Mal Waldron – A renaissance jazz artist…
Mal Waldron – Mal/2 – Prestige/ Craft Recordings # CR00616 – 1957 – Mono 180 gm vinyl – ****
(Mal Waldron – piano; John Coltrane – tenor sax; Idrees Sulieman – trumpet; Bill Hardman – trumpet; Sahib Shihab – alto sax; Jackie McLean – alto sax; Julian Euell – bass; Art Taylor, or Ed Thigpen – drums)
Mal Waldron was a jazz pianist that crossed many musical genres. Over a 50 year time period he recorded over 100 albums as a leader, and over 70 as a first call sideman for other artists, primarily as the “house ” pianist for Prestige Records. He accompanied many vocalists, and was the last primary pianist for Billie Holiday at the end of her career.
Not content to compose just jazz compositions, Waldron also wrote for ballet scores, and film soundtracks. He came up in hard bop and post bop settings, but moved into the controversial (at that time) free/avant jazz motifs later in life, embracing ventures into dissonant piano styles. Waldron felt more acceptance in Europe, and took up permanent residence there in the 1960s.
Craft Recordings, the boutique audiophile label, is re-issuing his 1957 sextet issue, Mal/2, using the analog original master tapes (by Kevin Gray), and pressed on 180-gram vinyl. The acoustics are clear and sharp, highlighting both Waldron’s piano and the all-star horns accompanying him.
For this 1957 recording, Prestige used the iconic Hackensack, New Jersey studio of Rudy Van Gelder, and the sessions were supervised by Bob Weinstock, who helped run Prestige at that time, often times recording “blowing sessions” for the label.
However, this LP was much more than that. Waldron deserved, and demanded, a more disciplined approach. The six tracks were recorded with two different groupings, with the only constant being John Coltrane on tenor sax, and Julian Euell on bass. Trumpets were either Bill Hardman or Idrees Sulieman, and Sahib Shihab or Jackie McLean handled the alto sax duties. (Shihab added a baritone sax on the April 19, 1957 session.). Drummers were either Art Taylor, or Ed Thigpen.
Song list has three standards and three Waldron originals (“One By One,” “J.M’s Dream Doll,” and “Potpourri”). Styles include primarily bop, and post bop, with strong blues influences. The pressing has different album placings than the original issue. (I will describe the tracks as they appear on the re-release.)
On Side A, we begin with “From This Moment On.” It has an horn ensemble beginning, with Coltrane following, blowing bop lines, and Idrees Sulieman taking a fiery solo, and Mal having fleet, dense piano choruses. “J.M’s Dream Doll” is an original , dedicated to Jackie McLean’s wife, done in waltz time, and each horn gets time with Jackie taking the tune out. The third track on Side A is the standard, “The Way You Look Tonight.” It’s a mostly straight ahead reading with some four part harmony, and solos from saxes, trumpet and Waldron.
Side B starts with “One By One,” another Waldron composition. With a 16 bar pattern, Sulieman plays off Shihab in response, and Coltrane has a passionate tenor solo. “Don’t Explain,” is somber, sad, and brooding. Its most well known versions were done by Billie Holiday. “Potpourri” closes out the LP, and is a straight ahead swinger, much in contrast to “Don’t Explain.”
Fans of Mal will find lots to like here, and the opportunity to hear Waldron in remastered pristine mono sound, backed by stars of the day is well worth checking out.
From This Moment On
J.M’s Dream Doll
The Way You Look Tonight
One By One
More information through Craft Recordings