A lot of people have studied the “Un Poco Loco” beat, because it’s in phrases of 5 over the 4, which was way ahead of the curve at the time. Also, that he’s using that cowbell; the sound he’s getting out of the cowbell. It’s obvious that he spent some time dealing with those rhythms. Max had been spending time in Haiti, where he went to study with a guy named Tiroro, who had told him that he was greatest drummer in the world. The guy would tell him, “Come here, meet me right here on this corner at 2 o’clock,” Max would get there at 2, and the guy wouldn’t come until 7—he’d leave him waiting! But he said that the guy gave him invaluable information.
Max did a lot of teaching, but he treated his one-on-one drum instruction like oral tradition. He studied from books, and I’ve studied from books, but that’s only a small component of it. Books will give you the facility to execute the stuff that you hear and feel already, but it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the creativity. This is a perfect example. Max distilled all this stuff and immediately hooked it up into an original beat—you’d never heard anything like it before. It’s the beginning of all those phrases based on rhythmic permutations of five over the four—a step into the future in 1951. A lot of people are playing those types of rhythmic permutations now, almost sixty years later. It sounds like he pulled it together the night before, because it’s right on the edge of almost sounding fucked-up. Then when he comes in, what he plays isn’t clean, the way it was clean with Clifford Brown and that band. It’s right on the edge of almost second-take quality. I’m talking about everybody. It sounds like it’s not quite settled and comfortable. But I think that quality is what makes it a great recording, and the fact that he was able to superimpose that feeling and beat at that particular time and have it work, keep it happening for almost five minutes. Amazing.
January 28, 2010 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
The horns were so much out in front on recordings from this time, it’s almost difficult to hear what everybody else was doing! But still, you can hear so well on this tune how Max could propel a soloist—the way he builds through the course of the song, the way he accompanies the melody and then the soloist. He always pays attention to dynamics; when the piano solo comes, Max takes it down. But during Bird’s solos, he’s never playing anything corny, like when an accompanist uses exclusively the same rhythmic language as the soloist to converse. They’re congruent with each other, but they aren’t necessarily using the same language. It’s almost like they’re parallel and connected at the same time. So they’re cross-sectioning, but they’re also parallel—Max is egging Bird on and answering his phrases, like they’re speaking different languages but talking about the same thing. I find that fascinating.
Max was such a risk-taker. He had to have received a lot of criticism for playing that way, because nobody else was playing like that in 1947. He was playing with the people who were at the edge of creativity, and he himself was pushing it forward. Where he was placing his phrases was completely unconventional as far as the rhythmic language of the day. As I listen, I keep wondering, “where is the impetus for you to do that?”
On “Donna Lee,” even when the melody is being played, Max is playing a kind of counter-melody against it. Arthur Taylor used to talk about “Confirmation,” how there are hits in the course of tunes like that, that are the tune. That’s how Max is playing that in “Donna Lee.” He’s playing off of the melody, playing in the holes of that melody, almost like he’s creating an alternate melody, an accompanying rhythmic melody.
October 15, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
The sound of the cut is stereotypical of the limitations engineers encountered while recording bands long ago, but the rough edges and slightly imbalanced presentation (Parker is obviously standing closer to his microphone than the others are standing in relation to theirs) do not stop the music from gliding atop the sounds of tonal elation. The chord changes are atypical of what is commonly known as "blues," in that the form is extended beyond the genre's regularly expected form. Also, the tone of the recording is much more positive than is normal for such a genre as "blues." However, transforming the aural character of pre-established musical forms into something uncharacteristically offbeat was one of the things that Parker did best, and, here, no exceptions to the rule are made.
June 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
Almost sounding like a rehearsal take, the tune follows a predictable pattern: solo piano improvisation starts it, followed by open, swing-time hi-hats and a round of ensemble solos. Since Charlie Parker is obviously not the sole focus of this recording (given the equality of space that each player is allowed), no one is left out as each band member takes a turn at showcasing. An indistinct Parker riff bookends the solos, and listeners are left without a sense of why the saxman was regarded as a creative genius.
Of course, Bird's catalog contains a wide variety of sounds, recording approaches, and performance techniques, but, as far as this track is concerned, it sounds like the group knocked this off in under ten minutes. Unfortunately, you will not consider this track amongst the top hundred in the Charlie Parker canon.
June 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
The pianist claimed that he was visited by Monk's spirit, which offered him advice and encouragement during the process of preparing for and then recording the 14 Monk compositions he played at these sessions. When pianist Dwike Mitchell heard the resulting tapes, he commented, "What's on this tape is not Walter, it's Monk playing through Walter's hands." Be that as it may, Davis created concise, to-the-point versions of these Monk selections, including the trickiest ones like "Criss Cross." He begins "Criss Cross" by bluntly introducing the unorthodox, finger-busting melody. Davis uncannily captures Monk's semi-dissonant sound and whimsical undercurrent, but his tone, dazzling runs, and thumping left-hand accentuations all take on a definite Powell quintessence in his brief solo. By the time Davis is reiterating the theme, one realizes that while Monk and Powell are unmistakably present during this 2½-minute miniature, no one but Davis could quite capture those two pianists' styles so well in one piece and still bring so much of his own soul and personality to the mix.
June 17, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
If you compare Haig's 1954 "All God's Chillun" with the Sonny Stitt/Bud Powell version from December 1949, it's quite apparent that Haig possesses a much controlled and restrained passion, while Powell is living purely on the edge. Haig's rhythmically appealing intro leads to a rather choppy rendition of the melody, but his improvisation floats smoothly on air, with fairly intricate runs that seem to be very easily created. He's as relaxed as Powell is high-strung. Bud's lower octave left-hand jabs are replaced by Haig's far less noticeable left-hand chords in the middle of the keyboard. Crow's forceful bass lines and Abrams' high-spirited drumming seal the deal on this definitive example of Haig at his polished best.
June 02, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
May 28, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
May 27, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
May 27, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
May 24, 2009 · 1 commentTags: bebop
Amazingly, this smoking version of "Bohemia After Dark" was not only a first take, but also the first time Affif, Essiet, or Watts had ever played the tricky Oscar Pettiford composition (named for the Café Bohemia, where Pettiford was once musical director). Essiet establishes the insinuating beat, while Affif plays the theme with a stabbing, percussive mindset, which also applies to his subsequent solo. Affif's phrasing exhibits glimmers of other guitarists such as Joe Pass, George Benson, Pat Martino, and Kenny Burrell, all assimilated into his bluesy, concentrated articulation, rhythmic complexity, overall creativity, and admirable lack of repetition. Essiet's solo is an ecstatic extension of the driving, layered African-influenced bass lines he employs backing Affif, especially notable on the tune's unorthodox bridge. Affif's zestful trades with Watts take on an exotic flavor, and to some extent recall the combination of guitarist Gabor Szabo and drummer Chico Hamilton. This is one of the better, and certainly one of the freshest versions of "Bohemia After Dark." Which begs the question: why hasn't Affif been given an opportunity to record since 1999?
May 20, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
But was this "Donna Lee," and two other tracks, really from June 25, 1956, as Bruce Lundvall and Dan Morgenstern's liner notes for the original 1973 LP release proclaimed? Or was Nick Catalano's 2001 biography correct in asserting that this particular jam session actually took place a year earlier, on May 31, 1955? Catalano (and researcher/trumpeter Al Hood) pointed to participating saxophonist Billy Root, who was apparently on the road instead with Stan Kenton in late June of 1956, and who believed the recordings came from the May 1955 session. However, jazz historian Phil Schaap, for one, stands by the 1956 date, as did Ellis Tollin himself.. After all, Brownie is heard complaining at the conclusion of "Donna Lee" about how hot it is—and Philadelphia hit a cool 71? on 5-31-55, as opposed to a more sultry 86? on 6-25-56.
Whatever the case, listening to Brown's magnificent playing on "Donna Lee" is an exhilarating experience, but also a painful one, with the knowledge that the trumpeter, depending on which date is correct, had either mere hours or just a year left to live. What's most noticed in Brown's playing of the theme and especially in his solo is his great facility and rich, lustrous sound, and also his typical fondness for the middle register. He thinks on his feet, and comes across unrushed even at the surging up-tempo that the rhythm section handily maintains here. Brown's extended lines are uncliched, tireless, and thematically focused, as he inventively explores the harmonies of Parker's tune. Dockery contributes a fluent piano solo notable for its intriguing left hand accentuations. Tollin's energetic support behind both Brown and Dockery's solos show him to be a more than adequate drummer in the bop genre. Brown's second improv contains even more compelling phrasing, as he smoothly intersperses—amidst his runs—both crisply-hit high notes and lower octave tones played with a broad vibrato.
May 19, 2009 · 5 commentsTags: bebop
May 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
May 18, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: bebop
Marsh's all-star rhythm section would probably not have met the approval of his teacher and everlasting influence, Lennie Tristano, who disdained interactive bassists and drummers, but, boy, does it ever cook! The infinitely versatile Hank Jones—playing with Marsh for the first time—is as sympathetic and uplifting as he would be many years later with Joe Lovano. Mraz and Lewis also sound inspired, as does Marsh himself. Marsh and Jones perform the bop theme of "Moose the Mooche" in rapid harmony before the leader rushes into a densely packed, vertically constructed solo delivered with an expressive tone somehow possessing characteristics akin to both Charlie Parker and Lester Young. What his solo might lack in melodic and rhythmic development is more than made up for by the brash originality of his ideas. Jones succeeds Marsh with a fresh and unflagging improvisation of his own. Mraz and Lewis then get to make equally effective and dynamic statements as well. Prior to moving back into Bird's theme, Marsh and Jones engage in a dazzling polyphonic dialogue that makes it quite apparent that they are greatly enjoying this opportunity to play with one another, and are taking full advantage of it.
May 07, 2009 · 1 commentTags: bebop
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