Karin Hammar Makes Circles


CIRCLES / HAMMAR: Circles. Mammakech. Bossa for Ella. Choose Your Issues/Hildegunn. Praia de Buzios. New O. Habbit Rabbit. Uphill . SIMONE: Four Women / Karin Hammar Fab 4: Hammar, tb; Andreas Hourdakis, el-gtr; Niklas Fernqvist, bs; Fredrik Rundqvist, dm / Prophone PCD175

For many decades, aside from being singers, most women in jazz played piano, guitar, vibes or some other “non male” instrument. The appearance of women jazz drummers in the 1960s were looked upon not so much with awe as with incredulity, no matter how good they were. The first really great female jazz trumpeter I heard was Marie Speziale, a member of the Cincinnati Symphony in the 1960s and ‘70s who also played jazz and did so extremely well. It was a long time before I started to see female sax players, although nowadays the sight of Hermine Deurloo (who played with Willem Brueker, and has now switched to the harmonica) or Chloe Feoranzo is not as shocking as it once was.

But women trombonists simply did not exist—at least, not really good ones who could compete with the men. Karin Hammer breaks that glass ceiling, and this CD is a fine example of both her playing and compositional skills.

As an instrumentalist, Hammar possesses an extremely warm and rich sound that, oddly enough, reminded me of Tommy Dorsey (I’m sure she’d cringe if she knew I said that, but I certainly mean it as a compliment), but her sense of jazz time is surer (TD could never really swing as well as his younger brother, Jimmy) and her improvisations are far more original and creative. It’s just the sound that reminds me of TD.

As a composer. Hammar’s music tends towards a soft sound, which might make the reader assume that it is “ambient jazz,” but it is not. It’s just a Swedish version of cool jazz, modernized via the use of somewhat ambiguous melody lines and constantly shifting harmonies. In addition, I was extremely pleased to hear that electric guitarist plays in a mostly jazz style and not so much in a rock style. Yes, he does use some inflections borrowed from Chicago-style electric blues, but that’s still not rock.

As the only horn on the album and principal solo voice, this CD is clearly a showcase for Hammar. Despite her Dorsey-like tone, her improvisations reminded me of Jimmy Knepper, the great trombonist who was one of Charles Mingus’ favorite musicians, and in a way the second track on this CD, Mammakech, had a sort of Mingus-like sound about it. Bossa for Ella may be titled as a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (since the album has absolutely no liner notes, I’m only guessing here), and on this track her resemblance to Dorsey’s smooth, rich tone is particularly strong in the slow first chorus. Here, as elsewhere, the rhythm section of bassist Niklas Fernqvist and drummer Fredrik Rundqvist almost seems to be playing at a subito level, although the former has a fine solo on this track.

Choose Your Issues/Hildegunn starts out softly, in an echo chamber, sounding very much like ambient jazz, but eventually becomes a slow ballad. Fernqvist also has a nice pizzicato solo on this one. Unfortunately, this is where guitarist Hourdakis suddenly decides that he’s playing with a rock band, thus ruining the track. Praia de Buzios is a soft Latin piece, almost but not quite a bossa nova, and Hammar again plays interesting solos. During Hourdakis’ solo, the beat placements suddenly shift and morph, pulling the rug out from under the listener.

I particularly liked New O, which had a sort of New Orleans-Professor Longhair (or Dr. John) sound to the rhythm. This, for me, was one of the best compositions on the CD, with a middle section in what sounded like a modified 3. Hammar is also quite good here, and the tempo comes way down for the bass solo. The group also does a nice job on Nina Simone’s Four Women.

Habbit Rabbit is one of those pieces using two themes in completely contrasting tempi and styles, one uptempo and the those more of a ballad. The finale, Uphill, is a ballad in a somewhat modern style, again played beautifully by Hammar and her quartet.

Basically, then, an album of pleasant yet interesting jazz played by a tightly-knit quartet with style and grace.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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Jazz From the Lost Generation in Cuba


CUBA JAZZ, JAM SESSIONS 1956-1961 / GÚTIERREZ: Descarga Caliente. Introduccion. Cimmarón. Oye Mi Ritmo Cha Cha Cha. Opus for Dancing. DOMINGUEZ: Perfidia. VALDÉS: Theme on Mambo / Julio Guttiérez y Orquestra / PORTILLO: Tronbón Criollo. LÓPEZ VALDÉS: Controversia de Metales. Estudio es Trompeta. Descarga Guajira. La Inconclusa. Redención. La Luz. A Gozar. Timbero. PEÑALVER: Guajeo  de Saxos. ECHEVARRIA: Oye Mi Tres Montuno. CONTRERAS: Malanga Amarilla. CASTILLO: Cógele en Golpe. LÉON: Pamparana. ESTIVILL: Descargo Cubana. Goza mi Trumpeta. A Gozar Timbero. Sopresa de Flauta. JIMÉNEZ: Olé.  / Cachao y su Combo / UNKNOWN: Ogueré mi China. Descarga Mambo. SIMON-SUNSHINE: El Manisero (The Peanut Vendor), LÓPEZ VALDÉS: Descarga Mexicana. Descarga General. El Fantasma del Combo. El Bonbín de Perucho. La Floresta. Rumba Sabrosa. YOUMANS-CAESAR: Tea for Two (Avance Juvenil). UNKNOWN: Descarga Ñañiga. Popurrit de Congas / Cachao y su Orquestra Cubana / LÓPEZ-VALDÉS: Es Differente. Mucho Humo. Las Boinas de Cachao. PUENTE: Cha Cha Cha de los Pollos. ECHEVARRIÁ: Leche con Rón / Walfredo de los Reyes & his All Star Band / ECHEVARRIA CALLAVA: Montuno Guajiro. Cha Cha Cha Montuno / Niño Rivera’s Cuban All-Stars / FAJARDO: Pa’ Coco Solo / Fajardo and his All Stars / AGUILO: El Viejo Yumba. YOUMANS-CAESAR: Tea for Two (Descarga). COLLAZO PEÑA: La Ultima Noche. BARRETTO: Descarga Criolla / Rolando Aguiló y su Estrellas / O’FARRILL: Descarga Número Uno. Descarga Número Dos. FIFFÉ: Bilongo / Chico O’Farrill y All Star Cubano Musicians / Frémeaux & Associés FA 5722

The annotator for this 3-CD set, Bruno Blum, makes the rather bold claim that the Caribbean, and particularly Haiti and Cuba, were the true home of the African music that morphed into jazz. New Orleans, he claims, being a Creole city, was “first and foremost a Caribbean city.” To a certain extent, this is true; there was always a strong tinge of Cuban music in particular in the French Quarter of New Orleans where the Creoles lived, which is why Jelly Roll Morton always claimed that good jazz must always include “the Spanish tinge” (which he picked up from all the Cubans and Puerto Ricans who brought their bananas and other tropical fruits into the port). But of course early jazz was not just a product of the Creoles in the French Quarter. It was also a product of the African-Americans who lived in other sections of New Orleans; in fact, there is strong evidence to suggest that the black musicians were the first to start playing loose rhythms and improvisations in their rags and cakewalks, thus transforming that music into something different. Along the way, both the Creoles and the whites in New Orleans mixed their own ideas and ideals into the mix, turning out a melting-pot sort of music that combined the hot rhythms of the African-Americans, the stricter schooling of the whites, and the French-Caribbean influences of the Creoles.

GutierrezAs to the set at hand, it is an historical document of the time when the musical form known as descargas was born in the mid-1950s. The Battista regime in Cuba was brutal to the working class, denying them basic rights, suspending the constitution and supporting the wealthiest landowners, but it did cater heavily to the tourist trade and delighted in creating garish showcases for local talent that outsiders could come and enjoy. Damasio Perez Prado created the very first mambo band that combined the hot rhythm of Cuba with the more disciplined technique and musical forms of American jazz orchestras. His idols were Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, and he first created a sensation in Mexico before emigrating north to New York around 1953 where his hot band took America by storm, turning out such monster hit records as Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White, Patricia, Mambo No. 5 and others.

Aguilo 2The orchestras heard on these CDs were considerably different. They made few if any concession to American tastes, but rather blasted out in a much less formal style. The now-neglected band of Machito, which caused a ripple of excitement on the jazz scene in the late 1940s, just before Perez Prado invaded the U.S., was closer in style to this type of music.

I have not included the long list of musicians’ names in the header of this review because none are known in the USA and also because to do so would have tripled the length of that header. Like Prado’s musicians, the soloists in these bands play in a style that is highly rhythmical but not particularly adventurous harmonically. The solos that trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and his talented sideman played on his 1947-49 big band recordings, several of which used strong Caribbean rhythms supplied by his conga drummer, Chano Pozo, were far superior to these in creativity and originality, but as Blum points out in his liner notes, descargas music was not meant to Cachao 2stimulate the intellect. It was primarily a rhythmic music meant to create a hypnotic spell over the listener, inducing a sort of trance state. Anyone who has seen the landmark film Black Orpheus will understand what I mean. It is the kind of rhythm that, in the neighboring island of Haiti, was often used to create a trance in the voodoo practitioners who smoked drugged cigars to loosen their minds and inhibitions. In a sense, then, this is music as a form of drug—just as many of the original African bands from which the rhythms of jazz descended played, and continue to play, in their home countries. When Louis Armstrong visited the Gold Coast of Africa in the late 1950s, he was startled to hear this music in its original, raw form. It had little to do with the very sophisticated improvisations that he played except in rhythm, but since he was first and foremost a rhythmic improviser, these musicians revered him. They understood where he was coming from, even if he himself did not fully appreciate the link.

FajardoIn the Julio Gutiérrez orchestra, the prize soloists is alto saxist Edilberto Scrich, who plays very interesting solos in a cool style obviously modeled after Paul Desmond with a bit of tenor saxist Stan Getz. Trumpeter Alejandro Vivar, a.k.a. El Negro, is a powerful player with a nice feeling for Latin swing, but doesn’t stray too far from the melody line when improvising (something that would have delighted Morton). One interesting thing is how, except for Gutiérrez, many of the bandleaders here used pseudonyms:”Cachao” was really Israel López Valdés, “Callava” was Niño Rivera, and “Fajardo” was José Alberto Fajardo Ramos. (For those who don’t know, Tito Puente’s was really Ernesto Antonio Puente, Jr.) Many of the musicians also used pseudonyms; in addition to El Negro, there was timbales player Chuchu (Jesus Ezquijarroso), pianist Peruchin (Pedro Nolasco Jústiz Rodriguez), tenor saxist Chombo (Osvaldo Urrutia Silva, violinist Rolito (Adelso Paz Rodriguez), and various percussion players (congas and timbales) with stage names.

CachaoThe sheer fun that all these musicians were having when making these records carries over to the listener. Everyone sounds as if they were playing with a big smile on their faces, and those smiles come through in their solos as well as the ensemble vocal choruses by band members. It’s the kind of music that, like the records of Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt and  Professor Longhair, make you smile as well when you listen to them. It may not be the most creative music in the world, even by Latin jazz standards, but it sure as hell creates a better mood than listening to rock music (well, most rock music, anyway). Think of it as Latin party music with a bit of a higher purpose.

lp coverSome of the best jazz is heard on CD 3, in the tracks featuring Niño Rivera’s Cuban All-Stars. Here, one hears the best improvisations by trumpeter Vivar (El Negro), as well as fine sax solos by Emilio Peñalver and the excellent bass playing of Salvador “Bol” Vivar.  El Fantasma del Combo is a very strange track, starting out with some Halloween-type faux spookiness before moving into an aggressive beat over which the trumpet rides. And a few tracks, such as Rumba Sabrosa by Cachao and his orchestra, sound much more African than strictly Cuban. El Viejo Yumba, by Rolando Aguiló and his All-Stars, is one of the most interesting compositions on the set, with good solos by an unidentified alto saxist.

Undoubtedly, the most stellar name among the bandleaders here is Chico O’Farrill, who had written some advanced charts for Benny Goodman’s bop band in the late 1940s and conducted Charlie Parker’s 1950 recording of Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite. The three tracks led by him here are, by far, the most advanced compositions and arrangements in the entire set: Latin music with a bit of a bop flair, particularly Descarga Número Uno, which has an excellent trombone solo by Delahoza (whoever that was!), a peppy flute contribution by Richard Eglies, and a brief but good bass solo by Tata Valdés, a.k.a. Cachao (one of our previous session leaders).

Interestingly, the release of this set coincides with Panart Records’ own reissue of these same recordings on five LPs (or five CDs) on November 9 of this year. For those who are interested, the Panart collection also includes a limited edition Panart t-shirt exclusively through the Craft Recordings online store, and may be purchased HERE. Overall, however, this is a better bargain. Well worth hearing if you like Latin jazz, particularly the third CD.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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The Emile Parisien Quintet at Marciac


SFUMATO LIVE IN MARCIAC / CD: PARISIEN-TOUÉRY-GÉLUGNE-DARRIFOURCQ: Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine I-III. LODGE: Temptation Rag. KÜHN: Transmitting. Missing a Page. PARISIEN: Balladibiza I & II. DVD: PARISIEN: Préambule. Poulp. KÜHN: Missing a Page. Transmitting. Arôme de l’Air. / Emile Parisien, s-sax; Joachim Kühn, pno; Manu Codija, gtr; Simon Tailleu, bs; Mario Costa, dm; special guests: Wynton Marsalis, tpt; Vincent Peirani, acc; Michel Portal, bs-cl / Act 6021-2 (live: Marciac, April & August 2017)

For American listeners, hearing an accordion lead into a jazz concert is a bizarre sound, but French and Swedish jazz has long used accordions as a jazz instrument, and although the opening introduction and first chorus of Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine is played as a sort of French waltz by Vincent Peirani, once soprano saxist Emile Parisien comes into the picture, the rhythm and harmonies shift to a jazz tendency. Welcome to the unusual music of Jazz Marciac!

Despite the jazz feeling, however, there remains a sort of French film music sound about this, at least until Michel Portal comes in for a strange but inventive solo on bass clarinet. After a brief ensemble passage, the tempo shifts to a slow, sinuous 4 as Joachim Kühn plays an excellent piano solo, then back to the ensemble where the theme undergoes a strange transformation to the minor. The one drawback to this set is the rock-drenched guitar of Manu Codija; every time he started playing, I wished he would shut the hell up and go away. But modern audiences seem to just love hearing rock guitars in jazz nowadays. I don’t.

Henry Lodge’s Temptation Rag, on which special guest star Wynton Marsalis is featured, is played with verve and brio by the group, without the rhythm section. The tempo slows down when Parisien and Peirani come in to play the middle strain, and later on the leader’s solo has a hint of Sidney Bechet about it (sans the French vibrato). Marsalis plays a wild lick or two, then the band increases the tempo and rides it out.

Transmitting starts out with a bass lick, and rhythm, quite similar to Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia, but the melody is quite different. Marsalis plays on this one, too, a slow but rather interesting solo in which he interjects some Dizzy-isms (not played as cleanly as by the master himself, but with a beautiful tone). The rock guitar again spoils the mood, but Kühn revives it. Portal plays a busy solo on bass clarinet. We then hear the two-part Balladibizza by Parisien, a slow, moody piece, beautifully crafted in an almost classical form. This one moves into a slow sort of shuffle rhythm with a slight Latin feel to it, featuring the ensemble for an extended period of time—until Codija comes screaming in again with his shitty-sounding guitar to muck things up. It’s a shame, because his style is completely incompatible with the surrounding material in every track on which he appears…sort of like having a football player show up at a production of Swan Lake to play Prince Siegfried.

The CD ends with Kühn’s Missing a Page, a cleverly-written tune that sounds like a bebop number except that it’s missing one beat in each bar—a beat that mysteriously appears once we reach the improvisations. On this one, Codija’s guitar doesn’t sound any better tonally but he at least tries here to fit into the surrounding material. The leader is very good on soprano sax, however, and Kühn is also excellent.

The bonus DVD duplicates much of the same material on the CD (Missing a Page, Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine, Temptation Rag, Transmitting and Balladibiza) but includes three different selections, Préambule, Arôme de l’air and Poulp. In addition to being able to watch the group as they perform, it has the benefit of even better, more realistic, almost surround-sound compared to the DVD. Préamble is an interesting piece with a slow, Mingus-like introductory section, interrupted by quadruple-time piano from Kühn, then back to the ensemble until Peirani comes in on soprano. I’m not as big on watching jazz or classical concert DVDs as some people are; I just zero in on the music and ignore the stage antics. Much to my surprise, however, our bassist and drummer are very young whereas the bass clarinetist is very old. Not surprisingly, Codija is also fairly young-looking. (He does have good chops, mind you, but he says nothing. Just a load of noise.) The one thing I did not like about the DVD, however, was the track indexing. If you select a specific title, it goes to it, but that title then runs continuously through the rest of the concert without notifying you of a change of track.

As it turned out, Arôme de l’air was a noisy piece of rock crap, but Poulp, by Parisien, was a rather quirky tune combining a Latin-type rhythm with very strange dribs and drabs of melodic licks strung together in an odd manner. A bit eccentric, to say the least, but I liked it. A couple of minutes in, it suddenly becomes an uptempo bop swinger, propelled by Kühn’s excellent piano and the rhythm section, although the tempo suddenly drops in half in his second chorus. Surprisingly, bassist Simon Tailleu also gets a rare solo on this one, as does drummer Mario Costa, though the latter’s solo goes on a bit too long. Interesting stuff!

Bottom line: great performances all round except for Shoot the Guitarist.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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Stan Getz in a Rare Live Set From 1959


LIVE IN PARIS / NOBLE: Cherokee. HAMMERSTEIN-KERN: All the Things You Are. DAVIS-RAMIREZ-SHERMAN: Lover Man. SOLAL: Special Club. MONK-WILLIAMS: ‘Round Midnight. HAMMERSTEIN-ROMBERG: Softly As in a Morning Sunrise. LAWRENCE-GROSS: Tenderly. DAMERON: The Squirrel. PARKER: Yardbird Suite. WHITING-MERCER: Too Marvelous for Words. BATTLE-DURHAM: Topsy. ARLEN-HARBURG: Over the Rainbow / Stan Getz, t-sax; Martial Solal, pno; Jimmy Gourley, gtr; Pierre Michelot, bs; Kenny Clarke, dm / Frémeaux & Associés FA 5730 (live: Paris, early January 1959)

Although Stan Getz was still polling well in down beat in 1959, the year he played this live gig at the Olympia Theater his career was kind of stuck in neutral. He was lucky to play here with three of the best jazz musicians then in Europe—pianist Martial Solal, who had already recorded a very interesting album with Sidney Bechet, Pierre Michelot, who had been Django Reinhardt’s most trusted bassist during the last phase of his career, and American expatriate drummer Kenny Clarke, a.k.a. “Klook,” the original bebop drummer of the early 1940s—but is surprisingly detached.

To a certain extent, the lineup was a strange one for Getz, particularly Clarke, who played in a fairly aggressive and energetic style. The man known as “The Sound” (short for “Long Island Sound”) was much more used to subtle drummers who used more brushes than sticks behind him, thus Klook’s extended solo in Cherokee may come as a surprise, even a shock, to those unfamiliar with his style. Clarke wasn’t about to turn into a West Coast player just because Getz was present: remember, he walked out on the Modern Jazz Quartet after just a few months because he thought their jazz too constrained and subtle.

Of course, Solal was an outstanding modern jazz pianist, not as outré as some of his American counterparts of the ;ate 1950s and early ‘60s, but far enough out there that he could feed Getz some fairly advanced chords to improvise on. Interestingly, Solal’s introduction to All the Things You Are is borrowed directly from Charles Mingus. Apparently, he had heard the record, as Mingus hadn’t yet played in France by this time. Guitarist Jimmy Gourley, a fine player if not the most imaginative, was much more of a musician who could blend with Getz. His style lay somewhere between Jim Hall and the more aggressive Charlie Byrd, not too dissimilar to that of Tal Farlow, who had played with Mingus in the famous Red Norvo Trio of the early 1950s.

That being said, Getz isn’t much fazed by the different beat that Clarke laid down. Following the pianist’s and guitarist’s leads, he weaves his way through each track with his customary restraint and ease. The liner notes claim that Getz was inspired to great heights by this particular band, but to my ears he just sounds like Stan Getz in the ‘50s, which is to say, good. He never really played poorly except when smothered by an overstuffed concert orchestra in the late 1960s, but that was another time and place. Solal, who solos on Lover Man, is clearly playing one of those jazz lounge bar pianos, the kind that sound like the upright in your church’s basement—a very dry tone, like a xylophone with a keyboard. Even so, his improvisations are excellent.

The band finally starts to jump in a cohesive way on Solal’s original, Special Club, and here he is really excellent despite his instrument’s condition. For whatever reason, Clarke plays much more subtly on this one, while Getz again sits it out. The tenor saxist returns for a nice, imaginative treatment of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, one of the finest things on this album. One thing I noticed is that, although he improvises well, Getz really doesn’t sound involved in anything. Perhaps he was doped up on heroin at the time, his and other jazz musicians’ drug of choice from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s. The only musician I’ve ever heard who still sounded great even when on smack was Chet Baker. That’s it. Everyone else, even Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Bill Evans, suffered to some extent in quality when they were on dope. All of Getz’ solos are played at the same volume level, softly, with little or no inflection or energy, albeit with some interest. Softly As In a Morning Sunrise is a perfect example. The band takes it at a nice medium uptempo and Clarke gives it a nice kick (particularly behind Gourley’s solo), but Getz stays emotionally in first gear until the last chorus, when he suddenly and temporarily wakes up. Solal does a wonderful job on Tadd Dameron’s The Squirrel, and the band (including Getz) does a very nice job on Charlie Parker’s Yardbird Suite.

The best track on this album in terms of both musical invention and emotional drive is the surprising slow-blues treatment of Edgar Battle’s and Eddie Durham’s swing era standard, Topsy. Both Getz and Clarke sound great on this one, and their interaction is indeed special, despite the fact that Getz gets lost in the beginning and thus causes a false start.

This is clearly very rare Getz, and it’s certainly interesting to hear him play with Solal and especially Clarke, but for me it’s not an indispensable album. Get it if you want it.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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The Strange, Abstract Music of Hvoslef


CHAMBER WORKS No. V / HVOSLEF: Perpetuum Trompetuum.* Trio for Oboe, Viola & Percussion. Trio V.C.P. for Violin, Horn & Pianoforte / Gary Peterson, tpt; Steinar Hannevold, ob; Ilene Chanon, Fr-hn; Einar Røttingen, pno; Nathaniel Hjønnevåg, perc; Ricardo Odriozola, vln/vla / Kammerspill / Claudio Cox, Dmytro Kozar, vln; Johannes Skaansar, vla; Georgiy Imanov, cel; Peter Palotai, bs; *Einar Røttingen, Olav Egge Brandal, pno; Ola Berg Riser, Tomas Leivestad, perc; Frida Lereng, fl; Isabel Velasco, ob; Endre Lindtner Jørgensen, cl/bs-cl; Håvard Løkting Larsen, bsn/contra-bsn; Ricardo Odriozola, cond / Lawo LWC 1156

Ketil Hvoslef, who originally wanted to be a painter, became a composer almost by accident. I’ve come to really like and admire his compositional style, which is modern in harmony and theme treatment yet retains lyricism and a strong sense of form.

In this new release of his chamber music, we hear first recordings of works that again push the boundaries without resorting to such cheap (and oft-repeated) tricks as jagged shards of notes meant to convey drama and individuality. With so many young composers writing the exact same kind of stuff, how can it be individual? Take the opening Perpetuum Trompetuum, for instance: a slow, moody piece using a circular single-note pattern of eighth notes in the piano’s bass line while the trumpet and the piano’s left hand play interlocking and sometimes contrasting figures. Played at a relatively quiet dynamic level, this music creates a hypnotic spell on the listener.

And the same is true for his equally spacey, almost Twilight Zone-like trio for oboe, viola and percussion. Interestingly, Hvoslef uses the oboe primarily in its middle range, where its tone is fuller and more interesting, and which plays off the viola better. The latter instrument is basically used for long-held notes in the background while the oboe takes center stage until the middle, where the viola plays brief, edgy bowed chords in an almost percussive manner as the percussionist temporarily drops out. When the drums return, they emphasize the snare as much as the bass drum and add some backbeats to the mix. The rhythm then becomes somewhat exotic for a spell, after which the percussionist turns to woodblocks behind held notes by the viola and busy figures by the oboist.

As a matter of fact, each succeeding piece on this CD almost sounds like alternate movements of the same large suite, only with different instrumentation. Almost as soon as one piece finishes, here comes the next with scarcely a pause, and the trio for violin, horn and piano fits into a similar mold, only quicker in tempo and with greater interplay between the three instruments. There is clearly a relationship between Hvoslef’s sparse lines and abstract art. This, of course, removes the element of emotion from his music—in that respect, it is cool, not “hot”—but its construction has much more in common with J.S. Bach than with Beethoven or Schumann. Even the slow crescendo and increase in tempo in the latter trio has more of a structural than an emotional function—and yet it works, and is appealing.

In the last piece on the CD, Kammerspill, Hvoslef uses a fairly large ensemble—13 musicians, including a full string quartet, flute, oboe, clarinet, bass, piano and percussion—as if they were perhaps five musicians playing different instruments. The clarity of his lines and space in his music is thus retained despite the large size of the group, which is scarcely hinted at in listening. Getting into Hvoslef’s music requires your simply letting go of several preconceptions of what music is or should be and just enjoying the way in which he puts his abstract blocks of sound together.

Highly recommended!

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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A Treasure-Trove of Rare Satchmo


THE COMPLETE LOUIS ARMSTRONG, Vol. 15, “The King of the Zulus” / ORY: Muskrat Ramble (2 tks). ALTER-DeLANGE: Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans? LYMAN-ARNHEIM-FREED: I Cried for You. NEIBURG-DOUGHERTY-REYNOLDS: I’m Confessin’ (2 tks). MORTON: Milenberg Joys. HARDIN: Struttin’ With Some Barbecue. SCHONBERGER: Whispering (2 tks). HANDY: St. Louis Blues (2 tks). BERLIN: Blue Skies. S. WILLIAMS: Basin Street Blues. STEELE: High Society. ARMSTRONG: Someday You’ll Be Sorry. JONES-KAHN: The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else. ARMSTRONG-TEAGARDEN: Jack-Armstrong Blues. KOEHLER-ARLEN: I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues. POLLACK-GILBERT: That’s A-Plenty. BOWMAN-ANNE: East of the Sun (and West of the Moon). G. & I. GERSHWIN: I Got Rhythm. BARRIS-CLIFFORD: I Surrender, Dear. PORTER-FLETCHER: Don’t Fence Me In (2 tks). DONALDSON: Little White Lies. WALLER-RAZAF: (What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue. TRADITIONAL: Shadrack/When the Saints Go Marchin’ In. C. WILLIAMS-WARFIELD: Baby Won’t You Please Come Home. TYERS: Panama (2 tks). GALLOP-BLOOM: Maybe You’ll Be There. DENNIKER-RAZAF: S’posin’. C. & S. WILLIAMS: Royal Garden Blues. CARMICHAEL-ARODIN: Lazy River. CAPPLETON-DIXON: Where the Blues Were Born in New Orleans.* RAYE-DePAUL: A Song Was Born.* L. & O. RENE: When It’s Sleepy Time Down South. ARMSTRONG-RUSSELL: Back O’ Town Blues. GLICK-LOGAN: Pale Moon. GREEN-HEYMAN-SOUR: Body and Soul. RAYE-DePAUL: A Song Was Born. S. WILLIAMS: Mahogany Hall Stomp. YOUNG-WASHINGTON: A Hundred Years From Today. BERLIN: Blue Skies. CARMICHAEL: Rockin’ Chair. SNYDER-WHEELER-SMITH: The Sheik of Araby. WALLER-RAZAF: Ain’t Misbehavin’ / Louis Armstrong, tpt/voc; Jack Teagarden, tb/voc; Barney Bigard, *Peanuts Hucko, cl; Earl Hines, pno; Arvell Shaw, bs; Sid Catlett, dm; Velma Middleton, voc / MORTON: King Porter Stomp. WALLER-RAZAF: Black and Blue / Hucko on cl; Dick Cary repl. Hines, pno; add Eddie Condon, gtr / HINES: Rosetta / Armstrong & Hines w/unidentified bs & dm / TYERS: Panama. CARMICHAEL-ARODIN: Lazy River. CARMICHAEL-MERCER: Lazy Bones.+ CARMICHAEL: Rockin’ Chair / Armstrong, tpt;voc; Teagarden, tb/voc; Joe Venuti, vln; Buddy Cole, pno; Perry Botkin, gtr; James Moore, bs; Nick Fatool, dm; +Bing Crosby, voc / Frémeaux & Associés FA 1365 (live: Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles & Cincinnati, 1948-49)

Frémeaux & Associés is a French label that issues a lot of older jazz and specializes in complete sets by major artists. They are probably most famous for their complete Django Reinhardt series, and here they are in the middle (chronologically speaking) of Louis Armstrong’s career. As in the case of the Reinhardt set, however, they do not stop with commercial recordings, but are zealous about issuing everything they can find of their particular favorite jazz artists.

With Armstrong, they may have bitten off a bit more than the CD-buying audience may wish to chew. Satchmo never stopped recording from his first dates with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in 1923 until almost the day he died in 1971, and there is so much live material that it sometimes becomes mind-boggling. In addition, Armstrong is an artist who pretty much stopped growing artistically around 1941. Nearly all of his later recordings, a few pop tunes that he liked and some that were specifically written for him excepted (like Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans and the later Now You Has Jazz), are of the same old same old. By the 1950s his repertoire had shrunk, not grown, to roughly three dozen songs, and even the occasional addition like Hello, Dolly in the 1960s did not sway him from the tried and true. He was very comfortable just being an entertainer who played good jazz solos, and that’s where he stayed from the mid-1940s on.

The attraction of this set, however, is the bevy of performances by his first All-Stars lineup with Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Earl Hines and “Big Sid” Catlett, the best drummer Armstrong ever worked with. This period gives us the most comprehensive view of Armstrong’s interaction with pianist Hines and especially trombonist-vocalist Jack Teagarden. From their inception in late 1947 through1950, Louis’ little band was, for all intents and purposes, led by both musicians in almost the same sense that the Will Bradley-Ray McKinley big band was. Teagarden often said this was the happiest period of his career.

From the opening track, Kid Ory’s hoary old chestnut Muskrat Ramble, you can tell that the band is in fine fettle—indeed, they sound even livelier and more modern here than on their famous 2-LP Decca set of one of the band’s first live gigs, Satchmo at Symphony Hall (recorded November 30, 1947 with Dick Cary on piano before Hines joined). Hines, in particular, sounds as if Louis had let him off his leash, as he plays a spectacular opening and half-chorus of improvisation. Big T is also in great form, and Louis plays one of the finest solos (his first one) I’ve ever heard from him post-1937. He has full control of his horn here, sounding for all the world like he did in his greatest days. Frémeaux has also done a spectacular job of removing all the surface noise, hiss and crackle without damaging the sound too much; only the bass and drums sound muddy, and I never thought much of Arvell Shaw’s playing anyway. He was the one mediocre musician in this truly all-star group. Jack and Louis sing a wonderfully relaxed and spirited duet on Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?, and Teagarden’s solo is as good as anything he gave us from the 1920s or ‘30s. This was exactly what I liked about this early version of the All-Stars: they had a New Orleans small-band feel, but played contemporary songs in a relatively contemporary style (on Satchmo at Symphony Hall, Armstrong even played a quasi-bop number titled Mop Mop).

On I Cried for You we get the first of several vocals by Velma Middleton, whose voice and style Louis loved but most jazz critics found indifferent. Sometimes she used a loose vibrato that I didn’t care for, but as I mentioned in my review of Storyville’s excellent set of Armstrong in Scandinavia, I came to really like her because she had a nice, relaxed swing and a cheery way of playing off Louis (either on vocal or trumpet) that none of his other female singers on record (sadly, Midge Williams was never recorded with the Armstrong band when she sang with them) were able to do. The critics were probably put off by her size (she was immensely fat, and specialized in doing some rather grotesque fast, eccentric dances) moreso than by her voice. This track, sadly, is one of the muddiest in sound. Later on in the set, she does an excellent version of Little White Lies.

Hines plays a superb background improvisation behind Armstrong’s opening trumpet statement on I’m Confessin’, and continues in the same vein during his vocal. Louis’ trumpet solo on this is simply astounding. In Jelly Roll Morton’s Milenberg Joys, we can finally hear Sid Catlett on drums, crisp and clear, driving the band in his wonderfully loose-rhythmed way. Bigard has a nice solo on this one, as does the leader, but unfortunately Hines is pushed to the background and doesn’t sound very involved (well, Morton and Hines hated each other, anyway). This version of Lil Hardin Armstrong’s most famous composition, Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, is the most swinging version Louis ever recorded—even more swinging than his famous big-band version of the 1930s, and that one was pretty good as well. Hines takes a nice solo here but the microphone is a bit too far away from the keyboard to capture him properly. Bigard plays well, with Satch and Big T filling in with little riffs behind him, then come fine solos by both horns. Catlett is fairly audible on this one as well, kicking off the last chorus with a nice, slow press roll.

One could go on and on and on about every track on this set, but since I don’t want this to become a small book I’ll limit it to what I think were the highlights. Among them, a nice arrangement of Whispering with an almost calypso-like beat in the first chorus (and pretty good Shaw bass solos), a terrific Hines-Catlett duet on The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else, an extremely lively version of Jack-Armstrong Blues (better than their RCA Victor recording), a stunning rendition of When the Saints Go Marchin’ In, great Jack T on Baby Won’t You Please Come Home (both trombone and vocal), a really loose, swinging Panama (the first version, on CD 2), a particularly loose and swinging S’posin, a surprisingly imaginative arrangement of Lazy River, the surprising (and rare for its time) trumpet-piano duet on Hines’ most famous song, Rosetta, and a real rarity, Armstrong playing King Porter Stomp. Hines gets a rare number all to himself on CD 3, playing Pale Moon with just the bass and drums, and an outstanding performance it is.

The live telecasts from 1948—the Ed Sullivan Show where Louis plays a really mixed-race band (with Peanuts Hucko on clarinet in place of Bigard) and the Eddie Condon Floor Show on WPIX—must have caused heart attacks in the South, particularly the former which had national distribution, but the music is wonderful, particularly in the former. Another surprise is the Bing Crosby radio show on which Armstrong and his band played with jazz violinist Joe Venuti. On this session, however, only Satchmo and Big T were present from the sextet; the other musicians were pianist Buddy Cole, guitarist Perry Botkin, bassist James Moore and Nick Fatool, an outstanding big-band drummer who had played with Benny Goodman. Their rhythm is tighter than Hines-Shaw-Catlett but not quite as swinging, yet it’s a rare treat to hear Venuti and Armstrong together, and Crosby joins Armstrong in a vocal duet on Lazy Bones. Being professionally recorded by ABC radio, the sound on these is quite clear. On the March 1949 broadcast from Los Angeles, however, Catlett and Hines are somewhat under-recorded.

No two ways about it, this volume of the complete Louis Armstrong is absolutely indispensable for any Armstrong fan. In addition to capturing his greatest sextet and showing him, for the last time, playing and singing a fairly large selection of contemporary tunes, his horn is in great shape and he really sounds inspired throughout most of these CDs—much more so than on his overrated early-‘50s Columbia albums, Satch Plays Fats and Satch Plays W.C. Handy. And despite the very different styles of the four principal soloists, they played off each other in a way that was almost uncanny. Yes, we got a little taste of this in a few of Armstrong’s late-1920s records with Hines and fewer yet with Teagarden, but this set is practically a Holy Grail of Louis Armstrong performing at his best with musicians who respected him and pushed him to greatness.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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The Dime Notes Tackle Old Tunes

Dime Notes001

THE DIME NOTES / MORTON: Original Jelly Roll Blues. The Pearls. The Crave. Turtle Twist. HENDERSON-DeSYLVA-GREEN: Alabamy Bound. BECHET: Black Stick Blues. Si Tu Vois Ma Mère. What a Dream. HANDY: Aunt Hagar’s Children’s Blues. Ole Miss. SENTER: T’ain’t Clean. A. OLIVER: Otis Stomp. SCHAFER-MACK-BRYMM: The Camel Walk. LEWIS-WENDING-MEYER: I Believe in Miracles / The Dime Notes: David Horniblow, cl; Andrew Oliver, pno; David Kelbie, gtr; Louis Thomas, bs / Frémeaux & Associés FA 8553

The Dime Notes are a trad-jazz quartet that more or less grew out of the Chris Barber band (amazing that his career lasted so long!). This was my first chance to hear them.

Two things I really appreciated: 1) they use a guitar instead of a banjo, and 2) they use a string bass instead of a tuba. This helps a lot to reduce the feeling that you’re listening to music so old that the whiskers have whiskers on them. But there is a third factor that really won me over, and that is that they somehow manage to truly capture the feeling and rhythm of the old bands. They are looser and therefore better than the Barber band in this respect.

Pianist Andrew Oliver, the lone American in the group, is particularly fine in this respect. Like Jelly Roll Morton, he improvises on the melody and not on the chords, which is the old style personified, and like Morton, he plays original improvisations that do not just copy the originals. I also liked British clarinetist David Horniblow, whose tone is rich and full like those of Omer Simeon and Barney Bigard (I wonder if he’s playing an Albert system instrument?) and doesn’t try to sound too much like Benny Goodman, although in Alabamy Bound he does introduce some leanness and bite to his tone that are somewhat reminiscent of the King of Swing (but also of Johnny Dodds, another old-timer and one of Goodman’s idols). The bottom line is that they don’t sound like typical “moldy figs.” In the latter title, we hear bassist Louis Thomas playing tremendously good slap bass in the tradition of Pops Foster or Steve Brown, the two most exceptional of the early New Orleans bassists (the first black, the second white). In Aunt Hagar’s Children’s Blues, they get a nice, loping beat going, completely relaxed and in the true two-beat tradition.

Another thing they have going for them is that, in many places, the rhythm section plays as a unit. This is not authentic style; listen to the Morton Red Hot Pepper or Armstrong Hot Seven recordings, and you’ll hear a lot more disconnect between the piano, banjo and bass (plus drums, not present here) than the Dime Notes achieve. In Aunt Hagar’s, bassist Thomas also plays a distinctly more modern bass solo, combining bowed and pizzicato lines in a very intriguing manner.

Horniblow brings his own sound and style to Black Stick Blues, virtuosic in its Goodman-like turns and trills but not really trying to sound like Sidney Bechet (very little high-register theatrics and no “French vibrato” in his tone). In the middle section of the first chorus, and a bit later, the rhythm section, again playing as a unit, abandon the old two-beat style for a four-to-the-bar swing rhythm, which I liked very much. The Pearls brings us back to Morton and the old New Orleans two-beat, again played smoothly and without affectation. Oliver’s playing is not quite as forceful or dramatic as Morton’s own, but he makes some interesting statements and is very satisfying. Horniblow revels in his chalumeau register on this one.

Boyd Senter’s Tain’t Clean is one of the few tunes on this album I’d never heard before (the other two were Otis Stomp, written by pianist Oliver, and I Believe in Miracles), and it is a surprisingly lyrical piece taken at a medium tempo. Otis Stomp could easily pass for an old tune in form and beat, albeit a fairly simple one, comprised mostly of little riffs, and again moving into a bit of a swing beat in the middle strain. The rhythm keeps up the swing beat for Oliver’s solo, which again is modeled on the melody and not just the chords, Bob Zurke-style. Bechet’s Si Tu Vois Ma Mere is taken at a very slow ballad tempo that suits its lovely melodic line perfectly. Both Oliver and Thomas take nice, sparse solos. They also play Brymm’s Camel Walk in a nice, peppy style that lacks the stiffness of most trad bands.

Morton’s The Crave is his one Spanish-tinged tune that is not often played nowadays, but to be honest I’ve always liked it better than New Orleans Joys, and the Dime Notes give it the royal treatment, slightly dragging its insinuous melody with deft skill. Horniblow’s solo on this one is particularly excellent, using double-time and some surprising rhythmic shifts and stops. At the end, he shifts into B.G. mode with good effect.

I Believe in Miracles is a nice tune, played here with almost a shuffle beat à la the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. W.C. Handy’s Ole Miss is played in an almost strict ragtime beat, though allowing for improvised solos, something ragtime never did. Oliver’s solo sounds as much like Morton as anything else he plays on this album…Jelly would really be proud of him! Turtle Twist was a perfect choice for this band, considering that Morton’s original recording was also a small-group performance (featuring Bigard on clarinet, if I recall). The Dime Notes take it a bit slower than Morton did, and give the beat a snakier feel. Oliver does his best Morton imitation on this one, although he does not copy any of the master’s licks, but plays his own improvisation.

In the finale, Bechet’s What a Dream, all pretensions to two-beat Dixieland are gone. This is a straightahead swing performance, sounding almost like something Artie Shaw might have played. The quartet does a great job on it, too, driving the music home with style and élan.

No question about it, the Dime Notes are an absolutely terrific trad jazz quartet. A splendid CD.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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