Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cool Struttin' with Sonny Clark

A very useful jazz site for jazz collectors is 100 Greatest Jazz Albums. The page includes detailed reviews of a lot of great jazz recordings. It has a lot of recordings listed that I haven't listened to yet, and a lot I have. One recording caught my eye: Cool Struttin' by Sonny Clark. The cover, produced at the right, was very effective: a woman's legs, calves exposed,walking down a city street. There are any number of existential angles to explore there.

The all star cast is impressive enough: Clark on piano, Art Farmer on trumpet, Jackie McLean on Alto sax, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Of course I checked the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, and it gets four stars. That was good enough for me, and I downloaded it from iTunes. 100GJA has this:
With the single exception of "Kind of Blue", Sonny Clark's "Cool Struttin''' is almost certainly the coolest jazz album of all time. Whereas "Kind of Blue" gets its vibe from modal jazz, "Cool Struttin''' depends mainly on the blues, relatively simple and straight ahead. Calling this 'hard bop' is correct but this does not do justice to the chemistry at work here. It is one of those rare recorded moments, as on "Kind Of Blue", where everything is in a state of sublime balance, when the music making is made to seem so effortless that you could easily miss the brilliance of it all. The two albums were made within twelve months of each other.
I am not sure yet that I am that impressed with the recording. Despite the fact that the "two albums were made within twelve months of each other," this is nothing like Kind of Blue. But it is clearly very good. Art Farmer takes to the game very well, carrying on a breathy dialogue with himself on "Deep Night." McLean is as brilliant as one would expect. On that same number he keeps coming at the melody and then backing off.

Cool Struttin' is surely a fine recording. Sonny Clark was born in 1931 and died in 1963. Alcohol and heroin did him in. It is curious that heroin takes second place to rock and roll as the causes of Jazz's near demise after the fifties. God help us all.
I have loaded Deep Night onto my site.
Take a listen, and shell out a few drachmas for Sonny Clark.

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