Sunday, 20 March 2011

Jackie McLean - On Mars

I just couldn't resist posting this documentary on Jackie McLean, just one of the greatest jazz musicians ever. I really loved (and got turned onto) Jackie via the records with Grachan Moncur III, which are just the antitheses of a combination of melody and playing 'almost' free. Jackie McLean really understood the possibilities of combining the two worlds of straight ahead and free jazz, he made a set of burning records with Blue Note which are milestones in the genre. He seemed to not be afraid to embrace the two worlds, and saw the possibilities in both 'ways'. Interestingly he also seems to have developed the use of modal playing into the be-bop form with his classic One Step Beyond and Destination Out, and if you ever get a chance to hear his record 'Bout Soul, a record he made with Rashid Ali among others, you'll hear Jackie approaching music from a very 'free form' angle, even though (so I read) most of the music is composed. Anyhow, this is just about as far out as Jackie got, sounding something between Ornette Coleman's - Free Jazz and John Coltrane's - Ascension. And even though i talk about that one should remember that he played fantastic be-bop (and blues) Sonny Clark's 'Cool Strutin', Freddie Red's 'The Connection' or his own Bluesnik are great testaments to that side of his playing.  

There's much more that one could write about Jackie but that's not really the point of this posting, it's just to make this documentary easily viewable, and I suppose to maybe 'hip' some people to the talents of this great musician. 

Just in case anybody (who doesn't already know Jackie McLean) is interested to look into the work of this great man I can thoroughly recommend the following albums, most of which are easily findable and often at very cheap prices. All the records would get 5 stars .... no problem!

New Soil (1959)
Jackie's Bag (1959–60)
Bluesnik (1961)
A Fickle Sonance (1961)
Let Freedom Ring (1962)
Vertigo (1962–63)
One Step Beyond (1963)
Destination... Out! (1963)
Jacknife (1965)
New and Old Gospel (1967)
'Bout Soul (1967)
Demon's Dance (1967)

Here's the few that I haven't heard as yet - (just not enough time and money). But you can easily find peoples opinions on these at All Music or Amazon etc, and I'm sure they're all just as killing as the others. There's also all the other projects that he was involved in and his discography before 1959 and after 1967, there's plenty of good things to hear there also. Maybe I'll write a posting at some point in the future.

Swing, Swang, Swingin' (1959)
Capuchin Swing (1960)
Tippin' the Scales (1962)
It's Time! (1964)
Action Action Action (1964)
Right Now! (1965)
New and Old Gospel (1967)
'Bout Soul (1967)
Demon's Dance (1967)

It's such a shame there isn't any (not that I've seen) Jackie stuff up on YouTube and the likes with Jackie in the 60's. However from time you find stuff that's not in Jackie's final period, maybe not his best but still great to see. Here's another that I found with Tete Montoliu.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Twelves - The Adding Machine ... and before?

Here's a first review of the Twelves (second) CD. I just wrote this review a few days after hearing the album and tried to capture my initial ideas on this very fresh sounding CD. As usual I then proceeded to refine (edit) the review for Free Jazz Blog (that I also write for) and ended up giving it 4 stars (the reviews not yet published). However, I still hesitate between that and an extra half (****½), but as usual time will be the wiser, and it will be interesting to see if the music will keep growing on each listen.  

Twelves - The Adding Machine (Babel Label 2011)

Mark Hanslip - Tenor Sax
Riaan Vosloo - Bass
Tim Giles - Drums
Rob Updegraff - Guitar

For those in the know, what's happening in the UK is probably one of the most interesting and diverse jazz scenes in Europe. Bands such as Polar Bear, Trianglehead, Outhouse, Nostalgia 77, MA, Led Bib or Troyka (to name just a few) are constantly coming out with music that blurs the lines between jazz, rock, free jazz and pop. Many of these young musicians have been brought up on the sounds of Jimmy Page's 'Led Zeppelin' and Derek Bailey's 'Company', whist still feeling the waves of Loose Tubes and the Jazz Warriors, all in all making for very diverse influences. 

One band that has been around for a few years is the Twelves, originally known as Twelves Trio. In 2008 the group (then a trio, of course) released the excellent 'Here Comes The Woodman With His Splintered Soul' (see below) - I was a few years behind and only stumbled across the album a little later via MySpace. In the meanwhile the group has moved on from it's initial format and has become a quartet with a more open approach to the music they play, crossing between open melodic free-jazz and some very driving rhythmic music, all of which centers around the interplay of the 4 musicians. This album is maybe a little more difficult to follow at first listen due to (seemingly) relatively 'less-catchy'(*) themes.  However, one finds oneself listening over and over again to the album as the music begins to work it's magic over you, each theme having a particular colour and atmosphere. 

Kerfuffle (Tk 4)

There's also Riaan Vosloo (bass) and Tim Giles (drums) heavily rocking grooves which swing like the clappers, or improvise together on the freer sections. One of the strong points of this band is it's ability to work rhythmically in a way that really opens up the music. Whether touching on free-ish jazz as on Spiders or Party Girls (both Hanslip compositions), or swinging on Kerfuffle, Eyeballing or Mr Zero, the group constantly keeps the music cooking by merging drum'n'bass, dub, free-improv, and straight swinging jazz rhythms together. Tunes such as Spiders almost boils away, guitar, bass and drums providing a turbulent undercurrent leaving the sax to weave lines which add colour to the whole. Many Splendoured  Thing (Pt 1 & 2) a two part suite opens the CD presenting two aspects of the group, a hard 'rocking' section which features the wonderful guitar of Rob Updegraff and a gentler section for the saxophonist Mark Hanslip who gently floats over part 2, like a modern-day Stan Getz. 

One of the highlights is Shallow Brown a traditional folk tune played in a beautifully open way.  Mark Hanslip treats the melody as if he himself were playing a tin whistle or bagpipe even, tremolo-ing by half closing the sax keys. The rest of the group gently supports the tune in a lovely rubato fashion, as I read somewhere, 'like a modern day Niama'. The group actually tackled a traditional tune on their first album in the same way, and it seems this is an area that Riaan Vosloo & Co are interested in, quite a normal step since jazz (in it's early form) is all about folk music, and blues is folk music. If you've never heard Paul Brady singing the likes of The Lakes of Pontchartrain, then you don't know about blues!! 

What more to say except, check it out!

And what came before ...... ?

Well, since we're talking about the Twelves I thought I might as well make a short presentation of the 1st album - Here Comes the Woodman with his Splintered Soul, which is a completely different cup of tea, but is quite definitely a logical forerunner to the newest album. Here the band played a more modern version of Coltrane's Crescent album, with plenty of very swinging tracks, but with a slightly harder groove to them (meaning a 2009 feel). They also add in another folk ballad into the mix She moved through the Fair which is treated as a rubato piece in much the same way as Shallow Brown. There's also an excellent version of Joe Henderson's Earth featuring Zoe Rahman to great effect. Listen (below) to Jiggery Pokery the first track on the CD, it possibly sums up the feeling of the group, which I read somewhere else as a modern day approach to Sonny Rollins trio. I'm not sure that's absolutely true, however it's a damned fine trio ...... even if it's a quartet! 

Here Comes the Woodman with his Splintered Soul - 
Twelves Trio (1965 Records - 2008)

Jiggery Pokery (Tk1)

(*) What's a 'catchy' theme? Actually I use this term to talk about musical themes that aren't immediate, or obvious on first listens. Some musical themes jump out immediately, such as good pop, others like fine wines, such as classical music, are to be discovered and savoured, often becoming very strong and personnel favourites.

Monday, 7 March 2011

More from 'The Man with the Glass Nose'

Well, I made a posting a few months ago on the Man with the Glass Nose which is a project I'm working on with Roald Baudoux, an electro acoustician. We are building up sets of improvisations around this particular tale from the work of Kurt Schwitters translated by Jack Zipes. The project is a collaboration with UK artist Irvine Peacock the originator of this project,  there are various other artists who are participating also. The work is actually many pieces of art which will be placed into a box called the Merz Box - based on the Merz Fairy Tales that Schwitters wrote. The box will be added to from time to time and so we (Roald and I) are contributing a CD to the box, with the idea that we will develop the improvisation over the next few months, record and re-mix the versions to make a small 4 or 5 CD box .... maybe in glass eventually?

So, this is the latest version which we've been working on. I was going to make it downloadable for the next few weeks, so if you're interested, contact me, and I can send you a link. However if you end up going to one of the shows you'll be able to buy a CD with a specially designed cover by Irvine Peacock, and if you follow the showings around you will be able to get different (collectable) versions, with of course new covers each time - limited editions (I imagine).

The Man with the Glass Nose 020311 - Higham/Baudoux (29 minutes)

The sound file here is only in mp3, however as already mentioned it's downloadable so that you can listen to it on you stereo to get the full effect.  
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