Thursday, February 26, 2015


Label: Мелодия ‎– C60-07361-2
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: USSR / Released: 1977
Style: Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Free Improvisation
The track "Džiazo Kontrastai" is divided in two parts. Recorded in 1976.
Painting – E. Cukermanas
Photography By – G. Talas
Recorded By – Vilius Kondrotas

A - Džiazo Kontrastai, Con Anima (Part 1) . . . . . . . . . . 19:52
B - Džiazo Kontrastai (Pabaiga), Con Anima (Part 2) . . . . . . . . . . 20:50

Vyacheslav Ganelin – piano, keyboards [basset]
Vladimir Chekasin – alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet, chalumeau
Vladimir Tarasov – drums, percussion

In 1968, Ganelin formed a trio with percussionist Vladimir Tarasov and saxophonist Vladimir Rezitsky. Rezitsky left the trio in 1971, and was replaced with Vladimir Chekasin. The trio, called Ganelin Trio or GTCh, combined free jazz with elements of folk and classic music. It achieved critical acclaim in Soviet Union and abroad.

This line-up was solidified in 1971 and blew minds for a couple of decades. They started releasing albums - pretty much all of them live - in the late '70s for Russian emigre Leo Feigin's Leo Records imprint, and began to play jazz festivals in western Europe. Jazz critics worth a bean hailed them as the best free jazz group in the world. They might a been right.

In 1976 the trio performed at the Warsaw Jazz Jamboree. The same year, its first album, Con anima, was released...

The 1980 performance at the Berlin Jazz Festival was described by Joachim-Ernst Berendt "the wildest and yet the best organized and most professional free jazz I've heard in years".
In 1984, the trio toured in the UK, and in 1986, in the US...

The Ganelin Trio sounding like a basement-dwelling eastern European version of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago. There's some truth in that - the use of "small" and unconventional instrumenets in the mix, for one - but whereas the AEOC looked towards Africa for inspiration, Ganelin Trio are pure Euro avant-garde, mixing up folk melodies, Russophilian classical motifs (I doubt that's even a word...), hard-arsed improv of the FMP/Incus school and a real swing, the kind of momentum you only get from players who really understand jazz and that it's supposed to move.
Ganelin even plays synth and electric keys on occasion, and it absolutely works within the music. Chekasin's sax work closely resembles Ornette's late '60s/early '70s playing - high-energy blasts which rarely delve into Ayleresque screech territory - and Tarasov's percussive experiments are totally engaging in their use of all manner of kitchen-sink materials. Engaging is exactly what this music is. It never stays in the same place for too long, and the manner in which it combines what sound like familiar melodies w/ hot-wired improv is the stuff of the gods.

The music of the Ganelin Trio is something which should be known far and wide, certainly outside of its contemporary listenership of Wire readers and hopeless jazz nerds (both spectrums of which cover me adequately, thanks). You don't wanna miss this boat: they're totally worth it. Vyacheslav is still musically active today, making vital sounds 30-40 years later.

If you find it, buy this album!

GANELIN / CHEKASIN / TARASOV – Ancora Da Capo (LP-1986)

Label: Supraphon ‎– 1115 3014
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo / Country: Czechoslovakia / Released: 1986
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded at the Supraphon Mozarteum Studio, Prague, on October 13, 1980.
Artwork By [Design] – Stanislav Dvorský
Executive Producer – Sláva Kunst
Photography [Backcover] – Luboš Svátek
Photography [Frontcover] – Petr Janyška
Producer, Recording Supervisor – Antonín Matzner
Recorded By – František Řebíček, Jan Chalupský

A - Ancora Da Capo (Part 1) . . . . . . . . . . 21:05
B - Ancora Da Capo (Part 2) . . . . . . . .  .  20:00

Vyacheslav Ganelin – piano, guitar, keyboards [basset], percussion, music
Vladimir Chekasin – alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, violin, percussion
Vladimir Tarasov – drums, bells, percussion

Composed by pianist/leader Vyacheslav Ganelin, Ancora Da Capo is an inspired major work consisting of two parts, recorded at Mozarteum Studio, Prague, on October 13 in 1980 and nearly 40 minutes long. The Ganelin Trio's brand of loosely structured free jazz was something really distinctive, though unfamiliar listeners might use the Art Ensemble of Chicago as a loose comparison since the two groups share several common elements: multi-instrumentalism (the trio's members play 16 instruments among themselves here); liberal uses of space, miscellaneous percussion sounds, and traditional/folk music references; and an anything-goes sense of humor. All of these qualities are evident on Ancora Da Capo. The piece has a few pre-composed themes (which are actually more alluded to than they are clearly stated) and an overarching form that guides the playing along, but the bulk of the music is heavily improvised within this larger framework. "Part 1" begins quietly with several minutes of chimes, shakers, and rattling percussion sounds before Ganelin and Vladimir Chekasin switch to piano and clarinet, respectively, improvising sparsely and patiently around a skeletal theme. Things heat up about halfway through when a new theme enters, as percussionist Vladimir Tarasov slides into a more propulsive free jazz groove and Chekasin's saxophone begins honking and vocalizing. Subsequently, there are more rattling percussion noises, some violin scrapes courtesy of Chekasin, a Ganelin piano solo that veers from fluid bop references to inside-the-instrument plucking, and a raucous finale that finds Chekasin quacking and literally screaming through his horn before he works his way back to the closing melodic theme. "Part 2" incorporates moments of actual toe-tapping, swing-like rhythms, along with primitive synthesizer sounds, more wild soloing from Chekasin (who sometimes blows two horns at once) and Ganelin, and, finally, a folk-like closing theme that brings things to a rousing conclusion. Ancora Da Capo has a rare balance of form and freedom, wildness and restraint that makes it continually surprising (at times even jarringly so) as well as remarkably durable in terms of repeated listening.

_Review by William York

If you find it, buy this album!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

CHARLES MINGUS – The Great Concert Of Charles Mingus, Paris 1964 (3LP-1971)

Label: America Records – 30 AM 003-004-005
Format: 3 × Vinyl, LP / Country: France / Released: 1971
Style: Hard Bop, Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded live at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris on the 19th April 1964.
Design By – Tony Lane
Photography By – Jean-Pierre Leloir, Horace, Grover Sales
Produced By – Pierre Berjot

A1 - Introduction And Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . 1:35
A2 - Good Bye Pork Pie Hat (1re Partie) . . . . . . . . . . 23:30
B1 - Good Bye Pork Pie Hat (2e Partie) . . . . . . . . . . 5:40
B2 - Orange Was The Colour Of Her Dress . . . . . . . . . . 14:00
C  -  Parker Iana . . . . . . . . . . 23:00
D  -  Meditation For Integration . . . . . . . . . . 27:30
E  -  Fable Of Faubus (1re Partie) . . . . . . . . . . 17:20
F1 - Fable Of Faubus (2e Partie) . . . . . . . . . . 11:20
F2 - Sophisticated Lady . . . . . . . . . . 6:00

ERIC DOLPHY – alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute
CLIFFORD JORDAN – tenor saxophone
JAKI BYARD – piano
JOHNNY COLES – trumpet

This three-LP set is the finest recording by one of Charles Mingus' greatest bands, his sextet with Eric Dolphy (on alto, bass clarinet, and flute), tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, trumpeter Johnny Coles, pianist Jaki Byard, and drummer Dannie Richmond. Taken from their somewhat tumultuous but very musical tour of Europe, most of these rather lengthy workouts actually just feature a quintet because Coles took sick (he is only heard on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"), but the playing is at such a high level that the trumpeter is not really missed. "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress" is given definitive treatment, and the nearly 29-minute "Fables of Faubus" and Mingus' relatively brief feature on "Sophisticated Lady" are impressive, but it is the passionate "Meditations on Integration" (an utterly fascinating performance) and "Parkeriana" (a tribute to Charlie Parker that features some stride piano from Byard and what may very well have been Dolphy's greatest alto solo) that make this gem truly essential in all jazz collections. (_By Scott Yanow)

In April of 1964 multi-instrumentalist supreme Eric Dolphy rejoined Charles Mingus for a European tour, his plan being to stay on and look for a new base of operations. Since it proved impossible for Dolphy to find supporting musicians of the caliber he had known in New York, one could argue that the recordings from this tour represent his last great legacy. You might also maintain that Mingus never rose to these kinds of heights again, either, though he certainly had many good years left ahead of him.

Over time an impressive amount of documentation of the tour has surfaced, including recordings from nine dates made in eight cities in six countries. The first of these to appear commercially is the title under consideration, which was drawn from the appearance at the Theatre des Champs-Elysee in Paris. Joining Mingus and Dolphy were Clifford Jordan on tenor, pianist Jaki Byard and drummer Dannie Richmond. The trumpeter, Johnny Coles, had collapsed on the previous evening suffering from a stomach ulcer, among other things. His absence was obviously felt by his comrades, one possible reason that the music heard here was especially amazing, even by this group's standards.

Because of recording problems, from this album excluded two numbers (a rambunctious Byard solo flight and "So Long Eric"), but it is included a long track "Good Bye Pork Pie Hat", which was recorded the previous evening with Coles. Clifford Jordan hit his personal peak on this tour, both individually and in the various intriguing situations in which he and Dolphy counter each other. Dolphy himself gets off some brilliant and unique statements, showing that when he was inspired, his tendency to repeat certain figures didn't detract from his effectiveness. He just found ways to make the repetition work. And of course this was one intense rhythm section. Mingus' demonic drive and extra-sensory connection with his drummer were never more in evidence, while the unpredictable Byard was in a way perfect for this group. The fact that you never know quite what to expect just heightens the impact when he delivers, and he almost always did on this night.
_ By Duck Baker (JazzTimes)

For all that it has survived over the past century, jazz music can be a fragile thing. Its reliance on improvisation and near-telepathic communion between group members means that for something truly transcendent to occur, the stars must be aligned in a way they rarely are. If we add in the hope that such a magical event might be heard by more than a select few, things get even more elusive, as now we must be sure that tape machines are running and microphones are working.

All this musing is my way of noting how improbable it is that this utterly wonderful music played by Charlie Mingus and one of his strongest groups in a Parisian theatre fully 50 years ago is here, preserved on a 3 LPs for all to hear. The recording of this concert, made on April 19, 1964.

At the outset, few would have expected this concert to be a classic. During the previous show, Mingus's trumpeter Johnny Coles had collapsed with a stomach ulcer and was rushed to the hospital. Mingus, along with tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, multi- reedist Eric Dolphy, drummer Dannie Richmond, and pianist Jaki Byard, had to soldier on, dealing not only with the emotional stress of Coles's illness but also with the resulting gaping hole in the band's arrangements. Somehow, the now-quintet managed to pull together a monster performance, cathartic and emotionally charged.

Simply put, this recording is not only one of Mingus's most towering achievements, but is also a testimony to the power of jazz music to find beauty and power in the most dire situations. As a lengthy (and all-too-rare) example of Dolphy's mature genius, as well as a revelatory glimpse into Byard's immense talent, it is essential. These men were giants, and the heights they reached on a spring night in Paris so many years ago are still rarely equaled. Hearing them play now is a pleasure, to be sure; but it is also a privilege.

Due to problems with the microphone when recording this concert, the sound quality varies, but it in no way does not diminish the power, the beauty and importance of this event. 
A masterpiece.

If you find it, buy this album!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

MARY LOU WILLIAMS & CECIL TAYLOR – Embraced (Pablo Live/2LP-1978)

Label: Pablo Live – 2620 108
Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1978
Style: Contemporary Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded live on 17 April 1977 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Design [Cover] – Norman Granz, Sheldon Marks
Photography By – Phil Stern
Producer – Cecil Taylor, Mary Lou Williams
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Pablo Records

A1 - The Lord Is Heavy (A Spiritual) . . . . . . . . . . 6:09
A2 - Fandangle (Ragtime) . . . . . . . . . . . 1:15
A3 - The Blues Never Left Me . . . . . . . . . . 5:00
A4 - K.C. 12th Street (Kansas City Swing) . . . . . . . . . . 12:32
B1 - Good Ole Boogie . . . . . . . . . . 5:35
B2 - Basic Chords (Bop Changes On The Blues) . . . . . . . . . . 7:40
C1 - Ayizan . . . . . . . . . . 14:22
C2 - Chorus Sud . . . . . . . . . . 9:25
D2 - Back To The Blues . . . . . . . . . . 14:47
D3 - I Can't Get Started . . . . . . . . . . 4:10

Mary Lou Williams – piano
Cecil Taylor – piano
Bob Cranshaw – bass
Mickey Roker – drums, percussion

A masterful meeting of two important of piano genius – Mary Lou Williams and Cecil Taylor – sounding incredibly here in each other's company! The set features a core rhythmic pulse from Mickey Roker on drums and Bob Cranshaw on bass – and Williams and Taylor really take off on their twin pianos – with Cecil almost leading Mary Lou more into territory of his own, although she also brings an undercurrent of soul to the set that makes the record unlike any other that Taylor ever recorded! The approach shouldn't work, but it's captivatingly brilliant from the start – as you'll hear on tracks that include "The Lord Is Heavy", "Good Ole Boogie", "Basic Chords", "Ayizan", "KC 12th Street", "Fandangle", and "Chorus Sud".  _ © 1996-2015, Dusty Groove, Inc.

When pianist Mary Lou Williams decided she wanted to perform with legendary iconoclast Cecil Taylor, she figured it would be a love fest. But as the concert and resulting album Embraced attest, it was anything but amore. This excerpt from Linda Dahl’s book, Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams (Pantheon Books), tells the story.

Many people wondered why Mary chose to perform in a dual-piano concert at Carnegie Hall with Cecil Taylor, perhaps the ultimate avant garde pianist. She had repeatedly made her negative feelings clear about the avant garde in jazz, with its rejection of established harmonic and tonal patterns. In an essay that became part of her liner notes for Embraced, the album resulting from her concert with Taylor, she described the avant garde as being filled with “hate, bitterness, hysteria, black magic, confusion, discontent, empty studies, musical exercises by various European composers, sounds of the earth, no ears, not even relative pitch and Afro galore (although”—she hastened to add—”I’m crazy about African styles in dress”).

Yet something in Taylor’s music appealed to her, as did John Coltrane’s late playing; or, rather, she accepted both musicians’ work because they could still, if they wanted to, play “within the tradition.” And although tradition—the heritage of suffering embodied in spirituals and the blues—was sacred to her, Mary had always pushed herself to experiment and master new styles of black music. And by the mid-’70s, she was eager to reposition herself on the cutting edge. She was not, she wrote in her diary, “corny” (her word for passé and hidebound); no, she had “changed with the times.” Still, by then she had felt at least a twinge at being passed over. So much had happened since her reemergence in the ’60s—rock, soul, long hair, Afros.

It was, then, in the spirit of reconciliation between the two “camps” of jazz (avant garde versus everything that came before) that Mary conceived the idea of doing a concert with that lion of “out” players, Cecil Taylor. He had won her over with his admiration for her playing. Actually, he’d been listening and appreciating Mary’s music for a long time, since 1951, when he first caught her at the Savoy Club in Boston while a conservatory student in that city. “She was playing like Erroll Garner, but her music had a lot of range,” Taylor said in a rare interview. Almost two decades passed before Mary, in turn, listened to Taylor—during his engagement at Ronnie Scott’s in 1969. Then, in 1975, Taylor really began listening to Mary, dropping by the Cookery often. And each time he came into the club, as Mary remembered it, he’d move closer to the piano, until, she said, “He sat down one night at the end of the gig and played, but a little too long,” clearing out the club. But when Taylor told her, “No one’s playing anything but you,” Mary’s reaction was, at first, “Here’s somebody else putting me on.” But he kept showing up to listen, and eventually Mary broached the idea of doing a concert together. (It was Taylor who came up with the title, Embraced. In response, Mary drew a picture of three concentric circles, symbolizing, as she saw it, her music, his and the music of their interplay.)

Organizing the April 17, 1977, event fell to Mary, who followed her usual game plan. Friends received photocopied requests: “Help save this precious music and keep me out of Bellevue! Smile! Send checks for your tickets or donations.” Despite such efforts, made at her own expense, and Peter O’Brien’s publicity, the house at Carnegie Hall was no more than half-filled and Mary just broke even on the concert.

But it would be a hall filled with partisans of the two pianists, and speculation ran high about what sort of jazz would emerge from the meeting of two such strong musicians—for if Taylor was a lion at the piano, Mary was a lioness. To Village Voice jazz writer Gary Giddins, the concert promised to be “doubly innovative for bringing together two great keyboard artists in a program of duets, and for dramatizing the enduring values in the jazz-piano tradition.” But hints of a possible musical fiasco were also in the air. Rehearsals revealed frayed nerves and disparate purposes. Cecil Taylor had never shown any desire to play predetermined music from a written score, although Mary claimed that for the first half of the concert he’d agreed to play the new dual-piano arrangements of spirituals she’d written, using her “history of jazz” approach. Then, after the intermission, they would use “rhythm patterns as a shell,” in Mary’s words. “When Cecil is doing his things, I’ll start moving in his direction. I’ll play free and then I’ll jump back to swinging.” But in the hours before the concert began Taylor fumed. Not only had she written a part for him—a “free” player of the first rank—but she had not consulted him about the rhythm section—her own—that was to accompany them for the first half. To Mary, of course, this seemed fair: she got the first half, and he got the second half of the concert. But as Taylor told a journalist, Mary “wanted him to play her music but [she] refused to perform his music the way he wanted it heard. We are not certain exactly how the concert will be structured,” Taylor warned.

Clashed would be a more accurate title than Embraced for the music that ensued; the concert confirmed gloomier predictions. Reviewers tended to write about it more as a contest than a collaboration: “The result was at best a tug of war in which Mr. Taylor managed to remain dominant,” wrote the New York Times. On “Back to the Blues,” to take one example, Taylor plunges deep into his favorite nether musical regions. It takes Mary’s strongest playing, the signature crash and crush of her left hand at full throttle, to tug the piece back from outer space. When, as Gary Giddins described Taylor, “the predatory avant gardist” overreached Mary’s “spare, bluesy ministrations,” she called in the rhythm section quite as if she were calling in the troops.

Listeners—at least those in Mary’s camp—saw little of the “love” she had urged Taylor to play after the difficult first half. Backstage, fur flew. “I slammed the door on him hard,” says Peter O’Brien, “and saxophonist Paul Jeffrey, who was listening backstage, had to be physically restrained from punching him. Mary came off the stage and said to me, ‘Oh man, I played my ass off.’ And she did, but I made her go back out there.” Her adrenaline was up and Mary played brilliant encores—”Night in Tunisia,” “Bag’s Groove,” and “I Can’t Get Started,” the last a frequent source of inspiration for Mary.

Perhaps the best review, though never published, came from Nica de Koenigswarter, in a letter she shot off to Mary after the concert, written in the jazz baroness’s beautiful hand and careful multicolored underlinings:

Rather than an ‘embrace,’ it seemed to one like a confrontation between heaven and hell, with you (heaven) emerging gloriously triumphant!!! I know it wasn’t meant to be that way, but this is the way it seemed. I also know what a sweet cat C.T. is and what beautiful things he writes, in words, that is, but the funny part is that he looks just like the Devil when he plays as well as sounding like it, as far as I am concerned, sheets of nothingness, apparently seductive to some. Anyway I loved Mickey Roker and Bob Cranshaw for seeming like guardian angels, coming to your defense and it was worth it all to hear you bring it back to music.

Love you, Nica

Two years later, Mary could joke a little about the concert. “When I was coming along, it wasn’t enough just to play. You had to have some tricks—I used to play with a sheet over the piano keys. So when Cecil started playing like that and kept on going, I started to get up from the stool, turn around and hit the piano with my butt—chung, choonk! That woulda got them!” She revealed her hurt only to her fellow artist in a letter two years after the fiasco:

Cecil! Please listen if you can. Why did you come to me so often when I was at the Cookery? Why did you consent to do a concert? You felt I was a sincere friend. In the battlefield, the enemy (Satan) does not want artists to create or be together as friends.

Cecil, the spirituals were the most important factor of the concert (strength), to achieve success playing from the heart, inspiring new concepts for the second half. I wrote you concerning the first half. You will have a chance to listen to the original tapes and will agree that being angry you created monotony, corruption, and noise. Please forgive me for saying so. Why destroy your great talent clowning, etc.? Applause is false. I do not believe in compliments or glory, my inspiration comes from sincere love. I was not seeking glory for myself when I asked you to do the concert. I am hoping you will reimburse me for 30 tickets—would you like to see the receipts?

I still love you, Mary

Within six months of her concert with Taylor, Mary was back at Carnegie Hall for another concert with another difficult musician, as a “special guest” in January of 1978 in a 40-year “reunion” concert at Carnegie Hall. Billed as “An Evening with Benny Goodman,” the concert attempted to recreate the spirit of the famous 1938 concert where Goodman had been dubbed “King of Swing.” But the 1978 event was a disappointment, underrehearsed, ragged, with Goodman off balance. Mary played gamely and took a sparkling solo on “Lady Be Good,” but the gig was just a gig to her, a way to pay bills. (When Goodman approached her afterwards about doing a record together of Fats Waller tunes, she declined.)

After going from playing with way-out Cecil Taylor to comping for Benny Goodman—a breathtaking musical leap few pianists would attempt—Mary could declare with satisfaction, “Now I can really say I played all of it.”

Playing “with” Cecil: The Rhythm Section Reflects

On Embraced, the album that documents the meetingbetween Mary Lou Williams and Cecil Taylor, the former closes the concert with a solo version of “I Can’t Get Started.” The way the concert’sbassist, Bob Cranshaw, tells it,Taylor’s performance should be titled “You Just Can’t Stop Me.”

“Cecil was gone. There was nothing going to stop him from playing once he got started,” Cranshaw remembers. “Cecil went on a piano back stage and just kept playing during the intermission!”

Williams got angry, according to Cranshaw, because he and drummer Mickey Roker, not knowing what to do, just kept playing along with Taylor when she wanted the concert to stop. Williams thought they were egging Taylor on.

“He stormed over both of us. She was pissed and we were dying laughing because we didn’t know what to do,” he recalls. “Mickey said, ‘Look, what do you want us to do? Grab him by the arms and carry him off stage?’” Cranshaw laughs.

But Roker willfully remembers little of the event. “I tried to do all I could to forget that [concert]! It was confusing. And music shouldn’t be confusing. Music should be festive,” he says. “The record speaks for itself. I don’t enjoy that kinda thing.”

Cranshaw admits he never heard the recording and he, too, says it was all very confounding. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear it,” he says. “I never thought I played well on it to begin with.”

— By Christopher Porter (JazzTimes)

Well, what a tense story ... Listen to the album and... judge for yourself.

If you find it, buy this album!

Saturday, February 7, 2015


Label: Polydor – 2310 147
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: Germany / Released: 1971
Style: Big Band, Free Improvisation
Recorded September 30th 1970 at Cornet Studios, Cologne.
Design, Layout – Heinz Bähr
Leader [Co-leader] – Francy Boland, Kenny Clarke
Producer, Supervised By – Gigi Campi
Recorded By – Wolfgang Hirschmann

A1 - Wintersong . . . . . . . . . . . 6:03
         (Written-By – Indian Brandee, John Surman)
A2 - Astrorama . . . . . . . . . . 5:34
         (Written-By – Jean Luc Ponty)
A3 - Osaka Calling . . . . . . . . . . 4:14
         (Written-By – Albert Mangelsdorff)
A4 - Our Kind Of Sabi . . . . . . . . . . 3:50
         (Written-By – Eddie Louiss)
B1 - Sakara . . . . . . . . . . 7:13
         (Written-By – Francy Boland)
B2 - Exorcisme . . . . . . . . . . . 6:28
         (Written-By – Francy Boland)
B3 - Endosmose . . . . . . . . . . . 7:52
         (Written-By – Francy Boland)

Derek Humble – alto saxophone
Tony Coe – clarinet, tenor saxophone
Billy Mitchell, Ronnie Scott – tenor saxophone
Eric Van Lier, Nat Peck, Ake Persson – trombone
Art Farmer, Benny Bailey, Dusko Gojkovic, Rick Keefer – trumpet, flugelhorn
Sahib Shihab – flute, soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone
Francy Boland – piano, arranged
Jimmy Woode – double bass
Kenny Clarke – drums, percussion

Myths take a long time dying, especially in jazz where the ability to confuse fact and fantasy has marked several generations of both critics and listeners. Perhaps the great Buddy Bolden could be heard for 14 miles on a clear night, but those who still believe that old one deserve to be interned in the same kind of institutions that housed Buddy in his latter days. The European jazz musicians, despite years of recorded evidence stretching right back to the wonderful Django Reinhardt, is still considered by many who should now better to be inherently inferior to his American equivalent, whether white or black. This is one myth that seemingly refuses to die down, but organisations like the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band hammer a few more nails into its coffin every time they go on stage or into a recording studio. Francy Boland has painfully won his way into critical fashion to the point where most observers of the scene feel no qualms about liking him with the Duke Ellingtons and the Gil Evanses. The fact that a band made up of several nationalities, and including such greats as Kenny Clarke and Benny Bailey, has insisted on playing almost nothing but Boland music for more than a decade should be proof enough for all but the deal and certifiably insane. But, like I’ve said, myths die hard. Perhaps the sudden arrival of this acclaim has had something to do with the subtle and radical change which has come over Boland’s composing and arranging in the last couple of years. As the world discovers the skills of the man from Namur as the keeper of all that’s good in the wonderful big band jazz tradition, he has quietly expanded his musical thinking on the stage where the existence of the CBBB as an instrument for his imaginations is virtually comparable to that of the Ellington, has done with his men. Like Ellington and unlike, say, Gil Evans, Francy Boland has the advantage of having an orchestra to write for. In the decade of the CBBB’s existence, he has had time to weight up and balances the massive resources within the band and every track abounds with examples of his judgement. By now he knows exactly when to call on the phenomenal lead trumpet playing of Benny Bailey as in “Osaka Calling” and the incredible rock finale of “Exorcisme”; where Tony Coe’s remarkable clarinet will add that touch of piquancy to an arrangement, as on “Endosmose”; when to use the beautiful sound of the three trombone section as a carpet for the soloist, as he does behind Billy Mitchell’s tenor on “Exorcisme” ; when to call on the immense firepower of the two drummers, Klook and Kenny Clarke, as on “Sakara”. The examples are plentiful on these seven cuts. Those who have just caught up with the continuing progress of Francy Boland, composer and arranger extraordinaire, may have to adjust their sights for “Off Limits”. For here Boland shows that as well as being an arranger who cherishes and uses all that’s best in the glorious big band tradition, he has expanded his sphere of operations considerably. The four tracks on the first side are on of the rare occasions when Boland has gone to other composers for his raw material. And just in case that myth rears its ugly head again, it’s worth pointing out that the four composers whose work he uses are all European – John Surman (Great Britain), Albert Mangelsdorff (Germany), and Jean Luc Ponty and Eddie Louiss (France). John Surman’s “Winter Song” shows that this phenomenally talented young British saxist has sound composing abilities, too. Boland takes the opportunity for a romp on his electric piano, an instrument which more and more jazz pianists are finding increasingly attractive and intractable. Boland’s clean, crisp lines have a guitar-like quality. The other attractions of this track are the graceful solo by Art Farmer, Bailey’s muted trumpet, Sahib Shihab’s amplified soprano (another device which most practitioners find a bit difficult to control) and, finally, Tony Coe’s tenor. “Astrorama” is by the gifted French violinist Jean Luc Ponty and is well spaced out in Boland’s arrangement, with ample room for several orbits by Dusko Gojkovic (trumpet), Shihab on soprano again, and Åke Persson’s trombone. “Osaka Calling” was written by Albert Mangelsdorff, an occasional member of the Band, and is certainly one of Boland’s most fascinating arrangements to date. The muted, chattering trumpets make an eerie backdrop for the arranger’s piano and Tony Coe’s tenor before Benny Bailey does his oxygen mask act the end atop the ensemble. Organist Eddie Louiss “Our Kind Of Sabi” permits Boland to unfurl the glories of his saxophone-soloists, which Ronnie Scott breaking out for a few furlongs in winning style. The second side showcases three of the “new” France Boland’s compositions and emphasises that he is not a man to indulge rashly in radical re-thinking. Judged by his previous work, with the exception of the tantalising “Fellini 712” album, these exercises in “progressive” writing should have been tentative, “experimental” affairs. But, again, Boland’s exquisite control of the resources at his fingertips is overwhelmingly impressive. Perhaps Francy was ready to go to the musical barricades a long time ago, but he had to wait till his associates were ready to move with him. The way in which the Band, as a whole and as individual soloist, respond to the fresh challenges and new roles which these three compositions demand, prove that Boland has timed his campaign perfectly. As Klook said after the CBBB had shared a concert in Palermo with the Duke in July 1970: “I think, Francy, we are ready to something else”. There is an added poignancy to “Endosmose”. The searing alto on this track was the last that Derek Humble recorded with the Band before his death on the 23rd of February 1971. Humble was one of the pillars which sustained the CBBB organisation in its earliest days and, thankfully, lived to enjoy the international acclaim which the Band was accorded after many years of struggle. The sessions, both in the studio and in public that Derek made in his last year showed that he was on the verge of becoming as great and individual a soloist as he was a section leader. Derek Humble’s musical epitaph was the unique sound he gave to the CBBB sax section. His was as great a loss to Boland as Johnny Hodges was to Ellington. A refusal to play safe and give the public what it wants has marked the works of the finest jazz musicians. “Off Limits” shows that the CBBB has broken through to another era in its unique progress. If it’s anything like the one that went before, we can only rub our hand in anticipation.
_ By Bob Houston

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

DON ELLIS (Big Band) – Tears Of Joy (2LP-1971)

Label: CBS – S 67216
Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Gatefold / Country: Netherlands / Released: 1971
Style: Fusion, Improvisation
Recorded May 20-23, 1971 at Basin Street West in San Francisco.
Artwork By [Cover] – Maria Eckstein
Engineer – Roy Segal
Photography By [Back Cover] – Earle Corry, Fred Selden
Supervised By [Sound], Mixed By – Phil Macy

A1 - Tears Of Joy . . . . . . . . . . 2:59
A2 - 5/4 Getaway . . . . . . . . . . 7:50
A3 - Bulgarian Bulge . . . . . . . . . . 4:54
A4 - Get It Together . . . . . . . . . . 5:14
        (Written-By, Arranged By – Sam Falzone)
B1 - Quiet Longing . . . . . . . . . . 3:49
B2 - Blues In Elf . . . . . . . . . . . 6:42
B3 - Loss . . . . . . . . . . 8:26
C1 - How's This For Openers? . . . . . . . . . . 8:38
C2 - Samba Bajada . . . . . . . . . . . 11:32
        (Written-By, Arranged By – Hank Levy)
D1 - Strawberry Soup . . . . . . . . . . . 17:36
D2 - Euphoric Acid . . . . . . . . . . 4:29
        (Written-By, Arranged By – Fred Selden)

All song written-by, arranged by – Don Ellis except: A4, C2, D2

Big Band:
DON ELLIS – trumpet [quarter tone], flugelhorn [four-valve], drums
JIM SAWYER – trombone
KENNY SAWHILL – bass trombone
DOUG BIXBY – tuba, trombone [contrabass]
KENNETH NELSON – french horn
LEE PASTORA – congas
Woodwind Quartet:
SAM FALZONE – clarinet
LONNIE SHETTER – alto saxophone
FRED SELDEN – alto saxophone, flute
String Quartet:
ALFREDO EBAT – violin [first]
EARLE CORRY – violin [second]

Recorded in 1971, Tears of Joy is a Don Ellis classic. The sheer musical strength of this ensemble is pretty much unparalleled in his career. The trumpeter/leader had backed off -- a bit -- from some of his outlandish and beautifully excessive use of strange and unconventional time signatures, though there is no lack of pioneering experimentalism in tone, color, arrangement, or style. This double LP features a string quartet, a brass octet (four trumpets, tuba, bass trombone, trombone, and French horn), four winds, and a rhythm section boasting two drummers, a percussionist, a bassist, and the Bulgarian jazz piano wizard Milcho Leviev. This is a sprawling album. First vinyl is made up of short- to mid-length pieces, the most notable of which are the intense adrenaline surge of "5/4 Getaway" (with a killer string arrangement by Hank Levy, one of three arrangers on this set) and the blazing Eastern European klezmer meets Bulgarian wedding music meets hard bop blues of "Bulgarian Bulge." Leviev's solo on the latter comes right out of the knotty, full-on bore of the tune's melody (written by Ellis, who scored all but three selections), and cites everyone from Wynton Kelly to Scott Joplin to Mal Waldron. Elsewhere, such as on "Quiet Longing," the strings are utilized as the base and texture of color. One can hear Gil Evans' influence here, and in the restrained tenderness of this short work one can also hear Ellis' profound lyricism in his flügelhorn solo. The second LP's first moment, "How's This for Openers?," is a knotty composition that touches on bolero, Aaron Copland, and operatic overture. Levy's "Samba Bajada" is a swinging opus that uses tropes from early Deodato in his bossa years, Sergio Mendes, and Jobim, and weaves them through with an elegant, punchy sense of hard bop and the American theater. On the 17-plus minute "Strawberry Soup" (with a vocal quartet in the background), Ellis gets to show what his band is capable of in its different formations. Full of both subtle and garish colors, timbral grace and vulgarity, elegant and roughly hewn textures, and a controlled yet wildly divergent set of dynamics, this tune is one of the most adventurous and most brilliantly composed, arranged, and executed works to come out of the modern big band literature. It is virtually a big-band concerto. Ultimately, Tears of Joy stands as a singular achievement in a career full of them by a musical auteur whose creativity seemingly knew few if any bounds.
Review by Thom Jurek 

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