I was sorry to learn of the passing of pianist Horace Parlan on 23 February 2017, aged 86. Over the last few years, I’ve heard and enjoyed much of his work. Since writing about him in 2014, in addition to other recordings by him, I have obtained and rate highly the two albums of traditional blues and gospel songs that he recorded with Archie Shepp and released on Steeplechase in the 1970s.
Happy New Year to all visitors, new and old. Here’s my 100th post on downwithit.
I still have an unfinished task from 2014 which is to look back at all the classic sets that I reviewed here in 2014. By classic I mean anything other than a new release so there are one or two sets from the present millennium included here. A quick count indicates that I wrote about 26 of these albums in 2014, so I think I can conclude that I wasn’t idle, especially given that I also wrote about a number of contemporary sets and offered up some live reviews.
What follows may be a bit of a trudge through a list, but I have linked to all the reviews and if any catch your interest, please click and take a look.
On NYD 2014 I started with a bang by taking a look at John Coltrane’s Blue Train, one of my all-time favorites that I urged everyone to obtain and listen to if they hadn’t done so already.
This was followed up by Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder and a track that inspired numerous imitations.
Thoughts of Tommy Chase led downwithit.info into fresh territory and I decided to devote some time to exploring the current scene, which was something that I really enjoyed during the course of 2014. If you want a recap of the newly released albums that I reviewed last year, they can be found here and my trawl of live performances is referred to here. I’m not sure if my ramblings have encouraged the purchase of a single album or attendance at any gigs but if they have, please leave a comment and let me know.
I wrote five reviews in February 2014 opening with Horace Parlan’s piano trio set Movin’ And Groovin’. I followed this up with Johnny Griffin’s Big Soul Band. I wavered about posting on that one because I thought that it was something of a departure from the classic small band context and that it would not fit- but it seemed to be OK and remains a popular review according to my stats.
Fred Jackson’s great Hootin”N Tootin’ was next up. At the time, I checked Wikipedia which did not give a date of death. Hopefully Fred still is with us and is enjoying a peaceful retirement at the grand age of 85 years old. If anybody knows more, please tell us.
March 2014 saw me take an overdue look at Yusef Lateef (more to come in 2015) and Jazz Mood, his first set as a leader from 1957. The Cats, a fine session featuring John Coltrane followed and I made my first visit to a Grant Green recording on these pages with Grant’s First Stand.
In April, I brought news a a real gem: Heavy Sounds by Elvin Jones and Richard Davis, another set to listen to even if you have to beg steal or borrow. A slow journey north up the motorway system led me to grapple with Bobby Hutcherson’s Happenings. The same trip north gave me time to take a look at The Hot Club Of San Francisco’s Veronica and I got hold of a copy of Jimmy Smith’s lacklustre a less then incredible Softly As A Summer Breeze.
In May Sonny Clark’s Sonny Clark Trio was followed by another Sonny in the form of Sonny Rollins On Impulse, which sounds like a compilation album but isn’t. Later in the month, my local second-hand record store yielded up a copy of John Coltrane’s Ole.
I took another look at Grant Green with his lesser known Iron City, featuring a strong version of Hi-Heeled Sneakers, before returning to Blue Note and Harold Vick’s Steppin’ Out and later in September with Joe Henderson and Inner Urge.
I took the view that Archie Shepp and Dollar Brand’s Duet was slightly spoiled by Shepp’s poor sax technique on a couple of tracks, but I enjoyed Hank Mobley’s great Roll Call, Grant Green’s Green Street and Freddie Hubbard’s Ready For Freddie.
2014 was the year in which a bit of research yielded some more answers about Freddie Roach’s later years and I shelled out for a first pressing of All That’s Good which turned out to be much better than a shocking review suggested it would be.
I’ve already got a the first few reviews for 2015 in mind, so please come back soon and see what I’ve been listening to and remember that comments are most welcome.
One New Year’s Resolution– the quality of the photography at downwithit must improve. No excuses!
The downwithit playlist is a list of 20 YouTube track selections that I have used to give readers a taste of the albums that I have looked at here on downwithit. They are highlighted and form part of a full post.
They are gathered together here for your further pleasure. Click on the burnt orange title to link directly to YouTube and listen.
If you would like to read my full post for the album, each one is available to read here on downwithit
The following six tracks should open on a tablet or mobile device and a computer:-
Tommy Chase: Grove Merchant: Killer Joe
Abdullah Ibrahim: Mannenberg
Pharoah Sanders: Africa: You’ve Got To Have Freedom
The Crusaders: Hollywood: Hollywood
Don Wilkerson: Preach Brother: Camp Meetin’
John Jenkins: John Jenkins with Kenny Burrell: Sharon
The following fourteen tracks should open on a computer, but will not open on a tablet or mobile device:-
Blue Mitchell: Down With It. Hi-Heel Sneakers
John Coltrane: Blue Train: Blue Train
Horace Silver: Six Pieces of Silver: Camouflage
Horace Parlan: Movin’ n Groovin’: On Green Dolphin Street
Joe Henderson: Mode For Joe: Mode For Joe
Johnny Griffin: The Big Soul Band: Wade In The Water
Freddie Roach: Brown Sugar: Brown Sugar
Fred Jackson: Hootin’ ‘N Tootin’: Southern Exposure
Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder: The Sidewinder
Grover Washington: All The King’s Horses: Lean On Me
Kenny Dorham: Una Mas: Una Mas
Jimmy Smith: Home Cookin’: See See Rider
Freddie Roach: The Soul Book: One Track Mind
Kenny Burrell: Out Of This World: Montono Blues
To date, I haven’t taken a look at any piano trios, so putting that right is overdue. Horace Parlan’s debut as a leader, Movin’ & Groovin’ from 1960 is a particular favourite that I have been enjoying since 2010 when visit to Tokyo gave me the opportunity to purchase some Blue Note titles that were then a bit harder to find in the UK.
Horace Parlan was born in Pittsburgh in 1931. Childhood polio led to lifelong partial paralysis of his right hand and I understand that a young Horace took up piano, partly as a form of therapy. Needs must, and his physical challenge was answered by greater use being made of his left hand, which set him apart from other players. In 1957 he moved to New York City and the Movin’ & Groovin‘ session was recorded for Blue Note three years later.
The album is largely made up of Parlan’s interpretations of other people’s tunes, and Duke Ellington’s C Jam Blues provides the starting point. There’s just the right degree of what I, as a non-piano playing listener, perceive as building tension in his playing.
Next up is On Green Dolphin Street. Prior to hearing this LP I was most familiar with a version recorded by Miles Davis. The light and joyful optimism Of Horace Parlan’s treatment makes it a track I listen to often. It was a title tune of a film that broke UK box office records in 1947. It starred Lana Turner in what sounds like something of a rom com where a man gets drunk and writes a letter proposing marriage to one of two sisters who both love him. The wrong sister opens the letter! Oh well, there have probably been flimsier plots and it’s lasting legacy was a fine tune, which you can listen to on YouTube- clip courtesy of 1Blue1
To listen, touch or click on the arrow.
Up in Cynthia’s Room is the sole self-composed tune on this set. It has a fine strolling bass line and is strong without being too demanding to listen to. Lazy Bird is the Tad Dameron standard. It offers a chance for Al Harewood to show that he knows the way around the full range of his kit.
Bag’s Groove is a bustling tune that made me think about Hollywood and dancing as I listened. There probably isn’t such a thing as a foxtrot hustle, but if there was this would be what it could be performed to.
Stella by Starlight offers Parlan another chance to deliver a jazz standard, as does There is No Greater Love, while the set closes with It Could Happen to You. My 92 year old aunt was bouncing along to this one and smiling as it played- so thanks for that Mr Parlan.
Horace Parlan is one of the survivors. In 1971 he decided to move to Europe after being robbed and witnessing other street violence in New York City stating that: “You cannot create good music in an atmosphere full of tension with drugs and crime on the streets.” On the following YouTube clip from a documentary filmed in 2000 (courtesy of DonMcGlynnFilms) he plays a tune entitled Love and Peace and explains how essential these things are to all of us.
To listen, touch or click on the arrow.
Recent posts on London Jazz Collector’s site have looked at two recordings from 1977 and 1980 that Archie Shepp made with him, in which they revisit blues and gospel standards (you can read about them here and here). They remain a treat that I have yet to fully experience, but I can wholeheartedly recommend Movin’ and Groovin‘ as a great starting point for any exploration of Horace Parlan’s piano style.
The band etc: Horace Parlan (piano); Al Harewood (drums); George Tucker (bass). Recorded: 29 February 1960. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey. Produced: Al Lion; Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4028.