Saturday, April 28, 2012

More Fred Anderson

A little gem, 'Dark Day', from Duets 2001: Live At The Empty Bottle, with Anderson on sax and Robert Barry on drums.  This is high octane avant garde.  Anderson's composition here reminds me a lot of 'European Echoes' from The Ornette Coleman Trio: Live At The Golden Circle.  I am playing both pieces now. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monk's Patron Saint

The British Guardian has a wonderful piece on Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarte, who abandoned her husband an four children to spend her life attending to Thelonious Monk.  Here is a bit of it:
Nica, who was born in 1913, grew up at Tring Park (Tring is now a school; Waddesdon Manor, though administered by a trust under the chairmanship of Hannah's father, Jacob, was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957). There, she wiled away her young days in a starched white dress, sewing and playing the piano; her parents did not approve of education for girls and running and hiding were forbidden lest her frock be ruined. Life was monotonous and dull but, knowing nothing else, she did not think to kick against it.
In 1934, she was duly presented at court and her marriage in 1935, to Baron Jules de Koenigswarter, a handsome French diplomat, was predictable, if not the soaring match her ambitious mother had dreamed of. If he was controlling, well, she was used to that.
In 1948, however, something happened. On her way to the airport after a visit to New York, Nica stopped to visit a friend, the jazz pianist Teddy Wilson, who played her a recording of "Round Midnight" by a then unknown jazz pianist, Thelonious Monk. Unable to believe her ears, she listened to it 20 times in a row and was bewitched. Having missed her plane, she never went home again.
Abandoning her husband and five children, she moved into a suite at the Stanhope hotel and set about trying to meet the man who had made this extraordinary record. Naturally, it took a while to track the erratic Monk down. It wasn't until 1954 that she finally laid eyes on him, having flown to Paris for the privilege. Did he live up to her dreams? Oh, yes. He was, she said, "the most beautiful man she had ever seen". From that moment, there was no going back. For the next 28 years, Nica devoted her life to Thelonious Monk. In her eyes, he could do no wrong. He was a genius, pure and simple, and there was nothing she would not do – no money she would not spend, no place she would not go – to make his life easier.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a jazz story.  Monk is indeed the most beautiful man.  His compositions revolve like Jupiter in the heavens.  It is easy to see how powerful the gravitational pull is on bop and avant garde.  It is easy to forget how powerful it is when a single soul is involved.  I have felt its pull, but not so much as the Baroness. 

Monk's story is tragic.  He was a towering genius, but he suffered from a mental illness that eventually silenced him.  It is one of God's graces that he had someone to take care of him at the end.  God bless Monk.  And God bless Nica. 

I am playing 'Round Midnight' from Thelonious Monk at the Blackhawk.  This is not the version Baroness  Pannonica de Koenigswarte heard.  It's just the one I landed on when I scrolled down my iTunes menu.  Here is the lineup:

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Visit to the Jazz Record Mart

I recently enjoyed a visit to Chicago and, of course, a trip to the Jazz Record Mart.  This little gem is at 27  East Illinois St., just a little North of the River and West of Michigan Ave.  Right next to it, I will mention before I forget, is a wonderful Thai restaurant, The Star of Siam.  

The JRM is a wonderful place to find just what you are looking for, especially if you are looking for jazz that has a Chicago connection.  I walked out with six recordings, a couple of which I couldn't find online. 

Ken Vandermark's Sound in Action Trio is something special: Vandermark on tenor sax and clarinet, with Robert Barry and Tim Mulvenna, both on drums.  The album is Design in Time (1999).  I am playing the first cut, Ornette Coleman's 'Law Years' and Albert Ayler's 'Angels'.  I also nailed Dual Pleasure, with Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums.  I am playing 'Anno 1240'.  Both albums are superb. Vandermark is one of the most brilliant horn players of the current age.  He is endlessly inventive, with that hard edge and reverence for musical history that defines Chicago avant garde. The trio album is more accessible, mostly because Vandermark is covering other composers.  

Trio 3 with Geri Allen, At This Time (2009), features: 
This is an easy album to warm up to.  I have a special fondness for Cyrille.  I am playing 'Swamini', an Allen composition in honor of Alice Coltrane.  

The late Fred Anderson is another Chicago AG stalwart.  I picked up his Blue Winter, a two disc CD with William Parker on bass and Hamid Drake on drums.  The first disc is a long rambling blues.  I am playing the last cut, 'IV', from the second disc.  There is power in that there trio!  

I also picked up The All-Star Game I, with 
This is avant garde.  

Finally, I purchased The Matthew Shipp Trio-The Multiplication Table (1998). 
This is also very avant garde, with a mix of easily accessible piano work and some very challenging deconstructions of 'Autumn Leaves' and 'Take the A Train'.  I am playing 'The New Fact'.

That was my trip to the record store.  Oh,  and the Thai food was excellent. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Konitz, Solal, & Texier

Here is a bit from a 1968 recording pairing Lee Konitz and Martial Solal.  I think this is a reissue of two albums: European Episode and Impressive Rome.  I am playing 'Collage on Standards,' a Dizzy Gillespie number.  It is also notable for the presence of bass player Henri Texier, whom I have listened to a lot. 
  • Lee Konitz: alto saxophone; 
  • Martial Solal: piano; 
  • Henri Texier: bass; 
  • Daniel Humair: drums.
 I just uploaded a piece from Solal's duet album with trumpet man Dave Douglas.  'Elk's Club' from Rue de Seine.