Category Archives: Recorded music

Ornithophobia: Troyka

What is no secret, dear reader, is that here at downwithit.info the Hammond Organ is highly valued. What has been hidden from you, until now, is that I once went to see Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I was sixteen. Thankfully, we are all permitted a few youthful mistakes and indiscretions. Beyond harbouring Pictures In An Exhition and Tarkus in my record collection for a couple of years, that was just about the limit of my excursions into hippy prog rock. The genre turned into a circus, on ice in the case of Rick Wakeman and his tales of Tudor royalty. Then Great Punk War broke out, the right side won and the pomp rockers went off to Switzerland to spend their royalties and receipts.

When I initially heard that Troyka were a trio and included a Hammond in their instrumentation I was keen to hear them as soon as possible and got my hands on a review copy. It was only later that I discovered that Ornithophobia was a concept album that leaned towards progressive jazz-rock rather than Jimmy Smith and Big John Patton. I was dismayed. Whilst plenty of modern jazz artists wanted to play like Bird and the great Donald Byrd cut a succession of fine albums, nobody has ever delivered a set concerning the virus induced transmogrification of men into birds, until Troyka turned up with this.

However, I had promised to listen and I did. Several times in fact.

Suffice to say that there is little on the album that fits comfortably with anything else I’ve written about on downwithit.info Indeed, there are some Hammond power chords and sounds that have lain dormant since the mid-seventies when Keith Emerson used knives to sustain long notes on his Hammond and Rick Wakeman wore a silver cape.

I can’t find much that is positive to say (except that the last track, Seahouses, is a pleasant piece). So I won’t try. Next month’s contemporary Jazz album is bound to fit better here. You can bet the farm on that!

The band etc: Kit Downes (Hammond & synths); Chris Montague (guitars); Joshua Blackmore (drums). Recorded at Eton College and On The Record Studios. Produced: Peter Eidh and Troyka. Released: 26 January 2015. Naim Records.

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Blue Spirits: Freddie Hubbard

Blue Spirits Freddie Hubbard

Recorded over two sessions in early 1965 and on CD supplemented by a further two tracks from early 1966, Blue Spirits was Freddie Hubbard’s last studio release on Blue Note and it wasn’t an album that I had come across very often in the shops. However, some good came out of a trip to a football match in Manchester, when I picked this up at Vinyl Exchange.

It then languished unplayed and neglected in my workbag until Christmas. This was a mistake as it is a very fine album. Without further ado, take a listen to the opening track, Soul Surge from YouTube, courtesy of Rogerjazzfan.

To play touch or click on the arrow

There’s a division in fans of Blue Note between those who enjoy Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder and those who speak dismissively of the number of similar tracks that opened subsequent albums by a host of other artists in the hope that they could replicate its success. Soul Surge is one of those tracks, but it is a wonderful piece of music in its own right. Indeed it is one of those pieces that should probably have gained standard’ status but never quite made it. Harold Mabern on piano and Joe Henderson make their mark and conga drummer, Big Black combines delightfully with bassist Larry Ridley.

The same lineup play on the fourth track, Cunga Black. This has a Latin feel and Hubbard stated that he was looking for a dark sound, although I wouldn’t characterise it with that quality.

The second session from late February 1965 yielded the title track, Blue Spirits, which seems to open like a subdued version of Silent Night, before lightening up with the introduction of James Spaulding on flute.

Outer Forces strikes on with a lively feel and pace, while Jodo (‘pure land’ in Japanese) also swings along in a funky way. All fit well with the two tracks from earlier in the month, despite a change of rhythm section and tenor saxophonist with Hank Mobley sitting in here.

The original vinyl release was made up of the five tracks above. However the CD offers a further two tracks from a session in early March 1966, where Joe Henderson returns on tenor, with pianist, Herbie Hancock and Elvin Jones, joined by Reggie Workman on bass and the lesser known Hosea Taylor (alto sax and bassoon). The Melting Pot is more of a modal piece than its predecessors from the previous year. True Colors has a freer, more experimental feel, especially in the solos, and interesting use is made of Hancock’s celeste and it is very different from the rest of the CD. However, both tracks retain a strong sense of cohesion and, in the playing is restrained and confined to the normal range of each instrument.

Bob Blumenthal’s notes accompanying the RVG CD release state: ‘While often overlooked, Blue Spirits is one of the greatest albums in Freddie Hubbard’s voluminous discography.’
It is an album that I’m enjoying very much and one on which the talents of an array of great Blue Note artists are deployed in a wondrous way. All in all, yet another fantastic Blue Note set that is well worth tracking down.

The band etc:-
19 February 1965: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); James Spaulding (alto sax & flute); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Kiane Zawadi (euphonium); Harold Mabern (piano); Larry Ridley (bass); Clifford Jarvis (drums); Big Black (congas). On: Soul Surge & Cunga Black (tracks 1 & 4)
26 February 1965: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); James Spaulding (alto sax & flute); Hank Mobley (tenor sax); Kiane Zawadi (euphonium); McCoy Tyner (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Pete La Roca (drums). On: Blue Spirits, Outer Forces, Jodo (tracks 2-5)
5 March 1966: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Hosea Taylor (alto sax & bassoon); Herbie Hancock (piano, celeste); Reggie Workman (bass); Elvin Jones (drums). On: The Melting Pot, True Colors (tracks 6-7)
Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded 19, 26 February and 5 March 1966. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Nat Hentoff. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Design Reid Miles. Tracks 1-5 Originally issued as Blue Note BST 84196

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Flying The Jazz Flag at Macc Record Club. November 2014

Macclesfield Record Club was in session for its third meet-up last night. Held in the upstairs bar of Mash, a stylish, quirky bar that would not be out of place in Shoreditch or Manchester’s Northern Quarter, the second Wednesday of each month offers a cornucopia of vinyl.

You know how it is. You may just have bought an amazing box set reissue of the life’s work of a critically acclaimed African musician and producer, William Onyeabor; you may select a couple of favourites from Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson; movie soundtracks might be your thing; you are a DJ who wants people to hear a potential floor filler; you might want to put metal against your fellow listeners mettle with some light satanic death thrash, while the deservedly obscure Flexi Sex might be something that just has to be played. All of these things and more were there last night.

The album of the evening, chosen through a pre-meet internet ballot and played in full was Bowie’s Hunky Dory. Discussion ranged widely over what were considered by those present to be his best recordings, without any final consensus. I’m not sure if it was the first pressing on UK RCA that was lacking in a bit of punch or whether the volume was a bit low, but after a while, it did start to sound a bit backgroundy in this context (although it’s up there with Bowie’s best for my money).

As for me, I’m the guy who fights from the Jazz corner. So much to choose from, so many potential barriers to overcome. Although there was a temptation to turn up with Albert Ayler’s Truth Is Marching In, I resisted exposing my fellow listeners to the glories of the free extremes of the Impulse label.

My first track was designed to grab the attention with some hard-edged, soul flavoured saxophone and guitar. Don Wilkerson was called on and you can hear Camp Meeting right here.

To play, touch or click on the arrow.

My own copy isn’t a brilliant pressing (French Liberty) but it still sounded OK. I expect near-mint original first pressings are rare and extremely expensive, but I live in hope.

Attendees like to hear a little about the recording before the stylus graces the groove and my temptation to say a little about Freddie Roach accompanied the title track from his Brown Sugar, presented here for your delectation:

Freddie Roach wrote in 1964, in his self-penned sleevenotes:

I decided to do show soul tunes: Brown Sugar was written with this in mind. I really pictured the dancers in my head. I saw them as they danced the twist to the first twelve bars. Then switching to the Bop for the second twelve and eight bar turnback. Then back to the twist. I could see them so plainly that instead of saying ‘One More Time” at the end, I say “Now where you think you’re going girl” because I can see the girls heading back to their seats.”

I took a look at Brown Sugar here in December 2013. Joe Henderson on tenor sax and the great Grant Green on guitar really soar. My own copy is the Blue Note mono first pressing and a beast with great presence it is too, standing sonically alongside the punchiest 12 inch singles that were played tonight. Hats off to Rudy Van Gelder at the controls. I’m confident that my excursion to the Boogaloo Baptist part of the Blue Note spectrum won the label several new friends in the Castle Quarter of Macclesfield.

I can’t praise Macc Record Club too highly, offering as it does, the opportunity to listen to music that perhaps you wouldn’t normally consider listening to. Hosts Nick and Simon have wisely, in my view, limited themselves to an entry level music system, as they don’t want to introduce hifi eliteism. However, their move from a Rega RP1 turntable with basic cartridge to a more advanced Project / Ortofon Red cartridge arrangement next month will be interesting. Those Christmas carols and festive beats will be displayed at great advantage.

If you like the concept of what you just read about, why not do it yourself and start your own Record Club right there in your own locality. You can visit Macclesfield Record Club’s Facebook pages here.

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One Year Old: downwithit.info

This website is now one year old.

The first posting on downwithit.info was published on 19 September 2014.

In the last year the site has been visited 4097 times by visitors from 67 countries. 1867 visits have been from UK web addresses, followed by 1070 hits from US visitors. 99 visits have been made from Brazil, while there has only been 1 visit from each of New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan and nobody has looked in from Jamaica or Iceland yet!

39 albums have been reviewed and these have included 6 newly released sets by artists who are currently active.

15 live gigs have been reported on (with a couple of Pharoah Sanders US gigs that I couldn’t get to also being mentioned).

The most rewarding strands involved finding out more about Freddie Roach and starting to write about current live and recorded music. I’ve particularly enjoyed gigs at East Side Jazz Club, where I’ve seen some superb musicianship from world-class performers and it has been great that Steve Williamson has made a very welcome re-appearance on live stages.

Bringing things right up to date, last week the first meeting of Macc Record Club took place and you can read about this excellent fresh initiative here.

Over the next year I intend to continue as before and I hope you all continue to visit.

Comments are very welcome and the one surprise is that there have been very few- so dont’t be shy. I’m sure some of what I write about provokes a reaction- so please feel free to react.

Onward to the autumn and winter of 2014.

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What I’m Listening to: Week commencing 18 August 2014.

Monday 18 August 2014
Back on my bus and tube commute and another listen to Grant Green’s Matador (Blue Note. Recorded May 20 1965- released 1979).
Returning home there was more time for:
Cannonball Adderley Sextet. Nippon Soul (Riverside. 1963).

Tuesday 19 August 2014
Yusef Lateef. Jazz Mood (Savoy. 1957)
. Which I have previously written about here.
Charles Mingus. The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady (Impulse. 1963). Through the headies.
John Coltrane. Live At The Village Vanguard: The Master Takes(Impulse. 1998- recorded 1961).

Wednesday 20 August 2014
Excited by next month’s contemporary jazz album- ordered 5 minutes ago. What is it? That would be telling but it is by a hero recorded live. Can’t wait to tell you about it in early September!
At home it’s another visit to the brilliance of John Coltrane. Live At The Village Vanguard: The Master Takes(Impulse. 1998- recorded 1961).

Thursday 21 August 2014
Archie Shepp & Dollar Brand: Duet. (Denon 1980).

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