The Jazz Digest, February 2013

Choice snips from Jazz Journal, February 2013: Bob Belden berates the pretenders who would 'curate' jazz, Gilad Atzmon attacks the politically directed subsidy that kills the 'libidinal spontaneity' of the music . . . and Brian Morton recalls Pete La Roca's sage response to the invitation to play free: 'You know the truth is, guys, I'm free in 4/4'

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From the editor
The news that HMV has likely been felled by new technology has an interesting bearing on the jazz world as experienced at Jazz Journal. The advent of digital downloads and online retail has surely had some effect on the way our readers consume jazz, but I have a sense that JJ readers will be slow, reluctant even, to say goodbye to the physical object and will still prefer to buy their jazz on CD and from specialist retailers, whatever the venue. The recent growth in jazz on vinyl via operations such as Pure Pleasure and Gearbox underlines this fondness for the physical artefact. So too does contributor Michael Tucker’s memorable response when I suggested JJ might become a digital publication. Like the browser of LP and CD covers, he preferred the idea of poring over print, marking his progress with coffee-cup stains. The point has been made that the Internet is great for buying but not so good at selling. In other words, it doesn’t introduce the customer to new ideas. Jazz Journal’s columns, coffee stains and all, help do that job.



Bob Belden dances off the deadly embrace of the arts

"In the States jazz was built upon dance music. As late as 1959 Miles and Coltrane were playing dance gigs. That was part of the culture. Yet none of the young jazz musicians I know can dance. How can they play rhythmically if they can't dance? If they can't dance they can't swing. Swing is dance . . . The jazz scene tries to be smarter than it is: it wants to be hip and intellectual. They have recitals. They 'curate'. John Zorn started that vibe at the Stone. Curating means preserving, cataloguing. Hey man: you're booking bands!"

Among them: "Jazz Samba was the second jazz record I bought (the first was Oscar Peterson's Night Train), and nearly 50 years on it was wonderful to have its pulverising, life-changing magic so beautifully and expertly recalled by Simon Spillett in the January issue" . . . "I think it's unfair for the editor (JJ January 2013) to call ska 'unsyncopated' – this is criticising it for something that it wasn't. Sound system music was party music and like bar-room R&B had to be heard above the roar of the crowd (and often the competing system in the next yard along)" . . . "I am really glad that Simon Spillett said something about Eric Kloss (JJ December 2012). He really is a real monster musician. He did some marvellous records on the Muse label: Doors is a marvellous almost Coltrane-inspired album. Also, a Prestige record with trumpeter Jimmy Owens is rather worthwhile. It was the guitarist Terry Smith who told me to check out Eric Kloss."

Gordon Jack recalls his discovery of trombone individualist Bennie Green
"I first heard the distinctive sound of Bennie Green's trombone around 1960 in Dobell's shop. I was buying a copy of Kind Of Blue when one of the assistants started playing Walkin' And Talkin' – Green's latest Blue Note release with Eddy Williams and Gildo Mahones. His velvet sound and relaxed delivery was infectious and totally different to the bebop masters of the day like J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Jimmy Cleveland and Frank Rosolino."

Gilad Atzmon is troubled by politicised subsidy
"Jazz is a suicidal art form. You sacrifice your livelihood for the sake of music. When politicians get involved and decide who will get the money, who should be part of the discourse, we make everything conscious. We are basically killing the existential, libidinal spontaneity of this art form."

Derek Ansell recalls the gifted but tragic singer Beverly Kenney
"In the December 2012 issue of Jazz Journal Bruce Crowther gave comprehensive and enthusiastic reviews of the Fresh Sound issues, suggesting that were she alive today Kenney would comfortably see off most of the competition. I'm with Bruce on that and would upgrade his 4.5 star rating to five without pausing for breath."

Steve Voce isn't so sure about Pee Wee Russell's playing with Eddie Condon at the Town Hall
"Pee Wee's contributions to these sessions are highly regarded, but I regard them as a handicap, the vagaries of his playing becoming tiresome after a while. Much more satisfying was the work of Caceres who occasionally played clarinet in the ensembles."

Gordon Jack is impressed by the 500-page Pepper Adams' Joy Road discography
"For the past three decades Gary Carner has been researching Pepper Adams's extensive recording legacy and this enthralling book is the result. The author had access to Pepper's date-book while they worked on his memoirs thus making Joy Road a revealing insight into the recordings of one of the music's most outstanding baritone soloists."

Richard Palmer defends Brubeck's jazz credentials
"Those first two Time albums – especially the second one – are full of bravery, melodic invention, imagination and swinging power. Yes, Brubeck could be 'bombastic' (a word he hated), but anyone who thinks he couldn't swing is terminally deficient in both feet and ears."

Brian Morton recalls Pete La Roca Sims' classic response to an invitation to play free
"One night outside the La Bohème club, Chick Corea and Dave Holland tried to persuade Pete to play free, as they had been doing in Circle. The reply was classic. 'Well, you know the truth is, guys, I'm free in 4/4.' This was the essence of La Roca's drumming, a discipline learned (and a nickname earned) in timbale bands and then applied to hard bop."


Excerpts from over 50 CD reviews in this issue:

"Belden doesn’t much rate Kind Of Blue, for many (including me) Davis's masterpiece: apparently he finds it 'boring' and 'kind of flat'. Such nonsense can be overlooked, as long as he continues to produce such arresting perspectives on the interplay of past and present in music, and the political/poetic tensions of life, as are evident in this generously conceived – and recommended – release." (Michael Tucker)

"This double CD usefully reissues what was once a three-LP set made for the French arm of RCA-Victor and it's heady stuff. Blakey's new team of Messengers had recently made their only studio album for Blue Note, but live in a club setting they upped the ante and dug that little bit deeper into the roots of the hard bop idiom." (Simon Spillett)

"Hardly anyone speaks up for Doo-bop. Kudos to Mark Gilbert, who found some of Miles's fiercest latter-day playing on that album's High Speed Chase and Blow. I listen to it seldom, but with steadily increasing pleasure and a growing sense that the out-takes will be more revelatory than for any of Miles's later albums. The years have buffed away some of its infelicities, but the truth is that while the album fails as hip-hop – the average gangbanger would consider it as camp as pink knickers – it succeeds surprisingly well as jazz, or post-jazz." (Brian Morton)

"Bryan Ferry has had his songs recast in a jazz idiom reminiscent of the 1920s and early 30s, and recorded by a band containing some very good British jazz musicians . . . I really loved this album – for its arrangements, the extraordinary skill of the musicians and the hundred per cent commitment that clearly went into it. And good on Bryan Ferry for spending what it took to create such a classy piece of work. I only wish Humph were still with us – he'd have adored it." (Dave Gelly)

"Iverson is one of the deepest thinkers about jazz – check out his blog, which is full of stimulating opinions and striking insights – and I’d describe him as a postmodernist...On this album, Iverson shows that he’s not just the punk maverick of The Bad Plus, but a player with great insight into the music’s history." (Andy Hamilton)

"Kennedy wasn't yet in the White House when the two albums were made, but he'd made his 'New Frontier' speech at the Democratic convention, so it seems these young men from Washington, D.C. were hitching their wagon to a rising star and to a rising appetite for change. An intriguing document and another great Jordi Pujol rediscovery that replaces my sadly unplayable vinyl." (Brian Morton)

"Whilst I was never too sure of the jazz credentials of Ms Jungr's previous albums I have always found them very enjoyable, particularly her interpretations of Bob Dylan's songs. However, this album seems to move her further from the field of jazz and into straight pop music and in general the songs, particularly the compositions by her and Simon Wallace, are not of the same standard as those songs given her rather idiosyncratic treatment previously." (Jerry Brown)

"I'd be kidding if I described Gamak as an easy listen, but the almost constant push-pull tensions between musical elements borrowed from Eastern and Western traditions is as intriguing as it is absorbing. The essential integrity of Mahanthappa’s approach is tested to its limits, but he triumphantly emerges through the flames with renewed steel." (Fred Grand)

"I was never one of the many people who from the start disliked the MJQ. It did become to seem a bit bland in its middle period, but the jazz answer is that one is a fan of John Lewis and Milt Jackson, two of the finest soloists produced by bebop . . . You know whether you like the MJQ or not. If you do then this is a wonderful collection for you. I would regard it as of major importance in the year’s issues." (Steve Voce)

"The Oliver Nelson Takin' Care of Business album is simply one of the best albums in his discography, showcasing as it does his prowess on both alto and tenor saxophones, a sadly neglected aspect of his far too short career . . . If you don't tap your feet to this one, then the blood has simply stopped coursing through your veins . . . In essence these are two uncomplicated examples of early 60s modern jazz, both carrying the qualities of superior music making." (Peter Gamble)

"This set features the cream of the Los Angeles jazz fraternity, most of whom have a chance to shine on the opening It Don’t Mean A Thing. Mel Lewis with his laid-back, ultra relaxed sense of swing shows here and throughout just why Connie Kay considered him to be the finest of all big band drummers . . . MJR has added The Picasso Of Big Band Jazz which reveals another side of Paich's musicality allowing him to concentrate almost exclusively on his own superior originals. Herb Geller and Bob Cooper handle the saxophone solos with their customary elegance and aplomb and there is plenty of Jack Sheldon's intimate trumpet to enjoy." (Gordon Jack)

"Never one to be satisfied by making music to exercise the ears, Pine has produced a programme of hot-stepping jazz that improves the legs and mind as well. Mento and merengue, ska and calypso - shot through with a bebop sensibility - are the medium for original compositions that explore themes of racism and slavery as well as positive aspects of Caribbean culture . . . Using the term 'tour de force' to describe one of Pine's creations is becoming a little hackneyed after nearly 30 years - but he just keeps on doing it." (Garry Booth)

SHAKATAK: THE 12 INCH MIXES (Secret Record) ****
"Shakatak may seem strangely remote from any working definition of jazz, but the group’s distinctive mix of jazz fusion, soul, funk and progressive rock has proved to be extremely durable and proves on fresh hearing to be full of musical enterprise and in no way inferior to American models . . . it should be stated that the mixing culture of the time was the locus for considerable improvisational activity. Multiple 'versioning' of a song is little different in essence from 1500 performances of My Favorite Things." (Brian Morton)

TRIBAL TECH: X (Tone Center) ****
"This is the first recording by Tribal Tech since the Rocket Science album of 2000 and continues in the somewhat looser, more co-composed or improvised mode evident before the break. The template remains the same – very heavy duty Weather Report influenced jazz-rock with a good leavening of funk and r&b . . . but even within a familiar landscape unexpected perspectives emerge and the musical mastery is unimpeachable." (Mark Gilbert)

"The jazz world should be thankful for what has been called Gary Carner's 'Magnificent obsession' with the music of Pepper Adams. Hot on the heels of his 552-page annotated discography comes this sampler from a five-CD box set (available as download only) of specially commissioned arrangements of Adams originals. There is more to come because Carner is currently working on a full-length biography which is eagerly awaited." (Gordon Jack)

"Oh, great joy, one of my top favourite singers along with the superb Basie band although the Count himself is absent but Ronnell Bright takes the piano stool in fine style. Needless to say the band’s backings throughout are sympathetic and entirely appropriate. Every track exhibits Sarah’s prodigious talent and artistry. All listeners will find their particular gems in this bag of rich pickings. Five stars? Absolutely." (Brian Robinson)

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