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.

Free Man and Woman (March 22-23, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

March 22

Our anniversary celebration continued as we witnessed a dynamic, playful, and moving performance by the great Chicago saxophonist Chico Freeman and his band. Freeman performed at Whitmore Recital Hall at the University of Missouri’s School of Music (where over 20 years ago we’d heard his legendary father Von); with him were Kenny Davis on bass, the impish young drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr., and a pianist whose name escapes me (as it briefly did Freeman) but who played smartly in the absence of Anthony Wonsey, who was snowed in on the east coast. The show was part of Columbia’s “We Always Swing” series, and earlier in the day Freeman had dedicated the series’ jazz lending library, which is named in his father honor. The elder Freeman, unfortunately passed from this plane, was himself a majestic and original saxophonist of great skill and wide influence.

If you’ve not chanced to hear him play, Chico Freeman regularly captures the same moody, searching tone Coltrane gets in songs like “Equinox.” Like any graduate of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, he’s a heckuva writer, too, and in the AACM tradition, his set, with the exception of one standard that he took apart Rollins-style and introduced with a magic cadenza, the tunes were either his or other jazz players’. The highlights of the show both tapped into the Coltrane legacy: Freeman’s own “Elvin,” an emotional tribute to that giant of drumming, and a set-closing trip through McCoy Tyner’s “African Village.” The concert was engrossing, and we thank Mr. Jon Poses, the mastermind behind the quarter-century-old series, for working tirelessly to bring jazz geniuses like Freeman to mid-Missouri.

The complete set list (w/links to other performances of the songs by Freeman):

Black Inside

Elvin

Free Man” (written for Freeman by Antonio Farao)

Dark Blue” (for Duke Ellington)

“My One and Only Love” (we think)

“To Hear a Teardrop in the Rain”

Dance of Light for Luani” (for his daughter)

African Village” (McCoy Tyner)

March 23

Morning: I celebrated my liberation unto Spring Break 2018 by giving some blood then stirring up what I had left with some more saxophone music, this time courtesy of the Swedish maniac Mats Gustafsson and the band ZU, whose new record, intriguingly titled How to Raise an Ox, is one of the year’s best jazz records. It is not for the faint of heart.

Afternoon: I sampled, on a Xgauvian tip, the new electronic-y Monk tribute by Tim Conley (aka MAST) called Thelonious Sphere Monk. I’ll give anything Monk-oriented a spin, and I did kinda like this–in the right mood I’ll put it on again–but it did smooth out the inventive angles that are one of the many wonders of Thelonious’ music. In a related development, it also makes these famous compositions ideal for occupying a social background–a place they’ve always stubbornly resisted, in my experience. I dunno. Not giving up on it yet.

Evening: After a few margaritas and tequila shots, Nicole, finally freed herself from the grip of public school teaching, and I drove carefully around our neighborhood YELLING THE ENTIRETY OF THE BEATLES’ CLASSIC ALBUM BEATLES FOR SALE AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS! Try it some time–it’s good for the soul!