Sunday, July 2, 2017

Jeremy Steig - Dark as a Dungeon

Jeremy Steig (1942-2016) was one of the most unconventional of jazz flutists. His sound was raw, with little of the purity of the classical flute sound, and his improvising was wildly imaginative. His 1963 debut album for Columbia records, Flute Fever, was a masterpiece, although few listeners recognized it as such until the small, uncompromising reissue label International Phonograph put out an exemplary CD version in 2013. Accompanied by pianist Denny Zeitlin, bassist Ben Tucker, and Ben Riley on drums, Steig seemingly came out of nowhere with an album of uninhibited, unpredictable jazz.

But the story doesn't end with either the original LP or the International Phonograph reissue. Columbia issued a single from the session, which sank into oblivion even faster than the LP. And unlike the album, it has never been reissued. One side is very short, edited version of "Oleo" from Flute Fever, but the other side doesn't appear on the album or the CD reissue.

Steig takes a somewhat Coltrane-ish approach to Merle Travis's haunting "Dark as a Dungeon" on that unreissued side. If this track is not quite equal to the best parts of Flute Fever, it's still very good, and fascinating to hear. You're unlikely to hear it anywhere else, so here it is:

Dark as a Dungeon

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