Pair of Threes (July 7th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Pair of three from Louisiana this morning:

The great Bechet’s intense vibrato and thrilling, surprising upward swings on soprano sound almost avant-garde to my ear. He played pretty masterfully from the beginning of his career to the end; today, I concentrated on his Blue Note recordings (mostly 1940s sides), a reliable place to start for a beginner.

Louisiana’s most ferociously skilled and (one of its) longest-lasting Cajun groups knocked it out of the part with the fairly recent Carencro. Besides their usual solid originals en Francais, they take James Brown, John Coltrane, and Fred McDowell to the swamp. Never underestimate the Brothers Doucet–they can play any damn thing and swing you.

It’s hard to imagine any trumpeter getting within spitting distance of Louis Armstrong’s shining sound, vivacity, and invention–even in the Crescent City. Red Allen of Algiers was one of a few, however, who could, and he wasn’t a bad singer, either. These days, he’s overshadowed, but he enjoyed a solid career into the early ’60s. Here’s where it starts.

Pair of three kinda-sorta “outside” jazz albums this afternoon:

Nicole and I have been fortunate to see one of the great jazz father-and-son teams in person, though not playing together as they do here. Stereo-separated for aural convenience, the two Chicago tenors converse and “reason” (as a Rasta might say), Papa Von sounding just like an eccentric but leagues-wise elder in the left channel, sonny boy Chico in the right blowing open the barn doors like the young turk he was at the time–but able to shut and lock them tight with skill, finesse, and economy, too. Rhythm section’s crack as well.

I went through a Blythe binge not long ago when he passed from this life; I’m back on another thanks to reading of his Watts exploits in service to Horace Tapscott’s Arkestra in the excellent The Dark Tree. The above track is the only one on the abso-fab Lenox Avenue Breakdown during which guitarist James Blood Ulmer’s turned loose–it’s also the only track that’s fully out–but Black Arthur’s piercing, driving, yet lyrical alto remains the main attraction.

Hill’s another player who crossed paths with, and likely was encouraged, if not influenced, by Tapscott. This record’s challenging, even jittery (if that makes sense), the leader and band are in top form, and here’s one of very few chances to hear (Sun Ra) Arkestra star John Gilmore blow his horn in another context.

To the Queens (February 2nd, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Jazz has produced few spousal tributes as delicate, as deep, or as powerful as vibraphonist Walt Dickerson’s To My Queen, recorded on September 21, 1962, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey–Rudy Van Gelder behind the glass, of course.

Dickerson’s playing is concentrated and clear, conjuring a warm state of love that is varied, and constant. The 17-and-a-half minute title piece (above) gives the music a compositional framework that will stick to your ear’s (and mind’s) ribs, but allows plenty improvisational space–which with this unit is crucial. Besides Dickerson, the great Andrew Hill is on piano, and the young Andrew Cyrille (just before participating in a very different session with Cecil Taylor) and George Tucker, on drums and bass respectively, nearly steal the show from the leader. Keep your head inclined toward the speakers during the quieter passages, and you’ll be rewarded by Cyrille’s magically startling transitions out of them, and Tucker’s telepathic conversations with the leader during them. Keep this record in mind for Valentine’s Day.

Short-shrift Division:

In case you haven’t got the message already and are in search of albums that, end-to-end, won’t let you down, please trust me on these, each of which I have test-driven several times for y’all:

Nona Hendryx & Gary Lucas: The World of Captain Beefheart–You may not think you need to hear Hendryx singing Beefheart but you do: she transforms them. She’s playing his music so all the girls will come meet the monster tonight. And believe it or not, along with Lucas’ knife-point slide scraping aural graffiti onto the songs, you’ll get some stellar r&b/soul/doo-wop-styles ballads. You knew Van Vliet wrote those, right?*

Princess Nokia: 1992–Why rob yourself of the inspiring experience of listening to this young woman of color defiantly stepping to our current national ugliness–which she really never explicitly acknowledges–and backing it up several steps? After two listens, you’ll be chanting along with her, whether she’s repping for the streets of New York, vaunting her unconventional physique, abjuring recipes as she takes to the kitchen, coming right back at ’em after missing a layup, or pointedly taking her place with her fellow brujas.**

*Shrift not-so-short, doncha see?

**Which should tell you something.