The Jazz Digest, October 2011

Choice snips from Jazz Journal, October 2011

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JJ October 2011The incidental Louis Armstrong issue
Somehow, without any premeditation, we've arrived at something of a Louis Armstrong special. It happens probably because this year would have been his 110th birthday and that's occasioned more Louis activity than usual.

We're not big on birthdays (or polls) round here, since they have no effect on the art (Armstrong's birthdate was mistaken for years – he sounded the same), and we cover Armstrong probably six months of the year as it is (note volume 9 this issue of Frémeaux's LA complete – routine business for our columns). But this summer brought a 10-CD set – apparently, says Steve Voce (with hearty endorsement from Wally Fawkes), with unsurpassed sound – and Brian Harker's post-PhD survey of Hot Five & Seven tracks.

As Harker notes, Louis himself might not have gone much for academic analysis of his work (not art, note), yet he did review his own playing thoroughly, work on perfecting solos and probably premeditate more than some might think. So, thanks to others' premeditation, we're able in best jazz style to spontaneously focus on what Bert Whyatt calls "the greatest jazzman of all".

Dena DeRose, "most compelling singer/pianist since Shirley Horn"
One of Dena's ambitions is to record as a pianist with some of her favourite vocalists and she names Mark Murphy, Ernestine Anderson, Georgie Fame, Sheila Jordan and Andy Bey among them. As to her inspirations, they're wide: "Names that come to mind would be Debussy, Leonard Bernstein, Shirley Horn, Ravel, Miles Davis, Red Garland."

Iain Ballamy on painterly improv
"Some improvised music can be militant, hardcore and dissonant, but if anything, we like to suggest images for people."

Nigel Jarrett on Brecon 2011
Long-toothed Brecon regulars are agreed on one thing: the great annual festival in the hills is not what it was. But many would say it's growing into something much better. Since the Hay Festival took the once-ailing event under its wing three years ago there have been changes, more this year. With the prospect of seeing premier division American legends temporarily receding, vistas have widened.

Alan Luff on Titley fest no.2
Alan Barnes ended the festival with an octet (including Barker, Nightingale, Themen, Maine and Newton), giving us a great, roaring finale to an excellent weekend. It was wonderful – and particularly the pianists. Profuse thanks are due to local enthusiast and outstanding organiser David Masters, who backed the whole event with a bigger budget than last year's inaugural event (and no subsidy) and asks we note, please, next year's date, 20 July.

Wally Fawkes to Steve Voce on Armstrong's sound
"Louis came to the 100 Club with Trummy Young when we were there with Humph's band. He and Trummy sat in and, since Edmond Hall hadn't turned up with them I, very reluctantly as you can imagine, allowed myself to accept Louis's invitation to make up the front line. He was a much quieter trumpet player than Humph and the power was in the tone and the timing. It was exactly the same as those opera singers who can project their voices quite quietly but with power to the back of the hall."

Wynton Marsalis to Don Albert on jazz polls
"Jazz polls used to exist when there was a lot of competition, when there were big bands. It was fun when it was viable, when there was a musical competition. But now there's not enough competition. It's no longer that kind of world, it doesn't exist so the polls don't resonate. There's no more battle of the bands."

Simon Adams reviewing Nica's Dream, the new biography of the "jazz baroness"
The Dr Robert the Beatles sang about on 1966's Revolver was in reality Dr Robert Freymann, who at Nica's bidding had attended Charlie Parker in his last few days in her hotel and who then treated Monk with high-potency vitamin B injections laced with a hefty dose of amphetamine before he was struck off for malpractice.

Andy Hamilton reviewing Brian Harker's treatise Louis Armstrong's Hot Five And Hot Seven Recordings
The unlikely influence of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, "the sweetest music this side of heaven," is discussed – they also inspired Arthur Schwartz to write Dancing In The Dark. Along with sweetness was gut-bucket or "lowdown blues", so-called, we learn, because the fish markets in New Orleans kept a large bucket into which they raked the guts. In Savoy Blues, Armstrong "was able to straighten out his eighth notes and lead his ideas through a fog of rubato and still sound hip . . . Much as Miles Davis redefined swing through similar rhythmic heresies in the 1950s," Harker writes.

John Robert Brown reviewing Alan Robertson's updated Joe Harriott biography
The Indo-Jazz Fusions, in which Harriott played a role, is dealt with in some detail. According to John Mayer, "World Music began here." Robertson includes an account of an appearance at Ronnie Scott's where sitarist Diwan Motihar was late to arrive. Scott's club announcement was in character: "Ladies and gentlemen we are sorry we are a few minutes late, but Diwan Motihar couldn’t find a baby sitar."

Alan Luff on the enduring appeal of boogie-woogie
Sometimes, on a cold, winter's night when I realise the world's gone mad, I settle down for a vinyl evening to remind me of what used to be and what music used to sound like. I'll put on some old favourites and will certainly include, say, Cuttin' The Boogie by giants Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson. The tip of my tongue might just recapture the flavour of a Double Diamond.

John Altman rounds up his favourite short bursts of inspiration, the kind "that encapsulate what jazz is all about"
I was driving down Sunset Boulevard the other day (as one does) when my iPod randomly decided to play Queer Street by the mid 40s Basie Band. I don't think Jimmy Mundy was making a comment about the fabled Los Angeles strip I found myself on, but what was decidedly odd was that I knew as the track started I would be playing it more than once. In fact it repeated a further five times – and all because of something that occurs some 22 seconds from the end of the arrangement. It's a two-bar drum break by Shadow Wilson that Gerry Mulligan called "The Greatest Ever" in Burt Korall's Drummin' Men: The Bebop Years, a book which features a two-page discussion of this mini masterpiece.

Armstrong specialist Brian Harker tells Andy Hamilton about early jazz and the clave
"Fifteen years ago or so I read an article by Chris Washburne about the influence of clave on jazz, and as I recall he was arguing that it helped shape the basic rhythmic configurations of early New Orleans jazz, including King Oliver, Armstrong, Morton, and early swing. For Armstrong, the obvious example is Go 'Long Mule, which features an alternation, every measure, of downbeat and upbeat-oriented rhythms. What I call the 'Oliver rhythm' – three quarter notes on the downbeat – might correspond to the 'straight' unit of clave, and two-note secondary rag might correspond to the syncopated unit."

Simon Adams laments the dearth of reissues of post-1960 jazz
Wayne Shorter produced 11 sets for Blue Note which are arguably the highlight of his solo career. Yet some of those fine sets are hard to find and the final one, his strange Brazilian-inspired Moto Grosso Feio from 1971, is as rare as those famous hen's teeth. Yet Blue Note is still very much in existence, and surely owes it to Shorter and his many admirers to make all these great albums readily available. A complete and collected set of all his Blue Note work would not go amiss either.

Wayne Shorter Moto Grosso Feio

 


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