Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Nilpferd A-listers- Jazz

A neat stop-motion video accompaniement to Giant Steps, showing what Coltrane's solo looks like in animated sheet music form. (Not sure if there's a sax-helper clip for this one yet, but it looks simple enough on paper.)
Lionel Hampton - Flying Home
Bill Evans - Lucky to be me
John Coltrane - Giant Steps
Ornette Coleman - Free Jazz
Miles Davis - Felon Brun

I've donned my turtle neck sweater to wind up the retrospective Nilpferd A-list series in chin-stroking splendour with the jazz picks. Each of these tracks- besides being very niiiice- has some historical significance.
Flying Home features the famous high energy "honking" Illinois Jacquet tenor sax solo which every subsequent saxophone player in Hampton's band had to learn off by heart, and which also influenced a generation of rock 'n roll sax breaks.
Giant Steps was John Coltrane's own breathtaking stride into the league of legendary tenor saxophonists, and a short-lived attempt to develop an entirely new scalar based language for jazz. But besides that, it also happens to be an incredibly fun piece of music.
Bill Evan's Lucky to be me develops Bernstein's song into an expressive, ambiguous meditation and was one of his first forays into "ambient" improvisation, while Ornette Coleman's double quartet produces a dazzling array of sound in the genre defining Free Jazz, but still manages to sound like the sort of party you can't quite bring yourself to leave. Admittedly many of you might not even have wanted to be dragged along in the first place, but I do recommend setting your expectations to one side and dipping in for a quick listen with an open mind. Comments welcome, though you probably don't need to tell me you think it is chaotic nonsense- I'll just assume that as the default position.
Felon Brun sits on the cusp of Miles Davis' move into rock- Tony Williams is explosive here and produces one of my all-time favourite drum performances. And there's a tie in with my opening post in this series- the self confident face double-exposed on the album cover belongs to Betty Mabry, shortly before she married Miles and became known as Betty Davis.


Abahachi said...

Fantastic stuff.

Blimpy said...

i'm very much looking forward to this.

goneforeign said...

Flying Home brings back a lot of memories, I saw Hamp several times in the '50's in UK and the most vivid audio image I have is that he did something absolutely brand new, he created an audience response that went on to become Bill Haley's/Elvis Presley's rock & roll frenzy. You get a hint of it here where Hamp duets with the brass whilst the 16 piece orchestra's going nuts, he builds and builds and in his live shows that went on forever with the saxes and horns taking repeated solos and with Hamp on occasion dancing on his tom-toms and then leading a line through the audience chanting Hey Baba Rebop over and over. It was like nothing we'd ever seen or heard before, the audiences went wild, me included.
I was back-stage at a concert in Norwich and Hamp and his wife Gladys were very upset, they'd been out sightseeing all day and she'd lost her bible, she thought she knew where it would be, a cafe they'd stopped at. So I volunteered to guide them back, retracing their steps and we finally found it, it was at the cafe. Unfortunately that was before I ever started photographing every event.
Hamp's unique, he basically introduced the vibes into jazz and to my mind became it's greatest proponent and improviser, one of my all time favorite jazz albums is his All Stars live concert at the Pasadena Civic in 1947, there's a cut from it in two parts at youtube, it's Stardust and there's also a '57 version of Flying Home where Hamp plays the tenor solo on the vibes.


Japanther said...

I liked all of these Nilpferd, thanks.

I'm especially interested in the Miles Davis track....I bought "In a Silent Way" a few days ago and this doesn't seem to be tooo far away from the sound on far apart are they?

Great story Goneforeign, it's always the small tweaks and improvisations that lead to the biggest revolutions , would have loved to have been there.

nilpferd said...

Thanks guys, and that's a fascinating story, GF.

Japanther, definitely very close. Felon Brun was recorded about six months before In A Silent Way- two new players who were to have an important role to play on IASW- Chick Corea and Dave Holland- debuted. Their doubling up on bass and electric piano became an important part of the bass-riff sound of the band.

IASW is unique, but it still has recognisable elements from most of Miles' post 1964 albums, from ESP onwards. And Filles de Kilimanjaro definitely premiered the particular "sound" Miles was looking for with electric instruments, though he tweaked it considerably by the time he recorded IASW. Some people consider F. de. K a flawed "transitional" album, but I think it has a lot to recommend it.

Japanther said...

thanks for the clarification nilpferd, that explains a lot. just when I think i'm starting to get my head around Miles, he pulls out something completely different.......which is great of course!!

ejay said...

I loved the Lionel Hampton, I especially loved the winding horns.

That's the gift and the curse of Miles, Japanther. That was the precise subject of Nilpferd and me's first discussion. I don't remember when exactly, but it was very interesting, riveting even, so riveting that we were told to get out of the kitchen, or something, because the party had ended hours earlier.

nilpferd said...

Cheers Ejay, winding horns is a good description. I like the way the track is basically swing, but has rock n' roll energy, as GF said- it's the sort of music I wish I was able to dance to properly.
Ah, the good old days when we used to get thrown out of the kitchen at 3am.. *sighs wistfully*
JP, the 68-75 period was probably Miles' most fertile, in terms of the changes he went through- there's an amazing amount of music to check out. And though much of it seemed to be a complete break with the past, the more you listen to it the more you start to see connections between, say, his fifties and seventies recordings.

Shoegazer said...

Knew Giant Steps, & enjoyed all the rest, especially Miles & Lionel.

Can there be a list of illadvised noms to make the rest of us feel a little better?

nilpferd said...

Well, I doubt I'll have much luck with Kip Hanrahan this week, and besides Bongoparty, Lonnie, and Abahachi I haven't had much support for innumerable Weather Report shouts either- nor do my more saccherine tastes in jazz vocalists like Singers Unlimited and Mel Torme seem to make any headway either. But probably the most naff thing I could nom- which I haven't actually done yet, but I'll come clean here- would be a jazz fusion lite album I really loved as a kid, and still do- Eddie Daniels' debut Morning Thunder, an album even the artist himself- despite being up for jazz/classical crossovers and similar sins- disowns. Here's a sample. This track has all the worst late seventies jazz fusion cliches- gratuitous use of South American percussion, especially cowbells and kettle drums, unnecessary syth stabs, stale "atmospheric" strings, fretless bass going woh-O -oh, dramatic "groovy" playout led in by "stomping" drums, whistling synths and "play the theme backwards" funky latin piano. Still, I was wrapped to find this on the net, as I only had bits of it on cassettes I'd taped off the radio about 30 yrs ago- Daniels was always a brilliant reeds player and still I get a "goofy grin" type of lift from his clarinet playing. Feeling better now? (Sorry, I can't be held responsible for any damage to your keyboard)

Shoey said...

Bah! For all it's faults, even this guilty pleasure has a certain something. You're clearly not spending enough time with Toffee or FP. **Runs away**