Saturday, December 29, 2012

David S. Ware: Pastor at the Church of Jazz

Avant garde sax man David S. Ware passed away in October.  I confess that I didn't find out about his passing until last week.  NPR had a tribute to Ware and Lol Coxhill and Von Freeman, all of whom we lost last year.  I would note that I got to hear Freeman in Chicago a few years back, in a small club just north of the river.  

I don't know Coxhill, but I do have a healthy collection of David S. Ware in my library.  Most of Ware's music is what I call Page Four Jazz.  Someone who likes hard bop (Page Three) will recognize Page Four as music, but may find it very challenging.  Ware played a very muscular, frenetic horn.  You'll like it if you like the scratchy texture of his sax (I do) and if the way he slices and reassembles musical ideas does that avant garde thing to you (it does to me).  

You can watch a very interesting short film about David S. Ware produced by the David Lynch Foundation.   It includes Ware's voice along with William Parker.  "Now Jazz is one of the world's greatest churches, for sure," Ware tells us.  Don't miss it.  You can also read a fine obituary at the Guardian

Ware recorded Sonny Rollins' 'Freedom Suite' twice, once on an album of that title and again on Live In The World, a splendid avant garde document by the David S. Ware Quartet.  Either is a good place to start for the wary looking for something accessible.  These are fine examples of jazz in a classical format.  I am playing the third movement from the Freedom Suite album.  Here are the usual suspects:
I am also playing 'Mikuro's Blues' from Go See The World, the studio album released just as the tour documented in the album above was going.  It is a very accessible blues number and gives you a pretty good idea of Ware's brilliance.  I just downloaded this recording tonight, so I can't give you a review.  No surprises on the score card:
 Meanwhile, what I really want to talk about is an Andrew Cyrille album that features Ware: Special People (1980).  I was already up to the eyelids deep in love with Cyrille.  He is one drummer who can lead a band the way a catcher directs the diamond.  Special People is so bloody good I can't believe I didn't have it until today.  Every single number is toe curling delicious.  Here is the lineup:
Just from the first listen, I would have guessed that Nick De Geronimo was the leader.  His bass supports the other instruments the way the treads support an armored personnel carrier.  He knows just how to find his footing in each musical topography and how to reach for the delicious push.  Cyrille's percussion frames the music and keeps the horns on top the tread.  Ware is magnificent, playing with the heart of a war horse.  The same goes for Ted Daniels on brass, who is lighter afoot but just as poetic.  This album is simply superb.  Get the darn thing!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Kahil El'Zabar does my mood

I posted not long ago on Kahil El'Zabar.  Yesterday I downloaded one of his early albums as leader (of the Ritual Trio): Renaissance of the Resistance (1994).  El'Zabar has roots in very edgy jazz, but this album is both accessible and very compelling.  Here is the trio:
I am playing the title cut.  It is one of those long, moody, meditations that are just right when you want to wallow in the sweetness of your sadness.  Frankly, I need to assemble a playlist of such compositions.  

I am also playing 'Trane In Mind'.  I am not sure it brings Trane to mind, but it kept me dancing with my beagle while I put together the Kung Pao Shrimp.  Trust me; this one will make you want more.  Ari Brown's sax wails like he thinks he is Pharaoh Sanders.  There is a lot of love in them there notes.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Booker Ervin Cooks the Books

I have been collecting Booker Ervin recordings for some time now.  Ervin played sax on a number of Mingus recordings, including Mingus Ah Um and Mingus at Antibes (1959 and 1960).  That was the most significant moment in modern jazz. 

Booker Tellefero Ervin II has never received the appreciation due for his fine work as leader.  Oh Wait! He has received it here!  His playing is pure heart.  Everything that makes hard bop great is present in all his recordings.  Tonight I finally got around to buying his first recording as leader, The Book Cooks (1960).  What a snoot-full of wonderful horns.  
I have a special place in my heart for Tommy Flanagan, who playing on many of the first jazz albums I owned.  The same goes for Zoot Sims, whose warm sound could melt the ice off my sidewalk.  
I am playing  'The Blue Book' and the title cut. I snuck in a cut 'Gichi' from Tex Book Tenor

I am also playing a cut from Mingus' Blues and Roots, 'Moanin', another horn fest.  
That's enough Booker to get you bookin'.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Irene Schweizer

I have occasionally delved into the impossible task of classification.  When you try to do something that can't be done, you will discover that you cannot do it.  Still, the resulting errors are at least entertaining to myself.  

Irène Schweizer is a Swiss pianist whom I discovered just tonight, after downloading her duet album with drummer Han Bennink.  I haven't had time to digest the whole album yet, but the second cut is simply magnificent.  Schweizer is described as a free jazz musician, but 'Verzweigelt' (desperation) seems to me to be a showpiece of avant garde.  

I like to keep classifications as neat as possible, and here is how I see the two sub-genres of jazz.  Free jazz is improvising that is unencumbered (by melody, time signatures, etc.) either externally by an prearranged form or internally as the music proceeds.  Avant garde is jazz that is fundamentally abstract, taking music apart and rearranging it according to the forms rather than the narrative.  The two types of music are not exclusive; however, when some kind of story line emerges, it is more proper to call it avant garde.  

It seems to me that 'Verzweigelt' surely finds a story.  While challenging, I think it is not that hard to follow and it is warm and compelling.  The above is not so good a sample, but it's mighty fun to watch.  I am also playing 'Eine andere Partie Tischtennis'.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

I am playing that tune by the Dexter Gordon Quintet.  I have loved this tune for years and years.  It was one of those pieces of music that pulled me into jazz.  I found it on Jingle Bell Jazz, a CD that combined two previous LPs.  I hope you enjoy it.  And have a Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vandermark 5

Somehow Ken Vandermark manages to produce a steady stream of recordings despite the uncompromising character of his music.  Not only is he unwilling to compromise in any commercial sense, he is unwilling compromise with ordinary jazz sensibilities.  Any given Vandermark 5 album will have a range of compositions each of which challenges the mood and taste that might have been satisfied by the previous piece.  

Still, much of his work is firmly rooted in the common soil of blues-based jazz.  A good case in point are the Free Jazz Classics, vol 1-4.  Even the title of that series of live recordings is challenging.  Free jazz conjures up a picture of musicians spontaneously conversing without the encumbrance of either a plan or a melody.  What exactly could a "free jazz classic" possibly mean?  The answer, of course, is that just because the original piece (say, by Ornette Coleman or Anthony Braxton) was free doesn't mean that it didn't produce both a plan and a melody that could be executed again.  So is the repeat version really free itself?  That is a bit beyond my grasp of musical metaphysics.  

I will only say that the Free Jazz Classics is a smashing collection of jazz performances.  I am playing 'The Earth/Jerry/The Moon' and 'C.M.E./G Song' from vol. 2.  The former is a Frank Wright composition, from Wright's album The Earth.  The latter is a Julius Hemphill piece.  Here is the lineup:
I am also playing 'The Earth' from the Frank Wright Trio album of that name.  Here is the trio:
  • Frank Wright (ts)
  • Henry Grimes (b)
  • Tom Price (d)
Wright's horn here sounds a lot like Albert Ayler (though it is rather more coherent than was Ayler's style).   It is an interesting study to compare the Vandermark version with Wright's original.  Both are well worth your dime. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Old and New Dreams

I am playing 'Law Years' from A Tribute to Blackwell
This group consists of Ornette Coleman alumni and their work is a tribute to that master of inventive genius.   I have long admired the composition, from Coleman's superb Science Fiction Sessions.   I think I will post the original.  Enjoy.