by Scott Yanow
Bill King has had quite a few overlapping careers. A versatile keyboardist and arranger, photographer, disc jockey in Canada, publisher of the excellent magazine The Jazz Report during 1988-2006, and artistic director of the Beaches International Jazz Festival for the past 33 years, he is also a skilled interviewer and writer. King has self-published eight books: four of concert and travel photography, his memoirs (Coming Through the ‘60s: An American Rock ‘N Road Story), Talk! Conversations In All Keys (interviews with the top Canadian musicians), Talk! Volume 2: The Music Business, and now Talk! Volume 3: American Music.
The latter book has interviews with 55 musicians and music business people dating from 1987-2019. While many of the interviews are fairly brief (4-6 pages), each piece has fresh stories that have not been written about elsewhere. Because King is a musician, he was able to get many of his subjects to open up about their lives and careers.
Among those profiled are Ahmad Jamal, Artie Shaw, Betty Carter, Bobby McFerrin, Cassandra Wilson, Dave Brubeck, Eliane Elias, George Shearing, Harry Connick Jr, Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, Joe Henderson, Joshua Redman, Max Roach, McCoy Tyner, Pat Metheny, Phil Woods, Ray Bryant, Sonny Rollins, and Wynton Marsalis. In addition to other jazz greats are ten from other musical genres, a defensive Ken Burns, Steve Allen, and publicist Virginia Wickes. The date of each article is included and, while some of the introductions were written at the time (making them a bit dated), other summations are much more recent.
While this is the type of book where one can consume a chapter or two at a time, it is also difficult to put down once one starts. Even those who are jazz experts will find much to learn from these interviews, each of which gives one a colorful glimpse of the humanity of these brilliant musicians. Talk! Volume 3: American Music is easily recommended and available from www.7arts.press
SOME NEW MUSIC FROM CHARLIE PARKER
Bird In L.A. is a two-CD set from Verve that contains some obscure music by the remarkable innovator Charlie Parker along with cleaned up versions of previously released material. Many collectors have long sought out every possible existing recording of the altoist including poorly recorded bootlegs, treasuring every note played by Bird. They will be the main audience for this set.
Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, the two founders and masters of bebop, worked together on and off during 1945 including making classic and very influential recordings, and taking an ill-fated trip to Los Angeles in December. Their radical new music excited some of their fellow musicians on the West Coast but otherwise they were either ignored or given bad publicity, resulting in small audiences. In Feb. 1946, Gillespie and the sidemen flew back to New York while Parker decided to stay, cashing in his plane ticket.
The twofer begins with a radio broadcast from Dec. 17, 1945, the same day that
Bird and Diz made a record date with Slim Gaillard. Unfortunately there is not much to these five excerpts from the broadcast, some of which had been previously issued by the Definitive label. Three of the excerpts are under two minutes apiece (Parker is heard briefly on “52nd Street Theme”) and, of the two longer pieces, one mostly has Harry “The Hipster” Gibson talking about how great the band is before there is a brief bit of playing on “How High The Moon.”
The music is much better on the Dec. 29, 1945 broadcast but it was put out before by the Spotlite label. This Jubilee broadcast has improved sound over the previous issues and it includes the announcements by host Ernie “Bubbles” Whitman to exciting versions of “Groovin’ High,” “Shaw ‘Nuff” and “Dizzy Atmosphere.” A broadcast version of “Salt Peanuts” from Jan. 24, 1946, five songs from a live session with a quintet also featuring the young Miles Davis and pianist Joe Albany, and a Parker feature on “Cherokee from another Jubilee broadcast had also been out previously. Completely new are three selections (“Ornithology,” “Dizzy Atmosphere,” and “Out Of Nowhere”) from Parker’s appearance with a rhythm section at a Jazz At The Philharmonic concert on Nov. 22, 1948. While the sound quality is excellent, Bird was not in good shape that day and sounds both sloppy and reluctant to play. Should this have been released?
The second disc of Bird In L.A. is also of questionable value. The recording quality of the music, which was previously released in bootleg form by the RLR label, is mostly just fair although improved a bit. Most of it is from a jam session on July 14, 1952 at a party that apparently got a bit wild with the musicians joining the audience in stripping off their clothes! Parker is joined by altoist Frank Morgan (this was their only joint recordings), tenor-saxophonist Don Wilkerson, pianist Amos Trice, bassist David Bailey, and drummer Larance Marable. Trumpeter Chet Baker is on the final number (a lengthy “Scrapple From The Apple”) that is probably from a different party. While Parker plays well enough and there are some stirring moments, the music is as loose as the partygoers. Bird In L.A. (available from www.amazon.com) is primarily for completists.
MILES DAVIS LOOKS BACK
Once 1970 arrived, Miles Davis, who had become a pioneer in fusion (blending together jazz improvisation with rock rhythms and a reliance on grooves rather than repeating chord changes), refused to look back. He maintained that position up until 1991 when he consented to perform Gil Evans arrangements with a big band at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Less known is his concert of July 10, 1991 in Paris, two days after the Montreux appearance. Advertised as “Miles and Friends,” the members of the audience were very surprised that the trumpeter invited some of his former sidemen to join him on stage, playing some of his earlier repertoire for the second and last time during his final 20 years. 30 years later, the double-CD The Lost Concert has been released by the Sleepy Night label, finally making this unique music available.
First, Davis performs three numbers (“Perfect Way,” “New Blues” and “Human Nature” with his regular group of the period: altoist Kenny Garrett, keyboardist Deron Johnson, Foley on lead bass, electric bassist Richard Patterson, and drummer Ricky Wellman. But then things change. The muted trumpeter plays a credible version of “All Blues” with such alumni as soprano-saxophonist Bill Evans, tenor-saxophonist Steve
Grossman, Chick Corea on keyboards, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Al Foster. Wayne Shorter (on soprano) and keyboardist Joe Zawinul join Davis for one of the night’s best performances on “In A Silent Way” It segues into the rockish “Katia” which has guitarists John McLaughlin and John Scofield interacting with each other while joined by electric bassist Darryl Jones and drummer Wellman.
The most straight-ahead number leads off the second disc. While it is listed as “Dig” (which is based on “Sweet Georgia Brown”), the tune is actually a different song from the 1950s that utilizes the chord changes of “I Got Rhythm.” Altoist Jackie McLean, Grossman, Corea, Holland and Foster join Davis, who sounds fine playing the vintage song. “Watermelon Man” (which Miles never actually recorded before) has him joined by Evans, Garrett, both Herbie Hancock and Deron Johnson on keyboards, Foley, Patterson and Foster. “Penetration” and “Wrinkle” are by Miles’ current band while “Footprints” features Davis playing the piece with Shorter, Corea, Holland and Foster. The grand finale has nearly all of the musicians performing together but the tune, “Jean Pierre,” is lightweight and it is a bit anti-climactic.
The recording quality is decent if not flawless and one can say the same about the playing. But to hear Miles Davis, just three months before his death, playing “Footprints,” “In A Silent Way” and with Jackie Mclean and Chick Corea again is worth the purchase. The Lost Concert is available from www.sleepynight-records.com.
The Three Sounds, which was comprised of pianist Gene Harris, bassist Andy Simpkins, and drummer Bill Dowdy, first recorded as the rhythm section on cornetist Nat Adderley’s Branching Out (which also included tenor-saxophonist Johnny Griffin) in 1958. Sounding like a bluesier and more soulful version of the Oscar Peterson Trio, the Three Sounds were immediately signed to Blue Note and extensively recorded during the next five years. Not counting sets in which they were part of quartets led by altoist Lou Donaldson and tenor-saxophonist Stanley Turrentine or the various selections that were originally only released in Japan, the Three Sounds recorded ten albums during a 3 ½ year period. Strangely enough considering Blue Note’s extensive reissue programs, very few of those records have been made available during the past two decades.
But now, seven of the ten albums (leaving out Just Got To Be, Out Of This World, and Black Orchid) plus the Stanley Turrentine project have been reissued on the four-CD set Gene Harris & The Three Sounds – The Ultimate Blue Note Collection put out by the budget Enlightenment label. These albums (originally titled The Three Sounds, Bottoms Up, Good Deal, Moods, Feelin’ Good, Here We Come, Hey There and Blue Hour) contain a great deal of infectious music. The 61 selections, which include standards and basic originals, show today’s listeners why the Blue Sounds were so popular during this era. Gene Harris plays in his easily recognizable style with fine support from Simpkins and Dowdy, swinging with soul.
While the Three Sounds continued throughout the 1960s with other recordings for Verve, Mercury, and Limelight plus a second period on Blue Note (with different drummers and sometimes a greatly expanded group), and Harris made a comeback in the 1980s, culminating in a long series of great Concord albums, the prime of the Three Sounds is heard throughout this generous and highly enjoyable package. The Ultimate Blue Note Collection is available from www.mvdb2b.com.
LENNIE TRISTANO ON MOSAIC
Lennie Tristano (1919-78) was one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, developing his original voice by 1946 and becoming an inspiration for many artists in the West Coast cool jazz era and beyond. Because he was blind, a private person, and spent long periods away from the limelight, he is often portrayed as a mystery figure. But he was apparently a warm individual who enjoyed a wide variety of jazz performers and was quite open as a teacher.
Tristano made a fair number of recordings in his career although less than most artists of his stature. Fortunately there is a treasure trove of private and live recordings that has now been released as the six-CD limited-edition box set Lennie Tristano Personal Recordings 1946-1970 (Mosaic/Dot Time) casting some new light on his brilliance.
Rather than being in strict chronological order, each CD features the pianist in a different setting. The first CD must have been the most difficult to prepare for release because the first 11 of the 15 trio numbers (which feature guitarist Billy Bauer and either Arnold Fishkin or an unidentified bassist) were taken from wire recordings and acetate discs. While undoubtedly greatly improved, the recording quality is not great. However the interplay between Tristano and Bauer on these sessions from 1946-48 is quite advanced for the time.
Disc #2 is greatly improved. Tristano is heard as a piano soloist (other than the opening “Spectrum” from 1952 which has him overdubbing on multiple pianos) and features him mostly in 1962 in addition to the three-part “Thursday Suite” from 1970. Some of these pieces end abruptly or are fairly brief but, because the moments of silence between songs is less than usual, the music is pretty continuous and fascinating to hear. Some of the performances are improvisations over the chord changes of standards but Tristano’s original ideas and reharmonizations (not to mention his powerful basslines) make it all sound fresh and new.
Lennie Tristano’s most famous band, his sextet with altoist Lee Konitz, tenor-saxophonist Warne Marsh, guitarist Bauer, bassist Fishkin, and drummer Jeff Morton, is featured on the third CD. They are mostly heard playing live in 1950 along with two numbers (the only ones on this box that were previously released) from a 1949 Christmas Eve Carnegie Hall concert. The close interplay between the saxophonists, the quietly swinging rhythm section, and Tristano’s adventurous playing make this a special disc and a major addition to this group’s discography.
The fourth CD is unusual for the trio numbers from the mid-1950s with bassist Peter Ind and either Tom Wayburn or Al Levitt on drums are very bebop-oriented. In fact, Tristano often sounds like Bud Powell or a Powell disciple, playing joyful lines and swinging hard.
However on the final two CDs, Tristano would not be mistaken for anyone else. He performs duets with bassist Sonny Dallas in the mid-1960s and trio numbers with Dallas and drummer Nick Stabulus in 1962 and 1966, really stretching out as an improviser. There is also a lengthy ballad version of “How Deep Is The Ocean” with Lee Konitz and tenor-saxophonist Zoot Sims.
Most intriguing is the very earliest “free jazz” session. Tristano had made what
was believed to be the very first recorded free improvisations on May 16, 1949 (“Intuition” and “Digression”) with Konitz, Marsh, Bauer and Fishkin, predating Ornette Coleman by nine years. But the sixth disc leads off with a private session from 1948 that has Tristano, Konitz, Marsh and Bauer as a quartet performing seven free improvisations in the pianist’s studio. The playing is surprisingly melodic at times and there is no honking, squealing or sound explorations. The music, while being advanced, has its own logic and it almost sounds planned in advance due to the musicians being quite adept at listening to and reacting to each other.
There is no point in hesitating. Get Lennie Tristano Personal Recordings (available from www.mosaicrecords.com) before it sells out!
P.S. Next from Mosaic in a few months will be an 11-CD box set of all of the recordings made by the Black & White label from the mid-1940s