Music Monday: Whynot?

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by mid-1970s jazz. It feels like this decade saw the commingling of a whole range of influences from traditional jazz to the NYC loft scene, free jazz, rock, fusion, world music, latin music, soul, gospel, and R&B. It must have been an amazing time to perform and follow improvised, creative, and jazz music.

It also appears to be a time when the commercial landscape for jazz was anything but secure. The venerable Blue Note records was acquire by Liberty Records in 1971 and then EMI in 1979. In 1971, Prestige Records was sold to Fantasy Records. Atlantic, Columbia, and other labels increasingly soured on jazz as a viable commercial art form. At the same time, any number of smaller labels, from Detroit’s Tribe Records and Strata Records, to New York’s Strata-East, a revived Contemporary Jazz on the West Coast, Germany’s ECM, Italy’s Black Saint and Horo, and many other smaller independent labels attempting to carve out space in a rapidly changing musical and commercial landscape.

Among these labels, Japanese jazz critic and journalist, Masahiko Yuh, founded Whynot Records which was affiliated with the US label, India Navigation. The label released some really cool, if uneven, albums in its short existence, many of which are now available on streaming services. Last week, I mentioned the lovely Walt Dickerson album, Tell Us Only the Beautiful Things featuring Wilbur Ware and Andrew Cyrille.

Among the first recordings released by the label is George Cables’ inaugural album called Why Not? It’s a rollicking and fun recording that captures the swirling spirit of post-bop, R&B, and Blues. (By the way, I have no idea why the YouTube embeds aren’t working!):

https://youtu.be/aRHRXG0inR4

In the same year, Whynot also released a Muhal Richard Abrams solo piano recording called Afrisong. It captures some of the spirit of his AACM work but in a more concentrated and delicate way. You can listen to the album here. I dig this track:

https://youtu.be/vaSZATLyct0

Joseph Bonner’s Triangle appeared the same year. It features Bonner with Clint Houston on bass and Bill Hart on drums. It’s not “essential listening” by any stretch, but it’s a nice album of fairly straight ahead jazz:

https://youtu.be/KFHHdkm3MC0

More fun is Donald Smith’s LUV with Cecil McBee and Jack de Johnette released in 1976. You can listen to it here. I really like “The Magnetic A”:

https://youtu.be/C20444Va4bM

McBee, Jim McNeely, and Steve McCall joins Ted Curson on his Whynot album Blue Piccolo. I like Curson especially his 1970s output (especially his stuff with George Arvanitas group such as Pop Wine from 1971) and it goes without saying that anyone tight with Eric Dolphy is aces in my book.

Here’s Curson playing Monk’s “Round Midnight”:

https://youtu.be/noCMXwXsCqQ 

I’ve not listened to the Chico Freeman album from 1976, Morning Prayer, but here it is and the supporting cast looks pretty great.

The Whynot label seems to have more or less wrapped up business by 1977, but then five years later, they release Kenny Barron’s Imo Live. This trio date with Buster Williams on bass and Ben Riley on drum and features a bit more Monk with the track “Rhythm-a-Ning” which Barron records and performs through his career:

https://youtu.be/zszHHNlcL4U

Finally, I’d be remiss, if I didn’t include another great mid-1970s: Televisions’ Marquee Moon (1977). Tom Verlaine pass away this past week. I had a chance to hear him perform a couple times and Marquee Moon remains an album so special to me that I have to listen to it sparingly out of fear that it might start to sound familiar… 

https://youtu.be/7KvgP8MlEEE

Music Monday: More Good Vibes

Last week, I wrote about the fantastic vibe player, Bobby Hutcherson, and it only seems right to mention his younger contemporary and equally marvelous vibe player Walt Dickerson. 

If Hutcherson was notable for his ability to stay relevant even as jazz artists embraced hard bob, modal, fusion, and funkified flavors of music, Walt Dickerson charted his own course and embrace both modal and then a more distinctly avant-garde sound throughout his career. 

I have four albums that by Walt Dickerson that make me very happy especially on cold, but sunny Sunday afternoons where the low sun and dusty air creates just the right glow in my comfy sitting room.

First, there’s To My Queen, from 1962 with Andrew Hill on piano, George Tucker on bass, and a young Andrew Cyrille on drums. This is quiet music and asks soft questions and rewards patient listening. Tucker’s basslines are worthy of particular attention and the gentle interplay between him, Hill, and Dickerson reminds of me three people describing a winter sunset. Cyrille’s playing is just right. 

The next two albums are a pair separated by over a dozen years and both feature Sun Ra. The first is apparently a reinterpretation of the score from the Sidney Poitier film A Patch of Blue called Impressions of “A Patch of Blue”. You can read more about the backstory in Rodger Coleman’s study of this album in Sun Ra Sundays and listen to it here (“Bacon and Eggs” is just great). While Sun Ra’s playing has the capacity to take over any recording (as does Andrew Hill’s!), on this album he and Dickerson have a great rapport and Coleman’s observation that this gives the album “a loose, late night feel” that apparently reflected the intense conversations that Ra and Dickerson had concerning matters of race and music.

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These conversations continued 13-years later after Dickerson reemerged from a self-imposed musical exile. Dickerson and Sun Ra recorded Visions which has a more Sun Ra vibe to it. The interplay between Sun Ra’s piano which alternates between probing and elegant flourishes and Dickerson’s vibes which sound positively unworldly gives the space-age sound of Sun Ra’s music a kind of warm familiarity of a lazy Martian afternoon. This is evening music, by the fire place, with a couple of dogs to keep you grounded and a glass of pleasant tequila to help you drift.

Last week, I mentioned Bobby Hutcherson’s 1975 album Montara which some critic called the most 1975 album ever. Dickerson released an album that year with Wilbur Ware and Andrew Cyrille that offers a deeply engaged reminder that there was a lot of stuff going on in 1975 that did not make much of an impact in commercial jazz circles. While the Ware on bass and Cyrille on drums might not be an intuitive pairing, the percussive Ware complements the understated Cyrille and impactful Dickerson in delightful ways. There is so much space on this album, it begs you to be quiet. This is not commercial music, but it is compelling and wonderful.

It’s only two tracks:

Finally (and this is a bonus album), I have a soft spot for solo jazz recordings especially when they’re on instruments that don’t usually get solo treatments. Solo vibes. It’s a tonic for whatever overheated encounters punctuate your existence.

Music Monday: Vibing Out

I’m buried in work these days which is both unpleasant and compromises my ability to enjoy the full range of music in my collection. I dislike the idea of background music, but I also recognize that I work better with some music on even if that music can’t necessarily be the center of my attention.

Over the weekend, when I had a delightful blend of repetitive, tedious, and mundane work to get through, I found myself listening to the brilliant vibraphone player Bobby Hutcherson and engaging in an impromptu career retrospective starting with his hard bop and mildly avant-garde days and continuing through his fusion and soul jazz phases. 

Hutcherson’s album Stick-Up! from 1966 is a nice example of his late hard bop phase (which also includes Components from the same year). It is fun to contrast it with his work on the brilliant album Dialogue where he performs alongside Andrew Hill, Freddie Hubbard, Sam Rivers, Richard Davis, and Joe Chambers. You can listen to that album here.  

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By the late 1960s, Hutcherson’s style had changed markedly. He had teamed up with saxophone player Harold Land in what would be a long-standing and immensely creative partnership. In 1969, they released the album Now! which opened with the remarkable track “Slow Change.” 

By 1971, Hutcherson demonstrated his willingness to explore the emerging sounds of jazz fusion on the album San Francisco with the addition of both the electric bass and electric piano. For the latter, he brings pianist Joe Sample on board whose playing brought an ample dose of soul to Hutcherson’s and Land’s collaboration. 

By the mid-1970s, Hutcherson’s willingness to explore fusion and soul jazz was in full flight with a series of thoroughly entertaining albums that celebrate the capacity of his distinctive style on the vibes and Land’s compelling tone to bring new life to popular and R&B songs.

Cirrus starts with the Woody Shaw penned, R&B tinged track “Rosewood” arranged by trumpet player Woody Shaw and the rest of the album proceeds from there. It finds a deeper and perhaps even more accessible groove in some ways compared to San Francisco and sets the stage for things to come the next year. 

1975 saw the release of two fantastic Hutcherson albums: Linger Lane and Montara. These albums marked the end of Hutcherson’s collaboration with Land and the embrace of a larger band and a larger more soul inflected sound. 

Linger Lane opens with a deeply funky version of The Stylistic’s “People Make the World Go Round”:

And the Theme from MASH which had started to emerge as a pop-jazz standard by the mid-1970s.

 Montara is an altogether tighter album that announces its intention with the first track, George Cables’ “Camel Rise”:

And brings it home with a mildly funkified version of Tito Puente’s “Oyo Como Va”:

If you’re still worried about your work at this point, I really don’t have a cure for what ails you.

Music Monday: Ancient Africa, CLIFFS, and Greetings

It’s either the last day of winter break or the first day of the spring semester depending on when you start teaching and whether you’re a glass half-full or glass half-empty kind of person. My semester certainly gets underway today with a meeting at 10 am and a veritable swarm of teaching and editing relating emails both received and sent out. In other words, stuff is going on!

Stuff going on means that I need some “get out the door music” as my friend Sharon Carson calls it.

I’ve been enjoying Abdullah Ibrahim’s Ancient Africa (1973) a good bit lately, especially the eponymous first track. It’s a solo piano album and the track “Ancient Africa” is dense. A driving rhythm propels melodies informed by the blues, Classical, and traditional music. Ibrahim’s vocalizations serve only to emphasize that this track (and the rest of the album) arises from deep within his soul:

Of course after Ibrahim’s occasionally rollicking storm through ancient Africa, I felt like I needed something that was a bit more exploratory or, at very least, abstract. I turned to James Brandon Lewis’s improvised outing CLIFFS which saw him teamed up with French bassist Floy Krouchi and drummer Benjamin Sanz. I don’t know those guys, but the trio produced some pretty magical moments that soared, stuttered, thundered, and glided across a half dozen tracks. “Three Streams” is probably the most probing of the album:

It’s worth listening to the entire thing and “The Door to the Cliffs” will certainly get you going.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I’ve enjoyed listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Ashbury Park, NJ which celebrated its 50th birthday last week. I never really enjoyed Springsteen, and while I “got” his music on some level, I found it either moved me in (socially? politically? regionally?) uncomfortable ways or not at all. So I more or less ignored it and turned to Neil Young or Lou Reed when I wanted someone to tell stories that made me think.

At some point over the last few years, I started to enjoy Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs, the late, great David Berman, James McMurtry, Waxahatchee, and even some Jason Isbell. It’s not that any of these guys are direct descendants from Springsteen or anything like that, but they’re songwriters, they tell stories, they perform a kind of folksy rock music (even if it’s tinged with country), and they remain in the rotation at my house despite the weekly onslaught to new music and sounds.

Going back the Greetings (with it’s amazing album cover by John Berg), I’ve found that I’ve grown into Springsteen a bit. Maybe I’m more comfortable with his provocation. Maybe I’m more eclectic in my tastes. Or maybe I just find the teenage angst in Greetings less confrontational and more nostalgic now. 

Whatever the case, I’ve found myself listening to and enjoying this album far more than I expected. 

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Music Monday: Twin Albums, Molecular, and Mediated Mingus

As the year wraps up there seems to be an abundance of interesting new music between new releases and year end lists. (Of course, this is perfectly timed for holiday music gifting season!). It’s keeping my playlist full to overflowing and this is keeping me from being able to focus for too long on any album. This can be a bit distressing because, on the one hand, I really enjoy the experience of diving deeply into an album or even a single track. On the other hand, there is always something exciting about the experience of a new sound.

There are four albums that have stood out to me lately in my rather erratic listening habits.

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First, I’ve been really enjoying the fruits of Chad Fowler’s record label Mahakala Music. In August, Fowler,  a saxophonist by trade, but equally adept on stritch, saxello, and flute released a pair of albums titled Broken/Unbroken and Thinking/Unthinking. Both albums feature William Parker on bass and Anders Griffen on drums. As readers of this blog know, Parker is a favorite of mine and he also joins Fowler as part of the Dopolarians. I don’t know Anders Griffen’s work as well, but his drumming on these two albums is simply splendid. Fowlers woodwinds are in turn gentle and abrupt, soothing and reaching, and wild and restrained. Parker’s bass is probing and wise. The tracks are long, improvised, and have the capacity to engage your listening and disrupt your day. 

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To be clear, none of this stuff will transform your understanding of modern music, but it will all make you sit up and listen.

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Second, I’ve also been enjoying a somewhat different sonic experience. If the twin Fowler albums offered a kind of minimalist excursion into the ethereal realms of improvisation, James Brandon Lewis’s working Quartet offers a more maximalist approach in their recent live release MSM: Molecular Systematic Music which is a performance of music from their studio album Molecular. The first two tracks in this almost 2-hour concert recording show the quartet in full flight. James Brandon Lewis’s saxophone playing and especially his remarkable 2019 release Jesup Wagon with a group he called the Red Lily Quartet which attracted the attention of critics and fans alike. There are some quiet moments in this live show, “Of First Importance,” for example is a lovely ballad full of gentle lyricism. The album is at its best when the performers put their familiarity (on a molecular level) on display and engage with each other in densely wrought solos. Aruan Ortiz’s piano is particularly compelling in this context and James Brandon Lewis presents a full range of moods, techniques, and attitudes to make this concert worth more repeat listens than I’ve given it so far.

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Finally, I had never listened to Ethan Philion before, but somehow his 10-piece band’s performance of Meditations on Mingus appeared in my playlist. Generally, I don’t find that kind of album very interesting, but I was doing some book layout and I put it on. Most of it was pleasant and at times interesting, but the final track “Better Git It In Your Soul” (originally from Mingus-Ah-Um) made me stop what I was doing to any pay attention. I’m sure part of it was the near perfect imitation of the opening bars of the Mingus recording, but as the song danced its way across my desk and the soloists took their turns (cleaving relatively close to the solos on the original), I found myself pleasantly transfixed.  

Music Monday: Amaryllis, Vibes, and Solo Trombone

One of the few good things about end of the year lists is that they shine light on releases that I may have missed over the course of the year. Since I tend to have a pretty limited horizon in terms of what music I sample on a regular basis, this helps me get out of my rut and hear some new things. 

So here are three new things that I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks.

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Almost every “best of 2022” list includes Mary Halvorson’s pair of albums: Amaryllis and Belladonna. They’re both lovely although I think I care for the former more than the latter. Halvorson’s guitar fits in so well with the reed-less sextet featuring trombone, trumpet, bass, drums, and vibraphone. The interplay between Jacob Garchik’s trombone, Adam O’Farrill’s trumpet (of the O’Farrill jazz dynasty) and Nick Dunston’s bass is particularly remarkable. In the album’s most interesting moments, it sets a broad foundation for Halvorson guitar and Patricia Brennan’s vibes (taking nothing away of Garchik’s and O’Farrill’s accomplished improvisation!). The addition of the Mivos String Quartet on the “B Side” of the album is nice, but simply not my jam (and this accounts for why I prefer Amaryllis to Belladonna which features the same string quartet on the entire album). 

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Being introduced to Patricia Brennan on Mary Halvorson’s album led me to check out her recent album More Touch. While I can run hot and cold on strings in my jazz (other than bass or anything by Billy Bang), I rarely listen to percussion dominated albums. But More Touch is amazing. Brennan on vibes, marimbas, and electronics, Kim Cass on bass, Marcus Gilmore and Mauricio Herrera on various percussion implements. It’s produces the kind of deep groove that goes on and on (until the the break of dawn) without getting boring. Brennan’s vibes and electronic tomfoolery creates the kind of ethereal commentary on the drum and bass line that opens from time to time into a genuine conversation. It’s a compelling late winter night listen.

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Finally, I have two words for you: solo trombone. Jeff Fielder’s solo trombone album, The Howland Sessions, is a gem that deserves to be on every end of the year “best album” list. To use a fun cliche, Fielder coaxes the full range of sounds out of his trombone including its capabilities as a multiphonic instrument, Fielder’s capacity for circular breathing, and his deep grounding in a tradition for evoking rhythm, pathos, and bathos. This album is more than a oddity, though, it has any number of amazing passages. In fact, “The Long No” (and the entire B side of the album) has simply blown my mind. 

Music Monday, Alien Skin, Zoh Amba, and the Dopolarians

One of the best things about the end of the year is all the “best of the year” music lists. While I don’t put much stock in the rankings that these lists offer, they often alert me to music that I’ve missed for some reason (and we’ll see next week!). 

These lists also give me a nice excuse to tout some music that hasn’t appeared on them (at least not yet!). So here goes.

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I was pretty excited to listen to the album Alien Skin (2022) credited to Chad Fowler, Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, and Steve Hirsh (and featuring Zoh Amba as well). As readers of this blog know, these are performers who I have very much appreciated over the past year or two. This album is a wonderful improvised studio recording released on the Mahakala label.

Hearing this album nudged me in two directions. 

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First, I was excited to check out tenor sax player Zoh Amba’s recent work. Her name was new to me and when I saw it appearing next to the musicians who appeared on Alien Skin, I knew that I needed to dig a bit deeper into her discography. (Check out this short documentary on her.) This led me to her album Bhakti where she teams up with Tyshawn Sorey (whose 2022 has been really wonderful as well!) to produce something that evokes the transcendent tone and fervor of Albert Ayler, but with her own distinctly contemplative and spiritually exuberant style. (At the risk of associating a bit of her rawness to her youth, I do wonder where she’ll take her sound in the future.) 

While I was exploring Zoh Amba’s sound and performances, we were blessed with TWO releases from the Dopolarians, who are a super group, of sorts, in improvised music (featuring Chad Fowler and William Parker who appear on the Alien Skin recording alongside other similar minded musicians including the late Alvin Fielder on drums and Christopher Parker on piano). 

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The first album, Sunday Morning Sermon, combines the spiritual intensity of Mingus’s prayer meetings with the improvisation of the post-Coltrane world. It’s well worth a listen.

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The second album, Blue for Alvin Fielder, is an altogether different animal. Released to honor the memory of drummer Alvin Fielder (a charter member of the AACM and an Arkestra alumnus!), the album is digital only and features two tracks each runner to around 30 minutes. These tracks are explosions of joy, sorrow, prayer, and energy. I’ve found the album as irresistible as it is indescribable.  

From what I can tell, none of these albums has appeared on a best of 2022 list, which is a bit of a shame, because each of them provide stirring evidence for the continued blossoming of improvised music in the 21st century and have more than enough character, virtuosity, and energy to a compelling statement in their own right.

Music Monday: Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain, and Thanksgiving Music

This week is a great music week for me. I usually take Thanksgiving to do a deep dive into a recording or an artist. I don’t necessarily have anything planned right now (although I have some ideas, which I’ll share at the end of this post).

In the meantime, I was pretty excited to listen to the entire trilogy of Charles Lloyd’s “Trios” project on Sunday morning. Charles Lloyd is a long-time favorite in our household in part because his recorded output produced over a half-century of work embodies such a wide range of moods, styles, instruments, and situations. Friday saw the release of the final of the three “Trios” album which he had released over the course of this year. Sacred Thread features Lloyd alongside Zakir Hussain and Julian Lage. The other two albums, Ocean (feat. Gerald Clayton and Anthony Wilson) and Chapel (feat. Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan) are gorgeous and at times stirring meditations, but Sacred Thread to me feels the most special and the most spiritually moving.

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While Lloyd’s and Lage’s playing is consistently good and gently provocative, Hussain’s tabla and vocals just do it for me. They create a new sense of space and texture for Lloyd and Lage to work. More than that, Hussain’s contribution reminded me of his earlier collaboration with Lloyd, the joyous and otherworldly Sangam (2006). If I could share this album with you, I would, but I can’t find a sharable copy (it’s from ECM so it’s available on most streaming services).

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(To quick confessions: I am not a world music guy really. So perhaps the relative exoticism of Hussain’s ethereal vocals and tabla is what moved me. I’ll also admit that Bill Frisell’s guitar does nothing for me.)

I made a playlist of the trilogy of Trios and look forward to listening to them this winter.

As for my Thanksgiving listening, I have some thinking to do. I realize that at some point in the past, playing the entire Atlantic catalogue pushed my partner’s patience with improvised music. So I probably can’t listen to Albert Ayler’s Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (2022). Last Thanksgiving, I listened to the entire recording of Lee Morgan’s Live at the Lighthouse sessions (with commentary). That was a bit more appreciated. 

I’m thinking perhaps that I should listen to Keith Jarrett at the Blue Note: The Complete Recordings (2000)? It’s a solid 7 hours of quality music! I could also be tempted to take a might swing through William Parker’s epic, Migration of Silence Into and Out of The Tone World (2020). 

Music Monday: Placing the Music

One of the threads that runs through the “music Monday” segment of this blog is that context matters when we listen to music. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy music without any context or that some kind of historical context matters more than contexts that are more personal to us. Instead, I like to think that music not only has the capacity to bring together dense networks of contexts but also, often, relies on these contexts to expand the experience of listening to music and draw us into music in different and sometimes revelatory ways.

This weekend, I read little gaggle of articles sent along to me by Kostis Kourelis on jazz festivals as heritage events in the International Journal of Heritage Studies. Interestingly, these articles mainly focused on jazz festivals held outside the US and therefore apart from the traditional origins of jazz music. At the same time, European and Australian jazz festivals have developed their own heritage both as recurrent events and as places where the complex contexts of cultural exchange, race, class, and musical influences intersect. 

This weekend, I’ve been listening to drummer Tom Skinner’s Voices of Bishara which features an impressive cast of London jazz artists including Nubya Garcia and Shabaka Hutchings who are favorites on this blog.

The album has an interesting origin story. Apparently it was partly inspired by Abdul Wadud’s solo cello album titled By Myself (1978) which Skinner listened to “repeatedly” during the COVID lock down.

This album was also inspired by an event at the innovative London restaurant, listening bar, and music venue called Brilliant Corners. Brilliant Corners features a pretty crazy sound system anchored by a a quartet of refurbished Klipsch horns and they run events called “Play Twice” where the audience listens to a classic album and then musicians perform a response. On one particular night, they played Tony Williams’s Life Time (1964) which produced such an inspired response that Skinner decided to write an entire album around it.

The result is Voice of Bishara, which embodies not only the avant-garde sensibilities embodied in Abdul Wadud’s By Myself, but the deep rhythmic awareness Tony Williams’s Life Time. That said, the album isn’t a live set or even a traditional “live” jazz recording, but a deeply remixed album where Skinner deliberately cuts and layers performances to create compelling soundscapes. 

At the same time, this album communicates something of our COVID inflected age. It’s hard to avoid the sense that Skinner’s repeated listening to Abdul Wadud’s By Myself represents both the kind of indulgence possible during COVID lockdowns, but also embodies the kind of distilled experiences encountered during the darkest and most isolated times of COVID that we’re only still coming to terms with artistically and individually. (I can’t stop thinking about Joe McPhee’s Route 84 Quarantine Blues; to get the sense of that album check this out).

The difference is that Voices of Bishara isn’t a quarantine album in the spirit of Jason Moran’s The Sound Will Tell You (2021), but an album that carries the context of COVID quarantine in its DNA while also traces the very latest developments in London jazz localized for one night at least what must have been a  remarkable musical experience in a London listening bar. 

Finally, I can’t stop comparing it in my head to Shabaka Hutchings’ Afrikan Culture (2022) which embraced a more reflective sound that seemed to emphasize textures and moods over melodies and harmonies. While I recognize that there were as many experiences in COVID lockdown as COVID lockdowns, I feel like Hutchings recording captured something of the unnatural quiet that I experienced in those days when the world stopped moving forward so relentlessly and instead became a series of textures and moods that invited (or maybe even required) more quiet, persistent, and repeated encounters. 

Music Monday: Mal Waldron

Happy Halloween. I have a more seasonally appropriate post on tap for tomorrow (provided I get done today what I think I can get done). So for now, I’ll stick with my Music Monday routine and save the spooky business for tomorrow.

September saw the release of a live recording of pianist Mal Waldron in Grenoble from 1978. The album, titled Searching in Grenoble: The 1978 Solo Piano Concert, shows Waldron in great form as he romps his way through a combination of his own compositions and standards. Waldron’s career is usually divided into two parts. Prior to a drug overdose and breakdown in 1963, he developed a more angular and repetitive style which is a bit of an acquired taste. I have to admit that I don’t think that I could listen to Search in Grenoble every day, but much like Horace Tapscott, there is something about his playing style that is compelling.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the late use of Davida font on the album cover! I have a soft spot for Davida because of its use over at North Dakota Quarterly.

In fact, I found his nearly contemporary performance with Clifford Jordan, Cecil McBee, and Dannie Richmond, very entertaining. There’s something about the interplay between McBee, Jordan, and Waldron that tempers the relentlessness of Waldon’s piano by dividing its impulsive drive among the other musicians. Richmond is fine on the album as well, but Jordan’s tenor and McBee’s bass really stand out lyrically.  

Finally, there is a lot of great Mal Waldron to listen to. In fact, I really appreciate his early hard bop dates from the mid-1950s (Mal-1, Mal/2, and so on, and The Quest (1961) is just amazing for any music fan). Instead, I want to shine a bit of light on a really unusual Mal Waldron date: The Call (1971).

Not only does it feature Waldron on “electric piano” but puts him alongside organist Jimmy Jackson and bassist Eberhard Weber. Weber, of course, becomes a staple of ECM’s vast catalogue of jazz and improvised music and is a nice reminder that Waldron was the first artist recorded by ECM in 1969 with Free at Last being ECM 1001. This album is recorded in the JAPO label (which apparently stands from Jazz by Post) which was a division of ECM and The Call JAPO’s first release (as 60001). 

Despite its ECM ties, The Call seems to draw a as much on soul jazz as fusion and Waldron’s has a chance to show off a bit of his range as he and Weber drive this album along atop Jackson’s organ. In fact, this album maybe the least demanding and most simply enjoyable of Waldon’s albums especially for late night or early morning listening.