Thursday, May 27, 2010

Grachan Moncur III & the Electric Fetus

I spent my birthday this year watching my beloved Minnesota Twins get beat twice by the New York Yankees.  Well, at least it weren't the White Sox.  There might still be a God.  While I was enjoying the Twin Cities, I stopped at the Electric Fetus.  The Fetus is one of the last great Hippie record stores.  Lots of incense on sale, and a pretty good selection of CDs.  

Their jazz row is not large, but it beats the snot out of Barnes and Noble.  I picked up four nice discs.  One was Grant Green/The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark.  It's a core collection item in the Penguin Guide, for good reason.  I'll probably post on it after I can give it a better listen.  Another was Ornette Coleman's The Complete Science Fiction Sessions.  If Ken Laster likes it, it must be good.  

Most intriguing to me were two recordings by trombone player Grachan Moncur III.  I didn't have anything by Moncur, nor did I have more than the vaguest idea what he was.  I bought the two CDs on the basis of their sidemen.  Evolution (1963) had Lee Morgan on trumpet, Jackie McLean on alto sax, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and Tony Williams on drums.  That is one impressive lineup.  Some Other Stuff had Wayne Shorter on tenor, Herbie Hancock on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Williams again on drums. 

Standing there in the stacks, I did a little Sherlock Holmes mojo.  The recordings come at about the same time as Tony Williams' magnificent Life Time.  That suggested an adventurous orientation.  That was supported by the presence of Shorter and Hancock, who were just at that moment joining Miles Davis' second great quintet.  There is also the fact that I have recently been interested in Bobby Hutcherson.  I have to confess that the Blue Note covers have a language all their own, and these spoke to me. 

Besides all that, one can't have too much Lee Morgan or Jackie McLean.   Last but not least, I think the trombone is under-utilized in modern jazz.  Elementary, my dear Watson.  Well, what I got was exactly what I was looking for: edgy jazz with an avant garde orientation at about the pitch of Miles Davis' mid-sixties albums.  

In honor of Minnesota's ball team, in which I still steadfastly believe, here is a sample.  It features nice solos by Moncur, Shorter, and Hancock, and a really nice Hancock/McBee dialogue. 
Grachan Moncur III/The Twins/Some Other Stuff
Moncur disappear after the seventies, but has recently resurfaced.  Give this guy a listen. 


  1. Ha! thanks for the reference once again. Hope you like SciFi. Its definitely experimental music. Some of it may go a little too far into outer space, but most of the tracks are real gems. Dig Law Years. One of Ornette's best.

  2. My initial impression is very positive. Yeah, some of it is pretty chaotic, but most is pretty solid AG.

    The Moncur discs are twenty-four karat. I am on the lookout for more.

  3. May your Twins take the Yanks out this October. BTW, nice blog.