downwithit was partly inspired by Nile Rodgers. In his autobiography he writes that Chic started each project with something that he calls DHM (deep hidden meaning) to the fore. I’m not sure that there’s a unifying sense of DHM about Yusef Lateef’s Impulse album, 1984 but the title does have a hidden meaning which has nothing to do with George Orwell or the year 1984. If you stick with me all will be revealed at the end of the last paragraph.
Previous posts have confirmed that I regard Yusef Lateef as being amongst the great jazz woodwind players. I had been searching for this set on CD for some time and finally cornered it during a visit to New York last year at Frederick Cohen’sJazz Record Center (which itself takes a bit of tracking down). Mr Cohen is the author of the first comprehensive Blue Note collectors discography ‘Blue Note Records: A Guide For Identifying Original Pressings. His premises are hidden away in an office building on W26th Street but are well worth seeking out. He a nice guy who was happy to have a chat and pose for a quick photograph. I departed happy and with my Japanese release of 1984, which cost me a very reasonable $18.99(£13.34 at today’s exchange rate)
Pic shows: Mr Fred Cohen of Jazz Record Center, NYC
Anyway, on to the album. It is something of a mixed bag and, in my opinion, would have benefitted immeasurably by some disciplined editorial oversight. Of course part of the thing about Impulse was that the artists had an unprecedented degree of control over their recordings and chances were taken. The title track, billed as ‘…a mythical trip to the future’ on the sleeve, is evidence of this. The notes explain that Yusef Lateef is playing within a 12 tone system of his own creation and that he is employing a range of instruments of an exotic and self-fashioned type. However, his experimentalism on this track doesn’t do anything for me and, to my ears, almost spoils a largely excellent set with its sonic meanderings which include squeaks and sub-vocalisations (which make reappearances albeit in a more restrained context on some of his later work on Atlantic). Oh well, I’m glad the future hasn’t turned out like this yet!
Try Love brings the listener gently back into the mainstream. Yusef plays oboe on this one and New Zealand pianist Mike Nock”s work is a delight, although some expressive drumming reminds us that this is 1966 and everything is up for grabs.
Soul Sister is a sophisticated up-town sort of a track on which Yusuf takes takes us strutting out led by his tenor saxophone. At 3.06 it is all too brief an excursion. You can have a listen courtesy of YouTube:-
To play either click on or touch the arrow.
Mike Nock’s Love Waltz closes the first side of the long playing record and it is a vehicle for his piano, with Yusef Lateef, generously giving the sideman an opportunity here and sitting out on this one.
The next track is yet another lapse in editorial judgement. One Little Indian actually opened side 2 of the original LP. It will be more familiar to UK audiences as the bewhiskered Michael Finnegan but in the USA it goes by the other title and it has attracted criticism because of racially offensive lyrics in several of its incarnations. We can be confident that Yusef Lateef was not seeking to be provocative here- but, in my view, it is a filler track at very best and probably should not have been included on the album release.
Happily, Listen to The Wind is another rather more listenable track starting with an ECMish introduction before Yusef shows he can play hard bop choruses as well as anybody. The tune then changes tempo again for a piano solo, with a reflective saxophone piece to close matters.
Duke Ellington’s Warm Fire is a delicious late-night track, played deightfully and conventionally before Gee! Sam Gee takes us back into restrained tone poem territory, with Lateef resisting temptations to take us on a sonic excursion.
The Greatest Story Ever Told is the theme tune from a then current sword, sandals and Bible epic of the same name. In 1961 Lateef had offered themes from Spartacus and The Robe on Eastern Sounds, an excellent set which I’ll take a look at here at some stage. Although this is not the greatest tune that Yusef ever recorded, it’s OK, with some pleasant flute playing.
Although I was delighted to get hold of 1984 and it is an album which has some strong playing on it, it is uneven. I rate it as an album for the completest collector rather than an essential purchase and two of the tracks disappoint massively. The sound quality is excellent throughout and although the cover does not say where 1984 was recorded, Rudy Van Gelder’s presence gives a clue- although this may be a false one, as reliable sources say that the set was recorded at Pep’s Lounge in Philadelphia, although the recording didn’t take place before a live audience. Cover photos are by Charles Taylor who I also mentioned in more detail here.
Yusef Lateef plays a King tenor sax on this set (doubtless the silver model with the under slung neck pictured on the cover). However, I have also seen another more recent picture showing his instruments featuring no less than six Selmer tenors (the Selmer Mark vi was the instrument favoured as first choice by most of the greatest players- and not so great as I owned one myself for many years).
The Band etc: Yusef Lateef (Tenor saxophone, flute, diverse wind instruments); Reggie Workman (double bass); James Black (drums); Mike Nock(piano). Recorded: 24 February 1965. Produced: Bob Thiele. Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover: Robert Flynn / Viceroy. Cover photography: Charles Stewart. Sleeve Notes: Bob Hammer. Released as Impulse AS84.
So what about the hidden meaning of the title? Well it is actually quite straightforward. This is Impulse release number 84. A is letter 1 of the alphabet and S is letter number 19- 11984- delete the first 1 and you get 1984. Simple really. Give yourself a round of applause if you stayed with things so far, and play the wonderful Soul Sister (again).
There’s only one place to start this post: with a plea of Guilty as charged. I thought I was familiar with all of the great albums by John Coltrane up to the time that I assumed that he forsook beautiful and comprehensible playing for the outer limits exemplified by the likes of Interstellar Space, an album that I struggle with.
I was wrong. To my ears, Crescent should be ranked amongst Coltrane’s finest releases. Many tag this as Coltrane’s darkest and most sombre set. I prefer to think of it as the product of an artist going through a contemplative and reflective period of composition and recording. Entirely overshadowed by his next release, A Love Supreme, Crescent should be better known and far more celebrated than is currently the case.
The opening number which gives the set its title starts out with Coltrane laying down his theme in ballad form. Then the rhythm section and piano come in and Coltrane starts an improvisation that is at first leisurely but which grows in complexity. McCoy Tyner’s subtle and melodic boundaries are matched by Garrison and Elvin Jones and Coltrane’s freer and more phonic playing is contained within a structure that keeps things entirely, in my opinion, intelligible. Take a listen courtesy of YouTube:-
To play, touch or click on the arrow.
Wise One is one of the great Coltrane ballads. It is reflective rather than joyous and none the worse for that- some would say it is spiritual. Again Tyner is superb. I’ve long been familiar with this performance as it features on the excellent Gentle Side of John Coltrane compilation, which I also wholeheartedly recommend.
Bessie’s Blues is a short hard bop excursion, which hits the spot in a straight-ahead 4/4 style.
Lonnie’s Lament offers sophisticated listening, perhaps best heard at the end of a day when the listener is open to reap the rich rewards of a track which is evocative of whatever deeper thoughts one wants to evoke but which does not strike me as a sad lament (perhaps You may perceive it as such though). Garrison gets a good opportunity to show his talent on a lengthy bass solo that he plucks from heart and soul.
Drum Thing doesn’t surprise as it contains a fine drum solo from the great Elvin Jones. Coltrane’s contribution sounds very Northern European and, to my way of hearing, would not be out of place on an ECM release (which, to clarify, I consider to be a very good thing, though in moderation).
There is a belief that at Coltrane may have written about his intentions and subject matter for some of these compositions and others, including Alabama, in prose or poetry but any evidence of this remains missing, perhaps lost for ever. The tunes themselves are strong enough, alone, to stand the tests of time.
So there we have it. Crescent is a brilliant album that you should not miss. Coltrane plays wonderfully on a set where his great quartet are at the height of their powers and all members receive time and space to solo impressively. I can’t recommend this set too highly.
The band etc: John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); McCoy Tyner (piano); Elvin Jones (drums); Jimmyy Garrison (bass). Produced: Bob Thiele. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs. 27 April & 1 June 1964. Cover Design: Freddie Paloma. Cover Photography: Charles Stewart. Released: 1964. Original release: Impulse AS-66.
I’m surprised that I have not written about True Blue before now. My recent acquisition of an excellent Music Matters copy on vinyl presents me with an opportunity to put that right though.
In 2001 in Blue Note Records: The Biography, Richard Cook wrote: ‘This is one of the forgotten masterpieces of the Blue Note catalogue.’ Thankfully, diligent work from Michael Cuscuna and a series of reissues has made this gem readily available.
Tina Brooks was one of a select group of female artists who played on the New York scene and were recorded by Blue Note.
No he wasn’t! His actual name was Harold and Tina was a childhood nickname, deriving from ‘tiny’ or ‘teeny’. Although he recorded four self-led sessions with Blue Note between 1958 and 1961, True Blue was the only recording issued with him as leader in his lifetime. He played on notable sessions with Jimmy Smith and Kenny Burrell but it has been suggested that, with a reserved and shy demeanour, he didn’t push his own case sufficiently well with Blue Note for the label to issue strong sets including Minor Move and Back to The Tracks (which are both in my collection). He never recorded again after 1961 and played local gigs in The Bronx. TB died in obscurity in 1974 after a life marred by drug-related illness. He was a contender who, perhaps, could have been a king. There’s a piece entitled ‘Who killed Tina Brooks’ which you can find if you want to know more- but I’ve not linked to it here as those in the know have suggested that it is unjust in its criticism of TB’s treatment by Blue Note.
Good Old Soul is the first of five Tina Brooks compositions here. It has a slinky feel about it and an extended solo from TB which shows his command of his tenor. A 22 year old Freddie Hubbard is also on fine form here too, as is Duke Jordan on piano.
Up Tight’s Creek bops and bustles along and after a bright trumpet solo from Hubbard, features a fluent tenor contribution. Duke Jordan’s piano is also worth pausing to listen to.
Theme for Doris is a mid-paced piece that is pleasing and again showcases TB’s inventiveness as a soloist.
True Blue opens the second side of the set. To these ears there’s something that conjures images of Sixties city architecture, all concrete, glass and straight lines- in the most unlikely event that I produce a TV documentary about The Barbican, you now know part of the soundtrack. What do you think (courtesy of YouTube)?
To play touch or click on the arrow
Miss Hazel is a conventional hard bop piece with another flowing tenor solo followed by Hubbard and Jordan.
Nothing Ever Changes My Love for You is the only standard tune here. Written by Jack Segal and Marvin Fisher, it had been a hit for Nat King Cole in 1956.
There is a collection of Tina Brooks complete works available on Mosaic. When compiling this Michael Cuscuna went to Freddie Hubbard, whose career had flourished. His memories of Tina Brooks were warm ones and he recalled TB’s talent and strengths as a musician.
The sound quality of the Music Matters pressing of True Blue is excellent on my Rega RP6/Naim/Spendor system. If you don’t have any of his recordings you should consider seeking some out. True Blue particularly benefits from working as a showcase for TB’s musicianship and compositional skills. It is an album where the tunes fit well together and has a greater sense of unity than some Blue Note sessions where the artist seems to want to cover too much ground by including a distracting variety of styles. Often a straight ahead tune will be followed by a snippet of Bossa, a sprinkle of standard and a slice of ballad with the sum total lacking a true centre. That’s not the case here though.
The RVG series CD has alternate takes of True Blue and Good Old Soul from the same session. The version of True Blue which omits the piano for the first eight bars of the intro is of particular interest.
The band etc: Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Duke Jordan (piano); Sam Jones (bass); Art Taylor (drums). Recorded: 25 June 1960. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Ira Gitler. Cover design: Reid Miles. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Issued as Blue Note 84041.
This is another Pharoah Sanders gig that I didn’t get to see, mainly because it was in New York City and I was in London.
There is a New York Times reviewhere accompanied by an excellent photo.
It seems like Pharoah was playing well and I enjoyed this paragraph in particular:-
But this crowd was listening hard and well. At one point, Mr. Booth played a solo that alternated between only two notes. It was an exercise in focused simplicity, and the crowd processed exactly what was good about it: Cheers erupted when he finished. The same went for a single note played by Mr. Sanders toward the end: not particularly long or showstopping, but big and strong and decisive, full of overtones. The audience members seemed to understand that it was more than a note; they understood the power of its placement, and the information it contained, and how in a way it represented Mr. Sanders’s whole enterprise.
I remain hopeful that we will get the chance to see Pharoah in the UK later this year.
Time for another look at a Pharoah Sanders set. In late November 1966, Pharoah was ready to lead the first Impulse session to go out under his own name and Tauhid was the result. Having already come to notice alongside John Coltrane, where his tenor saxophone added heat and fire he was in the driving seat. What were listeners to experience on hearing his first album for what I’m tempted to refer to as the label that enabled?
Upper and Lower Egypt represents Pharoah’s attempts to create an image of how his extensive reading about that part of the world made him feel and the resonances that it created in him. The slower portentous Upper Egypt introduction gives way to a repetition of the theme that is very close to the later You’ve Got To Have Freedom. We are some 12 minutes into the piece before Pharoah’s tenor takes pride of place, sounding as though he wants to blow it apart. A brief scat vocal follows
Henry Grimes, who we met playing alongside Marc Ribot here, adds double bass throughout and a very impressive contribution he makes too!
Japan is a delightful short tune that Pharoah wrote While reflecting on a trip that he took there with John Coltrane in the summer of 1966. There’s a bit of improvised vocalise and it is enjoyable.
The final suite was written as three individual pieces which flowed together when recorded. Sanders plays alto saxophone on Aum, which features a series of scales and phrases played extremely fast in a manner reminiscent of Coltrane’s sheets of sound. The sleeve notes record how for Pharoah, the word holds a kind of magical quality and:- ‘It means God. It means peace. It means the beginning of things.’ Sanders was certainly aiming for something miles away from easy melody when he started to blow on this and Grimes adds to the challenging cacophony with sharp notes he finds and plucks from his four strings.
I assume the transformation into the Venus section is the point where we return to conventional tune and melody. Venus was written with Sanders star sign in mind, as was Capricorn Rising which, he informs us, is also part of his horoscope. It is both sweet and sour, seemingly without form but improvised around a beautiful tune. If a tune can frighten the horses while soothing the savage breast it is this one.
A bass passage (coda?) leads us into Capricorn Rising. This piece is an angry sounding, instrument testing taster for the lyricism which came to the fore in Phroah’s playing on his much later A Prayer Before Dawn set (which we will visit at some stage).
Tauhid is an album where Pharoah doesn’t seek to hog the limelight and where he sought to convey feelings and impressions. He speaks about what he is trying to do: ‘…it’s not that I’m trying to scream on my horn. I’m just trying to put all my feelings into the horn. And when you do that the notes go away’. So Tauhid is not an album of dinner jazz or one for a first date. Those chained to a classical sense of what is musical and what isn’t will run away making dismissive comments, but the open-minded will reap rich rewards here. Why not give it a try courtesy of YouTube:-
To play, touch or click on the arrow
Pharoah Sanders (Tenor and Alto saxophones, Piccolo, Voice); Sonny Sharrock (Guitar); Dave Burrell (Piano); Henry Grimes (Bass); Roger Blank (Drums); Nat Bettis (Percussion). Recorded: 15 November 1966. Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Produced: Bob Thiele. Recording engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover notes: Nat Hentoff. Cover photography: Charles Stewart. Originally issued in 1967 as Impulse AS9138.
Regular readers may know that Pharoah Sanders is a saxophonist that I enjoy very much.
When checking to see if any UK dates are scheduled (sadly, none listed at present), I came across a recent live review by Gary Vercelli, which you can read here. The author was wondering if 74 year old Pharoah can still perform at a high level. His conclusion is that:-
Pharoah Sanders showed that age is just a number. He still negotiates the chord changes with ease and finesse and inner child is still very much alive!
That’s good news– hopefully we’ll see for ourselves later in 2015.
Just when I was wondering which CD to select as my March contemporary review, I received a copy of this offering from this young British saxophonist. It fits the bill perfectly- although it has been out since November 2014, so I’m not writing about the newest of new releases for you here today.
The set features three tracks recorded with the BBC Concert Orchestra and a further five from a quintet session. Since the quintet tracks were recorded exactly a year ago and this (4th March 2015) is the first birthday for some of them, I have no excuse other than to listen and enjoy immediately.
This is Trish Clowes third album and it is a work which exudes confidence and maturity, with all of the tracks being self-written and arranged. It is adventurous without losing sight of being melodious so let’s have a run through the tracks.
Radiation is the first of the three collaborations with the Concert Orchestra. Starting out with a rich and plaintiff saxophone phrase over a lush orchestral arrangement the tempo first speeds and then alternates featuring great dialogue between guitar, piano, sax and orchestra.
Question Mark is a tone poem that has a decidedly modern feel to it.
Porcupine is jangly and angular without being extreme, culminating in an interesting extended tenor solo from Clowes, which leads into a hard bop accompaniment from the rhythm section
Symphony In Yellow was inspired by an Oscar Wilde poem. The piano playing from Gwilym Simcock is particularly deft and sensitive and Chris Montague paves the way for a short lyrical interlude from Trish Clowes leading to a finale
The BBC Concert Orchestra is back for Balloon, which features the oboe of Lauren Weavers and more fine electric guitar from Montague.
Pfeiffer and the Whales was inspired by a trip that Clowes made to Monterey and Big Sur in California. It is enormously relaxing- the very sort of piece to accompany a short morning meditation for those that are into that, apparently very rewarding, sort of thing. Great stuff.
Wayne’s Waltz is dedicated to Wayne Shorter, following a meeting between the saxophone giant and Clowes. The soprano sax and piano enjoy an exchange before the voice of Calum Gourlay’s bass is heard. This track is currently available on YouTube and you can take a look here:-
To listen click or touch the arrow.
Chorale reunites Clowes with the orchestra. She explains in her brief but informative sleeve notes that she encouraged them to improvise over two chords on this piece, which strikes me as capturing a certain sophisticated London Jazz sound. It is very enjoyable.
The recorded sound is excellent and the production by Curtis Schwartz and Neil Varley (orchestral tracks) captures the instrumentation to fine effect. Two of photographs by Kira Doherty were taken on an atmospheric reach of the Thames in a bit of South-East London that I know really well, but which is getting built up really quickly. An unexpected bonus from this review is the encouragement for me to don my running shoes and get out there again very soon.
Thanks to my industry contact Christine for the review copy of this complex yet accessible set and for introducing me to this great young British talent. She informed me that she had enjoyed a recent performance by ‘…this charming saxophonist’ in London last week. If Chris enjoyed the show that’s a good enough recommendation for me!
The band etc: Trish Clowes (tenor & soprano saxophone); Gwilym Simcock (piano); Chris Montague (electric guitar); Calum Gourlay (double bass); James Maddren (drums). Small band tracks recorded at Curtis Schwartz Studios, W. Sussex on 3 & 4 March 2014. Radiation, Balloon and Chorale recorded at Air Studios, London on 22 January 2014. Produced by Curtis Schwartz and Neil Varley (orchestral tracks). Mixing and mastering by Curtis Schwartz. Photography: Kira Doherty. Issued on Basho Records, SRCD 45-2. November 2014.
Looking back over the postings here at downwithit.info, I’ve yet to take a look at a Hank Mobley set, although he is well represented in my collection.
I won’t hear a word against Mobley, though many have uttered them and Roll Call from 1961, was his 15th release as a leader (and his 11th on Blue Note). He is in in great company here with 23 year old Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and the crack rhythm section of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Art Blakey.
The title track is also the opener and Blakey gets things underway with a drum roll before the band deliver Roll Call as a competent hard bopper. Freddie Hubbard shows that he has his own trumpet voice and plenty of ideas in his solo. My Groove Your Move is slightly slower, a mid-paced vehicle for a delightful Hank Mobley solo, followed by subtle piano and bass contributions from Kelly and Mr PC.
Take Your Pick is a pacey 60’s New York swinger on which nobody puts a foot wrong.
A Baptist Beat is my favourite on this set. Harking back to gospel and the blues, it’s a fine composition, which you can listen to and enjoy on YouTube.
To play, touch or click on the arrow.
The RVG Edition CD has the bonus of an alternative take.
The More I See You is the only composition on Roll Call not written by Hank Mobley. Originally written by the prolific Harry Warren it gets played straight in a cocktail bar style here. Manhattans (using your best Tennessee whiskey) all round please! A bit of a filler.
The Breakdown, another enjoyable hard bop blow along, with some mighty, muscular trading of fours between Art Blakey and the rest of the band closes the set.
Sitting in his catalogue between the might of 1960’s Soul Station and 1961’s Workout, Roll Call won’t disappoint, especially if, like me, you enjoy the soul-jazz flavour of A Baptist Beat.
London Jazz Collector has looked at Roll Call, and, as ever, has an interesting comment on this set here.
The band etc:- Hank Mobley (tenor sax); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Wynton Kelly (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); Art Blakey (drums). Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded 13 November 1960. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Robert Levin. Cover design: Reid Miles. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Originally issued as Blue Note BLP 4058
The summer of 2014 has hosted the welcome re-emergence of top British saxophonist, Steve Williamson. Back in late-June he featured in the re-creation of A Love Supreme (which you can read about here) and then guested on Black Top One (here). Although both of these performances gave a glimpse of his talents I was eagerly awaiting an opportunity to hear him play his own material as a leader. When I read about the September gig at The Dean Street Jazz Club I contacted them immediately, to be at the head of the queue. I enjoyed his playing over 20 years ago and it would be fascinating to find out how he had developed in the intervening years.
This was his first gig as leader of his own band, playing his own set for well over ten years. Backed by Michael Mondesir on bass, Robert Mitchell, piano, with Seb Rochford providing the drums (and last encountered here on percussion duty with Polar Bear), he was in superb company and he told us of his delight to be sharing the stage with them.
The first set opened with the unusual time signature of the lengthy Soon Come, which allayed any concerns that he may have lost his edge on tenor saxophone. Cracked Earth was next and I pondered the difference between performers who play their own material, rather than drawing on standards. I concluded that it depends on the quality of the material and Steve Williamson’s has tensile strength throughout.
Waltz For Grace, so old a favourite that my copy is on a C90 cassette, followed. SW switched to soprano sax and his anthem featured London-based Sardinian vocalist Filomena Campus, who has a most incredible jazz voice. Some people just sing while a very few others make use of an incredible instrument that they are gifted with. Campus is part of this small second group and I hope it won’t be long before I see her deliver her own set, as I’m sure that would be a treat.
Mandy’s Mood which sounds like a nod to Freedom Jazz Dance to me, took us to the interval.
Wakening opened the second half and was followed by Gary Bartz’s Celestial Blues, Journey To The Truth and Water Like Water.
Williamson’s confidence and assurance increased with every tune and this band, who were solid and unwavering in their support, will be a joy to watch if they come your way. I’ll certainly be hoping to see more of them as the days draw in towards winter.
As I’m confident that there is a great deal more to come, I will rate this gig as a 7/10 performance and bid the man himself a huge ‘Welcome back! You’ve been missed’.