July-August 2004 Part 2 of 2 [Pt. 1]
Two big band tributes from Mark Masters plus two albums featuring alto sax master Lee Konitz…
The Clifford Brown Project – The Mark Masters Ensemble – Presented by the American Jazz Institute – Capri Records 74059-2:
LA-based arranger-composer Mark Masters is responsible for both of these original efforts, together with the American Jazz Institute which he founded to preserve and perpetuate the jazz art form. In this first CD he has arranged for an 11-piece ensemble to present the compositions and improvisations of jazz master trumpeter Clifford Brown. All the tunes except the Benny Golson tribute I Remember Clifford are Brown originals. They point up the fact that not only was Brown a stellar trumpeter during his sadly short career (he died at age 26), but that he also wrote some terrific tunes that have remained jazz standards: Joy Spring, Sweet Clifford, Minor Mood, LaRue, Sandu, Daahoud, I Remember Clifford, Bones for Jones, Swingin’, Joy Spring (reprise)
One Day With Lee – Lee Konitz and the Mark Masters Ensemble (Incl. Gary Foster, Bill Perkins, Bob Enevoldsen, Steve Huffstetter, Jack Montrose) – Capri Records 74064-2:
For this session date Masters realized a dream of working with master saxist Konitz, whose work over the years has influenced Master’s own arranging and composing. Konitz fronts the 14-piece ensemble in seven tunes associated with Konitz over his long career. The top saxist – now in his 70s – began in the cool style but in recent years has taken on a more emotional and hard-driving tone than previously. Master’s arrangements are nothing short of masterful. One amazing feat is on Lover Man, where he orchestrated the entire sax section in a solo recorded by Konitz in 1953 with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet. One key to the outstanding series of big band albums in which Masters has been involved is his location in Southern California where he can make use of the talents of some of LA’s top musicians – many who undoubtedly welcome the opportunity to play some real jazz instead of whatever they are normally doing in the studios.
Tracks: Thinin’, Dream Stepper, Gundula, Cork ‘n’ Bib, 317 East 32nd Street, Lover Man, Palo Alto.
Lee Konitz with Alan Broadbent (piano) – More Live-Lee – Duo performances Live at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles – Milestone MCD-9338-2:
This is the second album to result from a series of duo performances at the same venue in 2000. Liner note writer Bill Kirchner studied at age 18 with Konitz and writes about the emphasis the saxist has placed on instrumentalists feeling like a singer when they are playing. He says Konitz uses the alto as his voice – that his unique solos are one long melody from beginning to end. Broadbent and Konitz share an affinity for the music of pianist Lennie Tristano – with whom Konitz had collaborated. Influences of Bill Evans and Bud Powell are also heard in Broadbent’s imaginative playing with Konitz. Again, both instrumentalists are heard in bold relief without the addition of bass and drums, but that doesn’t stop the tracks from swinging whilst they are singing! This makes a fascinating contrast with Konitz’ work on the above disc with the large Mark Masters Ensemble. Together these two discs comprise a testament to the continued creativity of this septuagenarian musical light. Tracks: Invitation, Body and Soul, Thingin,’ You Stepped Out of a Dream, Nothin.’ I Can’t Get Started, Lennie’s, How Deep is the Ocean?, You Go to My Head, Bending Broadly, Just Friends.
– John Henry
Gordon Lee and the GLeeful Big Band – Flying Dream – OA2 Records 22016:
Portland jazz pianist and composer Gordon Lee only started writing for big band in 1995 but the ten tracks on this disc demonstrate that he’s a master at it. An expanding interest in counterpoint was the stimulus for his efforts. Classical influences are in fact strong in the compositions, including Stravinsky and Mahler. Among Lee’s jazz heros are Ellington, Mingus, Monk, Coltrane, Jobim and Maria Schneider (the last another keyboardist who turned to the big band). Lee says he tried to write each of the works in a different style, and that gives the CD a quite different feeling from, say, a Basie album. Seventeen players are involved, but don’t play on all the tracks. Tenor saxist Renato Caranto has some fine solos. The title tune is a most evocative and atmospheric piece inspired by the composer’s own flying dreams. Excellent sonics. Tracks: Vicious Cycle, Flying Dream, Sentimental Fool, Now What?, Tocacco Monkey, Winter Comes, Bitter Wind, Wait for Her, Where or When, Alternative Blues. [If you can’t find it try www.oa2records.com]
– John Henry
Shelly Manne – Steps to the Desert (Modern Jazz Versions of Favorite Jewish and Israeli Songs) (with Shorty Rogers, flugelhorn & trumpet; Teddy Edwards, Tenor sax; Victor Feldman, piano & vibes; Al Viola, guitar; Monty Budwig, bass) – Contemporary CCD-7609-2:
This unusual album from 1963 was probably label owner Lester Koenig’s idea, and he wrote the liner notes. He felt the music was so good it was surprising jazz players hadn’t discovered it before. Of course the Great American Songbook – the source of most jazz standards – is highly influenced by Jewish music of the theater and synagogue. Exotic oriental modes came into Jewish religious music in the Renaissance, and the singing style of the cantors has been compared to the cante jondo of flamenco music. Klezmer bands have long melded the rhythms of jazz with Jewish folk music, and the energetic pioneer songs of Israel often show strong oriental strains. Lennie Niehaus, Victor Feldman and Teddy Edwards were involved in various of the clever arrangements. Although there’s no clarinet in the ensemble, the sextet frequently comes up with the infectious feeling of klezmer music. Even we goyim will probably recognize most of the tunes: Hava Nagila, Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, Yossel Yossel, Zamar Nodad, Mokrei Lachish, Tzena, Exodus, Die Greene Koseene, My Yiddishe Momma, Steps to the Desert, Four bonus single-edit tracks: Zamar Nodad, Exodus, Tzena, Hava Nagila
Now it’s guitarists times 2 on 3 reissue discs…
Tal Farlow – Autumn Leaves (2 LPs on 2 CDs at price of 1 CD) Concord Records CCD2-2133-2:
Farlow is truly a guitarist’s guitarist. In a poll some 40 years ago he was named second only to Charlie Christian among the greatest guitarists in the history of jazz. (Though in the 50s he had retired to a quieter life out of the jazz mainstream – as a sign-painter.) His second album for Concord, titled Tal Farlow ‘78 is on the first of these two CD reissues. It’s a trio setting, with Gary Mazzaroppi on bass and Tom Sayek the drummer. Two Farlow originals grace the set of eight tunes, and they range widely in moods and tempi. The second CD brings back a l985 LP titled The Legendary Tal Farlow, and here his ensemble expands to a quintet with Sam Most on flute and tenor sax, Frank Strazzeri on piano, Bob Maize on bass and All Tootie Heath on drums. Sam Most was a terrific jazz flutist and his close harmonies with Farlow’s guitar lines on You Stepped Out of a Dream and I Got It Bad are a special pleasure for me. Pianist Strazzeri and Farlow also do a fine duo interpretation of I Can’t Get Started. A really fine collection of great jazz guitar which cried out for reissue.
Tracks: 1.: Mahoney’s 11 Ohms, Here’s to the Rainy Day, Autumn Leaves, With the Wind and Rain in Your Hair, Perdido, Medley: Ill Wind, Invitation; Satin Doll, Gymkhana in Soho. 2.: You Stepped Out of a Dream, When Your Lover Has Gone, I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good, When Lights Are Low, Who Cares, I Can’t Get Started, Prelude to a Kiss, Everything Happens to Me
Kenny Burrell – Moten Swing! (Columbia Records Instrumental Recordings 1961-62) – Euphoria Jazz 189 [avail. from www.sundazed.com]:
These recordings of the 30-year-old guitarist were produced by John Hammond, who two decades earlier had brought Charlie Christian to international fame. He had been named Guitarist of the Year by Down Beat magazine, yet his very first album was a vocal one which didn’t get much attention. For the two sessions in 1961 he turned to old friend tenor saxist Illinois Jacquet. The rest of the group was Hank Jones on piano, bassist Major Holley and drummer Osie Johnson. Jacquet reminisced about how much Burrell was like Charlie Christian in having the same discipline and talent as a musician. In l962 there were two sessions: one with Jacquet replaced by trombonist Eddie Bert but still having pianist Hank Jones, and another almost two months later with a quartet consisting of Burrell, B3 organist Jack McDuff, Leo Wright on alto sax and drummer Joe Dukes. Of the 18 tracks on this packed disc, half of them are previously unissued. Hard to understand why Sony Music didn’t reissue this on their own! Tracks: Moten Swing, Bye and Bye, The Squeeze, Opus 21, Bluesin’ Around, Mood Indigo, The Switch, Mambo Twist, People Will Say We’re in Love, One Mint Julep, Gettin’ in the Groove, Funk Junction, How Could You; Alternate Takes: Moten Swing, Bluesin’ Around, Mambo Twist, People Will Say We’re in Love, Gettin’ in the Groove
– John Henry
Since we’re heavy into reissues, let’s wind up with two more reissues from my personal favorite big band…
Willem Breuker Kollektief in Holland – Bvhaast 0101:
Willem Breuker Kollektief – To Remain – Bvhaast 1601:
More tongue-in-cheek humor from Brueker here I guess – since the band IS based in Holland. Both of these CDs are part of the Dutch label’s reissue Series. This one dates from 1981, is well-recorded, and features pretty much the same people he still has – this band has been a long-running functional touring and recording aggregation which recently observed their 25th anniversary. Not like those admittedly-fine LA-area big bands which get together only for a recording and/or one appearance and are not heard from again. Nobody gets a change to get bored playing in the Kollektief – the wild diversity of the music they play, the many opportunities each member gets to contribute with solos and writing, and the quirky humor of the band are just some of the reasons they’re still together. Some of the standouts here – besides Breuker himself on every wind instrument you could think of – are Bob Driessen on alto and baritone saxes and Henk de Jonge on piano, synth and accordion. There’s usually at least one classical selection given the unique Breuker treatment, and on the first CD it’s an entire Baroque Concertino in F Minor by Wilhelm Von Wassenger. Tracks: Overture to De Vuyle Wasch, Sur L’autoroute, Tango Superior, Interruptie, Deining, Kudeta, Prokof, Invasie muziek Bob + Babe, To be the Louis P., Pale Fire, Hopsa Hopsa, Concertino No. 5 in F Minor, Funeral March from De Vuyle Wasch.
The second disc has selections recorded in 1983, 1984 and 1989. Most of it is one of the band’s larger works titled To Remain, in 11 movements identified by short Dutch words which are not translated. This could be a soundtrack to a film, a major work performed originally with some other musical group, music from a show for Dutch TV, or even selections from a complete music-theater work – the Kollektief has done all of these. The pieces run the usual gamut from skilled straight-ahead jazz or classical to insane Spike Jones/free jazz explosions. All are written by Brueker himself. When he occasionally does something with English lyrics they are delivered in a fine unaccented American accent; I recall one Elvis tune that was amazing. The five tracks not from the suite here are: Driebergen-Zeist, Wolkbreuk III, Hap Sap, Like Other People Say, What? There, now you have a full story. Would be nice to have a bit more information about the numbers on both albums – perhaps you can find it at the label’s web site:
www.xs4all.nl/~wbk/BVHAAST.html (In the U.S. they are distributed by Cadence Records, but are very difficult to find.)
– John Sunier