Monday, 19 October 2009

Trumpeten - Charles Mingus

Just a quick note: whilst scratching my way through the internet head, I came across this little Swedish / Mingus gem. Despite the video being in many ways 'quality challenged', it's probably the best performance of 'Meditations' and, dare I say, the mid sixties sextet line-up I've heard. Enjoy!

Track List:
Intro: So Long Eric
Outro: So Long Eric

Charles Mingus: Bass
Eric Dolphy: Alto Sax, Bass Clarinet, Flute
Clifford Jordon: Tenor Sax
John Coles: Trumpet
Jaki Byard: Piano
Dannie Richmond: Drums

Charles Mingus Orchestra ft. Eric Dolphy

Uploaded by Sjef_van_Boekel. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

Youtube channel EyeforAyler

Friday, 8 May 2009

Join the Players

'Join the players' has become a favourite past time of mine when making Jazz compilations for my cohorts. The rule is deceptively simple: each track must be followed by another track by a different leader, but with one or more of the same players (unless they're all the same players, that's just cheating). Although this may seem quite easy, it often verges on being quite taxing... a great way to get your geek on! As an example of this I thought I would share a recent compilation with whoever looks at my blog and can further be bothered to download it.

DOWNLOAD: Join the Players

1. ORNETTE COLEMAN, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell - Blues Connotation
2. ARCHIE SHEPP, Charlie Haden, Beaver Harris, Tommy Turrentine, Grachan Moncur, Roswell Rudd, Howard Johnson, Perry Robinson - Mama Too Tight
3. JOHN COLTRANE, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell - Invisible [those with a keen eye will see how I've cheated here]
4. MILES DAVIS, John Coltrane, Cannonball Aderley, Paul Chambers, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb - Straight, No Chaser
5. CHARLIE PARKER, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Duke Jordon, Tommy Potter - My Old Flame
6. MAX ROACH, Coleman Hawkins, Booker Little, Abby Lincoln, Walter Benton, Julian Priester, James Schenck - Driva' Man
7. ERIC DOLPHY, Booker Little, Ed Blackwell, Mal Waldron, Richard davis - Status Seeker
8. CHARLES MINGUS, Eric Dolphy, Ted Curson, Danny Richmond - Original Faubus Fables
9. DUKE ELLINGTON, Charles Mingus, Max Roach - Money Jungle
10. SONNY ROLLINS, Max Roach, Oscar Pettiford - Shadow Waltz

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Archie Shepp - Live at the Panafrican Festival

When Archie Shepp (tenor sax / vocals) performed this music live in Algiers in 1969 whilst backed with a fully equipped Algerian folk group, he must have relished the radical, bold, and culturally significant sentiment that this was going to be released on French jazz label Actuel. As we know, Shepp is probably up there with the most conscientious of all jazz artists concerning black civil rights (akin with John Coltrane, Max Roach, and the AACM), and given the north African country’s tumultuous history with France less than a decade prior to this recording, this was a bold move for all parties involved. When I picked up Live at the Panafrican Festival, this stood out as one of the main reasons as to why this record--a relatively unconsidered record in Shepp’s back catalogue--should be so significant and so exciting; this is how it was decided to immortalise the first Algerian panafrican festival.

Shepp also took this opportunity to showcase a handful of his associate players, as well as--in a manoeuvre typical of Shepp--combine jazz with performance poetry (courtesy of Ted Jones and Don Lee). From Shepp’s late 60s Paris line up (who also feature on Blasé and Black Gipsy) he’s joined by Clifford Thornton (cornet), Dave Burrell (piano), and the infamous Sunny Murray (drums), as well as the two new additions of Grachan Moncur III (trombone), and Alan Silva (bass).

In some ways this record bears notable characteristics of Shepp’s late 60s work; pounding repeated trance motifs formed out of black folk rhythms; expressive looseness and free improvisation which convey a spiritual identity; experimenting with ideas that reference folklore. Yet, with the addition of the Algerian folk ensemble (or Algerians musicians as Shepp credits on the record), there is a large emphasis on Eastern micro-tonality, harmonies, and polyrhythmic temperament that hadn’t really been used to this extent in avant-jazz composition as much as it had in avant-garde classical composition, which in turn also sets this record aside from any other Shepp record. The successful emergence of these forms in avant-garde rock music today further begs the question of the unconsidered nature of this record.

The tonality of the compositions also hark back to much earlier Shepp. Whilst Brotherhood at Ketchaoua is slightly reminiscent of The New-Contemporary Five, the tonal centering and pace of the thirty minute epic We Have Come Back has similarities with Gingerbread, Gingerbread Boy. Unfortunately however, the length of the second piece also contributes to a lack of direction in Shepp’s playing about halfway through, only to be picked up again towards the end. In spite of this, and the fact that the lack of recording quality also loses a lot of the players and vocalists definition (on occasion resulting to a buzz of playing) this still remains to be one of the more exciting Shepp records I’ve heard. On that note I can safely say I wish I was there when this was being recorded.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sonny Sharrock - Monkey / Pockie / Boo

Unlike today, the initial “birth” period of avant-jazz spawned only a small handful of revered guitarists (even still, I would argue, whilst there are many revered avant-jazz guitarists today, only a few of them actually deserve any credit). The first wave of the Diaspora came with that most notable spear-head Derek Bailey; but even he would claim to have somewhat of a dishevelled relationship with the “free-jazz” ethic. However, it is the common association with Derek’s work (whether he liked it or not), and very few guitarists have come close to challenging his thrown. Sonny Sharrock could have been a that worthy adversary.

Having played with many avant-jazz monoliths (Pharaoh Sanders, Don Cherry, and Miles Davis to name a few), Sonny came into his own with his first two albums as leader: “Black Woman” (1969); and “Monkey - Pockie - Boo” (1970). Whilst both seem to have been informed a little by rock psychedelia: “Black Woman” (an ode to his wife Linda Sharrock who features on both albums) resides on a more jubilant expression of the guitar and avant-composition, referring to mariachi scales and celebratory Afro-centric chants, juxtaposed with thunderous rhythm sections and Linda’s striking and almost egregious vocal screeches; “Monkey - Pockie - Boo” (recorded in Paris, originally as part of the Actuel series) on the other hand ventures down a darker, sparser, and unsettling path.

The first side is dedicated solely to the 17 minute long epic “27th Day”. If the album had been any more successful, this--it could be argued--would be the archetypal blueprint of many of the avant-folk bands of yesteryear: long drones, here represented by Beb Guerin’s sustained bowing of double-bass chords; a very dynamic approach to speaking in tongues largely taken up by the then pregnant Linda; (pre-)Corsano-esque drum rolls provided by Jacques Thollot; and a structure that is set off from ethereal / brewing modal melodies, which slowly develops into a jazz “freak out”. As Sonny’s guitar creeps in under Linda’s vocals, it is dangerous, relentless, and (unlike “Black Woman”) explores a more atonal avenue with a very subtle use of effects, reminiscent of things to come (early Sonic Youth for example).

Exciting as it is, the guitar playing on “27th Day” is clearer and more manageable than on the next piece. “Soon” is loosely framed around Linda’s A capella introduction; neatly sung and referential to early African-American folk music. This is then closely followed by a fierce onslaught of the group playing as free as can be. A lot harder to digest than side one, “Soon” is perhaps more courageous in it’s attempts, and Sonny’s (for the most part) still maintains an intricate control over his instrument. The title track “Monkey - Pockie - Boo”, however, displays a more approach to avant-jazz. Beginning with Beb demonstrating pizzicato techniques on the bass, this is contrasted by Jacques’ fluid brushing of the drums. This is then further contrasted by the Afro-centric chant sung by both Sonny and Linda, leaving the listener with an oddly unsettling end to the record.

Both of the mentioned albums highlight Sonny’s potential as a guitar player. When I listen to them I truly believe that he could have overthrown Bailey as the avant-jazz guitar hero if it weren't for his heinous career move. It’s a shame that, when listen to the rest of Sonny’s oeuvre, it’s mostly littered with wretched fusion schlock; however, we shouldn’t let that get in the way of enjoying these awesome records should we?

Monday, 16 February 2009

The Art Ensemble of Chicago - Live in Paris (BYG 1969)

Lester Bowie (trumpet, fleugelhorn, bass drum, horns); Roscoe Mitchell (soprano sax, alto sax, bass sax, clarinet, flute, flute, cymbals, gongs, conga drums, logs, bells, siren, whistles, steel drum, etc); Joseph Jarman (soprano sax, alto sa, clarinet, oboe, flute, marimba, vibes, conga drums, bells, whistles, gongs, siren, guitar, etc); Malachi Favors (bass, fender bass, banjo, log drums, cythar, percussion, etc); Fontella Bass (vocals).

Ken Burns--that “innovative” documentary maker, famous for zooming in on, and panning across photographs--once made the belittling remark that the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) only really catered for “white college students--in France”. Granted there was a large market for avant-jazz related music in France in the 1960’s and 70’s; but what Ken failed to acknowledge when he said this, was that the AACM were pivotal in creating one of the first independent music economies to provide black people--living in disadvantaged areas of Chicago--with an outlet for a serious avant-garde / intellectual voice. What’s more is that the group ran on an egalitarian system that utilised the power of the individual; one of the first independent music industries to do so and achieve some form of success. Nice work Ken. I can’t wait for your next “innovation”.

Perhaps the most famous of the AACM drove is The Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEOC). Guided by Lester Bowie’s compositional strength, and driven by Roscoe Mitchell’s playing ability, AEOC emigrated to Paris in the late 1960’s (often considered their best period) and, in a very short time, produced a prolific amount of work including: Message to Our Folks; Les Stances A Sophie (the soundtrack to the film of the same name); The Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass, alongside numerous enigmatic live performances, focusing on black music history, or as they aptly put it “great black music”.

One of these performances (on the 5th of October 1969) was documented and initially released as two separate releases (Live Part 1, and Live Part 2), each covering one piece, on BYG in Japan; then re-released as a double LP on the Actuel revival label Charly in 1981. Despite the production lacking a little in clarity, the record offers up a notable insight to the AEOC’s dexterity within their earlier performances. Perhaps not as structurally concise as their later live performances, there are still the distinguishable elements: unity; the individual; identity, and so on. Obvious compositional comparisons exist to the work of Sun Ra; largely because of the ambiguity behind the deliberation and the spontaneity in the pieces, and how this is furthermore structured within them.

The first piece “Oh, Strange” is somewhat sombre in tone, and is perhaps stronger in narrative than the second piece “Bon Voyage”. My interpretation is of African American history, starting off with theme that hint at African heritage; heavy communal percussion (a drum-kit that has been spread throughout the band members, reinforcing the notion of unity and the individual) with delicate voice (here echoed in saxophone and trumpet melodies and improvisations) ringing out over the top. However, as these melodies become darker and more desperate, the reparative drum patterns take on a new contextual meaning, referencing American slavery. The piece eventually resolves into more disparate playing, deliberately empty with a cold tonal centre. The change in dynamic, as well as a change in instrumentation (vibes, bass clarinet, odd stringed instruments, subtle electronic effects… etc, at times comparable to middle period Harry Partch), seems to be commenting on 1960s African American culture; an intellectual voice, that is still being suffocated by a largely belligerent white bourgeoisie.

“Bon Voyage”, however, starts off from the point of a full-on “freak out“, before centring itself around a two-note bass groove provided by Malachi Favors, and poetry sung by Bowie’s wife Fontella Bass. Again the choice of instrumentation remains to be interesting, this time using: oboes; marimbas; flutes; sirens; bells; as well the more conventional “jazz” set-up, which leads to an aggressive yet more spiritual upheaval than the first piece, without falling wind of other corny spiritual jazz composition.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Liam Og's (pub)

Ever read Charles Bukowski? Ever wondered what it would be like to drop into one of those bars where all dreams seem to have faded and hope seems like a thing of fiction writers? Welcome to Liam Og's! This dark and dingy pub--founded by Irish landlords--was originally situated in Elephant and Castle but now juts out from a corner on Walworth Road with a racing green paint job that reemphasises the fact that, this is indeed Irish. Having dipped in and out of the pub from time to time, on occasion--when spirits are high--the bar staff can be quite pleasant, and if you're lucky they'll regale you with an interesting story; but more often than not they seem unwelcoming, almost like they're unimpressed with your being there.

It's extremely quiet in here, and you feel that you would probably be better off not raising your voice beyond a whisper. Although there is never any violence, the tension is so thick you could almost bottle it. Yet there's something oddly romantic about Liam Og's: there's an Edward Hopper-esque charm, as if you had walked in there just before, or just after a rather untimely event. The décor is very traditional, like it's an old countryside pub that somehow became lost in the modern world. The furnishings aren't bad either, and there's various bit's of traditional English memorabilia strewn around the place; some of it exciting like the old fashioned bicycle harnessed to the ceiling; some of it rather questionable in it's content.

The drinks are somewhat limited in variation (despite this being one of the few pubs in London where I've found a half decent ginger wine), but they're cheap: one pint being under £3; and of course you'll be able to find one of the best pints of Guinness this side of the river. Liam Og's is definitely not for everyone, but if you think you can bear with the gripes, then it's probably worth a look in, even if it's just for an experience to muse upon at a later date. You may even catch the regular playing "Rhinestone Cowboy"... if you're lucky.

374 Walworth Road
London SE17 2NF
020 7703 3295