Thursday, December 29, 2011

BYOV - Meeting #7

The latest session of the Bring Your Own Vinyl was a special one for me. I was celebrating my 30th birthday. The group met on a crisp December 11th afternoon at Barbès. To sweeten the deal, I brought a cake. Check her out.

“Who made the cake?”

Me: “My girlfriend.”

Jim: “That’s love. Did she put those speed indicator dots on there?”

Me: “No… I did.”

Jim: “That’s psychotic.”

This particular BYOV was well attended (the cake) and had a bonus theme added into the mix. I had to add a holiday music theme. They would probably have found a way to bring some anyway.

Here’s what we had to work with:

a) Who was that guy? Heard a killer feature for some guy you’ve never heard of before? Bring it in. More obscure the better.
b) Family time. Some families take trips, some play board games… Some hipper families make music. Bring your favorite track by a family band.
c) Who knew he had it in him? Bring an outstanding track by a musician that stepped into the spotlight after having an established career in a group led by another.
 d) Favorite holiday jams. I don’t want to hear any Tubular Bells. You hear me?
Once again, the submissions were treated like blindfold tests, for the most part.

Here we go…

1. Dollar Brand w/ Kippie Moeketsi – “Memories of You” from Dollar Brand + 3 (Soultown, KRS 113 (1973))
Presented by Seton Hawkins – LP – Theme: A

The track began with a sedate piano introduction joined by an expressive alto saxophone. The duo had an obvious rapport and a very soulful, bluesy inflection.

The saxophonist had a very raw, natural sound. Extremely expressive. I thought that the pianist might be obvious for the guys but no one guessed. Seton was searching for the horn player’s name.

“I bet it is a black guy…”

“Is the player deceased?” Yep.

“American?” Nope.

Steve: “That’s Dollar Brand and that saxophonist that he used to play with. I don’t remember his name.”

“Dudu (Pukwana)?” No.

We had actually been discussing Dudu before the meeting began, as I had introduced Seton to Steve as our South African jazz expert.

We continued to listen. The response from the listeners was extremely positive. They all seemed to enjoy the spirit of the horn player.

Steve asked for the initials. “K – M.”

No one was able to guess, so Seton introduced us to Kippie Moeketsi.

Seton: “The Charlie Parker of South Africa.”

Moeketsi was one of the elder statesmen of jazz in South Africa. A major proponent of jazz in South Africa and one of the first players to have exposure outside of the country, garnered while on tour with the King Kong musical in London. Moeketsi was also a member of  one of South Africa’s most popular, and now legendary, jazz ensembles, the Jazz Epistles. The group included a number of musicians who became legends, including pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand), trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, drummer Early Mabuza and bassist Johnny Gertze.

This recording of this Eubie Blake standard was one of Moeketsi’s last recordings. He had become increasingly difficult to work with as he suffered from bi-polar disease and alcohol dependence. Ibrahim and his wife Sathima Bea Benjamin returned to South Africa at the beginning of the 1970s. During their stay, Ibrahim recorded a number of sides for the Gallo label, including this duet with Moeketsi.

2. The Ramsey Lewis Trio – “Merry Christmas, Baby” from Sound Of Christmas (Argo, LPS-687 (1961))
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko – MP3 – Theme: D

Zak: “I’ll probably be the only one taking this theme.”

Joel: “I hope.”

I knew Zak was a Christmas music fan. He pretty much forced me to buy the Charlie Brown Christmas album last year. I don’t regret the purchase.

Zak was going to show us that there was a tradition of great jazz and blues Christmas songs out there.

He started us off with this bluesy, piano trio version of Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore’s “Merry Christmas, Baby.” 

“Sounds like he’s coming from the Red Garland school.”

“Is it a Ray Bryant recording?” Nope.

“How recent?” Probably in the ‘70s (actually 1961).

No one was getting the pianist.

Zak: “He’s a really famous guy.”


The Ramsey Lewis Trio recorded an album of Christmas songs in 1961 for Cadet. A short album with the trio featuring bassist Eldee Young and drummer Red Holt and the addition of strings on the B-side. Ramsey could do no wrong, so it wasn’t surprising that recording a Christmas album didn’t hurt him. Wink, wink.

3. Charles Brown – “I'll Be Home for Christmas” from Merry Christmas Baby (Big Town Records, BT-1003 ())
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko – MP3 – Theme: D

Zak kept the holiday hits coming. This example had wah-wah guitar and a squelchy synth.

This was undoubtedly a ‘70s recording. The slow jam production and “hi-tech” musical gadgetry was impossible to ignore.

The vocalist had a certain Lou Rawls type sound. No one was guessing his name.

The blues/R&B vocalist Charles Brown put out this rare Christmas album in the early 1970s. He had recorded another Christmas album earlier in his career at the beginning of the 1960s. Zak mentioned that his wife had a copy in Detroit and kept it as a treasure as they had never been able to find another copy (we remedied that on eBay the next day).

4. Bill Evans Trio w/ Arnold Wise – “Beautiful Love” from Bill Evans at Town Hall, Volume One (Verve, V-8683 (1966))
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3 – Theme: A

Steve had submitted a recording featuring an artist “so obscure you wouldn’t know the name if I told it to you.”

He prefaced his submission by saying that the pianist was famous and he was looking for the one of the rhythm players.

Steve: “You’ll know the recording right away…”

Of course, these jazzers grasped Bill Evans piano playing right away. This was his live recording from Town Hall in 1966. Now it was only a matter of piecing the rest of the ensemble together.

“Obviously that is Paul Motian on drums.” Not obviously…

Robert: “Is that Larry Bunker on drums?”

Steve: “No. But who is it?”

No one had it.

“Is it Chuck Israel on bass?” Yes.

“Good bassist.”

Ted: “Apparently Paul Motian didn’t like him.”

As for the drummer, no one was able to remember his name. They went through the list of musicians associated with Evans.

Steve: “When I mention the name, you still won’t know him.”

Joel: “What’s the point of that?”

It was drummer Arnold (Arnie) Wise. Apparently, he only appeared on one other album, vibraphonist Dave Pike’s Doors of Perception.

Steve: “Seems like he was a competent drummer. Why didn’t he record more?”

Jim: “Must have been an obnoxious fella.”

“Are you sure that his name isn’t a pseudonym?” Not that I can tell.

Ted: “He could have died. ODed. He was hanging with Bill…”

It amazed Steve that a classic record like this could have a performer that has remained such a mysterious figure. Wise was replaced by Marty Morell, which, from the ensuing groans, must have been a bad move on the part of Evans.

5. Kermit Driscoll – “Thank You” from Reveille (8 Records, 19/81015 (2010))
Presented by Joel Harrison – CD – Theme: C

Joel wanted to play us music from a musician who illustrated a notable, illustrious sideman making it as a leader. He thought that this player put together and led a tremendous group.

Drums led followed by a resonant bass, then guitar and piano. The group layered a repeated phrase until they broke from one another to create a choppy rhythmic effect.

“Is it Miroslav Vitous?” No, but an interesting guess.

Joel: “You should know the guitarist. The drummer is famous and the pianist was featured in Ben Ratliff’s recent rundown of important pianists to watch.”

I definitely heard Frisell. His tone has been permanently ingrained in my brain.

No one could figure out the rest of the ensemble.

The leader was bassist Kermit Driscoll, a first call bassist and solid accompanist. The rest of the band included drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and pianist Kris Davis.

Most liked the piece.

“Very well done but not to my tastes.”

6. Rufus Reid – “Habiba” from Perpetual Stroll (Theresa Records, TR 111 (1981))
Presented by François Zalacain – MP3 – Theme: C

“Wow! Love the drummer.”

The drummer was very snappy, playing along with piano and bass.

François mentioned that this recording received a 5 star review in DownBeat when it was released.

“It doesn’t mean shit. Maybe one of you reviewed it.”

Jim: “Okay… Everything you put out from now on gets 2 stars.”

Ted guessed that the leader was bassist Rufus Reid. The trio was actually the rhythm section for Dexter Gordon’s famous 1980s Quartet. So that meant that the snappy drummer was Eddie Gladden. Ted was asked to remain mum on the pianist. Jim was able to guess Kirk Lightsey.

The record was released on the extremely well curated but now defunct Theresa label from California. François reissued Perpetual Stroll on Sunnyside in 1987.

7. Billy Pierce – “In Your Own Sweet Way” from Give and Take (Sunnyside, SSC 1026 (1988))
Presented by François Zalacain – MP3 – Theme: C

The next tune was a tenor saxophone solo. Steve chimed in with “In Your Own Sweet Way” immediately.

Ted: “It is someone who quotes.”

It was very quiet throughout the playback. The performance was very impressive as the player covered the breadth of the horn and maintained a nice balance between impressive flourishes and well-placed pauses.

“So when did he graduate Berklee?” (An obvious poke at the dexterity of the performer.)

François: “I guess he did. He was a sideman of Stevie Wonder at one point.”

“Gary Thomas?” No. Good guess.

François: “He was also a Messenger (a member of Art Blakey’s Messengers).”

Ted: “It is hard to recognize his language.”

“He sounds very Osby-esque.”

“Not very personality filled.”

Ted: “Depends on what kind of personality you like.”

No one was able to guess Billy Pierce.

François recorded a number of releases of Pierce during the 1980s and 1990s.
Pierce has been the head of the jazz faculty at Berklee for some time now and has been highly regarded by many, especially saxophonists.

8. Branford Marsalis w/ Wynton Marsalis - “Laughin’ & Talkin’ (With Higg)” from Romare Bearden Revealed (Toshiba EMI, 66230 (2003))
Presented by Ted Panken – CD – Theme: B

Ted brought in a recording done by members of the same family. The recording had a quartet of tenor sax, trumpet, bass and drums.

The tune was a jangly, swinging and faintly avant-garde.

“Are all four members of the same family?” I’m not going to comment.

“The Moffett family?” No.

“Dewey and Josh Redman?” No. “Ah fuck… there is only one sax.”

“What label is this on? SteepleChase?” No.

“Is it Ornette and Denardo Coleman? The trumpeter is as bad as Don Cherry.” Hmm…

“Was it Chico Freeman when he could play?” No.

“Is it Kidd Jordan and part of his family?” No. But these guys are in the same tradition as the Jordan family.

“Graham Haynes?” An emphatic no.

We were stumped but we should have gone with the most obvious. It was Branford and Wynton Marsalis. Maybe we were stumped because this seemed to be outside of Wynton’s comfort zone. Branford had always had this side to his playing but his classicist brother not so much. The tradition that Ted implied was the New Orleans family tradition, as the Marsalis family have been the largest and most revered.

The rest of the band was bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. This was actually Tain’s composition, a tribute to the drum legend Billy Higgins.

Great recording. Group sounded great. Might have to track the whole album down.

9. Jimmy Raney & Doug Raney – “Stolen Moments” from Stolen Moments (SteepleChase, SCS 1118 (1979))
Presented by Robert Futterman – LP – Theme: B

The tune “Stolen Moments” was guessed instantly by Jim and Richard. Both admitted to listening to Oliver Nelson’s Blues and the Abstract Truth at least once a week.

The recording was done by two guitarists, along with bass and drums.

Zak: “Is it the Montgomery Brothers?” No.

Robert: “I didn’t mean to pick an obscure record. I just went to the basement and pulled something out. I hadn’t heard it in something like 20 years.”

Steve: “One of the guitarists has a Jim Hall like tone but with a different technique.”

Steve was ultimately able to guess that this was Jimmy Raney and his son Doug‘s recording from 1979. This was the second recording that the two had done together. It was interesting to hear the similarities between the two. The other players on the album were bassist Michael Moore and drummer Billy Hart. 

10. Blind Lemon Jefferson – “Christmas Eve Blues” from Christmas Eve Blues / Happy New Year Blues (Paramount, 12692-A (1928))
Presented by Oran Etkin – MP3 – Theme: D

We heard an old, old blues recording of a vocalist with guitar.

“Is this in English?”

Steve was able to guess Blind Lemon pretty quickly.

Oran gave a pretty in depth overview of Blind Lemon’s career.

Jefferson had established himself as a leading voice in the blues genre in the 1920s. He was one of the few blues vocalists to write his own material instead of only playing the handed down blues classics.

To record this 78 r.p.m. record, the producers had to track Jefferson down in Dallas where he was working menial jobs. The recorded the sides right there on a portable recorder.

Apparently, the recordings sold extremely well. Jefferson became one of the most popular and successful black commercial artists.

11. Carla Bley w/ Karen Mantler – “Funnybird Song” from Tropic Appetites (WATT Works, WATT/1 (1974))
Presented by Jim Macnie – MP3 – Theme: B

Jim’s first selection was a quick and quirky number. A quaint melody sung by a woman and child. A mother and daughter it turned out.

We were able to guess pianist/composer Carla Bley and her daughter Karen Mantler rather quickly.

Tropic Appetites was a fun record. A bunch of guests and strange popish tunes from the master songstress. This tune also featured a vocal from tuba / baritone sax player extraordinaire Howard Johnson. The record was released on Carla and her then husband Michael Mantler’s WATT label, later distributed by ECM.

12. John Carter – “Morning Bell” from Night Fire (Black Saint, BSR 0047 (1981))
Presented by Jim Macnie – MP3 – Theme: C

Jim prefaced this selection by saying that he had originally heard this tune in a shop in Boston during the early ‘80s and had always been struck by its beauty.

The tune had a lovely traded melody between clarinet and flute with bass and drum accompaniment.

I guessed James Newton on flute and figure it had to be Carter on clarinet. The rhythm section was bassist Roberto Miranda and percussionist William Jeffrey.

Carter was one of those guys that received most of his notoriety outside of playing. He was an important educator in Texas and California and got his first recognition after a couple of Ornette-esque recordings on Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label. He then began releasing his own recordings with cornet player Bobby Bradford, a former Coleman sideman, on their own record label, Revelation Records.

Jim has been a proponent of these West Coast avant-garde musicians. There has been a fair share of interest coming back to these guys as Mosaic last year reissued some very out of print Carter / Bradford recordings on Revelation from the 1970s (definitely recommend picking that collection up).

Tremendous stuff.

Joel: “Nice underdog call…”

13.  Lijadu Sisters – “Life’s Gone Down Low” from Danger (Afrodisia/Decca, 278.150 (1976))
Presented by Richard Gehr – CD – Theme: B

Richard decided to forgo the blindfold test and just introduce us to the two sisters recorded here.

The Lijadu Sisters were former members of Fela Kuti’s group in Nigeria. When drummer Ginger Baker came to Nigeria, he discovered the two vocalists and decided to recruit them for his group Salt (he also began a romantic relationship with one of them).

Steve mentioned that he saw the group live in 1972.

Richard interviewed the sisters who now live in Harlem (a recent move from their former Brooklyn residence of nearly 30 years) around the recent reissue of this recording. Get the full story here. 

“Life’s Gone Down Low” was a slow song off the 1976 Decca recording. The beat was reggae influenced rather than the typical afrobeat that would have been expected. It was interesting to note that the record’s producer “Biddy” Wright played all the parts on the recording apart from vocals.

The song was later co-opted by rapper Nas on The Prophecy Vol. 2.

14. Steve Grossman – “The Sixth Sense” from Some Shapes To Come (PM, PMR-002 (1974))
Presented by Me – LP – Theme: C

I decided to bring a real barnstormer for my selection.

The group heard a massively funky drummer with a strong bass and rhythmic Rhodes. Then came a loud, modally based tenor sax. A very, very 1970s jazz-rock recording.

“Is the guy we’re listening for the leader?” Yeah.

Ted: “He sounds familiar. The name is on the tip of my tongue.”

“Billy Harper?” Nope.

“Pee Wee Ellis?” Uh, uh.

“This is a black guy, right?” No.

Steve was able to guess Steve Grossman.

I told them they might have guessed some of the accompanists if they had kept listening to the long track. A little over half way through the track a very recognizable synth sound begins to come out in a solo. Mr. Miami Vice himself. Jan Hammer.

Jim: “That’s disgusting.”

Me: “Gotta love that.”

The group was surprised to hear that it was percussionist Don Alias on trap kit. It was Gene Perla on bass. This was one of the handful of records that Perla released on his own label, PM (Perla Music).

I had known Grossman’s earlier work before finding this record. His main employment came under the electric groups of Miles Davis and with Elvin Jones’s stellar groups of the early to mid ‘70s.

Hammer also came through the ranks as a sideman, first with Sarah Vaughan and Elvin then as a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Perla had a similar trajectory. After his formative years with Woody Herman and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Band, he went on to play alongside Hammer with Sarah Vaughan and Elvin Jones. He became involved with the jazz-rock sounds of the 1970s with Hammer, Alias and Grossman in the group Stone Alliance.

It was the ‘70s, man…

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BYOV - Meeting #6

A month since my last post!?! That sucks. I have been working on a few pieces. They have required some interaction and some research. Hope to have at least one of them up within a week or two.

Once again, it is that time of year. I did manage to escape that web on Black Friday.

Sometimes things just don’t go your way. I had been concerned about attendance for our sixth installment (Nov. 20) because of a slight change in time, 1pm instead of the usual 3pm. Then it had to be a gorgeous, warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. Recipe for disaster. I should have wished for a black Sunday...

To top it off, my friendly relationship with my MacBook ended when it decided not to work at all that afternoon, thus making it impossible to play CDs. Fine, fine… The show must go on. And it did to a smaller crew than usual. But what we lacked in size, we made up for in spirit!

We had one theme for BYOV #6:

Everyone's an expert. Presenters should bring a recording they find best represents the work of an artist they feel that they really get. Then explain what makes them so special. Mariah Carey's biggest fan? Bring your favorite track by your gurl. Bix Beiderbecke gets you revved? Haul out your 78s. Be prepared to defend your choices. We have some critics hanging around.

Before we played any music, there was a long discussion covering a wide range of musical topics. It began with Steve Futterman inquiring if anyone had seen any live music over the previous week. He and his brother Robert had been to see Chick Corea at the Blue Note, both with differing but altogether positive reviews. I admitted not being much of a Corea fan, at least not since his earlier works on Blue Note or ECM (I don’t think I said so much but hope it was implied).

Sorry to sidetrack but some of this will come up again later…

Anyway… This led to a discussion of musicians and their choices of musical direction. David Sanborn’s name came up rather quickly. Most of us had a huge respect for his abilities as a saxophonist but not in his choice of material. It has been interesting to note that many saxophonists from the past couple of decades were weaned on Sanborn and hold him in the highest regard. Discussion entered on where he had played in some more “interesting” musical settings. There were his recordings with Butterfield Blues Band, Stevie Wonder, Tim Berne and the Gil Evans Orchestra.

As I typically present last, I was asked to present first and as fate would have it the first recording happened to be of that aforementioned Gil Evans Orchestra (which happened to include Mr. Sanborn).

1. Marvin “Hannibal” Peterson w/ the Gil Evans Orchestra – “Zee Zee” from Svengali (Atlantic SD 1643 (1973))
Presented by Me – LP

I knew that these guys would guess this track immediately, after all that talk. I put the needle to the groove and as soon as those low brass tones came in:

“Those first notes…”

Everyone knew that it was Evans and the Orchestra. I believe Steve guessed that it was the Svengali recording. Though I had thought of presenting Evans, I was more concerned with the soloist on this particular track.

Then came that trumpet.

Robert: “Is that Hannibal?”

Yes, sir. Marvin “Hannibal” Peterson, aka Hannibal Marvin Peterson, aka Hannibal Peterson, aka Hannibal, aka Hannibal Lokumbe.

I had been juggling the names of a few musicians for my submission, including Mr. Evans, as his arranging work (particularly his later stuff) has been some of my favorite material for years. I decided to go with Hannibal because I thought that he really deserved to be recognized as both an impressive instrumentalist and composer, though he seemed to have disappeared long ago.

“Zee Zee” was an Evans original composition that was essentially a harmonic bed of eerie, moody low tones. The focal point of the song was an extended trumpet solo by Hannibal. This performance has gone on to become the most well known example of the Texas born trumpeter’s playing.

Steve: “That track was a gift from Gil.”

Robert: “Man… I haven’t heard that track for a long time. I must have it on vinyl.”

Hannibal presented a well-defined tone and boundless ideas on the trumpet along with a brute force that really cut through the loose arrangement of Evans.

Hannibal was born in 1948 and started on the trumpet during his early teens. He quickly started his own ensemble, the Soul Masters, which backed many soul and blues greats as they toured throughout Texas. He attended North Texas State University for two years before moving to New York in 1970. Hannibal then joined up with Rahsaan Roland Kirk before settling in with Evans as a principal soloist for nearly 10 years. He later went on to perform in groups led by Pharoah Sanders, Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones.

While Hannibal was being featured in these various settings, he also maintained his own ensembles that featured his unique compositional voice. Most famously with his Sunrise Orchestra.

2. Hannibal Marvin Peterson & The Sunrise Orchestra – “Movement 1. Forest Sunrise B. Song of Life” from Children of the Fire (Sunrise Records 1944 (1974))
Presented by Me – LP

I brought this one along just to give a taste of where Hannibal had begun as a composer and music conceptualist.

Children of the Fire was a larger ensemble piece that was written by Hannibal and arranged by the talented David Amram. The album also was produced in part by his employer and biggest fan, Gil Evans.

The pieces on the record were written in tribute to the children of Vietnam and presented a feast of eclectic folk sensibilities alongside a strong dose of spiritual jazz. The outcome wasn’t far from where Don Cherry was at the same period with the Eternal Rhythm and JCOA recordings. Peterson might have been a stronger trumpet soloist, however.

The 1970s saw a handful of other releases from Hannibal and more pared down versions of the Sunrise Orchestra, mostly on the Japanese Baystate, German MPS and Enja labels. From the 1980s on, Hannibal’s releases began to be entirely theme oriented. The Angels of Atlanta was a tribute to the victims of racism-fueled bombings of Atlanta. One with the Wind and African Portraits dealt with the African diaspora and how it has been dealt with in modern American history. His latest release Dear Mrs. Parks (Naxos, 2009) was a commission from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra that celebrates the contributions and cultural legacy of African Americans, including that of Mrs. Rosa Parks.

Steve heard a Freddie Hubbard influence on Hannibal’s solo playing along with the obvious references to Strata East and Charles Tolliver.

“I called this stuff ‘acoustic fusion.’ Blending jazz, Eastern and African influences with soul and blues.”

Jason discussed the lack of depth that much spiritual jazz had. His example: a 1970s performance of Pharoah Sanders at Keystone Korner in the Bay. He said that the entire thing had been very predictable and that Pharoah had even left the stage after he was done soloing, as if it had only been routine. Many such performances were equally fomulaic.

I was asked where I found the record. I had picked it up at Jazz Record Center in midtown at a pretty unbelievable price ($25). Great shape, too. This led to a long diatribe about the record market and how it has been shaped over the past 20 years or so. I should expound about that topic at length at some point.

3. Paul Desmond Quartet – “Jazzabelle” from The Paul Desmond Quartet with Don Elliott (Fantasy 3-235 (1956))
Presented by Jeremy Udden – LP

I’m so proud. Jeremy brought an LP.

We heard an alto sax and what seemed to be a trombone playing in a quartet with bass and drums, quite unusual instrumentation for a quartet that seemed to be dating back to the 1950s.

“Is it Brookmeyer?” Nope. Head scratching…

The trombone being the quirkier of the two lead instruments, everyone tried to go for that first.

“It is a valve trombone, isn’t it?”

Not a trombone, valve or otherwise. Hmm…

Once the saxophone tone got settled, I guessed Paul Desmond. The correct guess.

We all agreed that Desmond had an amazing sound and ability on the alto, even though: “Miles said alto shouldn’t be played that way.”

Robert: “I didn’t think Desmond could play a solo of that length.”

Jeremy had to tell us that it was Don Elliott performing on a mellophone.

The tune had a particularly intriguing section that featured a fugue in counterpoint between Desmond and Elliott. Apparently the section had been fully improvised.

That brought Jeremy to mention what he finds as Desmond’s most important contribution as a musician besides his peerless tone: Desmond’s completely compositional direction. Everything that Desmond did was in service to the overall composition. Even his improvisations were extensions of the theme.

Steve: “It its own way, that is some outrageous drumming.”

The drummer was credited as Joe Chevrolet (a pun on his actual name, Joe Dodge) in the notes penned by the comedian Mort Sahl. Funny. The drummer took a very minimalist role, especially while comping solos, as he mainly focused on the rim of the snare.

Sahl had been a prominent comedian in the Bay Area, where Desmond had emerged. A bigger celebrity than Desmond, apparently. It was interesting to note that on the record sleeve, Sahl had quite a bit of room for his own material and even gets a choice photo placement (there wasn’t one for the leader). Rumor has it that Desmond later slept with Sahl’s wife and the friendship was ended. Touchy.

It was also interesting that Desmond didn’t feature a pianist in his ensemble. He was after all most well known for his work with a pianist, Dave Brubeck. Jeremy thought there might have been an agreement with Brubeck that if Desmond released a recording of his own that there wouldn’t be a piano.

We did listen to another track from the same album, “Sacre Blues.” It featured a very uncharacteristic solo from Desmond including a venture into the altissimo register of the horn.

Though Desmond didn’t receive the respect that he should have from younger generations of saxophonists, he still managed to make an impression on some rather diverse players, including Anthony Braxton. It shouldn’t be surprising then that, as Jeremy mentioned, one of Desmond’s biggest influences was a “jump” style saxophonist named Pete Brown. Quite a stylistic distance from where Desmond ended up.

“If there was an underground poll, he’d be in the top three saxophonists.”

Desmond had an obvious jazz/pop appeal and some wondered if he hadn’t been the David Sanborn of his generation.

Jeremy had mentioned that Jerry Bergonzi had said that he never really got into Desmond but had told him, “It takes balls to play that way.”

4. Ruby Braff – “Royal Garden Blues” from Bravura Eloquence (Concord 423 (1990))
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3

Steve presaged his selection by stating, “This was the best trumpeter of the past 40 years besides Hannibal.”

The ensemble featured here was a trio of trumpet, guitar and bass. The trumpeter’s facility was pretty extraordinary. Comments were made regarding his breadth of range and dexterity throughout registers.

We needed some hints from Steve. He told us that the trumpeter’s career spanned back to the 1950s.

“Still alive?” No.

Steve: “Apparently, he was the most ornery guy in jazz.”

“He was from Boston and white.”

No one could guess.

Jeremy knew the tune and was impressed with the arrangement: “Kinda like a little big band arrangement.”

No one could guess.

Braff was born in 1927 in Boston. His music career began while he was still very young, in the 1940s, with his real foray into the jazz world beginning in the 1950s. He was well regarded in the jazz community for his ability as a trumpeter in the Louis Armstrong fashion and gained respect as he had been a young white guy able to hang with the black guys. It was interesting that he dedicated his life to the pursuit of an Armstrong ideal, as it wasn’t a popular choice when he was trying to make a name for himself.

Steve found that his most confident playing could be found on his recordings from his peak, much later in his career, from the 1970s to 1990s. As he wasn’t a writer, his recordings found him flexing his chops on well-known jewels like this featured on a 1990 Concord session.

“What does Wynton think of Ruby?”

Steve: “Can’t say that I’ve seen a word written about it.”

This got us into our monthly rant on Wynton.

Speaking of which, had you heard that Jazz @ Lincoln Center has decided toopen new locations around the world, including Dubai?

5. Maze featuring Frankie Beverley– “While I’m Alone” from Maze featuring Frankie Beverly (Capitol C2-91244, 1977)
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko –

Zak can always be counted on to derail the jazz express. This time he was able to use the magic of the internet to give us a soul group that many of us had never explored.

Steve: “Is that ‘What You See, Is What You Get’?” No…

We heard a rather breezy, bass heavy groove. A tenor with a slight rasp comes in with a wordless, scat-ish vocal.

“Donny Hathaway?” An emphatic no – at least from Zak and myself.


Zak: “From the West Coast.”

“Group with a band name or the name of the featured vocalist?”

Zak: “It is a band with a featured vocalist.”

“What year?”

Zak: “1977.”

Me: “I’m embarrassed to say I don’t recognize the vocalist, Zak.”

Steve: “Can we have the singer’s initials?”

Zak: “FB.”

No one had it.

Zak gave us a break – Maze featuring Frankie Beverley. Beverley and Maze had originally come from Philadelphia where they performed as the Butlers. They didn’t quite gel with the “Philly Sound” made popular by Gamble & Huff so they moved to California where they changed their name to Raw Soul.

The group’s break came when they were introduced to Marvin Gaye, who had them tour as an opening act. He also suggested the group change their name to Maze.

“While I’m Alone” was the group’s first hit single from their debut album. Not their biggest hit, by any means. Zak also played the group’s “Happy Feelings” from the same album to see if we had heard it.

Though some of us liked the tune, some thought it kind of boring.

“Sounds like a vamp looking for a tune.”

“There didn’t seem to be a hook.”

Zak mentioned that the group still toured and sounded good when they played in Brooklyn last summer. He felt that they should have been better known in their prime but they were never able to break through into the white mainstream, though they had a similar sound to that of the extremely popular Earth Wind & Fire.

6. Steve Lacy – “The Uh Uh Uh” from Dreams (Saravah SH 10058, (1975)
Presented by Jason Weiss – CD (Couldn’t play – computer meltdown)

Jason had seen baritone saxophonist/Lacy devotee Josh Sinton’s group Ideal Bread play this tune a few nights before our meeting. He decided to present Lacy as he had been a big fan of the soprano saxophonist for years and had conducted many interviews with him, which he later presented in a fine collection (here).

“The Uh Uh Uh” featured a typically strong Lacy melody alongside an ensemble featuring a more subdued Derek Bailey, who avoided playing his more typical language of squiggles for one that was a little more approachable (I still hear some clangs). The tune was a tribute to the late guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, who’s music Lacy was familiar with via a long relationship with Gil Evans (we come around, yet again).

Jason looked back to this period of Lacy’s career as one of the better ones. Though he played in many different situations, his own groups were pretty well established. Lacy had always looked to establish long term relationships with musicians he played with, most notable were his relationships with Mal Waldron and Roswell Rudd. This period was also before he added vocals to his music, which alienated some fans.

The fan base for Lacy’s music has been large and dedicated. Jason himself has been involved with a particularly devoted gang of Lacy aficionados, including four Frenchmen. They have been trading recordings of Lacy’s for years. He remembered meeting a European couple that would come to New York on their vacation to hear every set of Lacy’s annual, week-long stand at Sweet Basil.

Jason’s own fondness for Lacy’s music stemmed from the saxophonist’s singular sound and writing. Lacy’s soprano sound was completely unique. He was possibly the only saxophonist to fully identify with the smaller horn and never got caught up in using the horn in a purely “Eastern” esthetic, as many doublers would in the future. Lacy was also a creative composer who wrote memorable themes with melodic hooks and plenty of repetition. The songs have stood out.

Jason: “Just like with Monk. I can remember the tune but not the name of the tune.”

In interviews that he conducted with Lacy, Jason was able to learn about Lacy’s writing style. Lacy would write with lyrics in mind, which Jason thought added another dimension to the music.

Jason: “I like to compare the vocal to the instrumental version of Lacy’s songs. I prefer the instrumental.”

Lacy’s wife and collaborator Irene Aebi would typically take the vocal duties on these tracks later on. Her voice has been equally heralded and derided for decades.

Robert: “My wife has always made me stop the record when she heard Irene and, believe it or not, Abbey Lincoln.”

Strange bedfellows…

Lacy created his own brand of art song while putting others’ words to music. Jason mentioned that most of his meetings with Lacy were spent talking about books. This tradition has been kept alive recently by a number of musicians. Some that came to this group’s collective mind were John Hollenbeck, Frank Carlberg and Sam Sadigursky.

Steve: “Do you think that Lacy recorded too much?”

Jason: “I almost think he did.”

Lacy has been one of the most prolifically recorded jazz musicians ever. The race between him and David Murray could be very close. The amount of recordings could be seen as a sign of the times he lived in. Much of his income derived from recording sessions from numerous independent European labels during the 1970s, where the music was more appreciated.

“Is he an inimitable figure?”

Jason: “Yes and no.”

Jason explained that Lacy’s work on the soprano stood alone. Listening to Lacy’s soprano had ruined him for other saxophonists that have taken up the instrument, mostly on the side. Lacy had mastered the horn as others merely added it to their repertoire.

We discussed the best starting points for Lacy newbies. Most thought that starting with his early recordings and easing your way in might be best, the same strategy might prove to be helpful in tackling the music of Cecil Taylor. Another method would be listening to Lacy interpret tunes of well-known composers, which he did quite often. He was recognized as one of the best interpreters of Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols and did some interesting interpretations of Ellington, as well.

Example below.

Steve Lacy - "Prelude to a Kiss" from 10 Of Dukes + 6 Originals (Senators Records SEN 01 (2002))

Next BYOV will be on Dec. 11th. Come get some cake.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

BYOV - Meeting #5

October 16th presented us with another lovely fall day in Brooklyn. For my part, I enjoyed the great outdoors by lugging my trusty turntable and quasi-reliable computer to Barbès for the 5th installment of Bring Your Own Vinyl.

I should really consider renaming it Bring Your Own Digital Music Format, as I was the only vinyl presenter. But no… I will persevere.

How we get down.

We had an interesting slew of themes for this meeting. A couple that provided some real verbal jabs and parries.

Here were our themes:

a) All by myself… Memorable solo performance. One person and his/her art.

b) Getting’ modern. Musical masterpieces from the 1990s and/or 2000s.

c) What’s so special about that? Play and discuss a time-honored favorite you feel is overrated.

Of course, as anyone might imagine, both the modern masterpieces and overrated themes could prove to be contentious. “Modern masterpieces and overrated pieces could be the same category,” quipped Mr. Panken.

1. John Escreet – “Wayne’s World” from Consequences (Posi-Tone 8042, 2009)
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko – Theme: B – MP3

Zak was reluctant to call any recent recording a masterpiece but was happy to bring in a recent recording that he was extremely impressed by.

We heard an angular, very modern piano trio. The pianist’s movement seemed to emerge from a post Andrew Hill sentiment. Good writing and improvising.

Pianist was the leader? Yep.

Matt Shipp? Nope. Craig Taborn? Nuh-uh. Marilyn Crispell? No.

Jason Moran? Nope.

Then came the horns. Hmm…

When did the record come out? About two years ago.

“Is it going to be a headslapper?” I asked. You know, the exasperated slap to the head. Duh!

“Maybe not for the leader. For the rest of the band…”

Then came an alto solo. Ted Panken slapped his head first. “Binney.”

No one was able to guess the leader, so Zak spelled out the band. The pianist/composer was John Escreet, UK raised, NYC based upstart along with an excellent supporting cast: drummer Tyshawn Sorey, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and bassist Matt Brewer. Very nice stuff.

Zak explained that it might be a little presumptuous to call it a masterpiece but he had been very impressed with Escreet’s innate ability to incorporate the more outré musical concepts of the avant-garde without leaving melody behind. Escreet’s balance of out and in really has set the bar high over the past couple years for both piano technicians and composers.

Most dug the composition and stated that they had intended to delve into his music earlier.

2. Randy Weston – “PCN” from Ancient Future (Mutable Music, 2001)
Presented by Eric Benson – Theme: A – MP3

Eric played us a nice piano solo. The pianist took his time, first focusing on the low end of the instrument. A very bluesy solo that definitely swung and highlighted some tinge of modality.

The first guess was Abdullah Ibrahim. “No. He wouldn’t have played those blues based things. It is Randy Weston,” posited Mr. Panken.


The recording came from a double CD from Mutable Music. The release contained two solo performances, one a new recording from June 2001 and the other a reissue of Blue (1750 Arch Records, 1983). This track was from the 2001 performance.

There was some discussion of where the earlier recording could have come from. François had thought it might have been a part of the Owl Records catalog. Owl had released a couple of Weston solo records in the 1980s.

3. Bill McHenry – “Art/Omi” from Graphic (Fresh Sound New Talent 056, 1998)
Presented by Simon Jermyn – Theme: B – MP3

This piece was prefaced by Simon: “Maybe not a masterpiece but a piece I like. Nothing flashy…”

The piece featured a quartet of tenor sax, guitar, bass and drums. The performers obviously had a strong rapport. Both sax and guitar were familiar to my ears.

McHenry and Monder. A very resonant pairing that has been successful for over a decade. The bass player had to be Reid Anderson, as he had played on most of Bill’s Quartet recordings. The drummer was the odd man out for me as I only have this group’s recordings with Paul Motian. This drummer definitely was not Motian.

Simon cleared the fog. The drummer was the esteemed Gerald Cleaver.

Futterman: “When has Cleaver ever played at this speed?”

I had mentioned Ben Monder’s immediately recognizable sound and Joel asked me what it was that I heard. Hard to describe Monder’s tone. There’s a very full bodied, warm and charged (more suitable word than electric) sound.

Ted mentioned that he enjoyed the “simple melodies” that McHenry presents. “It is refreshing.”

4. Jerry Gonzalez – “Jackie-ing” from Rumba Para Monk (Sunnyside 1036, 1989)
Presented by Ted Panken – Theme: B – CD

When we finally get the CD playing on the computer (Ted’s a PC man), the group heard a strong percussion segue into a written horn section. Everybody’s feet were moving.

Ted was surprised to have seen François at the meeting. He said that he would have brought something else if he had known. François knew this piece backwards and forwards, of course. My job depended on me knowing this one, so I stayed quiet.

No one else was guessing, though.

Francois to Steve: “You have it.”

“Do I?”

“C’mon! You don’t even have to pay!”

Francois was only too happy to blurt out the leader of the ensemble, Mr. Jerry Gonzalez.

Ted chose this recording because he felt that it was one of the best 10 CDs of the past 25 years. The record had also inspired two generations of Latin/Spanish American musicians as it drew the blueprint of a successful integration of jazz and folkloric music. The record had been name checked by many of today’s jazz/Latin music stars, including Dafnis Prieto, Miguel Zenon and Edward Simon.

“Ray Barretto said Rumba Para Monk is the top,” added Francois.

Steve wondered what Ted thought of Jerry’s trumpet playing. Ted said that while Jerry may not be virtuosic on trumpet, he definitely has great ideas that make his playing stand apart. He also credited Jerry’s global perspective, as he is equally proficient in jazz and Afro-Cuban genres, whether playing trumpet or congas.

Ted also made sure to mention brother/bassist Andy Gonzalez and drummer Steve Berrios whose contributions to the music couldn’t be ignored, especially as prominent members of the Fort Apache Ensemble.

The group also discussed the dialog between these New York raised musicians and Cuban musicians. François mentioned that while Jerry travelled to Cuba, he had been reticent to play with the Cubans, this was the holy land for him and he was paying his respects. Ted was surprised since many of the Cubans that had shown up in the States in the 1980s were so focused on the music of Michael Brecker and Chick Corea that they left most of the folkloric elements to the wayside in favor of musical pyrotechnics.

Ted: “If anyone thinks this is overrated, that’s okay. But I don’t.”

Some technical aspects were cleared up. Jerry did use some overdubbing as he performed both on congas and trumpet. Andy Gonzalez had mentioned to Ted that they had to change the songs to make the clavé work.

Definitely a classic recording in the sphere of Afro-Cuban jazz.

5. Paul Motian Trio – “It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago” from TrioIsm (JMT 51412, 1994)
Presented by Steve Futterman – Theme: B – MP3

Joel got Motian’s trio just as soon as Steve got the music playing. Besides the fact that Joel has been extremely familiar with Motian’s music, this group has had an instantly identifiable sound since its inception.

Steve called the Trio a game changer. A group with a musical concept that had never been done before.

But how was it different?

“Swing isn’t present. Their use of space. The non-virtuosic element… Almost like ‘Nefertiti’ (Miles Davis composition). It is all mood.”

Joel queried, “What about the Giuffre Trio from 1961? This idea wasn’t new.”

The famed Giuffre Trio was well known for abandoning the drums with the ensemble of woodwind player Giuffre, pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow approaching improvisation from a very introspective, chamber music like angle.

Here Motian had his drums and Bill Frisell’s electric guitar but for the most part this trio was taking off where Giuffre had landed.

Joel: “I pretty much agree with you… It’s fun to argue.”

The Trio was a departure for Motian. Ted pointed out that his earlier trio had been more pulse oriented when he had saxophonist Charles Brackeen and either Jean-François Jenny Clark or David Izenzon on bass.

Zak stated that with the focus on the use of space and mood, this recording sounded like a soundtrack to a film. But he missed the film. Steve made mention of guitarist Ry Cooder’s soundtrack work and how he may have influenced or been influenced by Frisell.

Some thought this music would only work for them when they were in the proper frame of mind or mood. “When the planets align, this music could be transcendental.”

Joel thought that these thoughts were dismissive. “This music doesn’t need anything.” I agreed wholeheartedly, this configuration being one of my favorites regardless of genre.

Joel also made it clear that Motian’s music has melodic purpose of a higher order. He expressed dismay at all these new musicians, especially in the rock and classical/new music canons, that use drones upon drones that have become unbearable to him. “They’ve forgotten what melody is. I blame Steve Reich. And Philip Glass”

6. Meredith d’Ambrosio – “By Myself” from By Myself (Sunnyside, 2012)
Presented by Francois Zalacain – Theme: A – MP3

The piece began with an austere solo piano intro then joined by a female vocalist. We heard some comments that François wasn’t going with the solo theme. He just leaned back and smiled. Obviously, we were listening to a double threat: pianist slash vocalist.

Steve was listening intently. “What is the tune…?” After a moment of brain wracking, Steve got the tune. An Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz penned ballad.

Joel commented on the beautiful piano playing. No clue who the performer was.

Was she American or European? “You know the accents better than I do,” replied the wily François.

“C’mon, Ted…”

“Performance anxiety…”

There were no guesses to the artist. François introduced the group to one of his favorite vocalists, Meredith d’Ambrosio, and an upcoming solo recording.

Francois told the story of how he had initially came across Meredith. During the early 1980s, François’s good friend Daniel Richard manned one of the best record stores in France, Le Mondes du Jazz. While visiting, Daniel played François a Japanese import of Meredith’s Lost in His Arms. Francois fell in love and tracked her down. He has released all of her recordings since.

7. Red Mitchell – “I’ll Be Seeing You” from Simple Isn’t Easy (Sunnyside 1016, 1984)
Presented by Francois Zalacain – Theme: A – MP3

The tune is in the first three minutes. The rest is an interview with Mitchell.

François kept the hits coming.

The music began with a trumpet solo over a 1950-ish jazz ensemble. A male vocalist accompanied what the trumpet was doing note by note with a rapid, inventive and mostly comic lyric. Pretty astounding as the syllables fell in with the quick pace of the trumpet.

There were again some complaints that this wasn’t a solo piece. The complaints died down after the vocal fireworks began.

Steve was able to guess that it was trumpeter Tony Fruscella’s trumpet solo on “I’ll Be Seeing You” with bassist Red Mitchell singing his own lyrics along with the solo.

Steve mentioned how much he enjoyed Fruscella’s work because he was a tremendous improviser and particularly this solo because he never touches the head (the song’s melody).

François told the story of where the idea to record this germinated. He had originally seen Red Mitchell perform at the Nice Jazz Festival. As an encore, Mitchell had come out on stage with a tape recorder and placed it near the microphone as he sang along with this recording. It blew everyone away. After moving to New York, François became familiar with Mitchell at Bradley’s and asked him to do a solo recording under the stipulation that he would do this piece. They placed it as a bonus track on the album Simple Isn’t Easy.

This recording also had a story that included my favorite movie director, Stanley Kubrick. Sometime after the release, François received a call from one of Kubrick’s assistants who mentioned that the director had heard this recording on the radio while driving in France. The assistant asked if François would send a copy over, he did. End of story. But hell, it was a personal favor to Stanley Kubrick.

Okay. Here was where the meeting got a little more interesting… A little more controversial.

FYI – None of the statements below are representative of the sentiments of the entire group. We were happy to let the criticism fly. Being that some of the individuals depend upon these musicians’ work for their livelihood, I’ve decided to keep the comments anonymous, unless otherwise noted. Some present decided not to comment on some of the following selections.

Guess you’ll have to come to a meeting to catch everything uncensored.

8. Keith Jarrett Standard Trio – “Four” from My Foolish Heart (ECM, 2007)
Presented by Joel Harrison – Theme: C – CD

“Just throw this one on. The first song. You’ll know it in 10 seconds,” prefaced Joel.

“DeJohnette is the culprit! He’s too busy and the time is poor,” remarked one of our critics. He also guessed the Jarrett Trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette.

Joel had decided to pick on Keith Jarrett on the first “overrated” selection.

“When was this? After his illness?”

A while after his illness.

Joel took issue on a number of points. The trio did not sound inspired, they played poorly and, to top it off, Jarrett wrote that this was the greatest achievement of the Trio in the liner notes (he has proclaimed the same in many liner notes before and since).

The fact that Jarrett hadn’t recorded any original compositions since the mid-1980s became a sore point with many former followers. This particular trio had been doing “the same old thing” for years. The lackluster performances don’t deserve the credit enthusiasts give, “or a private jet for that matter.” Some thought the lack of enthusiasm in performance might be due to the fact that the group was playing for a paycheck rather than creating an artistic statement.

Needless to say, there were a number of Jarrett fans present that defended the pianist to the end (namely Ted and François). Nonetheless, no member of the trio escaped unscathed. Here are some anonymous thoughts:

“Peacock is grossly overrated.”

“I know some bass jokes about him. Something to do about walking… I can’t remember them now.”

So why have these guys become icons? Obviously, the Trio’s past output (collectively and individually) has been deemed classic. Their past successes have kept them on their economically advantageous path.

“Like Sonny Rollins… Is he the greatest saxophonist living?”

“When he is on, he can play a lot of saxophone…”

“Okay… But is he really the best right now?”

“Maybe not. But I’ll continue to go to see him. Same with Jarrett.”

Here’s when I cut in with my selection. Totally off topic, naturally.

9. Lenny Pickett – “Solo for Saxophone and Tape” from Lenny Pickett with the Borneo Horns (Carthage Records, 1987)
Presented by Me – Theme: A – LP

I threw on the LP as everyone’s blood pressure was still high.

We heard what seemed to be a woodwind ensemble playing a rather dancing, pointillistic composition with a tenor saxophone feature. It was actually a tenor solo over prerecorded tapes that the player had made using various clarinets.

Joel: “This doesn’t count!”

Me: “Sure it does. Someone asked if the solo could have overdubs at the last meeting. I said sure.”

Joel: “So… If I made a MIDI orchestra with me on top, that would have been cool?”

Me: “Guess so…”

The guesses started adding up. Eddie Harris? Julius Hemphill? David Murray?

First hint: Originally from the West Coast.

Vinny Golia? Bennie Maupin? Arthur Blythe? Is this the Microscopic Septet guys?

Next hint: You can see him live every Saturday night. - Crickets.

Every Saturday night... Live… On television… – Nothing.

I let them off the hook. Lenny Pickett has been the musical director of the Saturday Night Live band since 1995. Prior to that, he had been a member of the legendary Tower of Power funk outfit out of the Bay area and had participated in many of the “downtown” scene’s projects of the 1980s. He had also arranged on recordings by artists as diverse as Elton John, the Talking Heads and Cyndi Lauper. Along with his work at SNL, he has been a part of the music department at NYU for a number of years.

“He sounds like Sanborn there.”

Me: “I thought you guys would get it when he plays his high register and bluesy R&B stuff.”

Joel: “This was barely, barely, before smooth jazz.”

Steve: “He was definitely influenced by the World Saxophone Quartet.”

Joel: “They’re also overrated.”

There the discourse went into saxophonist who might or might not be overrated.

“What about Joe Lovano?”

Ted’s eyes got really big.

François: “No. Lovano isn’t overrated. He might be overexposed.”

Too much of a good thing?

10. Ahmad Jamal – “It’s You or No One” from Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing, Vo. 2 (Argo PS-667, 1961)
Presented by Steve Futterman – Theme: C – MP3

Steve: “Here’s a guy close to Jarrett. I don’t get it. I think he’s boring.”

Then came a fluttery, tuneful piano trio recording.

“Ahmad Jamal isn’t overrated,” came the quick response from Ted. “This may not be his best performance. Put on "Poinciana." He plays a lot of piano on that. (…) He was Miles’ favorite pianist.”

Steve: “What did Miles hear? Space…? Who cares?”

“He heard them live”

Steve: “This is live… I always hear about his orchestral feel on the piano. What does that mean?”

“It is in the arrangement. His attempt to use the entire ensemble and the full piano to orchestrate all the parts that he hears in his head.”

At this point, the speed at which the conversation continued was kind of a blur. Forgive me for not catching it all. Here’s the gist.

“You can’t talk about Jamal without talking about the trio.”

“He’s not taking chances. What’s the twinkly stuff he’s doing?”

“He can play a ton of piano. Listen to the Blackhawk sessions. He plays a ton of piano there.”

Zak: “I think he’s the most distinctive pianist since Monk. He can play with this beauty and then surprise you with these bombs. Maybe not rhythmic bombs, but things that really surprise you. He really mixes it up.”

“His live shows are a circus now. He just plays on autopilot. He just throws random things in.”

“I’m not even listening to this stuff. It is music that I can ignore.”

“Well, why did eight famous pianists show up and sit in the front row at his last gig? Why?”

Steve: “I don’t know. I don’t get it.”

François described the French reception to Jamal. They weren’t very favorable at the outset.

Steve: “I don’t get Oscar Peterson, either.”

“What about Hank Jones?”


François: “I didn’t know you were French!”

I’ll have to bring a recorder for the next meeting.

11. Noah Preminger – “Where or When” from Before the Rain (Palmetto, 2011)
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko – Theme: B – MP3

Before we adjourned, Zak played another piece by a “young guy that I’m impressed with.”

The piece was a tenor sax and piano duo ballad. The tenor had a well-worn sound that everyone enjoyed hearing.

I guessed that it was Noah along with Frank Kimbrough.

Zak was struck by the performer’s mature sound at such a young age. That’s a big compliment in the jazz world. Ted mentioned that there was a Lovano influence in Noah’s playing and that he also cited Dewey Redman as one of his musical heroes.

Many in the room thought that a player’s ability to play a ballad really was the litmus test to whether they could hang. Trumpeter Roy Hargrove was mentioned as a “youngster” that had the ability to really emote on a ballad.

Ted and François concurred. Roy had a distinct advantage of playing at the legendary Bradley’s in New York. The club was a famous hang for legendary musicians and aficionados. Hargrove would have to play in front of the leading jazz musicians of the day on any given night. This experience hasn’t been duplicated since Bradley’s closing. It had been a huge part of Roy’s development along with many other players of his generation.

Though this concluded the musical aspect of the afternoon, conversation kept up on the development of younger musicians, who of these younger musicians were overrated and why the “jazz police” had kept them in the spotlight.

12. Joe McPhee – “Cosmic Love” from Sound on Sound (Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2011 (late 60s/early 70s)
Presented by Jeff Golick (in absentia) – Theme: A – MP3

Though he couldn’t make it due to familial obligations, Jeff told me that it would be remiss not to have a Joe McPhee solo track thrown in.