Sunday, February 11, 2018

Miles Davis Quintet Prestige Sessions

Miles Davis – The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions

Maybe inspired by giving the Jimmy Giuffre 3 a or three spin a couple of weekends ago, last week I decided to revisit more music I hadn't listened to for a long time.

As an aspiring jazz musician it's pretty hard to pass by these recordings, and I definitely spent a fair amount of time with Cookin', Relaxin', Workin' and Steamin' – and of those I'm probably most familiar with Relaxin.' Over the years there's been the odd track here and there, but it's been a while that I've sit down and listened to them from start to finish. This set also includes The New Miles Davis Quintet (that I'm less familiar with) and a disc of live material (that is new to me but I only gave it a single run this week).

Phrasing, time feel, space, economy, conciseness, continuity – Miles' playing has an immediacy I find hard to resist. The way he plays the melody on “Diane” (love the sound of Philly Joe 's cymbal behind Miles), his solo break on “Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” the bubbly feel of his longer lines on “Oleo” (PC is totally on here too), the swinging simplicity of “Trane's Blues” and this open horn tone on “Woody'n You.” Sometimes I feel Miles overdoes the harmon mute. Aside from his great tone on the open horn it would have been nice to hear him use other style mutes. But this could be one of the disadvantages of listening to a box set I guess.

As before, I'm not really struck by Coltrane's playing on these recordings. Dare I say that, on the earlier tracks at least, in comparison to Miles, he sounds labored (things pick up a bit on “Four” and “Salt Peanuts” “Airegin”). Although, as usually happens when I listen to Coltrane, I warm a little to his playing throughout the week. But for me, it still misses the mark. And how about his blend with Miles on the head of “Stablemates”?... the intonation gives the piece an interesting vibe. But Coltrane is the foil to Miles, and the contrast is part of what makes Miles' playing so effective. Would it work as well if it was a trio with P.C and Philly Joe? (Actually I think it would.... why didn't they do that?!)

Garland has his moments “Oleo” sounds like he's channeling Lennie Tristano (there are hints on “Well You Needn't” too). And his playing (comping and solo) on “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” is on point. I didn't remember Garland's chord solos - “There Is No Greater Love”, “Something I Dreamed Of Last Night” and “When Lights Are Low” - and in general, I preferred them to his line playing. So while he never really grabbed me as a soloist, his comping is an important component of the overall band sound and he locks in well with Chambers and Jones.

In general, during the piano and tenor solos I found my concentration moving towards the bass and drums. This week has been a reminder of how much I enjoy Philly Joe's playing (had I forgotten....?)
Philly Joe's tone enjoying it more than I remembered – the variety he gets from the cymbals and snare, and a nice deep brush sound too. And then there's the effortless flow and pop of Chambers' walking lines – they just go and go and go.

As with the Giuffre disc, I've enjoyed revisiting these recordings, and across the week it reinforced some of my earlier memories of this music. Much like before, my ear was drawn to the playing of Miles and the combination of Chambers and Philly Joe. For me, these recordings aren't ones I reach for to hear my favourite soloists (Miles being the exception), but it's the overall band sound of these recordings that hit the spot.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Nick Mazzarella Trio & Tom Rainey Trio

I thought I'd share a couple of photos from a couple of gigs I attended recently. On the 15th Nick Mazzarella's trio, with Patrick Mulcahy (bass) and Jeremy Cunningham (drums), were at Andy's. I had been up since some ridiculous hour so I only stayed for the first set (it was a long one.. almost 90 mins - a nice mix of originals and standards. I hadn't really heard Mazzarella play many standards so this made a nice change. And considering it was a freezing cold Monday night, the crowd wasn't too bad.

Last weekend Tom Rainey's trio, with Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ingrid Laubrock (tenor/soprano), were at Constellation. I've heard both Rainey and Laubrock in the past but have managed to miss Halvorson when she's been in town, so I was keen not to miss this concert. It was the final engagement of a brief tour and the two sets of free improvised music had plenty of cohesion. There was a great turnout, with the smaller of the two rooms totally packed.

Andy's jazz club Chicago
Nick Mazzarella Trio at Andy's

Chicago Jazz Constellation
Tom Rainey Trio at Constellation

Thursday, February 01, 2018

NZ Jazz: Jazz Concert 1950, Auckland Town Hall

The New Zealand Jazz Heritage Series: Jazz Concert 1950, Auckland Town Hall

This month's listening has been a lot of fun and deserves more than this hastily put together post. Billed as the 1st Auckland Jazz Concert (jazz for listening rather than dancing), this live recording from the Auckland Town Hall on August 7, 1950, is a great historical document. For a 1950 live recording (by way of a phone line) the fidelity is actually pretty decent. At times the balance is a bit out, but it's quite a clean sound. I have many recordings that sound far worse. From what I can tell it's the only recording in the “New Zealand Jazz Heritage Series”. If there are others, please let me know, as recordings from the 1950s (or the 60s and 70s for that matter) are like hens teeth.
Ode Records

It's great that they kept Peter Young's announcements on the release as they add some context to the events that night (and average jokes). One complaint – it would have been great to have included some liner notes providing a bit of background to the event. I've haven't had a chance to check things out yet, but I'm sure the info is out there somewhere.

The 21 tracks over two CDs feature plenty of well known swing era standards (“How High the Moon”, “I Got Rhythm”, “Lady Be Good”, “Perdido” etc), and while there are hints that some players are starting to adopt some of modern developments, it's fair to say that the music is very much in the swing-era small group vein (a couple of times Jazz at the Philharmonic came to mind).

There were a lot of players that I wasn't familiar with but in general, the more known names (to me) were the standouts - Crombie Murdoch (p), Julian Lee (as) and Mavis Rivers (v). Having said that, Mark Kahl provides some nice guitar solos - “How High the Moon”, “Out of Nowhere” and “Boogie Blues” come to mind. Colin Martin (tenor) sounds ok on the slower numbers such as his ballad feature on “Don't Blame Me.” George Cambell's bass lines fly along on the rhythm section feature, “Lover.” And Murray Tanner (trumpet) is very solid throughout – nice tone and he doesn't over-do things.

Julian Lee gets plenty of space on alto. At times he's somewhat restrained (“Out of Nowhere”) but he can get pretty excitable (“Perdido”). He's not afraid of throwing some quotes in (“Laura” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” make appearances) or hamming it up (the bridge on “Perdido”). Sometimes his sound in the upper register gets a little choked. On “Messin' Around” I think he takes all the horn solos (alto, tenor, trumpet, trombone). It's bit of guess as the liner notes only state him on alto with no other soloists listed, but it doesn't sound like the other plays and Lee was known to play a bunch of instruments. Plus Peter Young only acknowledges Lee when back announcing the piece.

Crombie Murdoch has plenty of nice touches across the evening. He's a pretty busy accompanist when backing Mavis Rivers (who features on four pieces) but doesn't seem to get in the way, perhaps a little “cocktaily,” although it's pretty effective on “Dedicated to You.” He gets a nice blend behind Kahl on “Caravan” and along the rhythm section features of “Lover”, “Somebody Loves Me” and “I Know That You Know” his playing is well showcased. I have a trio album of his from almost 40 years later that I will get to.... eventually!

By way of applause, Hughie Gordon was the crowd favourite. Although bit of a novelty, his four short features on tin whistle are actually pretty swinging.

I can't believe it's taken me this long to hear this recording, and if you're interested in jazz in New Zealand be sure to check it out.