Sunday, June 29, 2014

Caricature and Syncopation - The Art of The Unexpected Redux

Aside from the fact that it is one of my favorites, the occasion for the reposting of this feature is the release from copyright restriction of the video that you will find at its conclusion.

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© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


In Art, caricature is generally a gross exaggeration and/or an oversimplification of someone’s features.

In Jazz, syncopation comes from a rhythmic displacement created by articulating weaker beats or metrical positions that do not fall on any of the main beats of the bar, while stronger beats are not articulated.

Because both caricature and syncopation come as a surprise to the senses, they take us to unexpected places and cause a feeling of wonderment.

Indeed, because of its unpredictable nature, the eminent Jazz author, Whitney Balliett, exclaimed that Jazz was “The Sound of Surprise.”

Caricatures have a long association with political lampooning such as those that appear in editorial cartoons.

Movie stars are often the subject of caricatures in entertainment magazines.

The word “caricature” comes from the Italian “caricare” which means “loaded portrait.”

When human faces are drawn with a resemblance to some other animals, Italians call this “caricatura.”

While not, per se, antisocial, caricatures often carry a counter-culture connotation, something outside the mainstream of society or something that is unconventional.

Almost from its inception, Jazz, too, was deemed inappropriate music for normative society.

Jazz’s syncopated rhythms were startling to the measured-metered-ears of those in staid society. In their sedate and serious view, Jazz sounded reckless and wild and was sometimes referred to as “Jungle music.”

Of course, the rejection that parents gave Jazz when it first appeared in the 1920’s and 1930’s was just what it needed to make it more attractive to the younger generations of those decades.

Although it may sound herky-jerky, frenetic and out-of-control, the “irregularities” of Jazz syncopation are in reality a fairly sophisticated process.

The same can be said of caricature.

Before one can alter the prevailing standards of an art form, one has to master them.

Caricaturists are often highly accomplished artists who prefer to take their art in unexpected directions.

If you will, they become practitioners of “The View of Surprise.”

A similar level of sophistication is required of the Jazz musician in order to master the intricacies of syncopation as described below by Barry Kernfield in The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. [pp. 87-88; paragraphing modified]

Irregular articulations.

“The character and vitality of jazz derive to a considerable extent from the irregularity of its rhythms. While rhythmic tension can be created by the setting up of conflicting patterns (…) between the explicitly stated beat and the lines played against it, greater subtlety results from rhythmic articulations that shift and change in their relation to the beat.

Syncopation, which is fundamental to jazz rhythm and ubi­quitous in both arranged and improvised pieces, involves the shifting of articulations from stronger beats to weaker ones or to metrical positions that do not fall on any of the main beats of the bar; the strong beats are silent, either because a rest occurs in those positions or because the articulation of a pre­ceding weak beat is tied over (…).

Syncopation depends for its effect on a persisting sensation of the beat against which the articulated notes set up strong rhythmic contradictions; unless the beat is preserved in another voice in the ensemble or is swiftly reasserted, the listener loses his consciousness of the metrical framework, or even of the beat itself, and the syncopated pattern ceases to be perceived as such.

Examples of syncopation are most obvious in (but by no means restricted to) performances in which a steady pattern of accents placed on the beat (for example, the two-beat formula of a ragtime bass line or an unchanging jazz-rock drum ostinato) provides an accompaniment against which syncopated lines are creat­ed. Some fundamental rhythmic devices in jazz are based on syncopated patterns (…).

In the process known as ‘turning the rhythm (or beat or time) around’ the meter is accidentally or deliberately rede­fined over a long period by the displacement of accents or the disturbance of phrase structures. The repositioning of strong and weak beats in the metrical unit of the bar, by means of dynamic accent, harmonic change, and the shaping of melodic lines, is at first perceived in conflict with the established meter, but gradually the ear is persuaded that the new positions are regular and a shift in the meter is thus achieved.

Exciting, even disorienting, effects can be created if different members of the ensemble pursue their own independent definitions of the meter.”

While there is no formal relationship between caricature and Jazz syncopation, frequent readers to the blog know of the editorial staff’s fondness for combing Art and Jazz in videos produced with the assistance of the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz LTD and the production facilities of StudioCerra.

In order to illustrate both caricature and Jazz syncopation the following video features the work of caricaturist Charles Bragg and the music of tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen’s quintet.

Both have their own websites which you can visit via www.charlesbragg.com and www.ralphbowen.com, respectively.

The music is Ralph’s original composition A Little Silver in My Pocket on which he is joined by Jim Beard on keyboards, Jon Herington on guitar, Anthony Jackson on contrabass guitar and Ben Perowsky on drums.  The tune was named in honor of Ralph’s time as a member of Jazz great Horace Silver’s quintet and it can be found on his Movin’ On Criss Cross CD [#1066]

Although the song’ structure is not particularly complicated, it is made to sound so because of the way it is syncopated, particularly by bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Ben Perowsky.

A Little Silver in My Pocket has it all - rhythmic displacement, shifting meters, odd time signatures, turned time, irregular beats – all of which are more startling to the ear because of where Ben Perowsky places the articulated beats to create the underlying syncopation of the tune.

Speaking of Perowsky, stick around if you can to 5:37 minutes and listen to how Ben really heightens the tune’s fade-out with a series of super, drums licks.

Talk about “irregular articulations!”

Friday, June 27, 2014

Stan Kenton - Artistry in Rhythm - By Dr. William Lee [From the Archives]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


"A lot of people didn't like what he was doing musically, and I don't know why. He was way ahead of all the avant garde play­ers and the so-called experimenters. But he did it when it wasn't fashionable, and he got put down. And now there are people who won't give credit where credit is due. I say that Stan Kenton was one of the most important pioneers of jazz, and he also had one of the great swing bands. There can never be a history of jazz without the name of Stan Kenton ..."
— Mel Lewis, drummer and bandleader

"Stan Kenton is six and a half feet of nervous exhausting energy that has produced some of the most aggravating, some of the most impressive, some of the most depressive, some of the most exciting, some of the most boring and certainly some of the most controversial sounds music and/or noise ever to emanate from any big band."
— George T. Simon, Jazz critic

"Among the transient voices of jazz, the magic of the Kenton sound will long survive its creator. This book captures the exis­tential qualities of both the man and his music."
— Peter C. Newman, Editor, Maclean's Magazine

As the frequent postings on the blog about him and his music would suggest, Stan Kenton is one of my heroes.

He is not every Jazz fan’s hero, but I’m glad he is one of mine for all the reasons expressed by Mort Sahl in his Foreword to and by Dr. William Lee and Frank Sinatra in their Prelude and Introduction to Dr. Lee’s Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm [Los Angeles: The Creative Press, 1980] which follows these opening comments.

Stan received a great deal of criticism throughout his career for a variety of reasons some of which were perhaps appropriate and even relevant.

But if you’ve ever tried to play this music, you know hard it is to do so, let alone to do so consistently well. In this context, I could never understand the denigration that was leveled at him from what seemed to be purely negative and mean-spirited points-of-view.

Sure, Stan played some garbage. Who hasn’t? What, everything that Duke wrote was a masterpiece? Woody Herman once made an album entitled Woody’s Winners which some members of the Herman Old Guard promptly dubbed Woody’s Losers. And Count Basie's was a heckuva blues band, was a heckuva blues band, was a … you get the idea.

Stan’s music may not have been to everybody’s taste, but the strength of his musical convictions and his willingness to act upon them should have been.

Yes, I mean that statement as a moral imperative. The Jazz World can never have too many heroes, whatever their musical preferences.

At the end of this piece, you’ll find a video tribute to Stan with one of the many, fine bands he formed in the last decade of his career playing their version of his theme song – Artistry in Rhythm. After all these years, listening to that theme still leaves me with goose bumps.

© -William F. Lee/The Creative Press, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“FOREWORD
By Mort Sahl

We are all his children. He changed the lives of everyone he met. He was a rider to the stars, but he built a band bus and took us with him.

I write this through a veil of pain. The wound has been open since August, 1979, when he left us. Now I remove the poker from the crucible of memory — that's all we have now — and attempt to cauterize the wound.

Where were you when first you heard him? I was in a C-47 in the Aleutian Islands, but my radio was in the Hollywood Palladium. When I came home, I bought, first, "The Peanut Vendor" on a 78. A Capitol record, because Dave Dexter recognized talent. Peggy Lee, Johnny Mercer, Nat Cole, Stan Kenton. The elitist discovers talent, the populist passes it around. Like a jug, I guess!

Stan Kenton took America at her word: The only limit was your imagination. He expressed our defiance when we couldn't find the words. He had weapons in the war of sound. He even invented one: the mellophonium.

But it wasn't just his vision he unleashed. It was everyone else's, too. He played the works of Pete Rugolo, Bill Russo, Bob Graettinger, Gerry Mulligan, Franklyn Marks, Johnny Richards, Bill Mattheu, Dee Barton, Hank Levy, the last so fascinated with time changes that Stan would study the chart and ask, "What's the area code?" As for Bill Holman, his talent needed an entire album.

Stan believed you didn't try to knock the audiences out; you really blew to knock yourself out. He taught that to Art Pepper, Lee Konitz, Shelly Manne, Stan Levey, Maynard Ferguson, Kai Winding, Laurindo Almeida — well, the manifest is lengthy. It reads as an index and a calendar of where we went to school, when we went to war, with whom we fell in love, and every time we heard "Artistry in Rhythm" when we came home!

The critics never liked Stan. Ralph Gleason, Nat Hentoff, Leonard Feather tried to deny him. First, on intellectual grounds: the music was formal, written. It "didn't swing". (Ask Zoot Sims. Ask Stan Getz.) Critics used their impeccable liberal credentials to define the struggle with this man who threatened their status quo. They pointed out that his band was all white. Ask Curtis Counce. Ask Ernie Royal, ask Carlos Vidal. Ask Kevin Jordan. Ask Jean Turner. But you should never have asked Stan. He was an American who disliked coercion and never had time to rebut critics. He thought it a waste of time, like nostalgia. "Do you reject it?" I asked. "Nostalgia ain't what it used to be," Stan replied.

Kenton's revolution in the use of brass, his Progressive Jazz period and the Innovations Orchestra excited the people and threat­ened, thus frightened, the press. When all else failed, they politicized the struggle once more and labeled him a rightist. The only political reference he ever made to me was one night on the bus, as we rolled across Kansas. "Maybe if all the farmers went to each coast and beat up all the intellectuals, the country would be better off."

Well, of course, they're not intellectuals. They're dilettantes. Oppenheimer was an intellectual. So is McCarthy. Hentoff hasn't fought for them. And they're not liberals. William O. Douglas was. Feather didn't mourn his passing. You say Douglas wasn't a musician. Well, Feather didn't mourn Stan's passing either.

It's not right versus left, or male versus female (ask Mary Fettig, who played tenor on Stan's band), it's the individual versus the group. Stan was first an individual. Right-wing? No, anti-collective. If the truth were known, the bourgeoisie in jazz objected not to what he had to say so much as his right to say it.


Stan's struggle with the band was not political, it was Freudian. The band looked upon him as a father; they called him "The Old Man" and they constantly felt his presence. Some found this inhibiting, but he looked upon them as children. The nest was structured, but only so they could fly beyond.

No one ever asked Stan to score a movie, but no contemporary composer is without his influence. Ask Hank Mancini. Ask Johnny Mandel.

Regrouping in 1970, Stan did what any independent does in a controlled society. He took his message to the people. He bought his own bus with an 800 mile range, and set out to establish music clinics at the universities — almost a baseball farm system. The worthiest students joined the band. "It's like making the Olympic team", one told me.

Stan never condemned those of this alumni who were vegetating as "successes" in studios. He was too busy developing places for the new composers and players to stand. And after all, if you have a place to stand, you can change the world.

I know it happened this way because I was there, right to the last night in August, 1978, when the entire trumpet section came down in front of the band to play a five-man screech-out chorus. By the way, it was "The Peanut Vendor".

As Don McLean says in "American Pie", it was "the day the music died."

When President Kennedy was killed, Senator Moynihan was asked, "Will we ever smile again?", and Moynihan said, "Yes, but we'll never be young again."
I have faith that in spite of the drug cutters, the corrupt press, the reactionary musicians who are still trying to imitate Bill Basie, somewhere some kid had the Kenton experience that will lead to his creating his own music. There will be a Kenton legacy if that kid fights for it.

I had that experience. Stan Kenton was my friend ... I loved him . . but, ultimately, Stan Kenton was a leader for 38 years. The orchestra played — and I heard it.

We are all his children.

PRELUDE

‘‘The era has only begun. These are dynamic times and jazz is a dynamic language. To a musician, oft-repeated phrases soon grow sterile, and he seeks a new, exciting way to state his truths. For Stan Kenton, this constant, self-perpetuating search is a basic fact of life, so much a part of his being that it touches and inspires all with whom he comes in contact. He is a unique person, a unique explorer.’ (Freeman, The Kenton Era, unpublished brochure for Capitol Records, 1954, p. 43)

Pianist, Arranger, Composer, Conductor, Leader, Administrator, Educator, Philosopher, Innovator, Humanitarian — Stan Kenton was a twentieth century renaissance man. Consider that while he had little formal education, he championed the cause of higher education; he maintained and supported (often at his own expense) large orchestras at times when society, economics, and his peers found it impractical to do so; he conducted non-dance orchestras when dancing was in, and dance orchestras when dancing was out; he built his name into a household word through nearly forty years on the road, yet preferred to travel on the orchestra bus (facetiously labeled NOWHERE) with his personnel; the same talent and drive that has produced some of the most exciting music of the twentieth century took legal steps to see that his name is not perpetuated via the "Stan Kenton Orchestra under the direction of" tradition.

A cursory review of a few of the musicians whose careers were launched and/or furthered by Stan Kenton reveals some of the most noted jazz figures of our time. Vocalists: June Christy, Anita O'Day, Chris Connor, Ann Richards, The Four Freshmen, Jeri Winters, Dave Lambert, Jean Turner; Arrangers/Composers: Gerry Mulligan, Allyn Ferguson, Manny Albam, Russ Garcia, Lennie Niehaus, Gene Roland, Lalo Schifrin, Shorty Rogers, Bill Holman, Marty Paich, Bill Russo, Neal Hefti, Pete Rugolo, Bob Graettinger, Hugo Montenegro, Johnny Richards, Willie Maiden, Dee Barton, Hank Levy, Bob Curnow, Ken Hanna, Mark Taylor, Alan Yankee; Alto Saxophonists: Bud Shank, Lennie Niehaus, Lee Konitz, Charlie Mariano, Art Pepper, Tony Campise, John Park, Gabe Baltazar, David Schildkraut, Vinnie Dean, Boots Mussulli; Tenor Saxophonists: Stan Getz, Sam Donahue, Richie Kamuca, Zoot Sims, Buddy Collette, Vido Musso, Bill Perkins, Bob Cooper, Red Dorris, Jimmy Giuffre, Bill Holman, Don Menza; Baritone Saxophonists: Pepper Adams, Bob Gioga, Bob Gordon, Jack Nimitz, Billy Root, Alan Yankee; Trumpeters: Conte and Pete Candoli, Sam Noto, Ernie Royal, Al Porcino, Buddy Childers, Rolf Erickson, Maynard Ferguson, Jack Sheldon, Bud Brisbois, Gary Barone, Dalton Smith, Marvin Stamm, Gappy Lewis, Mike Vax; Trombonists: Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana, Milt Bernhart, Kai Winding, Bobby Burgess, Kent Larsen, Bob Fitzpatrick, Archie LeCoque, George Roberts, Jim Amlotte, Dick Shearer; French Hornist Julius Watkins; Mellophoniumists: Joe Burnett, Tom Wirtel, Lou Gasga; Guitarists: Ralph Blaze, Laurindo Almeida, Sal Salvador, Bill Strange; Bassists: Eddie Safranski, Don Bagley, Red Mitchell, Curtis Counce, Pat Senatore, Monte Budwig, Howard Rumsey, Kerby Stewart; Drummers; Stan Levey, Shelly Manne, Charlie Perry, Irv Kluger, Mel Lewis, Chuck Flores, Peter Erskine, Gary Hobbs, Jerry McKenzie and Percussionists: Jack Costanza, Larry Bunker, Frank De Vito, Ramon Lopez. …”

Perhaps long time colleague and admirer Frank Sinatra best summed up the Kenton contribution:

‘Stan Kenton is the most significant figure of the modern jazz age. His fight to popularize modern jazz won him a legion of followers, but this was not an easy road ... In every time there are men whose special role it is to give expression to the spirit of their day. They become its symbols, each in his own field of art. Stan Kenton is such an individual, the symbol of a vibrant world that finds its voice in jazz. His story is, in many ways, the story of modern jazz, and this musical era is his ...

Kenton felt a personalized sympathy toward jazz . . . Kenton has always felt that music is food for the emotions, and that greater demands are being made of it continuously because we are reaching deeper into our inner selves . . .

When broadcasting, playing concerts or dance dates, Kenton always credits his musicians. Their names are always mentioned, who wrote or arranged the compositions, who plays solo. His men never go unnoticed. He often adds touches of humor and is rarely lost for words. His shows are all adlibbed. Kenton's manner of presentation has never failed to inspire enthusiasm in every audience ....
(Christopher Mueller and Dr. Siegfried Mueller, Artistry in Kenton, Vols. I, II, 1968 and 1973, Vienna: privately published).’

This book traces the history of the life and professional activities of Stan Kenton and those who were fortunate enough to be touched by his personal, professional, and artistic genius.

William F. Lee
Coral GablesFlorida 1980
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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mulgrew Miller: "Living in the Shadows of Giants" [From the Archives]


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Don’t cross a bridge to get home or to work:” I guess the expression contains more than a hint of caution and admonition, especially if you’ve lived some time in the San Francisco Bay area and seen the nightmarish traffic back-ups a closed bridge can cause on the local, television news.

Thankfully, I never experienced such a delay in all the years I lived and worked in San Francisco,

But I sure caught a taste of what such an experience would be like as I was headed north back to the Oakland, CA airport to catch a return flight to my relocated home in southern California following some business appointments in the Silicon Valley.

A major accident on the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland had caused a traffic back-up so serious that it extended south on US 880 to about 10 miles below the airport.

The was no alternative and plenty of later flights so I just relaxed and turned on the FM-Jazz station while I waited things out in the rental car that was crawling along at death-defying speed of 3 MPH.

The radio broadcast that I tuned into was an interview with pianist Mulgrew Miller who was appearing through the upcoming weekend with his trio at Yoshi’s Jazz Club located on a portion of the waterfront which the City of Oakland had reclaimed from surplus shipping docks and refurbished into a lovely commercial-cum-residential area.

I knew of Mulgrew’s work through recordings he had made during his long association with drummer Tony Williams’ quintet in the 1980s and 1990s, but I had never heard him play in person.

He sounded very warm and cordial during the radio interview and I thought, “Well, at the rate things are going with the crawling traffic, maybe I’ll just book into a local hotel and catch one of Mulgrew’s sets at Yoshi’s.”

Of all the remarks Mulgrew made during the exchange with the interviewer, one stayed with me: “It’s tough to get any recognition as a Jazz musician today because we are living in the shadow of Giants.”

This is not verbatim, but earlier in his talk, Mulgrew had said that many of the pianists  during the bebop era, for example Al Haig, Joe Albany, Dodo Marmarosa, John Lewis, and even some pianists during the later hard bop era like Sonny Clark, Horace Silver and Walter Bishop, Jr., were not original stylists.


They basically played in the manner of Bud Powell and gained a certain measure of recognition and approval for being able to do so.

But musicians like himself, who continue in this bebop piano tradition and perhaps add some of the newer influences like Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner or Keith Jarrett to their approach get little respect because we are not “… the next Bud Powell or Art Tatum or Bill Evans.”

“Why? Not all of us can be giants like Bud and Art or Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. We are doing our part to keep the Jazz tradition alive and even move it forward a little, but we get little respect for what we do accomplish and put down for what we don’t.”

None of this was conveyed with animosity by Mulgrew, but you could certainly sense his disappointment and his displeasure.

The interview then trailed off and was replaced by the playing of one of Mulgrew’s recordings in its entirety.

By some miracle I was just pulling into the hired car parking lot when the interviewer returned so I did not get to hear the rest of Mulgrew’s talk.

The following year The Mulgrew Miller Trio Live at Yoshi’s was issued as a double CD on MaxJazz [[MXJ 212/208] and I picked up a copy along with the March 1, 2005 edition of Downbeat in which the following article about Mulgrew by Ted Panken appeared.

Mulgrew passed away on May 28, 2013 and the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be nice to remember him on these pages with a reprint of his Downbeat interview and the Nat Chinen obituary that was published in The New York Times.  

Copyright © Downbeat/Ted Panken/2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Mulgrew Miller: No Apologies  

“Ironies abound in the world of Mulgrew Miller. On the one hand, the 49-year-old pianist is, as Eric Reed pointed out, "the most imitated pianist of the last 25 years." On the other, he finds it difficult to translate his exalted status into full-blown acceptance from the jazz business.

"It's a funny thing about my career," Miller said. "Promoters won't hire my band, but they'll book me as a sideman and make that the selling point of the gig. That boggles my mind."

Miller would seem to possess unsurpassed qualifications for leadership. As the 2004 trio release Live At Yoshi's (MaxJazz) makes evident, no pianist of Miller's generation brings such a wide stylistic palette to the table. A resolute modernist with an old-school attitude, he's assimilated the pentagonal contemporary canon of Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, as well as Woody Shaw's harmonic innovations, and created a fluid personal argot.

His concept draws on such piano-as-orchestra signposts as Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal and Erroll Garner, the "blowing piano" of Bud Powell, the disjunctive syncopations and voicings of Thelonious Monk, and the melodic ingenuity of gums like Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan and Cedar Walton. With technique to burn, he finds ways to conjure beauty from pentatonics and odd intervals, infusing his lines with church and blues strains and propelling them with a joyous, incessant beat.



"I played with some of the greatest swinging people who ever played jazz, and I want to get the quality of feeling I heard with them," Miller said. "It's a sublime way to play music, and the most creative way to express myself. You can be both as intellectual and as soulful as you want, and the swing beat is powerful but subtle. I think you have to devote yourself to it exclusively to do it at that level."

Consequential apprenticeships with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra, Betty Carter, Johnny Griffin and Shaw launched Miller's career. A 1983-'86 stint with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers put his name on the map, and he cemented his reputation during a long association with Tony Williams' great cuspof-the-'90s band, a sink-or-swim environment in which Miller thrived, playing, as pianist Anthony Wonsey recalls, "with fire but also the maturity of not rushing."

By the mid '80s, Miller was a fixture on 
New York's saloon scene. Later, he sidemanned extensively with Bobby Hutcherson, Benny Golson, James Moody and Joe Lovano, and from 1987 to 1996 he recorded nine trio and ensemble albums for Landmark and RCANovus.

Not long after his 40th birthday, Miller resolved to eschew club dates and one-offs, and to focus on his own original music. There followed a six-year recording hiatus, as companies snapped up young artists with tenuous ties to the legacy of hardcore jazz.

"I won't call any names," Miller says, "but a lot of people do what a friend of mine calls 'interview music.' You do something that's obviously different, and you get the interviews and a certain amount of attention. Jazz is part progressive art and part folk art, and I've observed it to be heavily critiqued by people who attribute progressivity to music that lacks a folk element. When Charlie Parker developed his great conception, the folk element was the same as Lester Young and the blues shouters before him. Even when Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane played their conceptions, the folk element was intact. But now, people almost get applauded if they don't include that in their expression. If I reflected a heavy involvement in Arnold Schoenberg or some other ultra-modern composers, then I would be viewed differently than I am. Guys who do what I am doing are viewed as passé.

"A lot of today's musicians learn the rudiments of playing straight-ahead, think they've got it covered, become bored, and say, 'Let me try something else,'" Miller continued. "They develop a vision of expanding through different areas - reggae here, hip-hop there, blues here, soul there, classical music over here and being able to function at a certain level within all those styles. Rather than try to do a lot of things pretty good, I have a vision more of spiraling down to a core understanding of the essence of what music is."

This being said, Miller-who once wrote a lovely tune called "Farewell To Dogma" -continues to adhere to the principle that "there is no one way to play jazz piano and no one way that jazz is supposed to sound." He is not to be confused with the jazz police. His drummer, Karriem Riggins, has a second career as a hip-hop producer, and has at his fingertips a lexicon of up-to-the-second beats. When the urge strikes, bassist Derrick Hodge might deviate from a walking bass line to slap the bass Larry Graham style. It's an approach familiar to Miller, who grew up in 
GreenwoodMiss., playing the music of James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Al Green in various Upper Delta cover bands.

"It still hits me where I live," he says. "It's Black music. That's my roots. When I go home, they all know me as the church organist from years ago, so it's nothing for me to walk up to the organ and fit right in. I once discussed my early involvement in music with Abdullah Ibrahim, and he described what I went through as a community-based experience. Before I became or wanted to become a jazz player, I played in church, in school plays, for dances and for cocktail parties. I was already improvising, and always on some level it was emotional or soul or whatever you want to call it. I was finding out how to connect with people through music.

"By now, I have played jazz twice as long as I played popular music, and although that style of playing is part of my basic musical being, I don't particularly feel that I need to express myself through it," he continued. "It's all blues. The folk element of the music doesn't change. The blues in 1995 and in 1925 is the same thing. The technology is different. But the chords are the same, the phrasing is the same, the language is the same-exact same. I grew up on that. It's a folk music. Folk music is not concerned with evolving."

For all his devotion to roots, Miller is adamant that expansion and evolution are key imperatives that drive his tonal personality. "I left my hometown to grow, and early on I intended to embrace as many styles and conceptions as I could," he said. "When I came to 
New York I had my favorites, but there was a less celebrated, also brilliant tier of pianists who played the duo rooms, and I tried to hear all of those guys and learn from them. The sound of my bands changes as the musicians expand in their own right. I'm open, and all things are open to interpretation. I trust my musicians-their musicianship, insights, judgments and taste-and they tend to bring things off in whatever direction they want to go. In the best groups I played with, spontaneity certainly was a strong element."

Quiet and laid-back, determined to follow his muse, Miller may never attain mass consumption. But he remains sanguine.

"I have moments, but I don't allow myself to stay discouraged for long," he said. "I worked hard to maintain a certain mental and emotional equilibrium. It's mostly due to my faith. I don't put all my eggs in that basket of being a rich and famous jazz guy. That allows me a certain amount of freedom, because I don't have to play music for money. I play music because I love it. I play the music I love with people I want to play with. I have a long career behind me. I don't have to apologize to anybody for any decisions I make." -Ted Panken” 

Mulgrew Miller, Dynamic Jazz Pianist, Dies at 57

Copyright © The New York Times/Nate Chinen/May 29, 2013.

“Mulgrew Miller, a jazz pianist whose soulful erudition, clarity of touch and rhythmic aplomb made him a fixture in the postbop mainstream for more than 30 years, died on Wednesday in AllentownPa. He was 57.

The cause was a stroke, said his longtime manager, Mark Gurley. Mr. Miller had been hospitalized since Friday.

Mr. Miller developed his voice in the 1970s, combining the bright precision of bebop, as exemplified by Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson, with the clattering intrigue of modal jazz, especially as defined by McCoy Tyner. His balanced but assertive style was a model of fluency, lucidity and bounce, and it influenced more than a generation of younger pianists.

He was a widely respected bandleader, working either with a trio or with the group he called Wingspan, after the title of his second album. The blend of alto saxophone and vibraphone on that album, released on Landmark Records in 1987, appealed enough to Mr. Miller that he revived it in 2002 on “The Sequel” (MaxJazz), working in both cases with the vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Among Mr. Miller’s releases in the last decade were an impeccable solo piano album and four live albums featuring his dynamic trio.


Mr. Miller could seem physically imposing on the bandstand — he stood taller than six feet, with a sturdy build — but his temperament was warm and gentlemanly. He was a dedicated mentor: his bands over the last decade included musicians in their 20s, and since 2005 he had been the director of jazz studies at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

If his sideman credentials overshadowed his solo career, it wasn’t hard to see why: he played on hundreds of albums and worked in a series of celebrated bands. His most visible recent work had been with the bassist Ron Carter, whose chamberlike Golden Striker Trio featured Mr. Miller and the guitarist Russell Malone on equal footing; the group released a live album, “San Sebastian” (In+Out), this year.

Born in GreenwoodMiss., on Aug. 13, 1955, Mr. Miller grew up immersed in Delta blues and gospel music. After picking out hymns by ear at the family piano, he began taking lessons at age 8. He played the organ in church and worked in soul cover bands, but devoted himself to jazz after seeing Mr. Peterson on television, a moment he later described as pivotal.

At Memphis State University, he befriended two pianists, James Williams and Donald Brown, both of whom later preceded him in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Mr. Miller spent several years with that band, just as he did with the trumpeter Woody Shaw, the singer Betty Carter and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by Ellington’s son, Mercer. Mr. Miller worked in an acclaimed quintet led by the drummer Tony Williams from the mid-1980s until shortly before Williams died in 1997.



Mr. Miller’s survivors include his wife, Tanya; his son, Darnell; his daughter, Leilani; and a grandson. He lived in EastonPa.

Though he harbored few resentments, Mr. Miller was clear about the limitations imposed on his career. “Jazz is part progressive art and part folk art,” he said in a 2005 interview with DownBeat magazine, differentiating his own unassuming style from the concept-laden, critically acclaimed fare that he described as “interview music.” He added, “Guys who do what I am doing are viewed as passé.”


But Mr. Miller worked with so many celebrated peers, like the alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett and the tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, that his reputation among musicians was ironclad. And his legacy includes a formative imprint on some leading players of the next wave, including the drummer Karriem Riggins and the bassist Derrick Hodge, who were in one of his trios. The pianist Robert Glasper once recorded an original ballad called “One for ’Grew,” paying homage to a primary influence. On Monday, another prominent pianist, Geoffrey Keezer, attested on Twitter that seeing Mr. Miller one evening in 1986 was “what made me want to be a piano player professionally.”

In the performance from the At Yoshi’s 2004 double CD that forms the sound track for this video tribute to him, Mulgrew has cleverly adopted Comes Love to the arrangement Ahmad Jamal used on Poinciana from his At The Pershing Room Argo LP, one of the most successful Jazz recordings ever issued.

The insistent rhythm is formed by Karriem Riggins use of mallets on the drum set’s tom toms and the insistent accent played by the high hat on the 2nd and 4th beat of each measure.

On the original version, instead of the usual “clicking” sound made by stepping on the high hat’s cymbals to close them, Ahmad’s drummer, Vernel Fournier, played the high hat cymbals open [barely touching them together] creating more of a “chinging” sound to simulate finger cymbals.

You can hear this effect in a more pronounced manner as played by Karriem at 4:21 minutes of Mulgrew’s version.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Stan Kenton - The Later Years [From the Archives]


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“[Mike] Vax claimed Warren Gale to be the most significant [trumpet] soloist in the [Kenton] band: ‘If ever there was a fiery Jazz trumpet player that was perfect for the Kenton band it was Warren.  …’

‘Dick Shearer was the most important person on the band. I think that Stan felt about him like a son. … the thing is, the way Dick played trombone, that was the Kenton sound. Dick’s trombone was derivative of all the great Kenton lead players, going all the way back to Kai Winding. But sometimes the person who’s the end of a legacy, becomes the culmination of the legacy, so I think Dick was the greatest lead trombone player of them all.’”

- Mike Vax, lead trumpet player with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, as quoted in Michael Sparke, Stan Kenton: This is an Orchestra! [DentonTXUniversity of North Texas Press, 2010, p. 222].

A number of the guys I grew up playing music with – among them, trumpeter Warren Gale and trombonist Dick Shearer – later went on the Kenton band, roughly around the mid-to-late 1960s.

When I first gigged with Warren, he was living in Long BeachCA and playing like Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard during their years with drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Given his captivation with Lee and Freddie’s hard-bop style of trumpet playing, in a million years I wouldn’t have figured him for the Kenton Band.

Dick Shearer, on the other hand, rarely talked about doing anything else. Playing trombone with Stan Kenton’s Orchestra was a dream come through for Dick.  Not many of us get to realize our dreams. Dick did.

While Warren, Dick and others [Ray Reed] were making their journey through Kenton’s music. I was making my own journey, thanks to a government sponsored trip aboard. When I got back, the world had changed and so had I.

I moved away from performing music and on to others things in my life.

But Stan’s music always continued to fascinated me and I vicariously followed it as it made its way around various colleges campuses in nearby Redlands, California or in such far-flung places as Provo, Utah [Brigham Young University] and IndianapolisIndiana [Butler University].

In all my years of following it, I never knew there was so much to know about the Stan Kenton Orchestra, that is, until I read Michael Sparke’s book about the band entitled Stan Kenton: This is an Orchestra!.




Published in April, 2010 by the University of North Texas Press, it offers a detailed, chronological analysis of the band from its beginnings in 1941 until Stan’s death in 1979.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles is especially indebted to Michael [isn’t everyone who ever wanted to know more about Stan and his music?] for his chapters on The Later Years of the band’s existence, a period of the band's history about which we lacked details.

For a variety of reasons, fans of the Kenton band, particularly those who followed it closely in the 1940s and 1950s, were not partial to Stan’s music during the last decade-and-a-half of its existence. I had the impression from some of musicians on the band at this time that they were keenly aware of this bias and felt it to be undeserved.

As Michael Sparke explains it:

“Musicians from the Seventies often feel like the underdogs, because they know they played good music well, yet in general it is the earlier bands that are most often feted and remembered. In moments of hon­esty, however, many will admit they understand and endorse this com­prehension. The truth is, none of the few remaining touring bands of the Seventies, whose leaders roamed the land like the sole remaining dino­saurs of an almost-extinct species, were quite the same as they had been in their younger days. Conditions were so totally different the decline was inevitable, especially as age and illness took its toll. But it is also true, many talented musicians worked for Kenton in the Seventies, and a lot of significant music was played. The listener who ignores this last decade will be the loser.” [p.222]

In addition to all of the fabulous music they performed, much of it extremely challenging both from a compositional standpoint and because of its use of unusual time signatures, Stan and The Later Years orchestras made a very significant contribution to Jazz education by their presence at clinics held at many of the country’s universities.

Stan embraced these teaching laboratories as a way of perpetuating Jazz and its traditions, as well as, a means of developing future performers for his and other big bands.

With the end of the Neophonic Orchestra after four seasons in 1968, Stan really poured his heart and soul into these music camps which usually began and ended with a concert by the orchestra with various teaching scenarios contained in between these performances.

We thought we’d end this multi-part look at the music of Stan Kenton by sharing the liner notes from the Creative World 2 LP album Stan Kenton & His Orchestra: Live at Redlands University [ST-1015; reissued on CD as GNP Crescendo GNPD-1015] to place Stan and the orchestra’s relationship to the Jazz education in a broader context.

At the conclusion of this piece, you can also view a video that employs an audio track consisting of Ken Hanna’s Tiare, from the Stan Kenton & His Orchestra: Live at Redlands University album. We picked this music because trombonist Dick Shearer is well-heard on it and we wanted to serve the memory of “Dickus” as we come to the end of our visit with Stan Kenton’s music.

For those who may not be aware, Kenton’s library of arrangements was bequeath to the University of North Texas [Denton., TX] where the legacy of Kenton’s orchestral Jazz continues to be honored by the many fine bands comprised of the students at the university and their teachers.

© -Stan Kenton/Creative World Records, copyright protected; all rights reserved.



STAN KENTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA AT REDLANDS UNIVERSITY

“This two-record album was recorded live at a special concert at Redlands University under the most unique circumstances. Unique because the audience consisted of student musicians, music educators and the teach­ing staff which had gathered for this year's week of "Kenton Clinics."

Due to its deep involvement with the study of Jazz, the audience proved to be not only sensitively perceptive to the music played but very critical of how it was per­formed by the Kenton Orchestra. This challenge, from student to professional musician, fanned itself to burning excitement as the band outdid itself to provide total communication with this select audience.

Many of the selections were recorded at the request of the many Kenton fans who had heard them played at concerts while the band was on tour. Four have never been recorded by anyone as they were written especially for the Kenton Orchestra. The recordings on this concert album are vivid, exciting testimony to the total communi­cation which took place at Redlands University between music students, educators and the Stan Kenton Orchestra, who firmly established itself as their "Jazz Orchestra In Residence."

'The Jazz Orchestra In Residence" concept evolved from the many fruitful and informative years of the "Kenton Clinics." This new idea places the full Kenton Orchestra in a college or university for three days to a week where they work in conjunction with the music and humanities departments as a closely related and integrated extension of both. By exposing the students to the professional standards of actual performing dem­onstrations, the band creates exciting examples that establish goals for the young musicians to pursue.

The "Jazz Orchestra In Residence" program is com­posed of highly intense sessions which cover all perti­nent aspects of Jazz in order to provide the student with a further well-rounded, all encompassing knowledge of music. Courses include Jazz Improvisation, Composition and Arranging, and Instrumental Clinics, in which the solutions to problems most often encountered with the various instruments are discussed and examined. Two of the many related lectures include "Jazz and the Humanities" and "Jazz, The Extension to the Formal Study of Music."


As an adjunct, Kenton has produced two color films on Jazz: 'The Substance of Jazz," which describes how and why Jazz is so different from all other musical forms and "The Crusade for Jazz," a one-hour documentary which takes the viewer on an intimate road trip by bus with the band, where they are confronted with the dis­comfort of living out of a suitcase for three months, the one night stands and eating on the run; but most of all, the viewer feels all the excitement generated by each member of the band just before curtain time, and the deep sense of personal involvement each one has with the band and the music they love to play anywhere: Jazz.

During the "Jazz Orchestra In Residence" the musi­cians carefully nurture each student's particular prob­lem until finally, at week's end, a new awareness has taken place within these youngsters; an awareness that has them reaching notes they couldn't have imagined earlier, playing complex arrangements and even writ­ing an original score for the Kenton band to play and comment on. Most important, they have developed a sensitive understanding, not just for music and their own ability, but for the innovative and deeply personal excite­ment of Jazz.

The pictures point out the intense interest and serious­ness of the students. Their enthusiasm became so boundless that even while eating, the discussion was Jazz and their own expanding musical horizons. The "Creative World of Stan Kenton" has been closely asso­ciated with university music education for many years by furnishing professional orchestrations for the student musician. The "Jazz Orchestra In Residence" concept now provides the serious student the opportunity of working with the professional musician who plays these intricate scores in front of thousands of Jazz fans in con­cert halls and night clubs throughout the country.

This concept is proving so successful that the Kenton Orchestra is making plans to expand these three day to a week appearances greatly during their normal concert tour as extensions to regular music department curricula.

Redlands University's "Jazz Orchestra In Residence" has worked. It is already turning out musicians today who will soon become the Jazz innovators and teachers of tomorrow.”


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Advent of Jackie McLean: The Blue Note Years

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“He patented a sound that was compounded equally of bebop and the new, free style. Raw and urgent, no one else sounds quite like him.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

“McLean's mix of plangency and something inscrutable is very striking.”
- Richard Morton, Jazz writer and critic


“...there aren't more than a handful of jazzmen ... who sound as passionately involved in their music.”
- Michael James, liner notes to Jackie McLean: Capuchin Swing


In a recent posting on the Texas Tenor Sound, I quoted the late Cannonball Adderley description of a key aspects of this blues-drenched, wide-open style of playing as a sound that had a “moan within a tone.”

Cannonball’s tonal characterization reminded me of the plaintive wail that I always associated with Jackie McLean’s alto saxophone sound, especially when I first encounter McLean's on the recordings he made for the Blue Note label in the 1950s and 1960s.


Richard Morton and Brian Cook in their Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD 6th Ed. offered this explanation of Jackie’s uniqueness:


“He patented a sound that was compounded equally of bebop and the new, free style. Raw and urgent, no one else sounds quite like him.”


Like Messrs Morton and Cook,  I always thought that Jackie was “straining at the boundaries of the blues” as though he was always poised between “innovation and conservatism:” “an orthodox bebopper who was deeply influenced by the free Jazz movement.”


His playing could range between “complex, tricky and thoroughly engaging” to “diffident and defensive.”


Impassioned, fiery, full of brio, the sound of Jackie McLean during his Blue Note years was, to my ears, the personification of what was referred to at the time as “East Coast Jazz.”


The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be fun to recount some of the highlights of Jackie tenure with Blue Note on these pages with some selected excerpts from Richard Cook's history of Blue Note Records.



© -  Richard Cook, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Of all the new signings, the most important individual was Jackie McLean, an alto saxophonist from - a local man at last! - New York, who had been on the city's scene since the beginning of the fifties. McLean had had a difficult few years. Despite several high-profile stints with other leaders - including Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Charles Mingus - McLean had made no real headway as a leader himself. His records for Prestige were mostly spotty, unconvincing affairs (he later rounded on the company, comparing working for them to 'being under the Nazi regime and not knowing it'),5 and trouble with the police over his use of narcotics had led to the dreaded loss of his cabaret card, the same problem which had afflicted Monk's progress. Yet, in 1959, he signed up with Lion and also began working with the cooperative Living Theatre, a freewheeling stage group which staged various 'events' from poetry to performance art, culminating in the production of a play by Jack Gelber, The Connection, which dramatised aspects of the jazzman's life.


McLean's first Blue Note as leader was New Soil (BLP 4013), made on 2 May 1959 (material from an earlier session was subsequently released out of sequence).
Although pitched as a typical hard-bop quintet session (with Donald Byrd, Walter Davis, Paul Chambers and Pete LaRoca), the music might have puzzled the unwary. McLean brought two pieces to the date, 'Hip Strut' and 'Minor Apprehension' (often better remembered as 'Minor March', which was the title used by Miles Davis in his recording of the tune). 'Apprehension' is a useful word to describe the music. Although 'Hip Strut's structure eventually breaks out into a walking blues, its most striking motif is the suspension on a single, tolling chord, over which the soloists sound ominously trapped. In this one, McLean suggests the patient, rather effortful manner of one of his acknowledged influences, Dexter Gordon, but in the following 'Minor Apprehension' he sounds like the godson of Charlie Parker, tearing through the changes with the scalded desperation of the bebopper locked in a harmonic maze. The rest of the record, dependent on several Walter Davis tunes, is less impressive, but McLean's mix of plangency and something inscrutable is very striking.


Not always, though, particularly likeable. McLean is a player whose music has often aroused admiration over warmth. The sense that he is always playing slightly out of tune lends an insistent sourness to the tonality of his music, and it is the recurring problem within a diverse and often fascinating discography for the label. His fellow alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who has also been accused of playing sharp, remembers a session with himself, McLean, Dexter Gordon and Ben Webster: 'After the session I shook Jackie's hand, thinking how nice it was to play with him, and then it occurred to me I was thanking him for playing sharp!'6


Swing Swang Swingin' (BLP 4024) gave McLean the limelight as the sole horn, with Walter Bishop, Jimmy Garrison and Art Taylor behind him. This session tends to restore the emphasis on McLean's bebop origins, with big, powerful improvisations such as those on 'Stablemates' and let's Face The Music And Dance' - a standard which very few jazz players have chosen to cover - suggesting that he still had a lot of juice to squeeze out of his bop sensibilities. But McLean began to change, in part, perhaps, because of his experiences with the Living Theatre, and his Blue Note albums would come to document a personality with a high degree of artistic curiosity. …


Jackie McLean might have shared a similar fate [to that of pianist Sonny Clarke who died from complications of heroin addiction], but his stint with the Living Theatre had stabilised his professional life and he eventually overcame his addiction. McLean's Blue Notes are a sometimes problematical lot and the string of dates he made for the label in the sixties continue an intriguing if often difficult sequence. Capuchin Swing, made on 16 April 1960, is a sometimes rowdy affair which shows up how awkward it could be to accommodate McLean even within a group of his own leadership. His solos on 'Francisco' (named for Frank Wolff) and 'Condition Blue' make a glaring contrast to those of his bandmates. The tension in McLean's records from this period lies in a sometimes aggravating contrast between himself and his fellow horn players in particular. Michael James is quoted on the sleeve note to Capuchin Swing to the effect that 'there aren't more than a handful of jazzmen ... who sound as passionately involved in their music', but McLean's passion often seems to have more to do with being outside, rather than being involved. Mclean himself later said: 'A lot of my performances have been very emotional because I wasn't putting any work into it.' Bluesnik, recorded the following January, has some of the same intensity, though apparently under more control: in what is actually a rather dull programme of blues pieces (the title track must have taken all of five minutes to 'compose'), the saxophonist's fast, biting solos shred the skilful and comparatively genial playing of Freddie Hubbard.


A Fickle Sonance, recorded the following October, assembled the same band which would record Leapin' And Lopin', with McLean in for Charlie Rouse. It is, again, the trouble-making McLean who makes all the difference: where Clark's session would be elegant and composed, this one seems taut and angular. 'Five Will Get You Ten', once credited to Clark but now thought to be an otherwise unclaimed Monk tune, and the chilling title piece, where the alto leaps and twists against a modal backdrop, are strange, rootless settings for playing which can seem by turns anguished, stark and sneering. McLean's next record, Let Freedom Ring, would make a more explicit pact with matters removed from his bebop history. ...


Jackie McLean had become as much a Blue Note regular as Hank Mobley (by the end of his tenure with the original company, he had played on nearly fifty sessions), but he was one hard-bopper who had begun to question his own ground. For the sleeve of his 1962 Let Freedom Ring album, McLean asked to write his own notes: Jazz is going through a big change, and the listener or the fan, or what have you, should listen with an open mind. They should use a mental telescope to bring into view the explorers who have taken one step beyond, explorers such as Monk, Coltrane, Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Kenny Dorham, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Ornette and, of course, Duke Ellington.'


McLean doesn't choose to be very specific about how he feels his own music is changing, other than expressing a general dissatisfaction with chord-based improvising, but earlier in the essay he does say: 'Ornette Coleman has made me stop and think. He has stood up under much criticism, yet he never gives up his cause, freedom of expression. The search is on.'


What was this search? Perhaps McLean himself was not so sure, since most of Let Freedom Ring is a frequently awkward truce between his bebop roots and the new freedoms which Coleman had been putting on display in his music. But Coleman, too, had a debt to Charlie Parker and to blues playing. Why does
McLean sound, in comparison, to be struggling with his 'freedom'? It may be that he is, in effect, trying too hard. Listening to Coleman's music of the same period, one is constantly taken aback by how unselfconscious the playing is, as if the musicians in Coleman's famous quartet were free-at-last. McLean takes a much sterner route: if his earlier records sounded intense, this one is practically boiling. He seems unsure as to how best to use his tone, whether it should be flattened or made even sharper than normal, and there is both overblowing in the high register and a deliberate emphasis on oboe-like low notes. His three originals are open-ended and exploratory, but the one ballad, Bud Powell's Til Keep Loving You', is a distinct contrast, with the saxophonist playing it in a way which sounds in this setting weirdly direct and unadorned. Although the pianist, Walter Davis, was a near contemporary of McLean's, the other players were young men: bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Billy Higgins.


McLean's decision was not so much a conversion as a progression. Many of his generation had been scathing about Coleman's new music, while at the same time being uneasily aware that the Texan saxophonist was on to something. No experienced musician who heard the music of Coleman's first Atlantic recordings of 1959 could have been under the impression that the guiding hand was some kind of charlatan, even if they didn't agree with his methods or his way of expressing himself. At this distance, it seems odd that Coleman's music could even have excited so much controversy: not only does it sound light, folksy and songful, its accessibility follows a clear path down from bebop roots (a point best expressed in Coleman's first two recordings for Contemporary, with 'conventional' West Coast rhythm sections. The music there gives drummer Shelly Manne no rhythmical problems at all, but the two bassists involved, Percy Heath and Red Mitchell, both later remembered asking the leader about harmonic points which Ornette more or less waved aside).


In 1963, McLean built on the work of Let Freedom Ring by forming a new and regular band, with players who could accommodate what he saw as his new direction. Three of them were individuals who would have their own Blue Note engagements soon enough: vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, trombonist Grachan Moncur and drummer Tony Williams. All three featured alongside McLean on his next released session, One Step Beyond (although three other sessions which took place in between were shelved by Lion at the time). What is awkward about One Step Beyond - and the subsequent Destination ... Out! - is that McLean is the one who sounds like the backward player. Just as Miles Davis found himself initially perplexed by Williams (who joined the Davis band in 1964), so did McLean struggle with the language of his younger sidemen. …”


To give you an opportunity to listen Jackie’s playing from The Blue Note years, the following video tribute features him on Walter Davis Jr.’s Greasy from McLean’s New Soil LP with Donald Byrd on trumpet, Walter on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Pete La Roca on drums.


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