Max Roach: For Big Sid

“For Big Sid” is one of three drum solos that Max recorded on Drums Unlimited, along with “The Drum Also Waltzes” and the title track. He had previously referenced that composition quite a bit, but to my knowledge, this was the first time it was released. Just the fact that he had those drum solos on the album, and the way he presented them, seems pretty revolutionary to me. I think it’s one of the great albums in the history of jazz music, not only for interspersing the solos between the other songs, but also the quality of those tunes, such as “Nommo.” It’s what he played, how he played it. In this music, you always find historical connections and threads, and even though Max was always forward-thinking, he also referenced the past. This is a perfect example. “For Big Sid” references the tune “Mop, Mop,” which Kenny Clarke developed, and is also a direct reference to Sid Catlett, who recorded that tune with Art Tatum in 1943. It’s like he’s killing two birds with one stone.

Call-and-response is always present in Max’s approach to soloing as well as comping. Here it’s like he’s playing a melody and comping for himself—all of it happens at the same time. It’s a supreme example of theme-and-variation, where he initiates a theme, and answers himself. He continues that pattern all throughout the piece. He takes a motif, flips it around, inverts it, elongates it. Same initial phrase, but it gets longer—different dynamics and so on. Max always said that he didn’t really play melody, that he played form and structure and shape. He meant that within the course of the framework of the song, the harmony and so forth, he was creating those shapes and following the form. But he always did it so cogently, with great clarity. This is a perfect example of that quality.

What he played was individual to who he was, and how he synthesized all of his experiences. He preached that mantra, but he also followed it. He referenced numerous sources—from the Caribbean and Africa, from the church, from Western Classical, rudimental solos, and Wilcoxsen. All of that is expressed when he played, and it’s certainly evident here. You see his technical virtuosity, but you also see how he uses space. It’s as though the things he doesn't play is just as important as what he does. Regardless of what he played, he always used that call-and-response---and there’s so much call-and-response from phrase to phrase within the context of this solo in the way he builds it and creates the architecture, and also in the tones he uses to express it. Sometimes Max goes from left to right, right to left, and then he comes out from another angle. It’s almost looking in a kaleidoscope. You see the shape, then you twist it, which changes that shape. It’s coming from the last one, but it’s still related to what came before it. All his stuff is related to what comes before, and then he recapitulates to the beginning.

October 15, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Max Roach-Hassan Ibn Ali: Din-Ka Street

Jason Moran brought The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hassan to my attention, and it really speaks to me---one of my favorite records, period. The whole record is a departure from traditional piano trio playing I’ve heard up to late 1964, when that was recorded. It isn’t the piano player solos, and then the drummer and bass player are in support mode, like the Oscar Peterson Trio, or any other trio. Everybody is soloing almost at the same time, or collectively, in the sense of New Orleans collective improvisation. That’s the historical reference I draw from it. Max never just plays the swing pattern and comps for Hassan while he takes a solo. They’re always back and forth, a true conversation. Everybody has individual responsibility as to what’s going on.

The tune starts with an arco bass thing at the beginning, he plays the melody, then a solo section. There’s no real TING, TING-TA-DING, TING-TA-DING swing going on through it. It’s referenced, it’s intimated, but it’s not really that. Max isn’t really playing the hi-hat on 2 and 4 either. There’s no regimented feel throughout the course of the piece. The rhythm they're all using is pretty advanced. Hassan is playing phrases in 5 and in 7, and they’re all playing over the bar, even on the trading. It's all right on the edge. All of them are virtuosos, but they’re taking it to the apex in terms of creativity within the framework of a trio. Even Elvin Jones, as influential as he was in terms of phrasing, generally rooted everything with a 2-and-4 thing on the hi-hat. Max abandoned that in certain situations---this, as you can clearly hear, was one of them. He told me there were certain techniques you could use to play that way and still maintain the groove—the groove isn’t abandoned, but he’s still not playing 2 and 4 on the hi-hat. It’s more of a dancing feel. I’ve heard older musicians say that to drummers and to bass players, like, “Yeah, ok, we’re walking, but I want you to dance.” So everyone in the group has more freedom in approaching the rhythm.

Max also makes some ride cymbal distinctions on this tune which reference back to Kenny Clarke. In terms of the music’s evolution, I always think of Papa Jo Jones establishing that ride cymbal pattern, and then Kenny Clarke embellishing on that with techniques like “dropping bombs,” syncopating more between the bass drum and the snare drum, and also varying the ride cymbal pattern, using the ride cymbal more in terms of accents—meaning not playing four-on-the-floor all the time. On this particular cut, as on the whole recording, Max takes these ideas to another level in the phrases he’s playing in conjunction with what Hassan and Dr. Davis are playing, in the ride cymbal pattern associated with the omission of the 2-and-4 on the hi-hat. Everybody is listening hard, too, responding and reacting to each other. It’s not like anybody is just doing their own thing. There’s a true synergy. No automatic pilot.

Max changes the texture when the bass solo occurs by switching to the brushes. That takes the flow from a more interactive quality to just straight quarter notes, and changes the dynamic of the piece—more like a movement in a symphony. They’re constructing the music in a way that goes out of the framework of the regular song. From the bass solo in the introduction, to the piano rubato, to the tune, then back to the bass solo—the form is pointing forward, elongating. It’s different than the regular 32-bar or 12-bar blues that some people associate with “jazz music.”

October 15, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Max Roach-Abbey Lincoln: Triptych: Prayer / Protest / Peace

First and foremost, this recording was really important because of its social implications. The liner notes begin with an A. Philip Randolph quote”: “A revolution is unfurling—America’s unfinished revolution. Masses of Negroes are marching onto the stage of history and demanding their freedom now.” That’s where I assume Max copped the title, which was very powerful and definitely indicative of what was happening in the country in 1960. The Civil Rights Act wouldn’t be signed until 1964. There was a long way to go. Black people in America were living under very severe conditions, and Max addressed that in the music.

It’s a powerful piece. It’s a duo between Abbey and Max, presented in three parts. Max did a lot of duo work during the course of his career, which speaks to his musical sensitivity, because in every situation, even though he plays some similar language, he presents it differently—and it always seems so fresh and creative. The other day [pianist] Connie Crothers told me they had done a recording on which, he told her, he played some things on brushes that he had never played before. So he was always in tune, always searching for something outside his usual language. We all have language that’s usual to us. I use certain words and phrases more often than others. It’s the same with music. Even a genius and virtuoso such as Max Roach always referenced certain phrases—you can hear them on “Triptych.”

“The Freedom Now Suite,” was a collaborative piece by Max and Oscar Brown, Jr., but “Triptych” is just a duo, which it seems like an extemporaneous composition in three parts. The first part is “Prayer,’ which is the cry of an oppressed people. He starts with a simple phrase. That call-and-response, that antiphony, is always present in his playing. He starts, Abbey is singing, like a prayer, and then the protest emerges from that, where she’s screaming and yelling, and Max is rumbling. There is a definite sense of anger, but there’s also, especially in Max’s playing, a sense of organization. Taking it out of the musical realm and applying it to the social: People had been killed and mistreated for hundreds of years, so there was tremendous anger and resentment, but organization was essential to achieve the goal. I received that message especially in this part, because even though Max is playing aggressively and intensely, it's intense, it's big, but there is definitely a logic—he conveys the message. Abbey as well.

The last part is in 5/4. But Max also references that “Drum Also Waltzes” motif in this section of “Triptych.”

So the image that was created with this song was powerful and pretty clear. “Triptych” is a piece of art that has three panels, usually the middle one being the larger. That definition doesn’t necessarily apply to this piece; the movements all seem almost equal in length. But I got a very clear visual image from it. Not too long after Miles passed, in late ‘91 or early ‘92, Max organized a memorial for Miles at the Cathedral of St. John’s The Divine. Judith Jameson was there, Maya Angelou, different people, and there was some dancing going on. I drove up to the church with him, and we were listening to “Bitches Brew” in the car. He went, “oh, man, I can see these evil-assed women brewing some shit.” He was hearing the music and he was relating it directly to the title. He said, “I can see them stirring up some brew to fuck up some cat.” He said it sounds like that.

This has the same effect. I got a very clear picture from “Triptych,” referencing clearly what was going on at that time in America. Max had a lot of problems getting work during this period, from making his political statements. He said a lot of times he went somewhere, and they’d say, “I love this music, but can you just not say anything about this?” He’d say, “No, I have to talk about it.” It was taking money out of his pocket—him and Abbey. I know that she suffered quite a bit as a result of their actually taking a stand and being as vocal about it as they were. Financially speaking, their careers took a hit. So Max always put his money where his mouth was. He was really dedicated. Really high integrity. Willing to sacrifice financial security to get across the message.

October 15, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Duke Ellington: Fleurette Africaine

“Fleurette Africaine” is my favorite song off the legendary Money Jungle record with Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. So how can I not include it as one of my favorite cuts that Max was involved in? The great star power of those three individuals together on a record is phenomenal. Actually, to be truthful, I don’t know if Max and Mingus really had that great a connection in terms of the rhythm section. In fact, Max told me about some things that happened at the session... What happened is probably legendary.

Max was connected to Duke; he’d played with him at 16, his first gig with a signature person, sitting in for Papa Greer [Sonny Greer] for a few nights while Sonny wasn’t feeling well. Here, twenty years later, Max is somewhat of a star himself, and of course, Duke influenced Mingus so much as a composer. To have them all there is special thing. A lot of times, those kind of pulled-together all-star situations don’t work, but this is one of the best dates of that kind.

The Bandwagon recorded “Wig Wise” from this session. I’d never heard it before we recorded, but when I listened, it definitely sounded like they’re at odds, and there’s a lot of aggression coming from Mingus. I dug it, though! It definitely sounds frantic and tense. But this song doesn’t have that quality, which is maybe why it’s my favorite from the album. It’s melancholy, in a way, almost softly sad.

To me, Max provides that calmness. He’s playing mallets, and the feel is subdued throughout. The whole piece sounds like a ballad-fairy-tale song. This is 1962, still the era of the Civil Rights movement, so the fact that they’re referencing something African as beautiful, and equating that with black people, was important. Nowadays it might not necessarily be as important, but then it really was. The “Fleurette Africaine” title references the times—1962 is the year Algeria got its independence from France, and the African nations generally were coming out of the colonial grip. I think the musicians were conscious of that, and were using their music to convey a kinship to those people who were struggling for their independence, because we were doing the same thing over here.

A lot of times it seems that Max is playing the opposite of what Mingus is playing. Mingus goes DING-DING, DING-DING, he’s up in there, and then Max is playing longer. When Mingus is doing the opposite, then Max is rolling. The sound of Max’s playing gives me an image of water in a shallow river bed over small rocks. It sounds like there’s small rocks under what he’s doing. Gentle, sensitive, inobtrusive playing. Very simple melody. Beautiful.

October 15, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Max Roach: Garvey's Ghost

This is one of my favorite cuts of music of all time. It’s another example of how the title really speaks to what’s happening in the music. This references Marcus Garvey, the great Pan-Africanist in the States during the late '10s and ‘20s, ‘who died in England in 1940, mistreated, and his organization decentralized by the same tactics used against the Black Panthers some years later. The piece references that history, talking about self-determination, but then it also has a haunting, ghostly quality—the melody is so powerful, as is the fact that Abbey doesn’t sing any words.

Max wrote the song. The solos by Booker Little and Clifford Jordan are straight fire! Then again, we see that juxtaposition of rhythms against each other, because he has Patato playing the congas and Carlos Eugenio playing the cowbell—Max is kind of playing in 6 but also in 3, in the way he’s swinging, and keeps that pattern almost all throughout the piece. But the way he comps, pushes Booker Little and Clifford Jordan through their solos---he sustains that ride cymbal pattern the whole time, along with the other percussion---is reminiscent of one of his solos. But everybody has a certain freedom within what they’re doing. Even the cowbell's cascara pattern is not fixed. Max’s ride cymbal pattern is, but the other shit he’s playing completely is not. It’s not like any traditional comping. It’s like collective improvisation. Then he solos over that cascara and the congas, and, as he often does, he utilizes a lot of space. He always plays something and then leaves some space, and then plays something else and leaves some space. He calls, he answers, he answers, and then he leaves some space. He always used to say that there’s always room. “Get to your shit quick, make a statement, and in making that statement, the things that you don’t play are just as important as the things you do.” That always seemed to be a theme for him, and he utilized it in every component of his career. Always some space for others.

That’s the way it seems he led his life in aligning himself with different people, like the record with Hassan Ibn Ali, where he gave him the opportunity to present his original music and placed "the legendary Hassan" on the title. That was Hassan's only recording except for one by Odean Pope that I don’t think was ever released. Or the fact that he aligned himself with Clifford Brown and said, “Let’s lead the band together.” I don’t know if he really had to do that. Also the different duo situations. Always on the cusp, but then also, in a sense, very selfless. To be as prolific as was he had to have a strong sense of self---as I know he did, because I was around him. That strong sense of self allowed him to let other people shine as well. It was never, “No, it has to be me, and you can’t do your thing.” It was “come on and do your thing.” This is a perfect example. It’s not like he has to growl over the whole thing. He leaves some space, and then he’ll talk to one of the cats, and communicate. Everybody’s listening. This is a year after We Insist, and Max was still on the same path. There’s tunes like “Man From South Africa,” in 7/4. He’s still making that commentary. He’s still on the soapbox, because it’s important and it’s still current, still developing in America.

In 1990 or 1991, I remember doing a Sacred Drums tour with Max here in America, one of my very first gigs out of town. Tito Puente was on it, and some of these Native American drummers, some koto, things like that. Max was playing with Mario Bauzá, who had a small orchestra. He was doing multiple things as well as solo stuff, playing with the small band, and this was one of the other portions of the show. Patato was in the band, too. During one of the rehearsals the piano player came up with some arrangements for Max to read, and he called over to me—I was there as a stagehand, his P.A., setting up the cymbals and stuff like that. He was just trying to put some money in my pocket and help me out. Max said, “come here, man. Play this.” So he got me down to play the show, and got me my first traveling gig—with Mario Bauzá! I had no idea then who he was. I didn’t know what I was doing with clave and so on. I remember Patato looking at me like, “You don’t know what the fuck you’re doing.” The other cats in the band were very encouraging, but Patato didn’t want to give it up. Which I understood, though, because I didn’t know what I was doing. Some years later, I did a recording with him and Michael Marcus and Rahn Burton, and he was cool—maybe I had gotten a few things together. He tuned my snare drum, tightened it in a certain way, and that snare drum still sounds great to this day. He showed me how to tune the bottom a little tighter than the top. He had that pitch. That snare drum was singing for years.

October 15, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Oscar Peterson Trio: Wheatland

I think this is the next-to-last recording that Ray did with the Oscar Peterson trio, the classic trio with Ed Thigpen. This is one of my favorite recordings, because it’s Ray, Oscar and Ed cooking at a low volume throughout that whole performance. It’s one of these classic, mid-tempo swingers, kind of like they do on “Sometimes I’m Happy,” “Frankie and Johnny,” “FSR,” which are all full-out, head-banging swingers—but “Wheatland” stays low-volume pretty much throughout the whole performance. These guys are cooking on a slow, slow burn. It’s all that real heavy swinging that Ray Brown usually does, but at low volume, which to me makes it swing even harder. When you listen to it, you’re waiting for Ed Thigpen to go to the sticks, which he does at a certain point, but it’s still like TING, TING, TA-TING, TING, and Ray is just kind of creepin’, and you’re just like, “give it to me, give it to me!” They never quite give it to you, but you love that. Because after the track is over, you’re like, “Aw, man, what a big tease.” So that’s one of my favorite tracks, to hear those guys burning at a slow fire. A great concept, to swing really hard at low volume. Very Basieish of them.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Oscar Peterson: Sometimes I'm Happy

“Sometimes I’m Happy” is one of the few tracks that I know on many Oscar Peterson records where the trio actually just stretches out. There’s really not much of an arrangement...well, only a slight arrangement (Oscar Peterson plays Lester Young’s famous solo as an intro, but then for the rest of the way they’re just blowing. The track is 11½ minutes, and it’s just Oscar, Ray Brown, and Ed Thigpen blowing the whole way. To me, not only is it a great Ray Brown track, but but also because the Oscar Peterson Trio is always known for their surgical execution of all of these difficult soli passages, and their almost gymnastic-like technique on all of their instruments, and trhis is one of the few tracks I can think of where everybody is not doing that. It’s almost like a Bradley’s gig. They’re just in the pocket, having a good time, and Ray Brown stretches out and takes a very, very long solo which is very melodic. I've always loved listening to this track just for the fact they’re all stretching out, having a good time, and not particularly playing a difficult arrangement as they were accustomed to doing in that trio.

Someone once asked Oscar Peterson what was the difference with Ray Brown before and after the drummer. He said that he found that Ray’s notes got longer once Ed Thigpen joined the trio. But when I listen to Ray before Ed Thigpen, when it was just Herb Ellis on guitar, to me his notes were still much more elongated than his peers. When you listen to a lot of bass players from the mid and late ‘50s, the notes were very short. Everybody used gut strings at that time. Everybody had pretty high action, where you get that real percussive sound on the bass. But to me Ray always had a nice balance between that percussive sound and a very ringing, melodic sound. I’ve always felt he had that in the trio, even before the drums. His time was always impeccable---you could set your pacemaker to him in the trio before Ed joined. Of course, his time feel was much more exposed without the drums, which I think is a great study, particularly for bass players learning how to strengthen their time. Ray was the master of that.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Quincy Jones: Killer Joe

According to an interview I saw with Quincy maybe 6 or 7 years ago, “Killer Joe” was the last straight-ahead tune that actually made the BillboardTop 100 Singles Chart in 1969. Quincy also said that this particular arrangement was specifically written with Ray Brown’s walking style in mind. As you can hear on the original recording, it’s just bass in your face the whole way through. It really is a lesson in everything that I think encompasses the golden standard in modern bass playing—how you can get the most harmonic, linear creativity from just two chords. It just goes back and forth from C-VII to B-flat-VII, and Ray Brown is milking these two chords to death. It’s swinging real hard. His sound... Well, actually (and I tread lightly when I say this), I was never a big fan of the bass sound on Rudy Van Gelder’s recordings once he started using the DI, once he started using the pickup on acoustic basses, which he started doing it around that time, ‘69-‘70. Somehow, Ron Carter was probably the only bass player who was able to get a decent sound from the DI in Rudy’s studio. But save for what I feel was sort of a muffled sound... You listen to Ray Brown on any other recording, then listen to him on Walking in Space. It almost sounds like there’s a towel over the bass, so you can’t really hear the clarity. But if you can get past that and just hear all of the magnificent notes and the force with which Ray Brown is driving the band, to me that’s a huge reason why that probably was the last straight-ahead jazz tune in the Billboard Top 100. You can’t help but dance when you listen to that. In a Downbeat piece a few months ago, I mentioned how the acoustic bass has this all-encompassing, encircling quality, like a big arm just surrounding the band. Ray really does that on “Killer Joe.” Definitely one of my favorites.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly: Impressions

There's much to be said about the work of pianist Wynton Kelly. Yeah, everyone knows he played on Kind of Blue, but his contributions to hard bop and post bop during the late 1950s and 1960s make him one of the most active pianists, aside from Bobby Timmons, in jazz. And we all know the story of Wes Montgomery, the comeback kid. It's no surprise that this duo would pick John Coltrane's "Impressions" to glide over when they played the Half Note in New York City in 1965. Joined by bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb, the quartet set the D and Eb dorian changes of "Impressions" on fire. En fuego!! As the guy from ESPN used to say.

Montgomery's solo is chalked full of superior melodic expression. This was the first song I ever heard from him back in the late 1990s and upon listening again I know why I fell in love with his playing. He epitomizes power and assurance with his note selections. On the other hand, Kelly is no slouch either. He's kind of like the Vice President, you know he's there waiting and when it's his turn to take the drivers seat, he'll get the job done. His interaction with Montgomery during his solo shows just how close these two musical minds were. During several moments of Montgomery's solo, he and Kelly accent right on time with each other. This was by far one of Montgomery's tour de force songs.

This song is the very definition of what we know as swing. My advice to you? Pay the $0.99 for this download if you don't already have it in your collection or better yet, go buy the entire album. You can find this version of "Impressions" on most Verve compilation Montgomery discs.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Ray Brown-Milt Jackson: Lined With A Groove

This recording is with Oliver Nelson’s big band—Grady Tate is playing drums, Clark Terry is playing flugelhorn, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Hank Jones. It’s great to hear Ray Brown in this setting, because if I’m not mistaken, it was one of the first recordings---if not the first recording---that he made either as he was in the process of leaving Oscar Peterson’s Trio or had just left Oscar Peterson’s trio. He was starting to really focus on his development as a bandleader—or so he thought. That’s when he moved to L.A. and started becoming a studio ace on the West Coast. But it’s great to hear him play his tunes, and to hear the band sort of under his direction... Even though Oliver Nelson was the arranger-conductor on the date, somehow you got the notion that Ray Brown was running things! It’s also interesting to listen to Ray Brown during this period, because in the early to mid ‘60s you never really heard him play with too many other drummers other than Ed Thigpen. Now, you did hear him on a couple of sessions with Sinatra and people like that. But these were structured sections where he didn’t get much chance to stretch out. Now, this was one of the first times that Ray played with Grady Tate. It’s great to hear him hook up with somebody else, and you can hear that the hookup maybe wasn’t as instant as it was with Ed Thigpen. You can hear that there are some discrepancies in where the tempo might lay. But somehow, that blur in the tempo actually works. For some reason, I always liked hearing that. Ray always pushed. He was always ahead of the beat, just on the border of speeding up, and you can hear that Grady Tate is kind of in the pocket. You can feel this real hip tension, kind of like Ray going, “come on Grady...UNNH...” It’s fun to listen to.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Milt Jackson-Ray Brown: Frankie and Johnnie

“Frankie and Johnnie” is just a great jam. Milt Jackson and Ray Brown were inseparable cronies. They were very much like Fred and Barney, Cramden and Norton. Ray was definitely Ralph Cramden or Fred Flintstone. Definitely the leader of the two. I think their kinship really comes across well all through that particular recording. Once again, Ray is in his element, just playing the straight 12-bar blues, having a good time, swinging real hard. Dick Berk is playing drums on this record. This is an early recording session for Monty Alexander on piano, and Teddy Edwards is on tenor. They’ve got their teeth sunk right into the groove, Ray is propelling the band, and they stretch out on the blues for about 10 minutes and have a really good time. You can hear Ray talking to the guys throughout the track. “Yeah, Jackson!” when Milt’s taking a solo. You can hear Ray yelling down to Monty, “Play the left hand.” It’s a really cool, fun track.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Wes Montgomery: Full House

I can't think of many jazz tunes in 3/4 that groove as hard as Wes Montgomery's "Full House." Recorded live in California, this date boasts a powerful line-up, with tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin adding some nice spice to the mix. Montgomery regularly recorded with the rhythm section of Kelly, Chambers and Cobb and as usual, the captured sound is some of the best straight ahead jazz to come out of the 1960s. Montgomery's solo is lively, full of octaves and steady movement. When Griffin takes his solo, he combines upper register notes with rapid mid-register runs, enticing the listener for more. Griffin was a top notch soloist, hands down.

Wynton Kelly swings and brings everything home with his blues filled piano lines. He also variates his rhythms just enough to get the listener interested in every note he is going to play. He also adds some chordal strikes during his solo, not something he usually did with Montgomery. This is a solid example of the swing factor. Montgomery and company get straight As on this one! Check out the nice little Bossa nova turn around at the end.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Wes Montgomery: Con Alma

The 1960s were an interesting time for the godfather of modern jazz guitar. After signing with Verve Records, Wes Montgomery went on a kick where he recorded heavily with orchestral backgrounds. Even though I love this Dizzy Gillespie song, it's still kind of strange to hear it with all of the string textures but I still enjoy it. While some of Montgomery's other recordings utilized a big band, "Con Alma" receives the Hollywood treatment, with mixed results, depending on your ears. I like it but others might find the strings to be overkill.

While the symphonic nature of this track is questionable to some, the rawness of Montgomery's solo isn't really up for debate. Wes moves back and forth with the grace of a heavyweight fighter as he runs circles around the harmonic modulations. The rhythm section is very laid back on this track and the sound of the band is further augmented by the hand percussion, which gives the song just enough spice to still feel like a genuine cover of a Latin song. This is by no means the best cover that Wes Montgomery ever performed but within this arrangement he does a good job in bringing out the original ideas of the composition.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Ike Quebec: Blue and Sentimental

One aspect of Ike Quebec's playing that was conveyed so eloquently on his "comeback" Blue Note albums of the early '60's was his expressive "boudoir tenor" ballad treatments, an instrumental equivalent, if you will, of the style of singing that Billy Eckstine utilized in the '40's to keep the girls swooning in the aisles. Guitarist Tiny Grimes had ably assisted Quebec on his first round of Blue Note recordings in the '40's; now, in 1961, Quebec was matched with the up-and-coming Grant Green for his own Blue and Sentimental date and on Green's Born to Be Blue. If not for Quebec's untimely death from lung cancer in 1963 at the age of 44, surely Blue Note (for which Quebec also did influential A&R work) would have continued to pair his tenor with Green's guitar.

The title track, "Blue and Sentimental," is a definitive example of Quebec's sexy ballad creations. Quebec's velvety, fluttering evocation of the theme is tenderly apt. In his solo you can clearly discern Quebec's two self-admitted major influences, Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, but to his credit they've been successfully assimilated into a personally assured approach all his own. Green's following solo is actually longer than the leader's, and is played with a noticeably lighter tone than would be heard from him in the years to come. His always melodic, blues-inflected, and concise phrases hold one's interest despite threatening to veer into repetition, as his subtle, surprising, and clever variations unfailingly prevent that from happening. Quebec reenters with the famous Count Basie vamp from Hershel Evans' original 1938 feature, before bearing down on the melody in mellifluous fashion once again, right down to a sensuously caressing coda.

September 15, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Wayne Shorter: Deluge

When Wayne Shorter combined forces with John Coltrane's rhythm section for his 1964 album JuJu, the results were nothing short of ear opening. It's interesting to note the influence that Coltrane had on Shorter. I'm not so sure I buy into the notion that 'Trane influenced Shorter that much as a composer but I think you can definitely hear it in his playing. I think underneath it all, Coltrane had a deep respect for Shorter's playing and that might be why he recommended him to Miles Davis when he left in 1960 (Davis went with Sonny Stitt instead).

The most striking element about this rhythm section is how McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones sound behind Shorter. It's unfortunate but bassist Reggie Workman's levels are extremely low in the mix. I think it's a safe bet that no matter what saxophonist this rhythm section backed up, it would highly improve the sound and quality of that particular player.

On "Deluge" Tyner and Shorter open the song with an introduction before Tyner is joined by the rest of the rhythm section on the chord hits. Shorter's solo evolves nicely here as well, full of nuance and personality. McCoy Tyner also provides his typical sounds, with fragmented harmonic movements underneath the melody and a lush but full usage of the piano during comping. Overall, a great album from probably one of the best post bop albums of the 1960s.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Previous Page | Next Page