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Friday, April 11, 2008

You Shoulda Been Here...

because you would have heard all this while I was fixing the computer:

Eric Dolphy - The Complete Prestige Recordings (Discs 1 & 2) I bought this set when it came out. It was pretty expensive and I was still a neophyte on the jazz tip. What possessed me to take a $120 (I think) leap of faith, I'll never know. But glad I did.

And the crazy thing is, I bought this sucker at Best Buy! Try finding ANY jazz at Best Buy today that isn't Miles' Greatest Hits, A Love Supreme or whatever Kenny G. poops out, let alone a nine CD comprehensive set from a bass clarinet avant playing cult figure.

But I digress...

One and Two cover Dolphy's "Outward Bound," Oliver Nelson's "Screamin' the Blues" and Ken McIntyre's "Looking Ahead." If you know anything about early 60s jazz, those titles should tell you everything you need to know about the contents. If you don't, well, the first and third are more "modern" with what was then pretty avant guard stuff while the second is more downhomey, Saturday night BBQ.

When I first got this set, the Nelson sides (and there's two albums worth here) didn't impress me as much as the more "out" stuff. Now I've really come to appreciate just the soulful bluesy stuff. Of the listening, this was probably what hit me closest to right the other day, though it's all pretty good. Of course, the Five Spot set with Booker Little is the crown jewel of this box, but really it's all good.

Sonny Rollins - The Complete Prestige Recordings (Discs 5, 6 & 7) Oh man, Now here is some classic, classic stuff. You want state of the art mid-50s small group jazz? It doesn't get much better than this batch of recordings.

Disc five starts off with "Sonny Rollins Plus Four" which is the legendary Clifford Brown/Max Roach group in all but name. You simply can not argue with that group of players at that time. I went through a period where I bought any Brown/Roach album I could find and I was never disappointed.

Then we move to "Tenor Madness." Stupid title, but you get Sonny with Miles' rhythm section of the time and a guest shot from Coltrane. It's easy to argue that this album is a bit overrated. It gets reissued every couple of years based on the combination of Sonny and Trane playing together. Alright, sure, but you can't deny it's still good stuff. Maybe not Sonny's best, but so what?

Speaking of, here comes "Saxophone Colossus," another dumb title, but probably Rollins' first masterpiece. If I had to pick one album out of this box to have and to hold forever and ever amen, it'd probably be this one. Everything just comes together here. And as much as "Blue 7" has been mythologized, it's still an impressive bit of improvisation. Plus, I'll always dig "St. Thomas," even if this version is a bit stiffer rhythmically than later versions.

Then there's "Rollins Plays for Bird" and "Tour de Force." I have to admit, listening to these two after "Colossus" is a bit of a let down. Don't get me wrong, there's some great stuff and I have a budding appreciation for Kenny Dorham, so hearing him on the Bird stuff is always cool. But it's just that "Colossus" was so strong, so inspired, that most anything following directly is going to pale a bit.

And that's kind of the problem with a set like this. You can't really sit down and listen to all of it, or even a large chunk like I did, at once because the amazing moments tend to wash out the merely fantastic. But, when you're babysitting a bunch of installs, you've got the time and that's just what happens.

So tonight it was:

Booker Ervin - Texbook Tenor I have to confess, this one was just background for me tonight. I love Booker and I'm sure when I get a chance to really dig into this, I'll dig it too. Dig?

Larry Young - Lawrence of Newark Wow. Outsville, baby. This ain't no backgound music here. I've been wanting this one for ages and didn't even know it was on CD until I saw it at Dusty Groove earlier this week. Really, it was all I expected and then some.

I loved Lifetime. (Tony Williams' Lifetime I mean, I think there's some emo band out there using the name, so let's be clear.) And as much as I loved Young's Blue Note stuff, the Lifetime records just blew my mind. This is an extension of that. The best way I can describe it would be if Pharaoh Sanders had been in Lifetime, this might have been the album. It's got that rock bottom fusion stuff, but with some free/spiritual stuff on top. Kooky, crazy stuff. I love it. Three hundred stars.

Big John Patton - Blue John Gadzooks, I hadn't listened to this one in forever. After the Lou Donaldson platter the other night, I was in the mood to hear more Grant Green/Ben Dixon and Big John.

So, yeah, good stuff. Kind of a legendary session in so far as the album cover showed up on the back of other Blue Note LPs, but it was ever released. Oops.

Now, the one thing about this that I'm still not sure about is George Braith. When I first heard him, I was not impressed at all. It's too easy to write him off as a Roland Kirk imitator doing the two horns at once bit. But, I've heard a lot of his stuff since then and getting back to this album, well, let's just say he doesn't mess things up. Still, I think there's probably a half dozen other sax players I would have liked to hear here(including Kirk himself!), but still , he does bring something different to the album.

Charles Kynard - The Soul Brotherhood From Larry Young's spacey freak outs, to Kynard's funky soul. Have definitely been in a Hammond mood as of late.

So this is a two albums on one disc set. I'm not going to lie to you, the first part was enjoyable enough, but didn't really grab me as too much different than a million other soul jazz sets I've heard (most of which feature Grant Green on guitar, as does this one.) I'll need to give it another spin because I've heard there's some really hot playing from Mr. Green here. I just didn't hear it in the first pass.

The second album here, is something a little more special, IMVHO. Right away, the rhythm section grabbed me and refused to let go. Kind of odd to have a bass player on an organ jazz record, but it's Carole Kay! And you got Paul Humphreys on drums (sounding a ton like Pretty Purdie, not that that's a bad thing.) Then you got Wilton Felder from the Crusaders on tenor and Joe Pass (!) on guitar. It's like a weird left coast session jam.

And believe you me, this record smokes! Seriously, I didn't know what to expect here because, on paper, this really looks like a straight session gig where everyone plays like worker bees. But dang dang DANG. I don't know what got into everyone, but this is some sweaty, greasy, funky stuff going on here. B3 sets come a dime a dozen and, as much as I like them, they do tend to sound similar after a while. But this, man, this is good stuff.

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