Saturday, February 4, 2017

Lou Blackburn - 1963 - Two Note Samba

Lou Blackburn 
Two Note Samba

01. Manha De Carnaval
02. Jean-Bleu
03. Blues For Eyridice
04. Grand Prix
05. Two-Note Samba
06. Song Of Delilah
07. Dear Old Stockholm
08. Secret Love

Bass – John Duke
Drums – Leroy Henderson
Piano – Horace Tapscott
Trombone – Lou Blackburn
Trumpet – Freddie Hill

Just months removed from his Imperial debut Jazz Frontier, Lou Blackburn makes an impressive leap forward with Two Note Samba, a seamless and organic fusion of straight-ahead L.A. jazz sensibilities with pop, soul, and bossa nova. Reunited with an exemplary support staff including pianist Horace Tapscott, trumpeter Freddie Hill, bassist John Duke, and drummer Leroy Henderson, Blackburn quickly adapts to the Latin rhythms and textures that dominate much of the session, again proving himself an uncommonly nimble trombonist. While he contributes frustratingly little as a composer, the waltz-like original "Blues for Eurydice" is wonderful. A solid if occasionally tentative date, for all the intriguing ideas explored here, it's a shame none are pushed to their limits.

Lou Blackburn - 1963 - Jazz Frontier

Lou Blackburn 
Jazz Frontier

01. Harlem Bossa Nova
02. New Frontier
03. Perception
04. Luze Blues
05. I Cover The Waterfront
06. 17 Richmond Park
07. The Clan
08. Scorpio
09. Jazz-A-Nova
10. Stella By Starlight

Bass – John Duke
Drums – Leroy Henderson
Piano – Horace Tapscott
Trombone – Lou Blackburn
Trumpet – Freddie Hill

Recorded on January 25 and January 31, 1963 Los Angeles, CA

An unsteady debut recording by a now-obscure quintet
"Jazz Frontier" is the first of two recordings made by the Lou Blackburn/Freddie Hill quintet for the Imperial label. Besides the trombone/trumpet combination of the front line, the quintet includes pianist Horace Tapscott, bassist John Duke, and drummer Leroy Henderson. The album was recorded on January 25, 1963, just two months after the formation of the group in Los Angeles. In a 1964 interview with Down Beat magazine that appeared in the February 13 issue of that year, Blackburn says about the album "It would have have been better if we had waited," expressing his feelings that the group developed more after this initial recording.

In some ways, Blackburn's comment is justified, as the band feels very much like one that is used to working out their ideas in a live setting. Seven of the ten tracks are Blackburn originals, and while each of them is somewhat interesting in some ways, the rather simple arrangements have a feeling of being jam session-style jumping off points for the soloists. Blackburn and Hill prove to be quite technically adept and engaging soloists, both favoring dramatic use of repeated notes, and Horace Tapscott contributes several very good solos as well. For the best of the soloing, check out the second track, "New Frontier" where all three are at the top of their game playing on a fast swing.

Blackburn and Hill shine on a nice ballad version of "I Cover the Waterfront," though even better is their rubato run-through of "Stella by Starlight" to close the album. Another interesting choice of cover tunes is Curtis Fuller's "The Clan." The group captures the excitement of the tune with a very faithful reading, but the two-horn arrangement feels a bit empty compared to the Hubbard/Fuller/Heath arrangement that first appeared on Fuller's 1961 "Soul Trombone" record. Still, "The Clan" is one of the more memorable tunes on the record.

Based on the West Coast, this quintet never received much recognition. "Jazz Frontier" documents the quintet at the start of their collaboration, performing occasionally interesting original material and a few well-chosen covers. Though the soloing is generally strong, the band as a whole sounds like a unit that is still figuring itself out and this record feels very much like a recorded representation of their live act.

Niagara - 1973 - Afire


01. What For
02. City Walk
03. Terpsichore
04. Rhythm Go
05. Carnival
06. Malanga Two
07. Rolling
08. Dance In Seven
09. Bangu
10. The Third One
11. Afire

Bass [Fender] – Dave King
Bongos – Sabu Rex
Congas – Norman Tolbert
Congas, Timbales – Charlie Campbell
Drums, Percussion – George Brown

An absolute primer in the fine art of jazz-funk rhythm, Niagara Afire strips Niagara's approach to its most primal -- apart from a smattering of electric bass, the album is forged exclusively from percussion elements, augmenting Klaus Weiss' heavyweight drumming with congas, bongos, tympani, and myriad related instruments. The music proves that rhythm and melody are not mutually exclusive -- songs like "Carnival" and "What For" develop a sensibility that transcends pure groove, employing its more exotic percussive ingredients to create a sound far richer and deeper than the sum of its parts would suggest. But what's most noteworthy is Afire's sheer physicality -- this is music wrought from Herculean effort, illuminated by the joy of collaboration.

Niagara - 1972 - S.U.B.


01. S.U.B. 11:56
02. Bones 3:12
03. Niagara 4:30
04. Kattarh 5:53
05. Kikiriti 4:53
06. Gibli 5:27
07. Terra Incognita 4:05

Bass – Milan Pilar (tracks: 4)
Bass Guitar [Fender] – Gary Unwin
Congas, Percussion – Danny Fichelscher
Drums, Percussion – Klaus Weiss, Udo Lindenberg
Electric Piano – Christian Schulze
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Ack Van Rooyen
Guitar – Paul Vincent
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Flute [Alto] – Ferdinand Povel
Timbales, Congas, Percussion – Joe Harris

Don't call this krautrock - this is funk. Pure and simple. It's got the breezy impersonality of krautrock, but there's no way you can listen to the rare groove of the title track and not think "Kashmere Stage Band", say. Most of the cuts use TWO drummers and a host of percussionists; that's the main sound. Seven cuts of funk grooves. "S.U.B." has some decent SRV-style guitar work and electric piano, but you're mostly sitting on a good groove for eleven minutes. On second thought, maybe it is Krautrock...

Adding guitar, sax, trumpet, keys and flute (2 or 3 max play at a time, I think) to the layered percussion present on their s/t debut, S.U.B. is a much nicer listen. There are gaps to be filled, as in the title track, where the music runs dry/gets old because it fails to progress, evidencing that the band's music is still rooted in drum grooves rather than songwriting. The grooves are generally nice and there are some nice melodies to be found throughout.

Niagara - 1971 - Niagara


01. Sangandongo 19:10
02. Malanga 20:43

Congas, Percussion – Cotch Blackmon, Danny Fichelscher
Cowbell, Maracas– Juan Romero
Drums – George Green
Drums, Cymbal, Percussion – Keith Forsey
Drums, Percussion, Timbales – Udo Lindenberg
Drums, Timpani – Klaus Weiss
Timbales, Congas, Percussion – Joe Harris

Niaqara one gets dumped into the Krautrock catalog which is unfortunate since the band's self-titled 1970 debut actually has more of a world music feel than the cold, synthetic moves you'd associated with traditional Krautrock.  I'm guessing the cross-categorization has to do with the fact the band called Munich home (even though it's front man was Austrian and the line-up was international) and they played non-commercial material

Niagra's front man was drummer Klaus Weiss.  In the early 1970s he relocated to Munich and decided to explore opportunities to create what was in effect a drum orchestra.  Looking around the city's then -vibrant music community he ended up recruiting a multinational collective of similarly inclined percussionist, including American percussionist Cotch Blackmon, British drummer Keith Forsey, Venezuelan Juan Romero, and German drummer Udo Lindenberg .  The group somehow attracted the attention of United Artists which signed them to a contract, releasing the cleverly-titled "Niagara" in 1971.  Self-produced, the collection featured two Weiss-penned extended instrumentals.  The entire focus was on drums and percussion - no vocals and no other instrumentation.  Call it a drummer's dream come true, though for others it was probably less of a treat.

Sven-Ake Johansson - 1972 - Schlingerland

Sven-Ake Johansson 

01. Nahbild 18:05
02. Etwas Entfernt Vom Mikrofon 21:10

Drums, Composed By, Producer – Sven-Åke Johansson

First edition, silk-screened folded cover.

Recorded in October 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Diese Schallplatte ist über FMP, 1 Berlin 10, Mierendorffstraße 19, zu beziehen.

Solo free improv drum recordings tend to send most jazz fans scurrying for cover. But for the bold, there are some sweet exceptions. Sven-Åke Johansson's 1972 record Schlingerland presents just the man and his drum set, and it's a fascinating listen. Johansson seems intent on exploring the polyrhythmic possibilities of his kit, building up percolating rhythms and then subtly altering them over time. A lot of this music embodies aspects of the West African drumming tradition: Johansson overlays asymmetric drum patterns, adding and subtracting beats, dynamically changing emphasis, constantly engaging in an abstract call-and-response motif.
Johansson made this record during a time when solo drum improvisation was in its infancy (to the extent that it's widely accepted even now). Schlingerland went through reincarnations on Johansson's own label, SÅJ Records; on the SAJ imprint of FMP; and finally now on Atavistic's UMS free jazz reissue series. Despite its age, the recording has decent sound quality: independent components of the kit are well-resolved, with warmth and body. The stereo image tends to be obscenely broad, but that's a fair price to pay in order to follow Johansson's busy trapwork.

Sven-Åke Johansson's tenure with Brötzmann, Schlippenbach, and other giants of European free improvisation had already demonstrated his fluency by the time he made this record, but in the solo context he has the unique opportunity to follow his muse—undistracted by the powerful ebb and flow of group improvisation. While much of Schlingerland consists of pulsing & pounding beats, scattered moments of quiet reflection assure the listener that every note is intended. A unique document, Schlingerland fills a gap in the documentation of '70s European improvisation. At the same time, it retains a surprisingly contemporary sound which reverberates in the ear, mind, and heart of the 21st century listener.