The Jazz Digest, October 2012

Choice snips from Jazz Journal, October 2012

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From the editor
JJ 1012 OFCJazz has an entry in the 2012 Mercury Music awards. Oh, it's the Roller Trio. This product of the so-called fertile Leeds scene centred around the famed music college seems (together with a large number of critics) to think a series of tritones and minor seconds arranged into lugubrious ostinati constitutes radical creativity and possibly musical meaning (as opposed to unrelieved tedium). This outlook seems to be governed by the stereotypical view that jazz has to sound revolutionary, without regard to qualification or context. But if you put the Rollers at the end of several decades of modern jazz history you end up with a lot of reinvention. Take a listen at Is there anything original or technically accomplished here? Despite the best efforts of various media it's all pretty lumpen and rudimentary, somewhere round B-grade 70s jazz-rock. Yet it will draw breathless plaudits from those unburdened by context in the lead up to the Mercury award evening on 1 November. If it's any consolation the thing won't win because the "jazz" entry never does.

It reflects what? Following the editor's possibly twisted logic, one, that the Mercury's ethos is rooted in nothing broader than new wave/indie rock (the Rollers' publicity glories in the fact that non-jazz audiences like this "jazz" band – well, they would, since even if one applies the most generous assessment it's pretty evidently some way from jazz, despite the fact that like Spandau Ballet / Madness / Duran Duran – insert the most untutored 80s pop band you can think of – it does feature a saxophone); two, jazz's own (pace Michael Gove) "grade inflation" (infected perhaps with some sort of demotic political agenda, it seems much jazz education today prizes amateurism as a vouchsafe of individualism, honesty and some kind of ingénue authenticity); and, three, the hollow Cool Britannia spin on the popular arts of New Labour's years bearing fruit.

The fact is (and there are many outstanding exceptions beyond the remit of the jazz-arts professionals Brian Blain alluded to in OSL August as they reach out to make a living from non-jazz audiences and the diversity-friendly subsidy pot) the new UK jazz "industry" is in danger of actually becoming the parochial, insular, low-skilled thing it feared it was several decades ago. Ironically, it was better, wasn't it, in the years when it was supposed to have an inferiority complex? Why doesn't the Mercury really broaden its vision and feature the year's reissues of still most innovative music?

Drummer Bobby Worth on the British rhythm section
"Martin Drew with Oscar Peterson, Kenny Clare with Tony Bennett, Allan Ganley, pushed British rhythm sections to the fore. The British rhythm section now gets the recognition it deserves. Younger guys like Steve Brown - Scott Hamilton always asks for him. Luckily, if Steve can’t do it I get the job!"

Correspondent Dougie Wright on the craftmanship of 60s session pop
"I must rise to the defence of the Shadows. Going further back than the 60s, this group of musicians were apprenticed to the business of making excellent, musically polished versatile commercial discs. The musicianship within the band was demanding. It had to be for a producer such as Norrie Paramor. Their records were sustainable and individual, more so than those of a good many 'jazz' performers of that time or since."

Why are Steely Dan on BBC R3's Jazz Record Requests?
"A track by Steely Dan was played last week; this would have never been considered in the past. (I don’t care if Victor Feldman and Wayne Shorter are on it, they were just there for the money.) Also there seems to be much more meandering, tuneless world music featured which doesn’t fit the description of jazz."

Derek Ansell writes of producer Tom Wilson, one of the first black jazz record producers
"Commercially speaking, the story of Wilson and Transition is the story of an honourable failure. But if Wilson hadn’t made those recordings, how long would it have taken for Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor and possibly even Donald Byrd to get started?"

Simon Spillett recalls Spike Robinson, subject of a new, unreleased set from Hep Records
"English jazz audiences loved Spike, responding warmly to a man whose playing and personality had a charmingly understated gravitas. Watching him unpack his basic-looking silver tenor (a Martin from the 1920s, later cruelly stolen), you instinctively knew you were about to hear the real deal. In between choruses he’d be clouded in a skein of cigarette smoke, sipping a pint, quietly listening to the other players, always looking uber-cool."

Jim Mullen wishes the young generation well
"I don’t envy the young guys now because so much has been done. It’s very hard to see where they will find a niche when they place themselves in the shadow of already well known players."

Brian Morton probes the new NYJO
"Mark Armstrong joined NYJO as a player, tried to leave, and was asked by Bill Ashton to stay on (at 25!) as artistic and music director. It is he who has pushed the band towards what Ashton calls, with a tremor, 'Kenny Wheeler' music; others have said 'ECM'."

Steve Voce augments Thomas Hustad's bio-itinerary of Ruby Braff
"Perhaps, almost 60 years later, I can recount what Ruby told me about an incident (not in the book) occurring backstage during the same set. Ruby had taken his girlfriend with him to the festival. While there they met one of Ruby's celebrity friends who was accompanied by his younger nephew. At the time this nephew was attempting to switch from being a homosexual. 'While I was on stage he took my girlfriend into some bushes and made it with her.'"


Just a taste from over 60 CD reviews in this issue:

"Peter Appleyard’s passion and enthusiasm has produced what should be a highly regarded disc. For a selection of talented singers with varied approaches and with impeccable backings this is hard to beat. Sophisticated ladies indeed." (Brian Robinson) ****

"Not so much a homage to some of Charlie Parker's best known compositions, but rather a montage of musical ideas incorporating Parker's swirling ideas and ferociously fast playing, served up in the unique style of Django Bates." (John Adcock) ****

"This debut album from Yorkshire-based singer Beverley Beirne exhibits some throaty, soulful vocals, with a solid quartet backing, but retains the indelible mark of the theatre performer turned jazz singer." (Sally Evans-Darby) ***

"For any player to tackle a selection of Benny Goodman's 'greatest hits' is a pretty daunting task in that it will provoke comparisons with the original performances but aided by six excellent colleagues and very good arrangements by Neal Thornton, Julian Bliss pulls it off, admirably." (Jerry Brown) *****

"There are enormous reserves of joy to be found within these four CDs comprising more than five hours of uplifting, super-charged jazz instigated by two masters who left an indelible impression on the 1950s and the decades that followed. A reissue which will be an automatic release of the year choice." (Mark Gardner) *****

BILLY BUTTERFIELD: WHAT’S NEW? 1938-59 (Retrospective)
"They sent for the right man when they had the idea for this one. The tracks are chosen with good taste (well, only two lapses) by Digby Fairweather, and Digby has also written a matchless set of notes. Since he and I would compete for the title of Billy’s biggest fan, I suppose I’m the right one to review it. The result is as good a picture of Billy’s life up to 1959 as you could wish for." (Steve Voce) *****

"Throughout the album the quintet are able to provide a wide range of musical moods and provide the listener with a very pleasant experience. A favourite track? Difficult, but if pushed I would have to opt for Sharing The Blues which is a free blues duet between the leader and Bucky Pizzarelli – delicious!" (Jerry Brown) ****

"Here are more delights from the Montreux Jazz Label, this time recorded in Hamburg. American drummer Tom Rainey joins the NDR Big Band to help bandleader, arranger and conductor Gruntz deliver a gem of a tribute to Coltrane." (Michael Tucker) *****

"The brilliance of a man who could reshape A Gal In Calico, personalise Morton Gould's inauthentic Pavane, and deliver music as urbanely idiosyncratic as New Rhumba and Aki And Ukthay comes through forcefully. A major American artist." (Brian Morton) *****

"Of most significance are the tracks by a studio trio that recorded under the banner of The Poll Winners. These
recordings and their additional subsequent works were highly influential among young guitarists. As Jim
Mullen pointed out to me during the interview in this issue, Kessel was the sole guitarist making albums with only bass and drums support in that period." (Mark Gardner) ****

"Another splendid Avid set. It taught me a lot about a musician I dismissed for far too long, and it is lissomely enjoyable. (Richard Palmer) ****

"I was privileged to hear this band at Yoshi’s in San Francisco last year, where my jaw dropped early on and stayed on the floor. As a young pianist, Joey Calderazzo seemed to me a very glib technician, but he’s matured into one of the finest players on the scene, with a totally thematic, spontaneous improvisational capacity. As for the whole band, superlatives elude me – listen and be amazed. (Andy Hamilton) *****

"Monk aficionados will already have this material but hopefully there are enough newcomers out there who will be lured by its attractions, made more desirable by tracks not on the original releases plus alternate takes. Sony’s plan to issue live material in a similar package can only be eagerly awaited." (Peter Gamble) *****

"I had the pleasure of knowing Spike, an amiable friendly personality, well for some seven years up to his passing over 10 years ago. This disc should be in every mainstream collection and is an excellent insight into the quality of his work before he became familiar to British audiences." (Brian Robinson) ****


"This is one of the most impressive of recent Whirlwind issues, showcasing a multi-talented individual likely to appeal to a wide constituency of jazz fans, happily without the crossover glitz of a Harry Connick or Chris Botti. (Mark Gilbert) ****

"This is by far the worst album I have listened to for a very long time. In fact it gives New Orleans jazz a bad name. The ensembles are extremely ragged throughout with exceedingly plodding rhythm support. The leader’s clarinet playing could best be described as very average and I’m sure there are many players on the British pub and club trad scene who could play with far more invention and feeling." (Jerry Brown) -*

Your Comments:

Posted by Jo Jo Jazzer, 28 October 2012, 23:49 (1 of 1)

While I accept tht this music may not be your cup of tea, I find some of your comments show a distinct lack of musical knowledge. Have you really listened to the whole album? Do you know what an astoundingly high level of technique is required to play the saxophone using some of the extended techniques on show here? I think not. You come across as an old fashioned jazzer, jealously guarding the past. Why are you so frightened of the bluring of the tight demarcations of musical genres? Music should be listened to across the board by people who love it simply for what it is, for the individual appeal it has for them. Ultimately, who cares what category it 'fits' into? These guys are immensely talented, deeply into their music and sharing it with as many people as possible. You only have to listen to their interviews to know that they are not in it for the money, but simply for the music, and bringing it to as many interested people as possible. They are not a 'brand'. They are quite simply passionate and dedicated musicians.

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