Monday, December 25, 2017

Herbie Hancock - 1968 - Hear, O Israel - A Concert Service In Jazz

Herbie Hancock, Thad Jones, Ron Carter, Jerome Richardson, Grady Tate
Hear, O Israel - A Concert Service In Jazz

01. Blessing Over the Candles - 00:56
02. Matovu - Bor'chu - 06:43
03. Sh'ma - 06:19
04. Micho Mocho - 03:32
05. Sanctification - 05:28
06. May the Words of My Mouth - 01:28
07. Kiddush - 02:40
08. Torah Service - Adoration - 09:52
09. Final Amen - 01:00\

Ron Carter - Bass
Phyllis Bryn-Julson - Contralto Vocals
Grady Tate - Drums
Jonathan Klein - French Horn, Saxophone [Baritone]
Herbie Hancock - Piano
Jerome Richardson - Flute, Saxophone [Alto, Tenor]
Antonia Lavanne - Soprano Vocals
Thad Jones - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Rabbi David Davis - Voice [Reader], Other [Original Sleeve Notes]

Recorded in New York in 1968 and originally released on a private label.

This album is a missing link in the discography of Herbie Hancock, so much so that many ardent fans didn't even know it existed. Hear, O Israel is the recorded version of a jazz concert comprised of lyric and sacred material from the Friday night prayer service in the Jewish synagogue. Privately released in an edition of a few hundred copies, the music was composed by Jonathan Klein, who was commissioned by Rabbi David Davis in 1965 to write jazz for the Friday evening conclavette. Klein was 17 at the time he began. Composed for piano, bass, drums, soprano/alto/baritone saxophones, French horn, flute, flugelhorn, and two voices, Klein performed it with his own group and Rabbi Davis; it was so successful that a few years later, in 1968, the synagogue commissioned a full-blown concert by name jazz musicians. Klein, then a college student, composed more material to supplant some of what he'd written previously, and the instrumentation was changed a bit. The synagogue recorded this concert and it is presented here as performed by Hancock; Jerome Richardson on flute, tenor, and alto saxophones; Klein on French horn and baritone sax; trumpeter Thad Jones (who also plays flugelhorn); bassist Ron Carter (he and Hancock were part of the Miles Davis Quintet at the time); and drummer Grady Tate. Other participants are Rabbi Davis (reading the proper prayer texts), soprano vocalist Antonia Lavanne, and contralto Phyllis Bryn-Julson. But is it good? Heavens yes. One can hear traces of Vince Guaraldi and the early Columbia period of Dave Brubeck in these compositions, but so what? Hancock's no imitator; he was and remains a tremendously lyrical and rhythmically inventive pianist, and the band plays these charts effortlessly with requisite soul and swing. There are beautiful solos by Hancock, Richardson, and Jones, and the rhythm section is fluid, fresh, and upbeat throughout. The vocalists might bother some listeners, but essentially, these tunes and the manner in which they are presented and recorded are quite striking — in the same way that those appearing on records by Azar Lawrence, Doug Carn, and Harold McKinney in the '70s are. The vocal charts are somewhat abstract, so in a sense they are further out than the jazz. In fact, this is a nearly perfect meld, where jazz and sacred music meet and become something else together. One not only reflects the other, but causes it to transcend itself. The longest track here, the nine-plus-minute "Torah Service — Adoration," is a hopping soul-jazz number with killer funky piano work by Hancock in full-on Blue Note mode. The segments read by Rabbi Davis are also very effective in the context of the band's charts, vamps, and improvs. Hear, O Israel was mastered from an LP copy, since the masters no longer exist. There was some groove wear near the end of each side due to a worn stylus, but considering the source, Jonny Trunk has done an excellent job of cleaning it up without sacrificing a bit of the performance. This recording is available on both CD and LP, and should be heard by anyone interested in '60s progressive jazz or Hancock's career during the period. Hear, O Israel gives an entirely literal meaning to the term "spiritual soul-jazz."

Most likely you don't immediately connect Modern Jazz with Jewish Ritual, but this gorgeous reissue of a long lost private pressing of a 1968 Friday night service may have you rethinking those ideas. Written by Jonathan Klein, a then 17 year-old son of a Massachusetts Rabbi, who was asked to compose music for a service dealing with "Sects and Symbols Within Judaism". The music and service were so popular that the Synagogue incorporated the piece into every Friday night service, and Klein assembled a group to tour various New England Universities. For the debut performance in New York, Klein managed to get the finest New York Jazz musicians to perform his piece, including Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Grady Tate on drums, Jerome Richardson on flute and saxophone and Thad Jones on trumpet and flugelhorn with Antonia Lavanne and Phyllis Bryn-Julson on soprano and contralto voices respectively. Thankfully it was all recorded. Unlike the Christian Youth movement who used spiritually minded rock and folk music to sway new converts, the music for this service doesn't pander to youthful audiences. The music swings in unexpected ways for a religious ceremony but its full intent is an abstract spiritual openness. Even with the Hebrew recitations by Rabbi David Davis, the message is divine, universal and inspired. Rejoice!

Grady Tate - 1968 - Windmills Of My Mind

Grady Tate
Windmills Of My Mind

01. The Windmills Of Your Mind 4:08
02. And I Love Her 4:41
03. Sack Full Of Dreams 2:39
04. Would You Believe 5:01
05. Work Song 6:35
06. A Little At A Time 3:57
07. T.N.T. 3:55
08. Don't Fence Me In 2:17
09. All Around The World 3:47

Bass – Bob Cranshaw (tracks: A1, B2), Chuck Rainey (tracks: A2 to A4, B1, B3 to B5)
Drums – Bernie Purdie (tracks: A2 to A4, B1, B3 to B5), Bob Thomas (tracks: A1, B2)
Guitar – Billy Butler (tracks: A1, A2, B1 to B3), Eric Gale (tracks: A3, A4, B4, B5)
Organ – Herbie Hancock (tracks: A1)
Piano – Paul Griffin (tracks: A2 to A4, B1, B3 to B5)
Vocals – Grady Tate

Producer – Gary McFarland

Mention Grady Tate's name to most bop lovers, and his excellent drumming is the thing that immediately pops into their minds. His singing isn't the first thing they think of, which is regrettable because he really is a fine singer. One of the impressive vocal albums he did was Windmills of My Mind, a jazz/R&B release recorded when he was 36. This album (which DCC reissued on CD in 1998) underscores the fact that Tate was never a radical or abstract type of singer; the smooth, elegant crooner heard on "And I Love Her," "The Windmills of Your Mind" and "A Little at a Time" has a lot more in common with Johnny Hartman, Arthur Prysock and even Johnny Mathis (up to a point) than hardcore beboppers like Jon Hendricks, Babs Gonzales and Eddie Jefferson. Although Tate's backing group includes pianist Herbie Hancock and bassist Bob Cranshaw, much of Windmills isn't jazz -- "Don't Fence Me In" and "Would You Believe," in fact, are pure '60s soul music. One of the best tunes on the album is "Work Song," a riveting account of life on a chain gang. The disappointing thing about the CD reissue of Windmills isn't the material, but the sound quality. An abundance of pops, clicks and crackling make the CD sound like a vinyl LP that's been played too often -- one would expect an audiophile label like DCC Compact Classics to do a much better job of digitally remastering a 1968 recording. Nonetheless, this is an album that both jazz and R&B enthusiasts should hear.

Grady Tate With The Gary McFarland Orchestra, Bobby Scott - 1969 - Slaves

Grady Tate With The Gary McFarland Orchestra, Bobby Scott 

01. Slaves
02. Slaves
03. Meetin' House
04. Black Lullabye
05. Another Mornin'
06. Pickin' Cotton
07. Nightwind (Esther's Theme)
08. Another Mornin'
09. Pickin' Cotton
10. Nightwind (Esther's Theme)

Recorded at A&R Recording, New York

Grady Tate was renowned as a session drummer extraordinaire, an expert in the use of the rim shot for syncopating purposes; prized for his driving, pushing, or subtle coaxing of the beat. Yet he also displayed a warm, flexible, rhythmically agile baritone voice, which, in a reversal of the usual commercial situation, was less well-known than his drumming. He began singing at age four, impressing local Durham, North Carolina church and school audiences, but quit temporarily when his voice broke at age 12. Self-taught as a drummer at first, he picked up the fundamentals of jazz drumming during his hitch in the Air Force (1951-1955), and arranger Bill Berry made some vocal charts for him there. Upon his discharge, he returned to Durham to study psychology, literature, and theater at North Carolina College, before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1959 to teach high school and take up a musical career with Wild Bill Davis.

A move to New York City in 1963 led to a gig with the Quincy Jones big band, and soon he caught on as a recording session drummer. His most famous records as an accompanist were made under the aegis of producer Creed Taylor, for whom he became the house drummer of choice. Tate played on many of Jimmy Smith's and Wes Montgomery's most popular recordings, including 1964's The Cat and 1965's Bumpin'. He can also be heard on albums by such luminaries as Nat Adderley, Stan Getz, Tony Bennett, Kenny Burrell, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Roland Kirk, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, J.J. Johnson, and Kai Winding, among countless other artists.

Arranger Gary McFarland thought enough of Tate's singing voice to record a number of vocal albums for his short-lived Skye label, beginning with 1968's Windmills of My Mind. Yet despite further vocal sessions for Buddah, Janus, Impulse!, and a host of Japanese labels, Tate's profile as a singer was never as high as it could have been. During this period, he also stayed active appearing on albums with a bevy of jazz and soul artists including Ron Carter, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Gato Barbieri, and others. Tate's voice can also be heard on several songs in the beloved Schoolhouse Rock! animated educational series.

Despite the absence of his own solo albums, the '80s proved a fruitful time for the drummer, who returned to teaching and joined the faculty of Howard University. He also remained a highly sought-after session player, appearing with jazz artists like Jimmy Smith, Helen Merrill, and Teresa Brewer, as well as pop superstars like Simon & Garfunkel. His distinctive, undulating drum patterns were also used to good effect on composer Angelo Badalamenti's soundtrack to director David Lynch's Twin Peaks.

He returned to his solo recording work with 1991's excellent, vocal-only album for Milestone, TNT, where drummer Dennis Mackrel used many patterns that he learned from Tate. Body and Soul followed a year later, and he resurfaced with Feeling Free in 1999. Several more well-regarded albums followed, including 2003's All Love with pianist Kenny Barron and 2006's From the Heart: Songs Sung Live at the Blue Note. Tate's drumming was once again featured on the soundtrack to David Lynch's Twin Peaks: The Return. Tate died on October 8, 2017 at his home in Manhattan's Upper East Side. He was 85 years old. ~ Richard S. Ginell

Slaves was a film staring Ossie Davis made in the very early 1970s. I probably don't need to elaborate on the implications of this, given the social context of the era. I have not seen it.

Before Slaves, some background: Gary McFarland was a band leader in the 1960s who went his own way. He was not traditional, he was not avant gaurde. But even is non-soundtrack albums were a mix of jazz, TV-like program music, and movie music of the era. McFarland had a unique approach to harmony, and when you mix all this, you get some amazing music. Check out America The Beautiful: An Account of its Disappearance from 1968, not as a summation, but a departure point. Grady Tate is an amazing jazz drummer. Frankly I don't know his work but if Slaves is any indication I will be finding out more very soon.

Bobby Scott wrote the amazing music here. Most of this is a mournful, sophisticated test tube mix of blues, melodic soul, and early 1970s funk. Funk that works on extremely advanced harmonies.

I just read that last paragraph and realized how strained that sounds: a pretty lame description for a crack reviewer like me. Bad for me but good for you--if I can't describe a piece of music, that is usually the best indicator that I have found music truly unique.

It is joy to review music this brilliant, but you don't need me. Listen and download. You're ears will thank you later.