Monthly Archives: October 2014

Ready For Freddie: Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard Ready For Freddie cover

I haven’t yet taken a look at a Freddie Hubbard recording here, so its time to put that right, as I’m the proud owner of a number of his sets. Although Miles Davis casts a massive shadow over modern jazz trumpet, it is really refreshing to hear others who have also made the instrument their own. By the time he recorded his fourth Blue Note set as leader, dues had been paid and Freddie Hubbard had the freedom to be creative. That certainly shows on this set. There’s a definite sound of excitement and a willingness to strive for something new. Even over 50 years since Ready For Freddie was recorded, Hubbard’s quest to deliver something that excites rings through.

At the time of recording Ready For Freddie, Hubbard had just been in the studio with John Coltrane, playing on Ole which I wrote about here. He cites his aspiration to follow in the exemplary saxophonist’s footsteps and Elvin Jones, and McCoy Tyner at the heart of the rhythm section, joined by Art Davis, who had also played a second double bass on the Ole session.

Arietis is a lively uptempo number, still hard bop but a tune that’s striving towards something else. The euphonium adds a bit of variety with an unexpected quality to its voicing. The YouTube clip is courtesy of Roger rogerjazzfan:-

To play click on or touch the arrow.

Victor Young and Jack Elliot’s Weaver Of Dreams is a sensitive ballad. Surprisingly, Young the composer was on a Bolshevik death list in revolutionary Russia but escaped (see bottom of this piece) to write ‘When I Fall In Love’, work as Bing Crosby’s musical director, win 22 Academy Awards and an Oscar for his work on movie scores (sounds like a story I should be writing a screenplay of- but, sadly, I don’t suppose I will).

Marie Antoinette is a Wayne Shorter composition, apparently so titled because the tune made him think of the carefree life of the Queen before the revolution, when the axe fell. Let ’em eat cake! Its a mid-tempo piece and a pleasant listen.

Birdlike opens the second side of the original LP version of this recording and it is a tribute to Charlie Parker. Crisis is informed by the global Cold War tensions that were current, coming, in the words of sleeve note writer Hentoff: “…from Freddie’s desire to express in music some of the spiralling tension of all our lives under the growing shadow of the bomb.” This is accomplished through the contrast between the first 12 bars of each 16 bar section with the music ‘exploding’ in the last four bars- or that’s the theory as the explosions are still relatively polite.

The CD version contains the bonus of alternative takes on Arietis and Marie Antoinette.

The band etc:- Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Bernard McKinney (euphonium); Wayne Shorter (tenor sax); McCoy Tyner (piano); Art Davis (bass); Elvin Jones (drums).  Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded 21 August 1961. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Nat Hentoff. Cover photos: Francis Wolff.  Originally issued as Blue Note BLP 4085 & BST 84085

Although born in the United States in 1900, Victor Young was a musical prodigy and went to stay in Warsaw with his grandfather when aged 10. His wikipedia entry takes things up:- Playing before Russian generals and nobles, while in Warsaw, he was later introduced to Czar Nicholas in St. Petersburg, and his playing so impressed the Czar that he presented him with many gifts but the revolution cut short his success in Russia. Having been connected with the court of the Czar, the Bolsheviks deemed it advisable to get rid of him, and it is only by a miracle that he escaped death, for he was already sentenced to die. After a long and tiresome escapade, he succeeded in reaching Warsaw, then Paris, and from there to the United States.

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All That’s Good: Frederick Roach

Freddie Roach All That's Good cover
Freddie Roach’s Wikipedia entry has has finally been updated with news of his untimely death in the early 1970’s. So the former statement that: ‘He moved to California and was never heard of again’ is no more. That’s a good thing because Freddie deserved much better. Although downwithit.info can claim some credit for this, it was really Pete Fallico’s excellent interview with Conrad Lester (friend of Roach and tenor on this set) reproduced here, that enabled the record to be set straight.

All That’s Good is the last of Roach’s five Blue Note outings and it is so different to any other recording that I’ve ever heard on that label that it is easy to surmise why his talents ended up elsewhere.

Roach penned the sleeve notes for many of his albums and they make it clear that he wanted his work to tell stories and capture images. With All That’s Good he is trying to paint a picture of a somewhat idealised Black inner city community, looking at the positives of everyday life.

Journeyman has a delightful born-again Baptist feel to it. Over at London Jazz Collector a recent post had fellow jazzers voting on instruments that they disliked. Although there is no vibraphone or bowed double bass here you should have a listen to this track which features two of the usual suspects and more in the form of: Hammond organ, a choir, tambourine and soul clapping. I imagine Rudy Van Gelder dancing at the controls as this one was recorded. Not one for the purist or the narrow minded, who will be sure to fulminate, but I think it is amazing and you can take a listen too thanks to YouTube:-

To listen touch or click on the arrow

The title track, All That’s Good, follows with the small choir going for a celestial effect with attendant ‘Oh Yeahs! before some delicate blues saxophone from Conrad Lester and an equally strong guitar solo from Calvin Newborn redeems matters. On Blues For 007 the feel created by Roach is that of a now archaic swinging sixties tune that is sub Aqua Marina (please excuse the weak Stingray reference and pun). The organ setting is a bit too rinky dink and trebley for me here.

Over on Side Two where Busted is played in waltz time and, once again a bit of muscular R n B saxophone saves the day. Club 788 is probably not the strongest blues that Freddie Roach ever wrote or played on. Finally, Loie the strongest track on this side, a Kenny Burrell number from his Guitar Forms album closes things in Bossa nova style.

This LP gets one of the worst reviews I’ve yet to read on the generally very helpful Allmusic website. Enroute to a poor 2 star rating, Stephen Thomas Erlewine opines:- “Roach never hits upon a groove, choosing to create a series of bizarre, hazy textures. That atmosphere is catapulted into the realms of the surreal by vocalists Phyllis Smith, Willie Tate, and Marvin Robinson, whose wordless, floating singing sounds spectral; the intent may have been to mimic a gospel choir, but the effect is that of a pack of banshees wailing in the background.”

Not the sort of endorsement to set the pulse racing and the hand reaching for the wallet then. That combined with the tatty sellotaped cover that you can see at the top of this page kept putting me off purchasing this album at my local second hand record store. Luckily for me the price reduced by 50% after several months due to the shop’s Dutch auction approach until my tipping point was finally reached yesterday. I expected the condition of the disc to match the cover and I was in for a great surprise when I was handed a shiny very strong VG+ first stereo pressing complete with Plastylite ‘ear’.

As you’ve read above, it is an enjoyable recording that I’m pleased to welcome as an addition to the Freddie Roach section of my collection (even if he does style himself as Frederick on the cover).

The band etc: Frederick Roach (organ); Conrad Lester (tenor saxophone); Calvin Newborn (guitar); Clarence Johnston (drums); Marvin Robinson (baritone vocals); Phyllis Smith (soprano vocals); Willie Tate (alto vocals)  Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded October 16, 1964.  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Frederick Roach.  Cover design: Reid Miles. Cover photos: Ronnie Braithwaite. Models: Grandassa Models.  Originally issued as Blue Note ST84190.

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V2.0: GoGo Penguin

GoGo Peguin V2.0 cover
New jazz from bands named after denizens of the frozen zones are well represented at this year’s Mercury Awards. We took a look at Polar Bear’s In Each And Every One here. Now it is time to consider GoGo Penguins‘s V2.0. Although the CD has been on and off my system for the last month its time to get a posting in here before the Mercury results are announced on 30 October, thus avoiding potential accusations of jumping onto the bandwagon.

Murmeration opens and sets a tone for the set. I’m no piano player but a deceptively simple sounding tune takes on a degree of gravitas. The overall feel is solemn, yet uplifting also and I’m sure, like many of the tracks, this will find a place in the collections of film-makers who are in need of an atmospheric musical soundtrack for their work.

Garden Dog Barbecue is more uptempo with drum and bass hitting a faster rhythm.

Kamaloka delivers a lighter tune that shimmers and sparkles over a relentless pulse phrase on the drums. Fort is another light airy tune before One Pegrcent offers an air of mystery and could conjure an image of a perilous and relentless path ahead.

Home starts with a tabla accompaniment and introduces more delightful piano. The Letter is a mood piece starting with solo piano before the band come in to create an overall feel that could sit well alongside Dylan Howe’s take on Bowie’s Berlin instrumentals (here).

To Drown In You begins with an electronic pitch and some busy, scurrying drums, before the track grows to offer up an evocative soundtrack to wherever a flight of the imagination may take you. Shock And Awe starts ponderously as the drums seem to mimic the ticking of a clock, as it turns out the title does not really represent the content as there are no unpleasant surprises or jaw dropping moments on this particular track.

Hopopono closes V2.0 and thanks to the wonder of YouTube you can take a look and have a listen from this very page.

To watch and listen touch or click on the arrow

The video shows exactly what pianist Chris Illingworth is doing and whilst it looks relatively simple, the repetition builds into na very pleasant, soothing and mellifluous piece that is a great representation of GoGo Penguin’s work on this album.

GoGo Penguin are Manchester based and a couple of them look like lads that you could easily bump into at the football. Whilst V2.0 stands no chance of making onto my desert island shortlist of albums, it is a fine enjoyable effort that is not too difficult to listen to and can act as superior background music. It’s not Keith Jarrett at his best and in full flow and others have referenced the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (an outfit I’m not familiar with yet), but I delighted to have heard this set and added it to my collection. I’m glad that they are under consideration for the 2014 Mercury Award.

The band etc: Chris Illingworth (piano); Nick Blacka (bass); Rob Turner (drums). Released 2014. Recorded: Giant Wafer, March and April 2013 and 80 Hertz August 2013. Exec Producer: Matthew Halsall. Produced: Joseph Reiser & Brendan Williams. Artwork and Design: David Halsall. Issued as Gondwana Records GONDCD 009.

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Spiral Mercury: Pharoah Sanders

Pharoah S Spiral Mercury

My apologies for being a little tardy in writing about my latest contemporary recording.

This live performance, recorded in August 2013, is the latest release by Pharoah Sanders. It involves him playing as part of Rob Mazurek’s Chicago / São Paulo Underground ensemble. Spiral Mercury captures half of a live set and I’ve yet to listen to the other tranche which is release as Primative Jupiter– which I’ll be ordering before the weekend is out. The compositions on both sets are all by Rob Mazurek, so these albums don’t feature Pharoah’s own repertoire. However, this may have its own unexpected bounty because it allows us to listen to how Pharoah works in a live setting with material that is, presumably, relatively new to him.

I’ve been living with it for over a month now and it is proving a bit of a challenge to write about. Initially I thought of it as a set led by Pharoah and that hasn’t been helpful to my efforts to capture a flavour of it, as it is more of a collective effort featuring the great saxophonist both as a soloist but mainly as part of a larger whole.

The set also features Chad Taylor who we last met as a part of The Marc Ribot Trio on his Live At The Village Vanguard release which I took a look at here in early June this year.

The recording took place in one of my favourite settings. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is located in Lisbon, a city I love to visit. It combines superb indoor and outdoor performance spaces with a unique, world-class collection of paintings and other objects de art put together by a very interesting man (read about him here), who was known as ‘Mr Five Percent’, because that was the perpetual retainer he insisted on for using his expertise to broker the formation of several of the great oil companies including Royal Dutch / Shell. His extreme wealth (a Bill Gates of his time) allowed his team of experts the freedom to scour the world for the very best available examples of anything that he wanted. He insisted on ‘nothing but the best!’ I’ve steered clear of my love of football here at downwithit but suffice to say, his motto is written on my heart. I’d nominate the late Mr Calouste Gulbenkian (d.1955) as a dinner guest, as his take on the first half of the last century and any candid asides would be priceless.

Back to Pharoah and the boys though. It’s time to publish, so here goes!

Cna Toom opens the set. Spaceage synthesiser meanderings beg the question that a Sun Ra session is on the system. A repeated bass loop provides a reference point for free improvisation. A contemplative second phase changes the soundscape after ten minutes. A drum and bass led title track,Spiral Mercury, follows and is reminiscent of Mingus on The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady.

Blue Sparks From Her opens with an incisive trumpet which leads us into a soundscape shaped by synthesised keyboards and then a repeated melodic pattern which Pharoah growls at with his tenor for a while. The track takes on a brief trance-like quality before the horns solo freestyle over a percussion base.

Asasumamehn is a dreamy soundscape embroidered around what I assume to be an mbira (African Thumb Piano). It works well in context providing a peaceful phase amidst more complex and demanding tracks.

Pigeon commences as a somewhat abstract piece before the percussionists and bass impose a strong rhythmic discipline, with Pharoah hidden in the background of the mix.

Jagoda’s Dream would not sound at all out of place on the Dylan Howe Subterraneans set that you can read about here

Finally, The Ghost Zoo is another abstract piece of free improvisation over electronica that does not work wonderfully well, and is somewhat void of a purpose, to my ears, until Pharoah finally gets space for a lyrical solo as the piece draws towards its conclusion.

Although the following lengthy YouTube film was not recorded in Lisbon, it features the same lineup and starts off with some wonderful playing from Pharoah.

To pay either click on or touch the arrow.

It’s great to know that our esteemed elder, Pharoah Sanders is still playing in an extremely adventurous way that challenges the way we we listen. If you are a newcomer to this hero you may want to start somewhere else (perhaps with Africa, which I look at here. However, make sure you catch this great saxophonist live soon!)

The band etc:- Pharoah Sanders (tenor sax, voice); Rob Mazurek (cornet, electronics, flute, voice); Guilherme Granado (synths, samples, percussion, voice); Mauricio Takara (cavaquinho, percussion, electronics); Matthew Lux (electric bass); Chad Taylor (drums, mbira).  Produced: Rob Mazurek. Recorded 11 August 2013.  Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. Design & Artwork: Pedro Costa /Trem Azul.  Liner photo: Nuno Martins.  Issued as Clean Feed CF301CD.

As this recording may be very difficult to find otherwise you are probably best advised to buy it directly from Clean Feed’s website, which you can access here. Please note, this is a not for profit site and I do not benefit financially from providing this link.

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