Monday, August 28, 2017

Straight Horning: Joe Giardullo - No Work Today

Joe Giardullo: No Work Today - Nine for Steve Lacy (Drimala Records) recorded December 2004

Solo saxophone recordings
Joe may have more of name as a mouthpiecemaker/refacer than as a player. But first and foremost, he’s a player, and I’m finally getting around to having a listen (beyond a few things online here and there). Dedicating a solo soprano saxophone recording Steve Lacy is bold, and then topping things off with a couple of Lacy’s compositions….. It’s gutsy, but he makes things work. 

Initially, I couldn’t help comparing his approach with Lacy, but that died down later in the week. It doesn’t seem like Giardullo deliberately goes out of his way to not play like Lacy, but instead plays through the influence, letting his music come through naturally. And this brings to light the differences.

- He has a full, resonant tone - a bit brighter or more focussed (I like the subtle growl he employees sparingly).
- Articulation, phrasing and rhythmic feel (particularly on more conventional 8th note lines) is definitely his own.
- Overall Giardullo is busier - space is not explored like Lacy does in solo performance. 

When you add things up, the “Lacyness” may be more of a case of guilt by association….But Giardullo does capture (or express) some of the spirit of a Lacy performance.

Aside from the two pieces by Lacy, a number of the improvisations are loosely based on - and at times not so loosely based on - tunes by Ellington (“I Got It Bad,” “In a Sentimental Mood”) and Monk (“Work,” “Misterioso,” “Thelonious”). It seems being on bit of an Ellington kick makes Duke's tunes show up unexpectedly. The approach Giardullo takes with these improvisations - using the song as a template for exploration rather than blind adherence to a strict rule - is very much in line with something I have been working on in my own playing (most recently with some of Duke tunes, including “In a Sentimental Mood” last week). And on that note, No Work Today has provided some refreshing, and well-timed listening this week.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Straight Horning: Evan Parker & Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Summer 1967 (Emanem)

I’ve been meaning to write about this album for a while now. Some months ago I wrote some notes but who knows where they ended up, so I’m starting from scratch today.
Pipeworks Dame Errant

Some of you may know I’m a fan of checking out early recordings by players who interest me. There are earlier recordings of Parker on Withdrawal, but on those recordings he has a pretty minor role in proceedings. Summer 1967 is a different story, as here he shares the front line with drummer John Stevens (drums/perc) and bassist Peter Kowald (on the two longer tracks). Even at this early stage it sounds like Evan Parker to me. The tone is not as full (the fidelity of the recording may not help) and there is not much in the way extended techniques but the playing still points to Evan Parker. I think it’s the series of short bursts and a staccato/jagged approach to his phrasing

The album comes from three separate sessions in August and September 1967:
- 5 improvised duets (4 on soprano and 1 tenor) that are, at times, quite minimal and in which space is well utilized.
- 2 longer improvised trio pieces (1 each on soprano and tenor) Clocking in at 14 and 11 minutes, I liked the pacing of these longer works - the phrases have space to breathe.
- 3 improvised duets (all soprano) the title “Echo Chamber Music” is apt and the echo on the recording adds a bit of fullness to the sax sound (but it’s still a bit over the top). These don’t seem as jagged as the first 5 duets (but maybe it’s just the echo mellowing things out a little).

Even as the density rises the music tends to stay on the quiet side (reflecting John Stevens’ ethos at the time), and I find this quiet intensity appealing. At times the music is quietly urgent and off the top of my head I can’t think of many similar examples that come to mind. In some ways there is bit of sameness throughout each of the three sessions, but I actually don’t mind it all that much.

This is Evan Parker's first major statement on record, and as such, if you're a fan of his work you'll want to pick this up.

For those interested in the pint…. it’s Dame Errant from Pipeworks, an English style IPA that had bit of a shake up on the way home but still tasted good.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Straight Horning: Sidney Bechet - The New Orleans Feetwarmers

Today I've spent some time hanging with the master takes from Sidney Bechet's Victor Recordings. The New Orleans Feetwarmers from 1932 - with Bechet (ss/cl) Tommy Ladnier (trpt) Teddy Nixon (trb) Hank Duncan (p) Wilson Myers (b/v) Morris Morand (d) and Billy Maxey (v) - is my favorite Bechet. I consider this session essential listening - high energy, so swinging, and a great fat soprano. "I Found a New Baby," "Maple Leaf Rag", "Shag" etc... make sure you check them out!
Mikerphone Beer

Across the 3 discs there's plenty fine playing and a few curious numbers too. The overdubbed tracks ("The Sheik of Araby" and "Blues of Bechet") from 1941 feature Bechet playing all the instruments (soprano, clarinet, tenor sax, piano, bass, and drums). Fun stuff.

I still feel Bechet is underrated, and while I'm at it, another interesting recording I've only recently bumped into is The John Reid Collection from the Arkansas Arts Center. I picked this disc up as it features Bechet, unaccompanied, playing "Maple Leaf Rag" (mellower than the '32 recording and "Baby I'd Love to Steal You." Plus there's a recording of him playing along with a recording of Bunk Johnson playing an unaccompanied version of "Weary Blues." Maybe not for the casual fan but fascinating nonetheless.

Listening to the Feetwarmers made me start to think about some other favorites of mine. Just a taste quickly off the top of my head....probably not many surprises there for those of you who know me. Connie Crothers, Richard Tabnik, Hayden Chisholm, and Lenny Popkin deserve a mention too - I need to dedicate some time and write about them - but I'll limit myself to older recordings..... for now.
Billie Holiday: "A Sailboat in the Moonlight," "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "I'll Get By," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love Baby," "Laughing at Life" and many others.
Lester Young: "Shoe Shine Boy", "Lady Be Good", the Kanas City Sessions, and many more.
Roy Eldridge: "Body and Soul" (normally not much of a fan of double time ballads but here's an exception!), "Sittin' In", "I Surrender Dear"
Charlie Christian: "Swing to Bop", "Ad Lib Blues"
Louis Armstrong: "Hotter that That," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love Baby," "Struttin' with Some BBQ"
Warne Marsh: "Yardbird Suite", "Remember" "The Song is You", "Marshmallow"
Lennie Tristano: "Bud", "Stretch" "Tiger Rag", "Background Music"
Lee Konitz: the early New Jazz/Prestige recordings in particular came to mind immediately.
I'll leave it there before the list gets out of control!

Regarding the beer... it's Mikerphone "Cat's in the Cradle" and I felt the chalice was appropriate glassware while enjoying some Bechet.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Blindfold Test

Rahsaan Roland Kirk takes Leonard Feather's "Blindfold Test." Down Beat split it over two issues (July 25 & August 8, 1968) so there is plenty of room for Kirk's thoughts. As I prepared this post last month, Kirk's 1964 all-flute outing I Talk with the Spirits had a few spins and I followed that up with Domino last week. Along with The Inflated Tear and Charles Mingus' Oh Yeah, I Talk with the Spirits is some of my favorite Kirk. If you haven't checked out his playing, those three albums would make good starting places.
Click on the image to view PDF of part 1 & 2. More vintage magazine articles are available here.

Leonard Feather Down Beat Magazine