Friday, July 04, 2008

DFSBP July 4th mixtape: Independents day

My listening habits are erratic but rarely random. Usually there's a pretty clear path. To illustrate...

Recent Bobby Few research got me thinking on his aesthetic forbear--and the grandaddy of Total Piano--Jaki Byard. 1967's Sunshine of My Soul, with the one-time-only bass/drums dreamteam of David Izenzon and Elvin Jones, was the obvious choice, since I'd never spent the time w/ that record that I'd always promised myself I would.

It ruled, of course, and got me thinking about other Jaki classics, and namely his participation in one of the great rhythm sections in all of jazz, alongside bassist Richard Davis and drummer Alan Dawson. I don't have a complete list of the sessions they worked on together, but Musique Du Bois by Phil Woods is a sleeper classic. A more justly loved disc (Bagatellen and be. jazz both sing its praises) is "The Freedom Book," simply one of the most pulsatingly lifeful recordings I know.

Anything with Alan Dawson naturally leads one to thinking on his star protege and still, to my ears, the most supple and advanced percussionist jazz has ever known--sorry for all the hyperbole, but we're talking about the Pantheon here--Tony Williams (pictured above). He lit up Rudy Van Gelder's studios in the mid-'60s, participating in an astounding number of A+ Blue Note sessions (off the top of my head: Evolution, Point of Departure, One Step Beyond, Out to Lunch, etc.). The ones I got to thinking on, though--and had the great pleasure of digging today--were his two BN leader dates, '64's Life Time and '65's Spring, issued under the unshortened "Anthony." Very, very enigmatic records, but *fascinating* and yielding some wondrous instrumental tandems you'll not find elsewhere, i.e., the Ron Carter/Gary Peacock bass chorus on Life Time and the Sam Rivers/Wayne Shorter tenor team on Spring.

Try this: Name an example of free improvisation released on Blue Note. One can never really be sure, but maybe the piano trio track from CT's Unit Structures, "Tales (8 Whisps)"? Or maybe Rivers's own "Afflatus" (raise the roof, JP) from Dimensions and Extensions? I'd argue that these two Williams sessions are the closest Blue Note ever got to free jazz, per se, given the amount of what sounds like totally spontaneous playing happening here. When there are heads (e.g., "Tee" from Spring), they are *very* sketchy and brief. Most of the time, these are just-play records and while they can meander, they have a slow-burning, subtle power.

Anyway, I've blown way off course from what this post was supposed to be about, namely a short intro to a July 4th mixtape I cooked up on drummers, namely drummers from the glorious mid-'60s, where the rulebook was being entirely rewritten by like eight different players at once. One tends to divide the innovators up into time/no-time or inside-out and free (e.g., Williams and Elvin Jones as opposed to, say, Sunny Murray and Milford Graves [at left]), but were these camps really as starkly delineated as they seem? What if Spring, or even Out to Lunch had come out on ESP? Or Spiritual Unity on Blue Note for that matter? Anyway, this mix is designed to raise those sorts of questions--not to mention to generally stimulate w/ examples of outstanding vintage jazz experimentation--and to throw down the notion that ALL this was happening at once, courtesy of the aforementioned and other stellar "independents."

Notice how Mr. Peacock pops up on both the Williams and the Ayler, for one; and listen how Graves on the New York Art Quartet track doesn't sound all that different from Williams on the Spring track. And how Sunny Murray and Alan Dawson's approaches couldn't be more disparate but how they share that common factor of being 100% in line w/ the concept of the tenor-sax led band they're playing in (Albert Ayler's and Booker Ervin's, respectively). And *do not* sleep on "Barb's Song to the Wizard," composed by Williams (apparently w/ the transcription aid of Herbie Hancock) but actually a piano/bass duet; it is gorgeous, haunting, drummerless and absolutely sui generis in the idiom (as before, name another piece released on Blue Note on which the leader of the album and composer of the track does not actually play--especially when that leader-composer is a, gasp!, drummer; I'm not sure you'd find such an example). Here's the mix as a zipped folder of 5 MP3s:

DFSBP July 4th mixtape: Independents day

And here's the tracklist:

1) Anthony Williams - From Before (Williams)
from Spring, rec. 8/12/65
with Sam Rivers and Wayne Shorter (ts), Herbie Hancock (p), Gary Peacock (b), Williams (d)

2) Albert Ayler Quartet - Tune Q (Ayler)
from Holy Ghost, rec. 9/3/64
with Ayler (ts), Don Cherry (cornet), Peacock (b)

3) Booker Ervin - A Lunar Tune (Ervin)
from The Freedom Book, rec. 12/3/63
with Ervin (ts), Jaki Byard (p), Richard Davis (b), Alan Dawson (d)

4) The New York Art Quartet - Mohawk (Charlie Parker)
from Mohawk, rec. (I think) 6/??/65
with John Tchicai (as), Roswell Rudd (tb), Reggie Workman (b), Milford Graves (d)

5) Anthony Williams - Barb's Song to the Wizard (Williams)
from Life Time, rec. 8.(21 or 24).64
with Hancock (p), Ron Carter (b)

Secondly : If you happen to be in Brooklyn, come see STATS show #2.5 this Saturday, 7/5!

[bands listed from latest to earliest, i.e., we headline]

*STATS (formerly Stay FKD)

*Normal Love (brutal chamber prog from Philly)

*Period (Charlie Looker from Extra Life and ex-Zs + Mike Pride of many, many bands)

*No Courage (a new band in the style of hardcore) - sorry, no Web presence that I know of...

8pm, $6


(248 Monroe St between Marcy and Nostrand in Bed-Stuy-->
just a few blocks from the G train at Bedford-Nostrand)


Thirdly: My thoughts on two of the raddest discs released in '08 thus far-->

*Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue (reissue)

*Melvins' Nude with Boots


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Hank, a nice wee selection. Right, must dash: urgently need to chase down some Jaki Byard and Booker Ervin records.

orleyfarm said...

I'd love the chance to check out this mixtape, but clicking on the link doesn't seem to work. Have you taken the .zip file down or am I have I just not figured out how to access it?
Gratefully, O