Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Teddy Charles - 1964 - Russia Goes Jazz

Teddy Charles
Russia Goes Jazz - Swinging Themes From The Great Russian Composers

01. Sheherazade Blue 3:45
02. Lullaby Of The Firebird 5:02
03. Love For Three Oranges March 2:21
04. Borodin Bossa Nova 3:37
05. Dance Arabe 2:49
06. Lullaby Russe 4:25
07. Etude 3:11
08. Princess Sheherazade 4:45

Baritone Saxophone – Pepper Adams (tracks: A1, A3, A4, B1 to B3)
Bass – Ted Kotick
Bass Clarinet – Eric Dolphy (tracks: A1, A3, A4), Tommy Newsom (tracks: B1 to B3)
Clarinet – Jimmy Giuffre (tracks: A2, B)
Drums – Osie Johnson
Flute, Tenor Saxophone – Jerome Richardson (tracks: A1, A3, A4, B1 to B3)
Guitar – Jim Hall (tracks: A2, B), Jimmy Raney (tracks: A1, A3, A4)
Piano – Hank Jones (tracks: B1 to B3)
Tenor Saxophone – Jimmy Giuffre (tracks: B1 to B3), Zoot Sims (tracks: A1, A3, A4)
Trumpet – Howard McGhee (tracks: A2, B4)
Vibraphone – Teddy Charles

Jazz artists have long been drawn to classical composers as a source of inspiration for arrangements. These sessions led by vibraphonist Teddy Charles with several different all-star groups adapts the music of several Russian composers. Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" is rearranged by Charles into the loping, bluesy "Scheherazade Blue," featuring Zoot Sims and flautist Jerome Richardson, along with the leader. Even better is "Lullaby of the Firebird," taken from Stravinsky's famous ballet, an ominous but swinging take showcasing Jim Hall and clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre with Charles. The swinging "Borodin Bossa Nova" was not the first reworking of this Russian master's works, this theme had already been popularized in American music by the pop song "Stranger in Paradise." In fact, all of the arrangements are interesting and have held up well over the decades. The rather brief total time of under a half-hour makes one wish that additional material had been recorded and included, as neither bass clarinetist (Eric Dolphy and Tommy Newsom) is given an opportunity to solo. Veteran jazz critic Ira Gitler's humorous liner notes, which have Russians like the fictitious Meade Lux Lenin taking credit for various jazz innovations, are an added bonus. Long out of print, this United Artists LP will be difficult to track down.

Pony Poindexter - 1962 - Pony's Express

Pony Poindexter
Pony's Express

01. Catin Latin 4:10
02. Salt Peanuts 3:35
03. Skylark 3:40
04. Struttin' With Some Barbecue 5:28
05. Blue 5:26
06. "B" Frequency 1:39
07. Mickey Mouse March 3:02
08. Basin Street Blues 3:40
09. Pony's Express 2:16
10. Lanyop 9:34
11. Artistry In Rhythm 2:14

Bass – Ron Carter, Bill Yancy
Drums – Charlie Persip, Elvin Jones
Piano – Guido Mahones, Tommy Flanagan
Saxophone [Alto] – Eric Dolphy, Gene Quill, Phil Woods, Pony Poindexter, Sonny Red
Saxophone [Baritone] – Pepper Adams
Saxophone [Soprano] – Pony Poindexter
Saxophone [Tenor] – Billy Mitchell, Clifford Jordan, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Heath, Sal Nistico

Pony Poindexter was a sporadically recorded bop saxophonist who played on sessions by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross as well as Wes Montgomery; his long unavailable 1962 debut as a leader, originally on Epic, finally was reissued as a Koch CD in 2001. With arrangements by Gene Kee, Poindexter leads several all-star ensembles, which include Phil Woods, Gene Quill, Sonny Red, Eric Dolphy, Dexter Gordon, Clifford Jordan, Jimmy Heath, Sal Nistico, Billy Mitchell, and Pepper Adams. The rhythm sections are also first rate: either Gildo Mahones or Tommy Flanagan play piano, with Ron Carter or Bill Yancey on bass, and Charli Persip or Elvin Jones on drums. Poindexter is a convincing ballad player with the rich reed section backing him on "Skylark," while he trades choruses with Gordon's big-toned tenor on a snappy and decidedly nontraditional take of "Struttin' With Some Barbecue." His originals include the smoking opener "Catin' Latin," with the leader on soprano sax (and almost getting buried by the backing saxophone section at times), the brisk blues "Pony's Express," and the loping blues "Lanyop," which also features a typically daredevil alto solo by Dolphy. Sadly an alternate take of "Lanyop," which appeared on the LP anthology Almost Forgotten, was not licensed for this Koch CD reissue and omitted. It's a shame that Pony Poindexter didn't get many more opportunities to record as a leader, as this release demonstrates his considerable promise.

Max Roach - 1961 - Percussion Bitter Sweet

Max Roach 
Percussion Bitter Sweet

01. Garvey's Ghost 7:55
02. Mama 4:50
03. Tender Warriors 6:54
04. Praise For A Martyr 7:13
05. Mendacity 8:56
06. Man From South Africa 5:15

Bass – Art Davis
Congas – Carlos "Patato" Valeler
Cowbell – Carlos "Totico" Eugenio
Drums – Max Roach
Flute, Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Eric Dolphy
Piano – Mal Waldron
Tenor Saxophone – Clifford Jordan
Trombone – Julian Priester
Trumpet – Booker Little
Vocals – Abbey Lincoln (tracks: A1, B2)

From the get-go the message is clear: Hang on, there’s no looking back. The ’60s have arrived.
This 1961 Impulse Records session is explosive, iconoclastic, and seminally political, radiating both rage and transcendent elation. Those who still thought of Max as a bopper awoke to find the master penning and playing tunes on the cutting edge. Max is brilliant here at breaking the rules because he helped write them.

A previous LP, Freedom Now Suite, more commonly recognized as a classic, employed a similar direction, also with a political edge and themes of black empowerment. But Bitter Sweet survives the test of time as a more fully realized, focused work. It’s an under-recognized classic featuring peak work from a tremendous lineup.

“Garvey’s Ghost” opens with Max’s African 6/8 groove. The crunchy, bouncing-off-the-wall live sound totters on distortion. Thick chord clusters burst in, topped by Abbey Lincoln’s eerie wordless vocals. The harmonic tension makes neck hairs bristle, and that intensity never wanes. Throughout the disc, Max delivers inspired solos of mini-structural statements that—much like a sax solo—build between paused “breaths.”

The soulful, defiant ballad “Mendacity” comments on crooked politicos along with images of denied civil rights and lynching. Eric Dolphy’s dam-bursting alto solo is a plaintive, bluesy cry that’s one of his best on record.

“Man From South Africa” is essentially a 7/4 blues, but Max and bassist Art Davis liberate the groove, alternating between outlining the 1-2/1-2/1-2-3 theme and riding straight through. Max and soloists phrase with effortless freedom, making the odd meter almost superfluous. Everything here is torridly “in the moment.”

This album comprises forty minutes of strong personal vision—and represents some of Max’s best post-bop drumming. And Max’s musical foreshadowing was correct: The new decade was to be both tumultuous and inspiring.