Tuesday, September 4, 2012

BYOV - Meeting #13

This past BYOV found me coming off a New Orleans high. I had just came back a week before. So on the afternoon of August 12th, the attendees were subjected to Dr. John’s arguably perfect record Gris-Gris (ATCO SD 33-234, 1968).

The turnout was typical for a summer time session: light. It didn’t stop us from listening to some very divergent musical offerings.

The themes for BYOV#13 were as follows:

A) Keep it brief. Bring in your favorite short performance of two minutes or less.
B) No Coast. Our first of what will probably be increasingly popular regional suggestions. We want to hear your favorite Midwestern musician, composer or band.
C) Could have been somebody. Do you know a song that you think could have been a hit if put in the right hands? Lets hear it. 

I was surprised at how popular the Midwestern category was while the “coulda been a hit” category was very nearly neglected.

Jump in.

      1.    Andrew Hill – “Hey Hey” from Lift Every Voice (Blue Note BST 84430, 1969)
Presented by Me – MP3 – Theme: B & C

I thought this track would be a bit of a puzzler for this crowd but as soon as the squawky sax came in Robert guessed Andrew Hill. He had heard the track before on some Blue Note compilation.

“Who’s on tenor?” I didn’t know offhand and had to look it up.

Carlos Garnett played the gut busting tenor. Woody Shaw was featured on trumpet, Freddie Waits on funky drums and Richard Davis on bass.

Steve: “Waits is definitely coming out of Roy Haynes.”

It reminded the attendees of Max Roach’s recording with the J.C. White Singers with a similar title called Lift Every Voice and Sing (Atlantic SD 1587, 1971).

“Are they singing words?” Nope, just bop, bahs and aahs.

Richard: “Sounds like the Swingle Singers meet (Luciano) Berios.”

“Do you think that the vocals were recorded live or overdubbed?” They were probably overdubbed after the quintet recorded the track.

I picked this title because I thought that it was extremely catchy and had potential for crossing over (at least in the 1960s). The vocals pushed it over, of course. The chorus master was Lawrence Marshall, who doesn’t have any additional recording credits that I can find. 

Joel: “In what universe could this have been a hit?”

I explained that had Blue Note decided to split the track in half and put it on a 7 inch it could have had some jukebox play. They had done it with similar tunes from Bobby Hutcherson.

Joel: “I like your attitude.”

I also picked Andrew Hill because of his connection to Chicago. Though, Thomas reminded me that Hill was born in Port au Prince, Haiti. Close enough for jazz.

Thomas also had a couple other juicy tidbits about Hill. He recalled that Hill had written a note in his From California with Love release (Artists House AH 9409, 1979) where he voiced his opinions of the record and jazz industries where he had found a “route into poverty.” I’ve provided a bit of the note here:

At the zenith of my Blue Note recordings, I found that fame and fortune were not my reward, but fame and poverty. This was hard to believe, for I had seen artists like Miles Davis, Maynard Ferguson, Oscar Peterson, etc., pass through Chicago. They weren’t surviving but living.

At the top of my promotion, the English Rock groups were storming America. I had two alternatives: go commercial, or find a way to maintain my lifestyle. I was born with the ability to play anything I heard, so music would be with me regardless of what road I took.

I wonder what Hill would say about the legacy of this recording.

Thomas had discussed Hill’s music with the great tuba/bari saxophonist Howard Johnson who said that Hill’s compositions had puzzling arrangements and that many of his recording sessions were deemed failures. There was a reason that many of his sessions from the ‘60s weren’t released until the late ‘70s up until the early 2000s.

I still happen to think that many listeners are just catching up to Mr. Hill. This might not have been his deepest recording but it was certainly an intriguing one.

      2.    Sun Ra – “Enlightenment” from Jazz In Silhouette (Impulse!/ABC SD 9265, 1975 (Saturn, 1958))
Presented by Robert Futterman – LP – Theme: B

Robert began by saying this was for the Midwestern theme: “A liberal understanding of Midwestern…”

The introductory gong got some guffaws but we soared on.

“Roland Kirk?” Nope.

Richard: “John Gilmore.” Yep - along with the rest of the fez-wearing-circa-1959 edition of the Sun Ra Arkestra.

Steve: “How did Gil Evans get on this session? This sounds straight out of Porgy and Bess.”

Thomas: “With Hobart Coxon.” The trumpeter was certainly a standout here. So was the baritone saxophonist Pat Patrick.

Steve: “This is wonderfully conventional. Now Ra’s going for Ahmad Jamal style piano.”

Richard: “This would be really good with some vocalist going ‘bow, bow, bow…’”

Slack jawed Steve: “Now it sounds like Stan Kenton…”

Robert: “There was always the joke – ‘Is the music Chicago or is it Saturn?’”

“Enlightenment” was truly enlightening. Ooofph. This was really a portrait of Sun Ra’s very open concept of jazz during the late 1950s in Chicago, where he got his start after moving north from Alabama. His approach was focused on the now classic big band arrangements with a bit of added exoticism, thus the gongs and fez.

Joel mentioned that we should have Henry Threadgill come in because he could give a good rundown on Chicago’s musical history. Tell him to come down. We’d be happy to have him and I’d personally escort him on the F train.

      3.  Jacob Garchik – “Optimism” from The Heavens: The Atheist Gospel Trombone Album (Yestereve, 2012)
Presented by Joel Harrison – CD – Theme: A

Joel: “This is a short one.”

We heard a very familiar brass band sound.

Me: “You should read the BYOV blog more.” Frown…

Of course, we’ve heard the marvelous new record by Jacob Garchik. Miles Okazaki brought it in for BYOV #11.

The fact that another musician brought the record in says a ton about the recording. I don’t know what both presenters being tremendous guitarists implied. I do recommend everyone pick this release up, however.

It has not only been well received by Garchik’s peers but also the critical world at large. He got a very nice write up by Ben Ratliff after his CD release performance at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn. Link here.

Joel: “This song is brief. The whole record is a little over 30 minutes. I wish I could do that. My average is about 60 minutes.”

      4.    Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey – “Hamby’s Window” from Stay Gold (Kinnara Productions / Royal Potato Family Records, 2010)
Presented by Richard Gehr – CD – Theme: B

Richard brought a recording of a Midwestern group hailing from Oklahoma.

“Bret will know this.”

A very forward bass, drums, piano and pedal steel emerged from the speakers.

Matt: “Oh, I know!”

Joel: “Is it Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey? I wouldn’t have known who it was without you saying they were from Oklahoma.”

Apparently, there aren’t many well-known jazz/jam ensembles that come from the Sooner State.

I didn’t know upon first listen, unfortunately. I had been a big fan when my hair was a bit longer in college. Matt wanted pics. These have been conveniently lost, fortunately.

JFJO has had a long tradition as a touring ensemble, especially in the Midwest where I grew up. The group has had many incarnations: a mid-sized jazz ensemble, a three piece jam band, an electronic music group, this featured quartet with pedal steel guitar and now a jazz ensemble with two to three horns.

Richard: “I would have brought their most recent release, The Race Riot Suite (The Royal Potato Family, 2011), but I couldn’t find it.”

Robert wondered how the group found success.

The answer, of course, was touring. The strong support of  Hyena Records and Kevin Calabro had also helped to keep the band in the limelight.

Even Matt had booked the band while in college at Carnegie Mellon.

Joel: “What other jam bands do you like, Matt?”

Matt, without hesitation: “The Allman Brothers… “ (Joel is an unabashed Allman Brothers superfan).

Joel: “Well… These guys must have slept on a couple of couches.”

Matt: “They slept on my couch when they played at my school.”

      5.    Bix Beiderbecke w/ The Frankie “Tram” Trumbauer Orchestra – “Singin’ the Blues” from Frankie Trumbauer & His Orchestra – “Clarinet Marmalade” / “Singin’ the Blues” (Okeh Electric 40772, 1927)
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3 – Theme: B

We were greeted by an early jazz recording that featured a prominent clarinet and trumpet.

Matt: “Is it Count Basie?” Nope.

“The trumpet player is Mr. Midwest?” Yes.

Thomas: “This is ‘Singin’ the Blues’?” Yep.

“I brought two Bix CDs because I thought that someone else might play something of his.”

The Iowa born cornetist has become a legendary figure in jazz and a pivotal element of the developments beyond the Chicago “Hot Jazz” style. His legend has only grown because of an extremely short career (only 4 to 5 years) due to his death aided by chronic alcoholism at the age of 28.

Beiderbecke had a revolutionary approach to the music that found him playing with a more laid back approach and cool tone while the music was still in the upbeat Dixieland style swing. His approach has been highly influential to many brass players, including Thomas.

The track also featured a bevy of heavy hitters of the time, including clarinetist Jimmy Dorsey, the C-melody sax of Frankie Trumbauer, drummer Chauncey Morehouse, pianist Paul Mertz, trombonist Miff Mole and guitarist Eddie Lang.

Lang was a particular favorite of many of the aficionados in the room. He made quite a name for himself as the only guitarist to call on in those early days of jazz recording. He was featured so frequently that there was a moment of silence for him on radio when he passed away in 1933 at the age of 31 years old.

Matt: “It was interesting to hear the guitar here because there must have been more saxophones in households than guitars in 1927.”

Joel: “Now the world is sick with guitar players.”

Evidently, Lang was one of the two jazz musicians to have died in the dentist chair, the other being saxophonist Johnny Hodges.  

      6.    Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang – “Sorry” from “Sorry” / “Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down” (Okeh 8544, 1927)
Presented by Thomas Heberer – CD – Theme: B

Once again we turned back the clock to the 1920s. The lively rhythmic bounce to this track was invigorating.

“Is that a bass saxophone?” Sure was. The big horn was holding down the rhythm section. I lamented that there weren’t many of those big horns around anymore. Could they all have been melted down as part of the war effort during the Second World War?

“Is the tune ‘Clarinetology’?” Nope.

Another Beiderbeck performance on a rendition of Howard Quicksell and Raymond Klages’s  “Sorry.”

Thomas reiterated what a great source of inspiration Beiderbecke had been to him.

“Bix was one of the first ‘cool’ players. Lester Young being the other. Chicago was filled with all of the ‘hot’ players but Bix came along with a totally different style.”

The question of where these tunes were recorded came up. Turns out these were recorded in New York while only a few were actually put to wax in Chicago.

      7.    Eric Kloss – “It’s Too Late” from One, Two, Free (Muse MR 5019, 1972)
Presented by Matt Merewitz – MP3 – Theme: B

In came the groovy alto, guitar and funky bass. Plenty of soul cymbals, too.

Steve: “Okay. Sonny Stitt.” No.

“Bunky Green.” Uh-uh.

Matt: “I’ll be impressed if you get it.”

Steve: “Eric Kloss. You impressed? Can you turn it off now?” Not a fan of the soul sax.

Matt was a fan, however. He actually wanted to track Kloss down while he was at school in Pittsburgh, where the saxophonist had resided until that time.

Blind from birth, Kloss had depended on his father for most of his life, attended a Pennsylvania school for the blind and never strayed far from Pittsburgh. After his father’s death, the saxophonist’s interests transferred to his wife who took him off the scene, making it unfeasible to study with him.

Matt considered Kloss the Chris Potter of the ‘60s. He crossed many jazz related boundaries, playing free, bop, pop, etc. Kloss was also a regular on many soul jazz recordings on Prestige and later Muse Records.

This recording was from an early 1970s Muse release that featured the tremendous rhythm section of bassist Dave Holland, guitarist Pat Martino, electric pianist Ron Thomas and drummer Ron Krasinski. Of course, the tune itself was the Carole King penned classic

The question arose whether to consider Pittsburgh the Midwest (I certainly don’t).

Matt: “Well, it certainly isn’t the East Coast…”

      8.    Melvin Rhyne – “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” from Classmasters (Criss Cross Jazz, 1183, 2000)
Presented by Matt Merewitz – MP3 – Theme: B

For his next selection, Matt turned to a true blue Midwesterner.

We heard a snazzy organ quartet with tenor, guitar and drums.

Steve: “The tune is (Michel Legrand’s) ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life.’ Now which organist? Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff...” (He listed maybe three or four more)

Matt: “He’s from Indiana.”

Turned out the organist was Melvin Rhyne who has been an important part of the Indianapolis jazz scene for many years, his first involvement playing piano with Rahsaan Roland Kirk and most notably on organ with guitarist Wes Montgomery.

Steve: “So… Is that Houston Person on sax?”

Matt: “No. Think much younger.”

Steve: “Ah. Eric Alexander. So what do you think of Alexander?”

“He’s generic.”

Matt: “But a very specific generic: George Coleman in the mid ‘60s.”

Matt went on to say that he still enjoyed listening to Alexander, especially on “tenor dual” type records pitting two horns against each other. There are a couple of discs with him matching up with Vincent Herring. The saxophonist is definitely able to perform a certain type of sound extremely well.

Apparently, Alexander remains a busy clinician and touring artist, carving a niche with students and fans of that 1950-1960s bop to soul jazz sound.

The other members of this combo were guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Kenny Washington.

Joel: “Genero Central.”

Yeah. But many forget that most jazz fans dig just this sort of recording. It is very easy to get caught up in the musical landscape of New York and feel that we’re really jazz centric and starting trends. This isn’t really the case. As you can read in the DownBeat Readers Poll, most of the jazz audience is much more conservative than the critical population.

      9.    Dave King Trio – “Lonely Woman” from I’ve Been Ringing You (Sunnyside SSC 1336, 2012)
Presented by Me – CD – Theme: B 

I introduced the piece by saying that I had been requested to play this tune and that the leader and the rest of the ensemble were Midwesterners.

Resonant cymbal rubs led to a somber piano on a faintly recognizable, ruminative melody with a strong bassist and tasty brushed drums.

Matt: “Bill Carrothers?” Good guess. Carrothers was a part of the trio.

We kept listening without anyone guessing the other players.

Out of the blue – Joel: “Someone should have brought Dave King’s Trucking Company.”

That didn’t spark any followup or the guesses that I had expected.

Steve: “Is it ‘Lonely Woman?’” It certainly was the Ornette Coleman chestnut.

So I had to let the cat out of the bag. After the last BYOV’s Bad Plus debate, I had mentioned to Chris Morrissey that Sunnyside was planning on releasing a Dave King Trio record where there was a focus on the “jazz” side of the drummer. I thought that it might be a good way to expose the skeptics to King’s full spectrum.

The results were great. The jazz police thought the tune very well performed and were surprised that King was the leader.

Steve: “What does he care?”

It seems as though musicians who find success doing a certain thing are always fighting to prove their appreciation and knowledge for the tradition that inspired them. Since the Bad Plus has found a level of success, I feel that some jazz purists have written off what the members could do based on a limited listening.

King doesn’t have to prove anything. Yet, he wanted to make a record that was more “in the tradition.” So here we are. Great record.

      10.   Mose Allison – “Young Man Blues” from Mose Allison Sings (Prestige PR 7279, 1963)
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3 – Theme: A

Our dessert was a short piece that Steve thought we’d recognize.

“I love that they turned this into a rock epic.”

Most recognized the piece as Allison’s “Young Man Blues” that the Who recorded later on Live at Leeds (Polydor, 1970).

Mose Allison’s original was much shorter and a bit less bombastic. Talk about maximizing…

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