance and the result is Enlightenment, a ‘Re-envisioning of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

Coltrane wrote A Love Supreme in August 1964 at a time of turmoil and great change in the USA. Living in a tranquil new suburban home in Long Island and following the birth of his first son through his relationship with his second wife, Alice, he took himself off into his studio and worked solidly for several days. His wife, famously, described his return as follows:-

“It was like Moses coming down from the mountain, it was so beautiful. He walked down and there was that joy, there was peace in his face, tranquility. So I said, ‘Tell me everything, we didn’t really see you for four or five days.’ He said, ‘This is the first time that I have received all the music for what I wanted to record, in a suite. This is the first time I have everything, everything ready.”

50 years later, for this London performance Rowland Sutherland has added to the original score and extended beyond the original quartet setting with and arrangement for a fifteen piece band which brought together British, Indian and African musicians.

So how did it all work out?

The first half of the concert comprised of three pieces. Byron Wallen came on stage with a Tibetan horn, which turned out to be a telescopic instrument which extended about three metres. I’d never seen or heard one before. He swung this around and made great use of several of the onstage microphones before reverting to trumpet, which he payed in dialogue with Neil Charles on double bass.

This was followed by a trio featuring harp, flute and Japanese flutes and a tribute to Sun Ra which, to my ears, captured the mixed strengths and weaknesses of a very strange individual, who would have been 100 years old this month, had he lived that long. I saw him once and enjoyed but I’m really not keen on his Space Is The Place Blue Thumb/Impulse set.

Whether presenting some key influences or showing the appreciation of diversity that helped to make Straight No Chaser such a good read, the scene was set.

Paul Bradshaw’s introduction to the re-envisioning of A Love Supreme offered a few clues about what followed. He spoke of the original piece and the treatments and embellishments that Alice Coltrane had made following John Coltrane’s untimely death in 1966. Perhaps most tellingly he referred to Coltrane’s sole live performance of the suite, at The Antibes Jazz Festival (a recording I’m not familiar with).

The introduction, on Indian harp was in the style of the Alice Coltrane version from 1971, which I first encountered on the Stolen Moments Red Hot + Cool 1994 release. Although it took me a while to appreciate it, I eventually came to quite like it, with its spiritual invocations from the guru, Satchidananda.

John Coltrane had a close working relationship with Eric Dolphy, who died in June 1964. Had he lived, there is a strong probability that he would have played on A Love Supreme and that’s perhaps why this version included ample bass clarinet contributions from Shabaka Hutchings. It was great to see Steve Williamson again but although he played some blistering tenor saxophone, he seemed remarkably underused, especially given that the original composition was conceived by a saxophonist.

The vocals and spiritual invocations were in keeping with Coltrane’s concept,and Coltrane’s whole meditation, printed on the original album sleeve was spoken in full by vocalist Cleeveland Watkiss. I can’t reasonably complain about them but I really missed the iconic double bass introduction and the whole feel of Acknowledgement from the original album. I’ll look forward to hearing the recording on Jazz On Three- it was optimistically stated that it would be presented the following night- but after I’d reported that on Twitter I was told by R3 that it will be broadcast in the New Year. I’ll be in the market for a CD too, if one gets released.

The arrangement was enthralling without being totally satisfying and rates as a 7/10 performance for my money.

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Stan Tracey’s Under Milk Wood: Live: Macclesfield Barnaby Big Weekend 21 June 2014

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There used to be trouble at ‘t mill in my home town of Macclesfield until the workers sorted the bosses out.

If my memory serves me, the story goes something like this: Once upon a time, in a town not known for militancy, a great day dawned, when a group of silk mill workers decided that they would act to improve their conditions. It being Macc, they didn’t strike. They took a self-selected holiday instead and then held a procession around the local mills to invite fellow workers to join them. Much fun was then had by all (except perhaps the mill-owners, who lost a day’s productivity and were forced to re-think about how to keep their wage-slaves happy). A great idea, in my opinion- should be more of it going on!

Subsequently, and not directly as a consequence of the above, the silk mills closed for annual overhaul for a wakes week during the early summer. This coincided with the feast of St Barnabas and the town’s annual holiday, known as Barnaby, started.

When I was growing up, Macclesfield more or less closed down for the week. Then, the following week the local papers carried pictures of groups of people leaving for the seaside and, increasingly as the 1970’s unfolded, for European package holidays. These days that week of calm peacefulness, in an empty town, which seemed so boring when I was young, has long gone. Gone away with the working mills, I suppose. However, about five years ago some visionary individuals started an arts festival and that is where downwithit will be tonight.

In the late afternoon, I was very lucky to get into the performance of Acid (House) Brass given by The Williams Fairey Brass Band. The venue, Christ Church in Macc was built by a mill owner who fell out with the local vicar. What did he do next? He built his own bigger, better church down the road (or, once again, I may be making that up- which doesn’t matter, because the Macclesfield Fibbing (lying) Competition is also taking place tonight.

Anyhow, the performance featured the award winning Fairey Brass Band playing rave flavours by KLF, 808 State and others. It was splendid to see over 30 musicians blowing a hurricane and entertaining the capacity crowd. What might Monk and Miles have thought? Don’t know, but I think they would have enjoyed themselves.

There’s a performance of Stan Tracey’s Under Milk Wood and I’m going.

I’ll write about it for you later, but in the meantime, here’s a taster from YouTube. Starless and bible black has to be one of the richest and most evocative descriptions of a dark night in the British language, well done Dylan Thomas (who probably, as a proud Welshman, wouldn’t have allowed me to say English language).

To play, click on or touch the arrow.

And so, onto the performance, for that, indeed, was what it was. I’m not familiar with Stan Tracey’s interpretations of Under Milk Wood, but I have a passing knowledge of the work by Dylan Thomas that inspired it. I need not have worried because what I witnessed was an excellent introduction to both, since the music was accompanied and preceded by narrative and the poem itself. Caroline Berry and Phylip Harries, two fine actors, took the speaking roles.

It has been suggested that Stan Tracey worked on the idea of a suite based on Under Milk Wood on his small hours night bus journeys home to Streatham, from his job as resident pianist at Ronnie Scott’s. That would have given him plenty of time to think about the parallels with Thomas’ Llareggub and it’s residents rehearsing their life’s concerns in their dreams.

I was expecting the musical suite to be far more impressionistic and evocative. So I was surprised that it was no more, or less than, well-crafted though conventional early sixties jazz. Hard bop, a couple of slower ballads and all with a tenuous link to the words and feelings they were linked to in the composer’s mind. The performance and the quartet led by pianist Richard Roberts was captivating and the experience merited a rating of 7/10. The music was superior mid-60’s jazz, but it has very little to do, in my mind, with a tiny Welsh seaside village. I’m not the first to have experienced this and won’t be the last to comment on the ill-matched marriage where both elements have their own strengths but don’t sit together particularly well. However, perhaps there are some who think differently about the piece?

The venue for this performance was Macclesfield’s Parish Church (the rival to the one where The Fairey Brass Band appeared). I’d never been in there before and was impressed by the acoustics, and historic tombs, which provided a suitable backdrop for a piece that captures the unconscious dramas set in the depths of the night.

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Ed Jones live at East Side Jazz Club. 17 June 2014

Last night’s performance by Ed Jones at East Side Jazz Club was just what I wanted the jazz doctor to prescribe for me.

There are times when only a good robust tenor saxophone led performance will do and that was what Jones had on offer last night. He is a very experienced British musician who has played with a fair dusting of American aces including George Benson, Dr Lonnie Smith, Horace Silver, Dianne Reeves and Charles Earland.

Things were underway before I arrived and I listened to two uptempo numbers before a ballad took me somewhere else. After that, a rendition of Miles Davis’s Solar led me to imagine warm French sun on my back and the excellent Jonathan Gee’s piano was a real treat on this one too.

The second set after a short interval started with Without A Song. I’ve since discovered that there is a version by Joe Henderson, sadly on a set I haven’t got yet, which will represent another call on my funds. Tonight’s rendition showcased the all round talents of the quartet which also featured Ben Hazelton on double bass and the ever present but always on the beat (except when purposely playing off the beat) Clive Fenner. If Clive isn’t actually an authority on French wine, at the very least he spins a good tale about it.

All Or Nothing At All was next up before a heady dose of Coltrane influenced fireworks led into a superb version of Body And Soul.

Needing to get away a little early, I left as Ed Jones was praising the acoustics of the room and launching into a final number that I couldn’t stay behind to hear.

A very enjoyable performance rates a solid 7/10 on the downwithit Clapometer and I’ll definitely be looking out for these performers in the future.

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Marc Ribot Trio: Live at The Village Vanguard

Marc Ribot cover

It’s time for another contemporary album. The one that caught my eye to write about for for you this month is by Mark Ribot who is an incredibly prolific session guitarist. Released in May 2014 it is a recording of Ribot playing with Henry Grimes and Chad Taylor in 2012 at New York’s Village Vanguard, a legendary New York Jazz Club that I have yet to visit (although many years ago I saw Issac Hayes play a set at The Blue Note). First things first, we’ll get the artist’s name right, as he encourages us to do at his website. Repeat after me, REE-Bow! Good, that’s out of the way- so no excuses when you go to the shop.

Marc Ribot has played in a hugely diverse range of styles, as a sideman with Tom Waits, Wilson Pickett, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Marianne Faithfull, Madelaine Peyroux, McCoy Tyner, John Zorn and many, many others. He counts free jazz luminary, Albert Ayler as a major influence and his earlier Spiritual Unity set from 2008 is a collection of five Ayler numbers, including Truth is Marching In, which is was one of the first free jazz tracks that I got beyond the shock of and really listened to (in breaks from studying in Goldsmith’s College library in the late 1980’s). Our bass man for The Ribot set, Henry Grimes actually played bass on this when it was first recorded live by Ayler, also at The Village Vanguard, in December 1966. Two Ayler tracks feature here, along with a couple of late career John Coltrane outings and two traditional ballads which offer respite from the free jazz flamers.

Opening with a bowed bass introduction, some beautiful guitar playing and some very Elvin Jones style drumming, John Coltrane’s Dearly Beloved is initially lofty and atmospheric before giving way to some pyrotechnic style soloing from Ribot. It is a robust, yet exciting and engaging performance.

Ayler’s The Wizard is next up. It is an electric guitar workout, played at pace with lots of Elvin Jones style cymbals from Taylor. Later, Grimes takes a bass solo before Ribot returns to add a series of guitar runs as the piece ends.

Old Man River is the famous Kern/Hammerstein number from ‘Showboat’. It is a very fine version, worth the price of the CD by itself, in my opinion. I would have included it here if there was a YouTube version currently available, but there isn’t, so no such treat is presented for you.

Bells, the second Albert Ayler composition, weighs in at 19:09 and is the longest piece on the set. After a gentle first half it moves through a passage that is reminiscent of and draws from American marching band music (of course Ayler served as a military bandsman in his early years). From there on, it is free Jimi Hendrix-like acid guitar virtuosity- which I can only appreciate in small segments.

I’m Confessin’ That I’m Lovin’ You. is played straightforwardly as a melodic ballad, vaguely reminiscent of the Hot Club style, without anything to frighten even the most skittish horse.

Touch or click on the arrow to play film.

John Coltrane’s Sun Ship closes the recording, with another powerful and angry sounding piece.

It has been exciting to listen to Live at The Village Vanguard. Whilst most of this is not exactly music to accompany a dinner party, it captures the excitement of what must have been a gripping concert. If I hadn’t begun to look at recent releases it is very likely that The Marc Ribot Trio would have remained a mystery to me. As it is, I will try to see them when they next play in London or Manchester.

Marc Ribot is clearly a very skilled guitarist, although he is critical of his own technical limitations as he explained that he is a natural left hander who learned to play guitar right handedly. Henry Grimes, the trio’s bass player (and violinist) has an amazing story to tell. In the 60’s he played with many of the greats, including Albert Ayler himself (as noted above) before a trip to California to play with Al Jarreau and Jon Hendricks went badly awry, leaving him with a broken bass that he could not afford to have repaired. He spent over 30 years in LA employed as a manual labourer and renting a small room where he wrote poetry in his free-time, before being prompted to take up the bass again, rapidly recover his former prowess and take New York by storm. You can read more here.

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Chad Taylor, on drums, completes the lineup. He started out in his childhood as a guitarist before switching to drums. His website is here.

The band etc: Henry Grimes (bass, violin); Marc Ribot (guitar); Chad Taylor (drums). Recorded: 30 June 2012 at The Village Vanguard, New York City. Produced by Chad Taylor. Sleeve Design: Michael Cina and Norah Stone. Photography: David O’Shaughnessy. Issued on Pi Recordings, May 2014.

Marc Ribot’s website is here

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Gilad Atzmon live at East Side Jazz Club. 3 June 2014

Acting on a hot tip that I would probably enjoy the performance on offer at East Side Jazz Club, I rushed from a late visit to the dentist to watch Gilad Atzmon. It was a good job that I had just had a brand new filling as I spent the show grinning from ear to ear.

For me, great jazz involves musicians sparking off each other and creating an aural delight (sometimes visual too) that is a unique passage of time, never to be repeated in exactly the same manner. That happened in Leytonstone last night.

Gilad Atzmon is best known for his work on Alto saxophone but he also played soprano and clarinet here (apparently he is also a good baritone saxophonist and plays other less well known instruments too).

I got there a little late, towards the end of a beautiful ballad but was able to experience the complete renditions of Giant Steps and The Way You Are Tonight. Atzmon’s strong build offers him the option of playing with great power and this is supplemented with tremendous dexterity up and down the keys combined with an appreciation of playing with subtlety when that is required too.

I had seen Gareth Williams play in a trio as a support (to The Rebirth Brass Band, last September) at Ronnie Scott’s and tonight gave me a better opportunity to focus on his piano playing. His solos and accompaniments complemented the leaders work. In last night’s show I thought I heard numerous chords played by somebody who had benefitted from listening to Horace Silver for an extended period (maybe I’m wrong). However, I’m not saying that his keyboard work was derivative. It wasn’t- it was just very, very good.

There was a little less space for Simon Thorpe on double bass but when he did solo briefly his work was excellent. Hats off, as ever to house drummer Clive Fenner too.

After the interval there was one particular number which seemed to bring together all of the strengths of Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, with passing references to A Love Supreme too. There’s a hard bop classic that sounds a little like the Postman Pat theme and that was dropped in too. Jess the cat would have loved it (PostScript: 24 hours later I’ve just realised that the tune was Mingus’s Boogie Stop Shuffle– shame on me, I call the excellent house Guinness in my defence!).

Although Gilad did not engage in a great deal of chat it was apparent that he is a character with great charisma who must be an amazing raconteur. It is quite rare to watch a musician who is selling his book alongside performanceCDs. If you want to know more about him, take a look on Wikipedia here, where you will read of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Robbie Williams, a novelist and a man who has courted major political controversy.

An evening of first-class playing closed with a rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which Gilad supplemented with what sounded like a tall story about the sad demise of trumpeter Woody Short.

A great night at ESJC gets a rating of 8/10 from me without hesitation. If you can catch a performance given by Gilad Atzmon in your neighbourhood, get yourself down there. I don’t think he will disappoint.

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