Sunday, June 18, 2017

Eddie Gale - Black Rhythm Happening


 Eddie Gale's Black Rhythm Happening was, for many years, one of the most obscure and unheard Blue Note albums of the 1960s. More recently, it has been reissued on vinyl and CD, and it is generally regarded as a groundbreaking, if flawed, fusion of soul and free jazz. As you can see, the cover of my copy is in rough shape, but record plays well - I don't think the original owner, who wrote his name across that of Eddie Gale on the front, played it that much.

Before recording his own two albums for Blue Note (Black Rhythm Happening from 1969 followed Gales' Ghetto Music from a year earlier), the trumpeter played with Sun Ra and recorded for Blue Note as sideman on Cecil Taylor and Larry Young LPs. His own records featured a choral group (mostly singing in unison), free jazz horns, and dreamy folkish songs accompanied by guitar - the weakest aspect of these albums. Black Rhythm Happening has the added attraction of some guests, including Elvin Jones on drums and alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons. Jones is wonderful throughout the album, and Lyons' one solo is a highlight of the record. 

The mix of styles in the title track is typical of the album. Here's that track, along with "Mexico Thing," with that great Jimmy Lyons solo.

                             
                             

Friday, June 16, 2017

Andre Hodeir - Anna Livia Plurabelle


In honor of Bloomsday, here's an obscure one - a jazz cantata by Andre Hodeir, based on James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

Andre Hodeir was, among other things, one of the great jazz composers - someone who created fascinating, complex music structures out of the jazz language. His Joyce cantata was recorded for Philips in Paris in 1966, with a band composed of some of the best French jazz musicians of the time, including Jean-Luc Ponty on violin, Michel Portal on alto sax, bassist Pierre Michelot, and drummer Daniel Humair. But the real stars are the two vocalists, Monique Aldebert and Nicole Croisille. They navigate Hodeir's complex melodic lines and Joyce's strange texts masterfully, and it has to be said that their French-accented English adds an attractive piquancy to the performance.

John Lewis' liner notes imply that Hodeir's work is totally composed, down to the solos. It that's the case, the musicians do an admirable job of making everything sound spontaneous. This is a record I only listen to every five years or so. But I appreciate it more on every hearing; this time around it seems really great.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Circle - Gathering


There have been several bands named "Circle," but the one that interests me is the free-jazz supergroup that lasted about a year in 1970 and 1971. The group started as Chick Corea's trio with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Barry Altschul; they became Circle when saxophonist (and multi-woodwind player) Anthony Braxton joined. They were a wonderfully inventive group - four virtuoso instrumentalists who were all masterful improvisers, with Braxton, Holland, and Corea contributing compositions.

Circle did a fair amount of recording during the band's relatively short life. Early on they recorded a couple of hours of material for Blue Note, none of which was released until several years after the band had broken up. ECM issued an excellent live double album, and Japanese CBS/Sony issued two LPs, a live album taken from a German concert, and this one, Gathering.

Gathering is the last issued recording of Circle. It's a 42-minute improvisation recorded in a New York studio in May, 1971. As such, it only shows part of what the band could do, since Braxton and Holland's compositions (and Corea's, to a lesser extent) were such an important part of the band's music. But it's an impressive 42 minutes of spontaneous music. Gathering has still not been issued in the west.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Parkway Limited Edition Blues 45s



In January of 1950, the tiny Parkway label recorded a stellar blues trio - Baby Face Leroy Foster on guitar and drums, Little Walter Jacobs on harmonica, and Muddy Waters on guitar - in two sessions, resulting in some of the greatest recorded blues ever. Baby Face sang lead on the first session; those records were issued under his name. Little Walter was featured on vocals at the second session, so he is credited as leader on those sides. Muddy functioned mostly as "just" a guitarist, but sang some wordless vocals on one side - more about that later.

The undoubted highlight of the sessions was an amazing version of the Mississippi blues standard "Rollin' and Tumblin'," spread out over two sides of the original 78 and 45 RPM records. Baby Face Leroy sings the familiar lyrics on the second side, but the first side features "moaning" vocals by all three musicians. The whole thing is raw, eerie, and intense.

The rest of the recordings are excellent, even if nothing can match "Rollin' and Tumblin'." The eight originally-issued sides have been frequently reissued over the years. But in 2012, the British Louis label gained access to the original masters, and found that part one of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" had been faded out - shortened by about 30 seconds. In addition, they found two unreleased alternate takes - Leroy's "Boll Weevil" and Walter's "Just Keep Lovin' Her." Louis issued them on limited edition 45 RPM records, along with the unedited "Rollin' and Tumblin'." They are now out of print, although there are copies floating around to be had. I'm put links to the mp3s below.

Incidentally, some discographies have mentioned an unknown additional guitarist on some tracks. Nope - they're not listening carefully. On the tracks where two guitars can be heard, like "Just Keep Lovin' Her," Baby Face is playing the drums only with his feet - kick drum and hi-hat only - while playing the other guitar.

Rollin' and Tumblin' part 1

Rollin' and Tumblin' part 2

Boll Weevil

Just Keep Lovin' Her

Monday, June 12, 2017

Eddie Burns - Orange Driver / Hard Hearted Woman



Mississippi-born bluesman Eddie Burns is perhaps best known for backing up John Lee Hooker (they both ended up in Detroit after leaving Mississippi), but he made some great records under his own name. None is better than this 1961 pairing on the Detroit-based Harvey label. "Orange Driver" is the tale of a woman who made a fool out the narrator, "drinking that orange driver and talking all out your head." (For "orange driver," read "screwdriver," as in the orange juice/vodka cocktail.)

The "Harvey" in the label name was Harvey Fuqua, the Detroit record producer who went on to be one of the founders of the Motown label. He put out a few singles by Mr. Burns, to little impact in terms of sales. But "Orange Driver" remained one of Burns' best-known songs; it was covered by the blues/rock group  J. Geils Band in the 1970s. Among the personnel here are "Popcorn" Wiley, later a popular "northern soul" artist, and a young Marvin Gaye on drums.

Here are better-sounding transfers of this record than can be found elsewhere on the web:

Orange Driver

Hard Hearted Woman

Sunday, June 11, 2017

George Russell - Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature


George Russell (1923-2009) plays piano on this album, and played drums early in his career, but his real instrument was his pen - he was one of the handful of really great jazz composers. Russell contributed some challenging charts to Dizzy Gillespie's big band in the late 1940s and came into his own with some mature and highly personal compositions and arrangements in the late 1950s. But his career took a leap forward when he became a bandleader. In the early 1960s he produced a series of groundbreaking sextet, with a changing cast of characters which included Don Ellis, Dave Baker, Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, and Steve Swallow, with Russell at the piano. This album, recorded in 1969 in Norway, is an extension of that sextet series.

Fed up with racism in the United States, Russell moved to Scandanavia in 1964, working in Norway and Sweden through the rest of the 1960s and 1970s. The Electronic Sonata was one of his major achievements during this period; it has been recorded several times, first with a big band. This live sextet version is the second recording of the piece, issued in the U.S. on the Flying Dutchman label. The outstanding, mostly European sextet contains, besides Russell on piano, the German trumpeter Manfred Schoof, American expatriate Red Mitchell on bass, and three Norwegians: saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist Terje Rypdal, and John Christensen on drums. Russell's piece is long and multi-sectioned, with complex melodies, rock rhythms, bass vamps, and an electronic tape part which plays in the background and between movements. It's a wonderful piece, and wonderfully played here. Here's side one; if you like it you should be able to find side two without much trouble.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Derek and the Dominos - Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs


Certainly not a rare item - but Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is the greatest rock album ever made, in the opinion of this blogger. Derek and the Dominos was the band Eric Clapton formed after his tenures with Blind Faith and Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. Three of Clapton's colleagues from Delaney & Bonnie's band completed the core quartet: Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, and Carl Radle. This, the band's only studio album, was recorded over several months at Criteria Studio in Miami, with the brilliant producer Tom Dowd in charge. Early on, Clapton met Duane Allman, and the two guitarists made an instant musical connection. Allman plays on all but three of the 14 songs here, but was not willing to leave the Allman Brothers Band to tour with Clapton's band - although he did play a couple of live shows with the Dominos, as low-quality bootleg recordings attest.

Most fans know all about the background of this album - Clapton's tortured infatuation with Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend George Harrison, the meeting with Allman, the copious amounts of drugs ingested during the sessions - so I won't elaborate on any of that here. The music speaks for itself, and is of a consistently high quality. The most well-known piece here is the title song, the anthemic "Layla." Almost everybody has heard that, so here is the old blues standard "Key to the Highway." The band started jamming on this unexpectedly, so the tape machine was not runniing when they started, which is why the track fades in.