Monday, September 13, 2010
Much of my recreational listening lately has centered on Chick Corea's Now He Sings, Now He Sobs; Paul Motian in the ’70s, including his trio records with Charles Brackeen and his work with Keith Jarrett; and Dave Holland's ’80s quintet albums on ECM. Blessedly, all three of these strains of brilliance can be glimpsed on YouTube.
I'm transfixed by all these above clips, especially the Jarrett/Haden/Motian one—what in God's name is Paul Motian doing here? So gloriously eccentric and unhinged from the way anyone else has ever played drums. You don't think of the guy who swung with Bill Evans at the Vanguard; you think of the great outsider jazz-percussion geniuses, from Sunny Murray all the way up to Randy Peterson. Motian's playing here, and the sound of this Jarrett trio as a whole, reminds us that free jazz is about so much more than Free Jazz, i.e., the Coltrane-and-Ayler- or even Ornette-derived stuff. So many artists have played "free" in so many different ways. There's Fire Music on one hand and then there's this whole other strain that's about ecstatic joy and fun. Those emotions are really palpable in this clip.
And speaking of different spins on free jazz, how about Roy Haynes? At the beginning of the Corea clip above, what you hear is straight-up OUT, and moreover, Haynes sounds absolutely comfortable, not to mention fantastic, in this mode. It's basically exactly the type of thing Corea would play later on with Barry Altschul and the Circle cats. There's some more of this free vibe appended to the CD reissue of Now He Sings, esp. a track called "Fragments". A tantalizing performance, since I'm pretty sure Haynes never really did anything like this again. Of course, I could be mistaken, but in all the other instances I know of Haynes recording with avant-garde-leaning figures, e.g., Dolphy and Andrew Hill, the mode was pretty much straight postbop. Does anyone know if there are any other instances of Roy Haynes playing free jazz? If so, I absolutely NEED to hear them. He sounds incredible in this vein—if you heard just a few seconds, you might think you were listening to Andrew Cyrille or another avant-garde titan.
As for the Holland, I wrote in a comment here about how this band with Steve Coleman and Kenny Wheeler represents a jazz ideal for me. This is what I said there with regard to Holland albums such as The Razor's Edge and Seeds of Time, and I stand by it: "It's not free jazz; it's not straight-ahead jazz; it's just good jazz. It swings when it needs to, grooves when it needs to, comes off the rails when it needs to. It takes neither a reverent nor a defiant attitude toward the history of the music."
Anyway, long live YouTube and its jazz-historical treasures.