Bobby Jaspar – Barclay Records (1958)/Sam Records (2019) BARCLAY 84.063 180-gram stereo vinyl, 39:20 ****1/2:
(Bobby Jaspar – tenor saxophone, flute; Michel Hauser – vibes, xylophone; Sadi – vibes; Paul Rovere – double bass; Jimmy Merrit – double bass; Humberto Canto – bongos; Kenny Clarke – drums)
Belgium flautiust/saxophonist/composer Bobby Jaspar had a brief albeit notable career. In 1956, he moved to the United States and joined J.J. Johnson’s quintet. He also recorded with Miles Davis, Kenny Burrell. John Coltrane,. Donald Byrd and many others. Most notable he teamed with Chet Baker on two recordings (Alone Together and Chet Is Back). His fluency in hard bop and cool jazz as an instrumentalist and composer initiated an ascension into the jazz world. Sadly, Jaspar died in 1963 at the age of 37. His legacy was cut short and his catalog as a band leader is scarce.
Sam Records has released a 180-gram vinyl re-mastering of Bobby Jaspar. There aren’t many flute jazz artists, but Jaspar is among the finest. With a basic quartet (flute, double bass, vibes, drums), the group flies through 10 songs in under 40 minutes. Side 1 opens with “Cliff Cliff” as a breezy flute is followed on vibes. There is a deft segue to medium swing as double bass and drum hum right along. After a tempo break, Jaspar’s airy, elegant flute washes over the listener. The vibraphone solo is more sprightly and gets bluesier as it progresses. Switching gears, Phenil Isoropil Amine” is moody, almost cinematic. The flute and vibraphone counterpoint is melodic and the quartet explores a swing motif before returning to the original arrangement structures. Jaspar is especially graceful on a descending melody line. As a bongo ushers in Thelonious Monk’s “Mysterioso”, the tight rythmic finesse and syncopated polyphony of bebop envelop the song as a transition to a slower flowing reverie gets vampy. There is a suggestion of dissonance in the melodic vibraphone run. “Lullaby Of The Leaves” began as a Tin Pan Alley tune in the early 30’s. It was continuously transformed by jazz greats like Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald and Gerry Mulligan over the years. This cover is defined by the winsome melancholy of Jaspar’s flute. The drummer and double bassist keep the beat edgy and the glowing harmony between flute and vibes is always present. On a similar footing, “There Will Never Be Another You” (originally written for the 1942 film musical Iceland starring Sonja Henie and John Payne) has been strongly associated with ballad vocals (Nat “King” Cole, Rosemary Clooney and Nancy Wilson). But legends like Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton and Chet Baker redefined the composition in jazz contexts. Here Jaspar in a trio, approaches the number with a straight-ahead jamming style. His technique is flawless and Kenny Clarke adds some adroit drum breaks.
Side Two gets off to a cool, finger-snapping start with an original composition, “Waiting For Irene”. Jaspar’s lead is filled and countered by vibes. A brief unexpected waltz-time break is ear-catching. As the band returns to swing mode, Jaspar’s swirling flute solo highlights his precision and timing. “Le Jamf” is a departure with a “late night” beatnik groove. Both the flute and vibraphone runs are atmospheric and the underlying time signature is compelling. Drawing on the Latin-infused Charlie Parker (“Chasing The Bird”), Jaspar combines the complex dynamics with a playful big swing aesthetics. There is a galloping double bass solo that maintains the relentless buoyancy. Like many jazz reinvented signatures, Kurt Weil’s pensive “Speak Low” evolved from a Broadway standard (Mary Martin) to jazz history (Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Eumir Deodato and Roy Hargrove). Jaspar’s dazzling arrangement distills the gentle rhythm and melodic familiarity to a delicate gossamer resonance. Vibraphone notes glow with subtle echo and enhance the low-key groove. Finishing with a kick, “Doxology” is crisp bop jazz with inventive chord changes. Jaspar’s flute playing displays elasticity and intensity, but without any frenetic overtones.
Sam Records has done an outstanding job in re-mastering Bobby Jaspar to audiophile vinyl. The pressing is top-notch with little or no surface noise and and devoid of hisses and pops. The reproduction of the stylish black, white and pink cover art is timeless. There is a full-sized photo of Jaspar. Kudos to Sam Records for shining a light on this lesser-known jazz musician.
Cliff Cliff’ Phenil Isoropil Amine
Lullaby Of The Leaves
There Will Never Be Another You
Waiting For Irene
Chasing The Bird
Doxology (Memory Of Dick)