Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Newly Unearthed John Coltrane Rarities For Your Listening Pleasure

Is the new John Coltrane album Both Directions At Once the holy grail of jazz? No. That would be the Queen’s Suite, or Mingus’ Epitaph.

Furthermore, this new Trane record isn’t a full-fledged album. Minus the seven alternate takes recorded by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder at a marathon March 6, 1963 studio session, it’s more of an ep.

By one of the greatest bands in the history of jazz, at the top of their game, painstakingly immortalized on analog tape. More than anything else, it captures these artists completely in their element, catching magic in a bottle and then trying to sort it out. Which they never got to finish, which is why we haven’t heard it til now. And we all should. It’s streaming at Spotify.

Every track here that has a name has already seen the light of day, whether on live recordings or posthumous compilations. The big story is that there are three previously unreleased, untitled originals along with what are essentially a couple of covers. Considering the glut of dodgy field recordings and soundboard tapes from forgotten European radio broadcasts and such, this is a more significant find than it might seem.

The first of the originals finds Coltrane on soprano sax,running a bitingly catchy, allusively Middle Eastern modal cluster and variations, Elvin Jones’ jubilantly decisive cymbal flares and tom-tom tumbles anchoring Jimmy Garrison’s supple swing and McCoy Tyner’s emphatically expanding web of piano chords.The bassist methodically bows the blues by himself, then leaps back in as the band dances it out. The bandleader’s bracing, woody tone and the occasional effortless whirlwind arpeggio leave no doubt which hall of famer is playing the horn here.

The second untitled original, another soprano tune, is even catchier and is the one that thousands of bands will be covering in the next couple of years. The quartet push the borders of a simple ascending progression, with a haphazardly tasty sax-and-drums interlude midway through. Tyner’s scampering righthand echoes Coltrane’s approach over what less adventurous fingers could have turned into a predictable blues resolution, and Garrison’s muted chords and syncopation add levity as Jones gets tantalizingly brief time motoring down the launching pad.

The final original, called “Slow Blues,” is neither. It’s a subtly polyrhythmic epic over a floating swing, Garrison’s muted insistence shadowing the sax as Jones holds the center. Coltrane delivers more aching overtones, squalls and squeals than anywhere else here as he searches around for a foothold: you can draw a straight line to today’s most purposeful sax voices, from JD Allen to Noah Preminger. Tyner finally takes over from the sax and that’s where the blues kicks in, at least as much as it does at all. Listening to Coltrane construct and then deconstruct his intricate latticework as the full quartet winds the piece out is a rare treat.

The brief, loose-limbed take of Nature Boy here is a fade up from a mutedly jubilant, Bahia-tinged bass-and-drums groove, Coltrane choosing his spots, riding the chromatic escalator and then sliding down with a sage effortlessness. He plays alto here, going for smoke and grit. Tyner has either decided to sit the whole thing out, or he’s done by the time the band get to this edit.

The version of Villa – a Franz Lehar number first released in 1965 – shuffles along genially. Even on this otherwise pretty generic swing tune, the chemistry between Jones’ ride cymbal and Tyner’s lefthand is stunning. The early trio version of Impressions – which Coltrane would later use later that year as an album title track- has a carefree, exploratory feel, Garrison reaching up to stab holes in the clouds as the bandleader unravels and then rips at the easygoing central theme, Jones building to a deviously vaudevillian, retro 30s attack.

The version of One Up One Down here is a real sizzler, Tyner just short of frantic while Coltrane pulls out the stops with his insistent clusters and Jones does the same with his machinegunning volleys. Tyner’s coy, charming righthand runs offer unexpected contrast. Coltrane would later release it on what album.

The seven alternate takes here all have their moments. Plenty of other artists would have seen fit to release them; this group obviously held themselves to a higher standard. A somewhat more feathery take of Villa, a hard-charging, abbreviated first take of Impressions, a similarly electric, longer second one, and a relaxed, more tropical version of the first untitled original are the highlights and transcend mere marginality.

It’ll be very interesting to see if Tyner pulls out any of this material for his shows at the Blue Note, where he’ll be on July 30 and 31 with sets at 8 and 10:30 PM. You can get in for $30.

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July 8, 2018 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michael Feinberg Offers an Aptly Counterintuitive Homage to Elvin Jones

Bassist Michael Feinberg found the inspiration for his new album The Elvin Jones Project somewhat by coincidence. While exploring the work of some of his favorite influences, among them Jimmy Garrison, Gene Perla and Dave Holland, he discovered that pretty much all of them had one connection or another with the iconic, extrovert jazz drummer. And the album does justice to Jones: like him, it’s counterintuitive. Along with the high-voltage material – propelled with a constant sense of the unexpected by the Cookers’ Billy Hart, an old friend of Jones and a similarly exuberant player – there’s a mix of quieter pieces, a couple of rarities and a single, somewhat skeletal, New Orleans-flavored Feinberg original. With all this in mind, it becomes less surprising that a relatively new jack like Feinberg could pull together such a formidable lineup for the project: Hart, plus George Garzone on tenor sax, Tim Hagans on trumpet, Leo Genovese (of Esperanza Spalding’s band) on piano and Rhodes, and Alex Wintz guesting on guitar on three tracks.

They bookend the album with two tracks from the 1982 album Earth Jones: the somewhat eerily twinkling In a Silent Way-flavored title track, hypnotically vamping with the echoey Rhodes and the occasional sudden, agitated crescendo; and Three Card Molly, Hart swinging it with clenched-teeth intensity punctuated by Hagans’ fiery, wailing attack and Genovese’s dynamically-charged spirals and atmospherics. The interlude toward the end of that last track, Genovese’s noir chords enhanced by Hart’s mysterioso cymbal splashes, is one of the album’s many high points.

Rather than trying to out-glissando Coltrane, Garzone brings a meticulously nuanced, understatedly spectacular, breathy rapidfire attack to Trane’s Miles Mode, Hart’s rumbling accents matched by Genovese’s hard-hitting piano, Feinberg evoking Christian McBride throughout a spacious, punchy solo. A more obscure swing number, Steve Grossman’s 1970 composition Taurus People, also benefits from aggressive teamwork from the rhythm section throughout Feinberg’s new arrangement, Hart having a grand old time throwing offbeats and cymbals into the fray, Garzone taking it down and out with an unexpectedly wary judiciousness.

They bring a triumphant, rather hypnotic early 70s intensity to Frank Foster’s The Unknighted Nations, Mintz’ offcenter guitar taking it further outside over Hart’s rollercoaster snare work, then bringing it all back to the hook with a single whiplash phrase. And Feinberg gives a clinic in lyrical solo bass on a version of Nancy with the Laughing Face, inspired by the 1962 Coltrane quartet version. The album is due out from Sunnyside on September 11; Feinberg leads pretty much the entire cast here at the cd release show at Birdland on September 13 at 6 PM, with $20 seats still available as of this writing.

August 23, 2012 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ryan Truesdell Resurrects a Gil Evans Classic Mothballed for Half a Century

Friday night the Jazz Standard looked to be sold out and for good reason. In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Impulse Records, the club has been playing host to a series of concerts commemorating artists or albums associated with the influential 1960s jazz label. This was the pick of the bunch, an allstar sixteen-piece cast assembled by composer Ryan Truesdell, a leading Gil Evans advocate and scholar, playing Evans’ 1961 big band cult classic Out of the Cool. Truesdell was quick to acknowledge the support of Evans’ widow Anita, who was in the audience. He also reminded that this may have been the first time the music on the album has been played live, as a whole, in fifty years. Which on one hand is mind-boggling – in the intervening five decades, couldn’t someone have pulled a band together just like Truesdell did? On the other hand, leaving it alone makes a lot of sense: it’s hard to improve on perfection.

In their opening set, they didn’t do the whole thing, substituting a vivid, animated version of Nothing Like You (a song long associated with Miles Davis, recorded on another cult classic, 1964’s The Individualism of Gil Evans) for the brooding atmospherics of Sunken Treasure. That choice kept the energy level up via a nonchalantly bristling solo from pianist Frank Kimbrough (spot-on in the Evans role with his judicious, incisive chordal attack) and a long, smokily bluesy one from tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland. As the album’s and the night’s opening track – George Russell’s Stratusphunk – unwound with a jaunty martial pulse, it was clear that this would be an attempt to reach for the brilliance of the original ensemble’s collective improvisation rather than to replicate it. A tall order, needless to say. But having eclectic, virtuoso tuba player Howard Johnson – whose association with Evans lasted more than two decades – helped. As did the presence of George Flynn on bass trombone and Michael Rabinowitz on bassoon, rounding out the low end along with bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, who got a real workout doing an energetic impression of Ron Carter’s marathon walks.

Kurt Weill’s Bilbao Song got a deliciously pillowy performance, including nimble, incisive work from Kitagawa and guitarist Ben Monder along with ensemble work that dramatically brought out the contrasts between rhythm and the lush horizontality of the melody. Horace Silver’s Sister Sadie, which didn’t make it onto the album until the reissue, also paired off contrasts between the tune’s jaunty swing and some typical blazing, all-stops-out Evans crescendos, and a neat false ending. As expected, the high point of the set, in fact one of the high points of this year’s concerts so far, was an absolutely devastating version of Where Flamingos Fly. The most obviously Sketches of Spain-influenced number on the album, its tense noir atmospherics gave trombonist John Allred a long launching pad for a plaintive, wounded, chillingly beautiful solo spot. They closed with La Nevada, a noir epic on album, here more of a jam on its stunningly simple, memorable hook, Rabonowitz going with slow, gripping blues, trumpeter Greg Gisbert going at it fast, flutist Charles Pillow playfully elbowing Johnson off the page when the tuba started making some unexpected runs way up into flute territory. Drummer Clarence Penn, who’d been grinning almost nonstop at the prospect of getting to emulate Elvin Jones for a whole night, pounced on turnarounds and the end of phrases like a fighter who’s been waiting his whole life for the occasion.

Truesdell didn’t conduct so much as he signaled transitions – and did so with great intuition – although he made a great emcee. His passion for Evans’ music was contagious. Among other projects, he’s spearheading a celebration of the centenary of Evans’ birth this year, with concerts and a recording of some of the fifty-odd unpublished Evans compositions he’s unearthed.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Clayton Brothers – Brother to Brother

Beautifully oldschool, golden-age late 50s/early 60s style jazz by this highly regarded mostly family unit. Everybody in the Clayton Brothers has a distinct persona, although they all break character and surprise from time to time. Bandleader/bassist John Clayton is the suave one; his sax-playing brother Jeff is the party animal. Trumpeter Terell Stafford is the hard hitter, drummer Obed Calvaire (John Clayton’s “adopted” son) the no-nonsense purist with a BS detector set to stun, with pianist Gerald Clayton (John’s kid) the clear star of the show, a powerhouse player with a vivid, often plaintive tone and a devious sensibility that really rears its head live but also cuts through the arrangements here from time to time, as if to say, did you just hear me do that? Are you listening? In so doing, he sets the standard here: they’re all pushing each other hard, and having a good time in the process. This is a great ipod album.

 

It’s a concept cd, a tribute to brother combos in jazz throughout the ages: the Joneses (Elvin, Hank and Thad); Cannonball and Nate Adderley; Monty Alexander and his singer brother Larry; Kenny Burrell and his bassist brother Billy, and others. As you’d expect, there’s a chemistry in the playing here which lights a fire under the crew who aren’t actually blood relatives. The first track is an Elvin Jones tribute, Wild Man, a Jeff Clayton tune punctuated by numerous false endings and some marvelously terse playing by Calvaire that spins off plenty of Elvin tropes without seeming derivative. Stafford and Gerald Clayton both put a bright, vivid spin on it.

 

With a marathon swing in its step and a nod to the Nat Adderley classic More Work, John Clayton’s Still More Work lopes along tirelessly for over ten minutes, highlighted by another glistening Gerald Clayton solo. A cover of Nat Adderley’s Jive Samba gets a wickedly suspenseful treatment, driven by hypnotic, pulsing bass and a Jeff Clayton solo that hints at suspense just enough to create an atmosphere of unease; the Jeff Clayton jump blues Big Daddy Adderleys pays tribute to the whole family, buoyed by playful solos by just about everybody. 

 

The best song on the cd is Kenny Burrell’s Bass Face, done here with a gorgeously terse, catchy So What kind of vibe with sax and trumpet in tandem, counterintuitively melodic, chromatic bass and a noir Twin Peaks feel at the end. From the Keter Betts (Ella Fitzgerald’s last bassist) songbook comes the popular comedy number Walking Bass (bassist goes out to tie one along and brings the bass along – lookout world!), then a plaintive, Monty Alexander-inspired version of the old Broadway standard Where Is Love, and a latin-inflected Jeff Clayton tune, the Jones Brothers, wrapping up the cd on a high note with soulful contributions from the whole crew. Get this for your jazz snob friend who thinks the world stopped when we lost Trane; or for your avant-inclined friend who never heard the classic stuff done like this. All of the players in the group maintain busy schedules with and outside of this project: watch this space for New York dates.

 

In the same way that classical composers plied their craft throughout the ages, this ArtistShare cd was put out by a base of fans who backed the production (anybody remember Bowie bonds?): it ought to pay dividends that extend beyond the excellence of the music.

February 19, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Love Camp 7 at Parkside Lounge, NYC 6/2/07

The house was full by the time the band went on. There were a couple of tables full of yuppie puppies from Westchester or Connecticut, loud and oblivious as if they were on lunch break at middle school (even if that was ten years ago for them). It took Love Camp 7 about five minutes to clear them out of the room, opening up some space for the cool kids to sit. Love Camp 7 played interludes all night, an endless series of hooks, riffs and intricate guitar figures that rushed by, a whirlwind of beautiful, jangling, twanging, wailing melody. Their songs don’t follow any predictable pattern. Each is a winding back street through a casbah of the mind where every turn could be a dead end but always leads somewhere unexpected. Yet the songs are anything but random. Love Camp’s not-so-secret weapon, in full force tonight, is drummer Dave Campbell, one of the two or three finest in all of rock. He led his bandmates, redoubtable bassist Bruce Hathaway and frontman/guitarist Dann Baker (who also plays with Campbell in Erica Smith’s band the 99 Cent Dreams) through one tricky change after another, through minefields of weird time signatures and abrupt endings. In the end, everybody emerged exhausted but unscathed.

They opened with a couple of jangly numbers, the second being the tongue-in-cheek The Angry Driver with its wickedly catchy, recurrent chorus. They then followed with a few cuts from their forthcoming Beatles album. Each of these songs takes its title from a Beatles record. Like the Rutles or XTC on their Dukes of Stratosphear albums, Love Camp 7 expertly blends in licks and melodies that are either stolen directly from the Fab Four, or bear a very close resemblance. The result works as both homage and satire. While the song cycle begins with Meet the Beatles – which they played tonight, the closest thing to an actual period piece among the songs – the compositions bear a much closer resemblance to the most intricate, psychedelic stuff from the White Album or Abbey Road than any of the Beatles’ early hits.

Revolver began with the chorus, eventually broke down into an interlude and then reverted back. Magical Mystery Tour was set to an odd time signature, with a doublespeed break after the chorus and then a passage right out of I Am the Walrus. The Beatles’ Second Album was the closest thing to a narrative, a wry, invented reminiscence of the era when the record came out.

The rest of the set blended gorgeous, jangling psychedelia with strange, sometimes atonal stop-and-start numbers. Second guitarist Steve Antonakos used one of them to sneak in some completely over the top, Eddie Van Halen-style tapping which was very funny. They encored with the only song from their new, career-best album Sometimes Always Never that they played tonight, Naming Names. Campbell and Baker traded off vocals on this acerbic namecheck of some of the unexpected culprits who narced on their colleagues during the McCarthy hearings. From just this set, it seems as if Love Camp 7 has at least two killer albums worth of material ready for release: a very auspicious event.

June 5, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

CD Review: Love Camp 7 – Sometimes Always Never

Their great shining moment. There will assuredly be others, considering how good the unreleased material that they’ve been playing live has been, but this is Love Camp 7’s best album to date. It’s a triumph of soaring harmonies, catchy hooks and general fearlessness for these authentic 60s psychedelic throwbacks. Rich with catchy melodies, steeped in history, the album gets better with repeated listenings, in the spirit of great psychedelic, garage and art-rock bands from the Pretty Things, to Nektar, to the Kinks.

The album opens on an apt note, with some found footage from the studio.“I can’t really…can’t really hear myself at all. Am I even in the mix, man?” demands a mystified Dave Campbell (an Elvin Jones devotee and one of the two or three best rock drummers of this era). Then the band launches into the opening tune, Connecticut, a jangly, harmony-driven tribute to the 1999 NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies basketball team: “driving past the mighty Eldon Brand.” Connecticut was frontman/guitarist Dann Baker’s alma mater. “Did I ever think I’d look back fondly? No, not really,” he muses.

The next cut is about Baker’s cat Munoz: “The universe is magical!” he purrs. But then he gets lost in Chinatown, and there’s a forlorn wah-wah driven passage straight out of the Pretty Things’ SF Sorrow, into a short, squalling free jazz breakdown, back into the intoxicatingly catchy chorus. After that, there’s the brief Naming Names, punky with slide guitar, a rogues’ gallery of some of the friendly witnesses and those who sold out their colleagues before Joe McCarthy’s infamous House Un-American Activities Committee.

The following three cuts are a trilogy, a look back at corruption in the southern California irrigation system in the 1920s and 30s, and its disastrous results. The first part, Once Upon a Time Our Valley Was Green features an achingly beautiful hook coming out of the chorus. Love Camp 7 have so many hooks they use them judiciously: other bands would have started out the song with that descending progression and would have hit you with it with every chance they got, but these guys always leave you wanting more: until they clock you upside the head with another one just as good. The trilogy’s focal point, Telephone Girl, with its eerie circus motif mid-song, is a tribute to a brave telephone operator who took it upon herself to call people in the surrounding area after shoddily constructed dam broke and unleashed a landlocked tsunami of water. The cycle concludes with David Gaines, a tribute to a California conservationist and freedom fighter, cast as a retro English dancehall psychedelic number.

Many other good songs on the album. Little Mr. Elephant nicks the intro from Hell’s Bells by AC/DC brilliantly into a bouncy psych/pop number. The Queen of Whale Cay starts out as a bouncy, cheeky march a la something silly off of Village Green and then turns into a gorgeously sunny, jangly tour through one gorgeous permutation after another. The rest of the album chronicles people, most of them everyday Americans in their moment of glory, standing up for their rights. But first, the self-explanatory 39-second Nobody Knows As Much as Phil seems very much to be about legendary/exasperating knowitall jazz dj Phil Schaap. Harvey Weinberg is based on an imaginary character from a 60s camp film, a middleclass dad type trying to hang with the stoners and having a hard time cutting it: the faux-60s bluesy solo toward the end of the song is priceless. Barbara Lee salutes the California congresswoman who was the only person in Congress to vote against giving Bush war powers in the wake of 9/11: “Barbara Lee is having no trouble sleeping.” Jon Strange opens like Rain by the Beatles, a jangling 12-string guitar playing against a wall of distorted chords, with lyrics taken from the transcript of one Jon Strange asking some particularly pointed questions of Madeleine Albright at a town meeting-type event at Ohio State University. Strange’s simple, brutal honesty plays out against a beautifully triumphant, Beatlesque melody. The album closes with The Seeds, which sets some of the liner notes from legendary 60s garage/psych band the Seeds’ first album to a somewhat over-the-top musical treatment complete with long extended guitar jam. It’s hard to tell who’s playing what, Baker or the ubiquitous Steve Antonakos (who’s now apparently a full-fledged member of the band), but redoubtable bass player Bruce Hathaway holds the wheels to the rails.

Love Camp 7’s previous work has occasionally been taken to task for being overly nostalgic, or for having a Beach Boys fetish, and neither neurosis rears its ugly head here, at all. This cd makes a good present for someone who’s into quirky 60s revisionist bands like XTC or the Essex Green, and serves as a welcome antidote to the legions of freak-folk stoners who pretend to be 60s when they’re really just a change of clothes away from James Taylor. Great album. 5 bagels. With nova, Bermuda onion and ripe beefsteak tomato. Love Camp 7 choose their live dates judiciously: they typically play the Parkside on the occasional weekend. The album is available at select independent record stores, online and at shows.

May 11, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments