Wednesday, January 24, 2007

You call yourself a jazz musician?

The first box of vinyl finally arrived two days ago from my old elementary school friend, Emery. The deal is that he sends the records he has transferred to digital and I pay shipping. It's a windfall kind of deal considering the sonic riches he's tossing over my way. Like winning the lottery.

For now I'll just list and maybe make a few brief comments.

In the first box, listened to already:

The Duke Ellington Carnegie Hall Concert, January 1943 (three records)
Money Jungle- Ellington, Roach, Mingus
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: The Ellington Suites
Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins
Other Aspects- Eric Dolphy
The Apartment- Dexter Gordon Quartet
As Long as There's Music- Charlie Haden/Hampton Hawes
Sargasso Sea- John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner
Album Album- Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition (Purcell, David Murray, Rufus Reid, Howard Johnson)

Big news: prior to this afternoon I had never heard Ellington's _Black, Brown and Beige_, which is included in a spliced version on the above-mentioned Carnegie Hall album. I had also never heard the Ellington Suites. I should go back to age 12 and redact every single time I said I was a "jazz fan" or a "jazz musician." As I've mentioned before, every time I hear Ellington now I'm blown away, and Miles Davis's statement to Leonard Feather that everyone "should get down on their knees and thank Duke" sounds more and more reasonable.

Is there a stranger album in the entire history of "jazz" than Dolphy's Other Aspects? And to add strange to strangest, it turns out the lead composition is not titled Jim Crow but Personal Statement, and is by none other than Bob James. (And the vocalist is not a woman but a countertenor named David Schwartz).

Album Album---- from the days of free-wheeling multifaceted small group jazz albums (1984) that weren't shy about enthusiasm, interesting compositions and arrangements and spirit. This is sort of a "standard" jazz album that is endlessly entertaining while at the same time taking creative risks. What the fuck happened to those?

Sargasso Sea- O dark dark dark! I had completely forgotten the moody, brooding pull this murky album had for me when I was in high school. The Sorrows of Young Werther indeed. It's also gorgeous and inventive, if somewhat leaden and/or capricious in spots.

Dexter Gordon makes me happy. So does drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath, who takes flight on The Apartment.

Also in the first box, not yet listened to:

A Love Supreme- Recorded live in concert Europe 1965
Virgin Beauty- OC and Jerry, dude! I already have this on vinyl but it's unplayable
Body Meta- this OC I also have on vinyl but it's unplayable
Ornette Coleman: Town Hall 1962- bass, three violins, cello and drums...45 years ago
Benny Carter: Jazz Giant- BC with Ben Webster, Frank Rosolino, Andre Previn/Jimmy Rowles, Barney Kessel, Leroy Vinnegar and Shelley Manne
Marion Brown: Solo Saxophone- live recording from 1977 on the megalabel "Sweet Earth Records."
Porto Novo- Marion Brown with Han Bennink and Maarten van Regteben Altena, also one I have that's unplayable and that I remember as being absolutely ripping
In the Tradition- Anthony Braxton w/Montoliu, Pedersen/Heath
The Great Pretender- Lester Bowie, one of his outings I completely missed somehow
The Third Decade- Art Ensemble
Phase One- Art Ensemble, another one of mine that got destroyed. Especially looking forward to hearing "Ohnedaruth" again.
Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village- another one I used to have that got trashed.

I think there's 3 or 4 more boxes coming. Rants, raves, revisitations and re-evaluations forthcoming...


larrylove said...

I've got nothing but sheer unadulterated envy for you. Pure, biting jealousy just glowing out of every pore.

Jus' kidding. Actually, what I was going to say is that there is nothing quite so sweet to me these days as finding gems I missed, or was youthfully blind to; even better, rediscovering something I've had, and enjoyed but never got to really dig into. Six months ago I remembered the Blanton-Webster stuff from Bluebird and started really digging in, which led to the Fargo,ND disc, which was new to me, which led to the Okeh stuff, and so on.
Then when the Behearer site started up I went back to the eighties stuff that I hadn't checked out in a while which triggered an AEC binge, then a Hemphill binge, and a why haven't I spent more time with John Carter thing...
I know that a lot of critics/whatevers think that the percentage of jazz sales being re-issues is a bad thing, but it is precisely because of these kind of research/rediscovery binges that show how this music has got so much power. All I know is that between your site, Behearer and Destination Out, my wallet is taking a beating. If only I had a friend like Emery....see, there is a little jealousy.

peter breslin said...

hey thanks for writing. I envy myself and I'm me, so don't feel guilty.

Re: John Carter. I definitely want to spend time listening to his folk suites. They went by awfully fast back in the 80s and I wasn't paying attention.

Which brings me to the whole reissue thing. Regardless of the economics, this music moved very mercurially, sometimes at a ferocious pace, and in the long run I think returning to it is revitalizing. I have yet to hear very much happening now in more traditionally influenced forms of improvised music that really jumps out and gets me. The underground percolation of more edgy and, to me, interesting stuff, thankfully, is still going on. But I find most composed/improvised jazz-influenced music now to be dreary and sodden, predictable and almost itself like a reissue. Given the choice between a "new" recording that "sounds like" 1960s jazz/soul/funk or the original Stanley Turrentine, for example, I'm glad the Turrentine is in catalogue.

Also, I had the tendency when I was younger to write stuff off that I am much more open to now. An example would be Marion Brown's ECM oddity, Afternoon of a Georgia Faun. It's still not mind blowing or one of my favorites, but I can get closer now to what's remarkable about it.

As for Emery- when our friendship started, in 1972 or 73, it was because I played the drums and he had a band. Well, he played piano with a trumpet player. The three of us perfored Delta Dawn, Walk Don't Run and Tijuana Taxi (I think) at the East Hills Moravian Church Spring Strawberry Festival. This was my first live gig. Emery was constantly spinning music for me to check out- from Cecil Taylor to Morton Subotnick with Elton John and Mahler thrown in. At the time, I thought Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich were the greatest. (He also handed over tons of books as well, but that's another story...)

Every now and then we encounter someone who totally changes our lives, and Emery was and is one of those people.