Teddy Charles: Nostalgia In Times Square

Teddy Charles might well be the only jazz musician to have given up a successful career in music to become a sea captain. In the '50s, he recorded a series of excellent, forward-looking albums with such giants of West Coast jazz as Shelly Manne, Jimmy Giuffre, and Shorty Rogers. Since the mid-1960s, however, his primary gig has been as an owner/operator of charter sea vessels. As of early 2009, he's playing music once again, backed by saxophonist Chris Byars's group. "Nostalgia In Times Square" was composed by another of Charles's former musical associates, Charles Mingus. Byars's arrangement is a bit more elaborate than Mingus's best-known recorded version of the tune. The opening arco solo by bassist Ari Roland (obviously meant to evoke the spirit of Mingus) leads into the bluesy theme. It's taken at a slow '50s-strip-joint tempo that Byars milks for ironic possibilities. Charles is in excellent form: the ideas flow, the touch is assured. Pianist Harold Danko takes top solo honors, however; his rhythmically and melodically unhinged spot stands out like Tom Hanks at a Bosom Buddies reunion.

March 03, 2009 · 0 comments


Charles McPherson: Nostalgia In Times Square

Charles Mingus wrote "Nostalgia in Times Square" for Shadows, John Cassavetes's 1960 improvisational film about race. McPherson knew the piece well from his dozen or so years performing with Mingus, and, more than 20 years after leaving the bassist's group in 1972, he recorded it as a leader. By the '90's, McPherson's playing had taken on even greater authority, confidence and inventiveness, his tone fuller and more robust, his mastery of the bebop-based idiom unsurpassed by any other saxophonist. Yet even with his significant contribution to the score of Clint Eastwood's 1988 film Bird!, McPherson was still not receiving the recognition he deserved.

Be that as it may, McPherson's 1994 "Nostalgia in Times Square" is a wonderful example of his refined playing at its best, with the added bonus of Tom Harrell's bracing trumpet work. Bassist Washington plays the blues-derived theme first, as Mingus would have, before alto and trumpet repeat it. Weiss solos with a touch of the swagger that Mingus expected from his pianists, with Washington's resounding Mingus-like support. The bassist takes the next expressive solo, played with a heavy yet floating timbre. McPherson succeeds him, and the altoist's honey-coated tone captures your attention immediately, before you become further entranced by his clearly articulated flurries, flawlessly executed extended lines, and ardently delivered riffs, all naturally flowing and creatively nuanced. Harrell's big brassy sound contrasts nicely with McPherson's, the trumpeter's assertive phrases and ricocheting runs continuously fresh and exciting. Washington concludes the track alone, replaying the head in a final salute to the composer.

August 09, 2008 · 0 comments


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