A Musical Memory

I was 13 when I bought my first jazz CD. My music “collection” at the time consisted of a Backstreet Boys cassette and a CD of Ken Whiteley’s children’s songs that replaced a worn-out cassette. Waiting for a movie, I went to the book and music store next door. With time to kill and a gift card to burn, I entered the jazz section. I had heard the word “jazz” before and remember its strange sound. I wasn’t sure what to expect from jazz music, but I thought it should be weird. Little did I know, my piano teacher had already taught me some jazz tunes, but I could not connect those sounds to the name.

The store had two CDs to sample, Keith Jarrett’s Radiance and a two-CD collection of greatest hits from Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. I remember vividly the cover of Radiance, black with a smattering of white lights, only learning the album’s name and performer in the process of writing this. I found it, and Jarrett’s brooding solo piano, eerie, and quickly moved on to Goodman. The opening moments of “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” with its relaxed swing, soaring clarinet, and cheery vibraphone, sounded more up my alley. After some deliberation about whether to get a jazz CD at all, I bought it and went to my movie.

Listening to the discs at home later that night, I found many of the other Goodman tunes as fun as “Stompin’ At The Savoy.” But it was the second CD, of Duke Ellington music, that I really connected with. Even more so than Goodman, Ellington’s “Jump For Joy” hooked me. How could I resist the sweet sound of Johnny Hodges’s alto sax? And throughout that second CD, I enjoyed Ellington’s star soloists and the rich textures of his band. I also enjoyed being able to sing along to “Jump For Joy” and “I’m Beginning To See The Light,” my two favourite tracks. Today, I would have Googled Duke Ellington before leaving the store, but this was another era, and so I heard this music in a state of complete innocence. It is a magical experience I can probably never recapture.

I knew nothing of the history of jazz or where this music fit into it. I knew nothing of Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Rex Stewart, or any of the other musicians. I knew nothing of Billy Strayhorn and his immense contribution to the writing and arranging of this music. I knew only one name: Duke Ellington. But it was enough, and my jazz journey started then and there. Jazz became my first passion, one that has not left me. What first grabbed me, that joie de vivre in some of Ellington and Goodman’s music, still has a firm hold on me. It is present throughout jazz, from the New Orleans jazz of Louis Armstrong to the hard bop of Horace Silver, to mention nothing of Charles Mingus. It also explains my indulgence in soul jazz.

I sometimes wonder if I stay interested in jazz because it represents qualities I lack. Jazz is spontaneous; I’m a planner, uneasy improvising anything. Jazz is an art form of the moment; I often inhabit the past or the (possible) future. But jazz is not ahistorical, and my favourite jazz recalls and incorporates the past but also pushes towards the future. Miles Davis’s In A Silent Way evokes an atmosphere much closer to Kind Of Blue than to any of his Second Great Quintet albums, even as it moves his music towards fusion. Charles Mingus revived and incorporated elements of New Orleans style jazz into his progressive music. And as I wrote five years ago, much earlier in my jazz journey, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme “straddles two eras in Coltrane’s music, and that balance is part of what makes the album so great. It can be ferocious and free at times but remains rooted in melody, in particular the four-note bass line that is the theme of the first movement.” My sweet spot between past and future may change over time, but for now I’m enjoying all of the above, along with the post-bop of Eric Dolphy, Joe Henderson, Jackie McLean, and many others. It’s been a long but pleasant journey from the Duke, who will always have a special place in my heart, and my ears.

P.S. This reminds me of an article in January’s issue of The Atlantic, about industrial design and marketing: “What Makes Things Cool,” which suggests a similar principle is at work in that field.

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Art Pepper and George Cables

I’ve been listening to a lot of Art Pepper lately as part of a long-overdue foray into musicians based on the West coast, particularly those recording for Contemporary. Like a number of jazz musicians, Pepper had a rough life, chronicled, or maybe interpreted, in his autobiography Straight Life. (I haven’t read it, but I hope to.) He was a junkie whose career was interrupted by several jail spells. After the first of these, he made a number of highly regarded albums for Contemporary between 1957 and 1960. Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, from 1957, is Pepper’s most famous album, and pairs his alto sax with the rhythm section from Miles Davis’s first great quintet. Throughout much of the 1960s, he was in prison or rehab, and it wasn’t until 1975 that he made his next comeback album, Living Legend, again for Contemporary. This began the most productive recording period of his career, which would end in 1982 with his death.

Just a few months before his demise, Pepper recorded several duets with George Cables, his favourite pianist and the one featured on many of his late recordings, including the much vaunted Village Vanguard sessions from 1977. These duet sessions produced two albums, Goin’ Home and Tête-à-Tête. There is no drummer or bassist to distract from or to complement Pepper and Cables. Just two men playing together, each listening to the other and responding in kind. I find the intimacy engrossing, and it feels especially appropriate given Pepper’s imminent death. In fact, one of my favourite musical memories is a concert by Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo. On stage in Toronto’s lovely Koerner Hall that night, they demonstrated their great admiration and respect for one another, and a palpable musical and personal bond. Of course, the album they were promoting, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, could not live up to that memory. Jazz is a live experience, after all, and I can only dream of hearing Art Pepper and George Cables play in person.

Goin’ Home is my favourite of the two, for it features Pepper playing clarinet on half the tracks; what a lovely sound! Tête-à-Tête is more focused on ballads, all of them standards such as “Body and Soul” and ” ‘Round Midnight,” while Goin’ Home has a more varied repertoire. While in prison, Pepper had become smitten with John Coltrane, even playing the tenor exclusively for a few years. On these albums, Coltrane’s influence is more subtle than on some of Pepper’s 70s recordings, but still present: this is not the same Art Pepper  who met the rhythm section two and a half decades earlier!

From Goin’ Home: “In A Mellow Tone” and “Billie’s Bounce.”

From Tête-à-Tête: “‘Round Midnight.”

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Phineas Newborn Jr.

Oscar Peterson once declared “If I had to choose the best all-around pianist of anyone who’s followed me chronologically, unequivocally … I would say Phineas Newborn, Jr.” Phineas Newborn Jr. was often compared to Peterson for his technical facility, though their styles are quite distinct. He received plaudits from fellow pianists and critics early in his career, but was also criticized, like Peterson, for making use of his technique. Newborn was born near Memphis in 1931 and his first name, by all accounts, is pronounced “Fine-ess.” He moved to New York around 1956, recording his debut for Atlantic and a half-dozen albums on RCA Victor and Roulette, before moving to Los Angeles in 1961 and signing with Contemporary. After his initial flurry of recordings in New York and immediately after his move to LA, he recorded only intermittently until his death in 1989 due to mental health problems and a couple of hand injuries.

I’ll mention three albums with Phineas Newborn Jr. that I’ve had a chance to listen to. The first album is We Three, a Roy Haynes trio album recorded in 1958 in New York. Completing the trio is the distinguished bassist Paul Chambers. Surprisingly, none of the pieces they play is taken above a medium-up tempo and Newborn, perhaps responding to the critics, exercises restraint. Have a listen to “Reflection” or Newborn’s composition “Sugar Ray.”

Newborn’s first Contemporary album, A World of Piano!, was recorded in 1961 and does feature a couple of fast pieces, Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud” and Sonny Rollins’s “Oleo.” Newborn also tackles tunes by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, and Billy Strayhorn. This album is probably most representative of Newborn’s style and it’s worth noting that there’s not a single standard not penned by a jazz musician, an atypical choice for a piano trio. Each side features a different group, the first including Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones of Miles Davis’s quintet, and the second including Sam Jones and Louis Hayes of Cannonball Adderley’s quintet. The second group recorded several other tracks at the session which would make up half of The Great Jazz Piano of Phineas Newborn Jr., his next Contemporary album.

In 1964, Newborn returned to Contemporary’s studio for the first time since 1962 and made his last album until 1969, The Newborn Touch. The group here doesn’t feature and visiting luminaries, but rather West Coast mainstays Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Frank Butler on drums. The feel here is a bit different, as the tunes are culled from jazz compositions recorded on other Contemporary albums. (The liner notes serve mainly for the producer to advertise all those other albums.) Many of the pieces here are shorter, and it feels more like a collection of vignettes. Sometimes, Newborn seems just to be getting going when he starts to recap the melody. Nevertheless, it makes for an interesting and varied programme. For instance, it includes an early Ornette Coleman composition, “The Blessing.”

Despite the acclaim, it seems that Newborn’s career never took off, but these three albums demonstrate that, when he was healthy, he could certainly play.

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While I’m in the mood for Mingus, I thought I would write about another obscure Mingus album I just listened to, titled Mingus. I guess by this point, I’ve heard most of his well-known albums and besides, it wouldn’t be very hip to write about an album everyone’s heard. This was recorded for the short-lived Candid label in 1960; the label’s producer was the jazz critic Nat Hentoff, who gave Mingus complete musical freedom. Mingus‘s more famous sibling is the absolutely essential Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, which featured a quartet comprising Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Ted Curson, and Dannie Richmond.

Two of Mingus‘s three tracks were actually recorded the same day as that album and one of these two features the same band. But Mingus also recorded that day with an expanded band including Lonnie Hillyer on trumpet, Charles McPherson on alto sax, Jimmy Knepper and Britt Woodman on trombone, and Nico Bunick on piano. Three weeks later, Mingus’s group recorded again for Candid, just replacing Bunick by Paul Bley, and the third track comes from that session. Other tracks from these two sessions were collected on a couple of other Candid albums.

The album opens with Mingus telling us that the royalties for the first track,  “Monk, Duke, and Mingus”, go to each of them, whether they like it or not. Why would either of them refuse?! As the title suggests, the tune combines equal parts Duke and Monk (represented by “Main Stem” and “Straight, No Chaser”), as well as a hefty portion of Mingus to bring everything together. It’s a 20-minute romp wherein everybody except Mingus and Richmond solos. Dolphy features twice, once on alto sax and once on bass clarinet. The two trombones trade fours, then the alto saxes and trumpets, respectively, do the same. Finally, Booker Ervin’s tenor is paired with Dolphy’s bass clarinet. The most intense contrast is between McPherson’s Bird-inspired style and Dolphy’s more unorthodox approach.

The second track, “Stormy Weather”, is the quartet track. It’s primarily a vehicle for Dolphy, but Mingus and Curson do solo towards the end. The third track, “Lock ‘Em Up (Hellview of Bellevue)”, is quite frantic: the most boppish of the three, it reminds me of “Salt Peanuts”. It is supposed to be inspired by Mingus’s short visit to a psychiatric hospital.

The early 60s period was the zenith of Mingus’s career, in my opinion, and this is a fun, albeit lesser-known, album from those times. If only to have been able to see his bands live at the peak of their powers! Someday, we ought to invent time travel.

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Mingus at the Bohemia

If you’ve read some of my previous entries, you’ll know I’m a Mingus fan. Today, I’m writing about a pair of Mingus albums, recorded live at the Café Bohemia in New York City in 1955, Mingus At The Bohemia and The Charles Mingus Quintet + Max Roach. (This club is also the site of classic hard bop recordings by the Jazz Messengers and Kenny Dorham of around the same time, in case you’re interested.) As far as I can tell, these albums are not well-known (otherwise, I’d probably have heard of them earlier!). This is understandable because they’re not exactly classics. Still, it’s fascinating to hear early Mingus at work, and to witness the seeds of ideas that would soon blossom. I’ve heard Pithecanthropus Erectus referred to as Mingus’s first important album, but these two precede that one by about a year.

His band here consists of George Barrow on tenor sax, Eddie Bert on trombone, Mal Waldron on piano, and Willie Jones on drums (the same rhythm section as Pithecanthropus Erectus). Unfortunately, the horn players are among the least exciting or original I’ve heard on a Mingus album, but to be fair to them, they’re facing up against Mingus stalwarts Booker Ervin, Jimmy Knepper, and Eric Dolphy! Still, they’re certainly adequate, and I do enjoy their solos. Pithecanthropus Erectus is more successful than these two albums, and part of that is because I’ll take McLean and Monterose over Barrow and Bert any day (Mingus had a nice alliteration thing going on, eh?). Another reason is that Mingus would take some of his ideas further on the later album. Hear, for example, the two versions of “A Foggy Day” from + Max Roach and Pithecanthropus Erectus. “Love Chant” is also on both of those albums for another point of comparison.

Returning to the band: Willie Jones is not Dannie Richmond, enough said. Mal Waldron is good here, but better on Pithecanthropus Erectus and even better on the later Five Spot recordings with Dolphy. You might be surprised that I haven’t mentioned Max Roach yet, since he is named in one of the titles. He is only heard on three of the tunes, which is a shame.  Still, two of the tracks he appears on are the most interesting on the albums: “Percussion Discussion” on At The Bohemia and “Drums” on + Max Roach. Both are very free pieces, and we can hear Mingus experimenting here before free jazz was hip. As the titles suggest, the former is a duet between Mingus and Roach, while the latter is a feature for Roach with the rest of the band backing him.

I think I wrote something silly about blossoming seeds earlier. Some things that would become hallmarks of Mingus’s music are present here, even if underused or in rudimentary form. For example, there’s the occasional tempo change mid tune. We have a tribute to Monk, “Jump Monk”. We often hear the horns improvising together or backing each other up during their solos. On At The Bohemia, there are two pieces where Mingus has fun splicing or juxtaposing  tracks: “Septemberly” and “All The Things You C#”. Finally, we have an early version of “Haitian Fight Song”, missing some of its distinctive features. Most notably, the bass line is not yet present, and it’s much less hard-driving than later versions. For comparison, listen to those from The Clown and Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus.

Ultimately, these two albums are an interesting listen for fans of Mingus, though there are quite a few better albums in his discography.

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Pretenders to the throne: “The Sidewinder” phenomenon

What more is there to say about Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder, certainly among the most famous and popular Blue Note albums, and especially about its title track? Well, not too much, and that’s why this post is about pieces not called “The Sidewinder”.

“The Sidewinder”

But first, a brief recap: recorded in 1963 and released in 1964, it was Lee Morgan’s first Blue Note album since 1960’s Lee-Way, an excellent hard bop album. It was also his first since graduating from The Jazz Messengers, though he did return to the band for part of 1964. It featured the versatile Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, bebopper Barry Harris on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and the ubiquitous Billy Higgins on drums.

Together with Search for the New Land and Tom Cat, both recorded in 1964, The Sidewinder bespoke Morgan’s new-found maturity as a soloist and composer, with each of the albums suggesting  a possible direction for his career. While they’re all excellent, I think Search for the New Land is the most interesting, and is much closer to post-bop than the others. Alas, the runaway success of The Sidewinder‘s title track, which was a pop hit for Morgan and even graced a car commercial, stunted the development of these more interesting aspects of his musicianship. Instead, he, along with Blue Note records, had a taste of commercial success and tried to replicate it through much of the rest of the decade.

This is what brings us to the bevy of “The Sidewinder” imitators. From 1965 onwards, many of Blue Note’s hard boppers began opening their albums with tunes trying to recapture the success of “The Sidewinder”. Some of the most egregious examples are almost direct copies, even down to the name. In what follows, I won’t say much about these albums other than the tracks that fit this mould. But many of the them are otherwise fine hard bop albums.

First up is Hank Mobley’s The Turnaround!, mostly recorded in February of 1965. Here’s the title track: “The Turnaround!”. We’re not off to a good start, with Hank Mobley not making any attempt to hide the fact that he’s ripping off Lee Morgan. He even brought back the pianist and drummer from The Sidewinder. While I’m always in the mood for Mobley’s wonderfully lyrical music, he’s strapped for ideas on this kind of tune. At least Freddie Hubbard puts in a good turn on trumpet, and Barry Harris reprises his role on piano well. I’ll have more to say about the drummer, Billy Higgins, later.

Morgan’s first follow-up was The Rumproller (1965). Perhaps feeling the pressure to match “The Sidewinder”, he enlists Andrew Hill to compose “The Rumproller”. (We know Hill is capable of much better.) While not entirely unsuccessful, it fails to capture the relaxed groove of the original, with Morgan trying too hard in his solo. The highlight must be Joe Henderson’s solo.

Next, Mobley enlists Morgan to join him for his album Dippin’ (1965), opening with “The Dip”. The backbeat is starting to get heavier here, especially throughout the solos. There’s not much to say about this one, other than that the formula is wearing thin.

Finally, we have something a bit different. Lee Morgan’s next album is The Gigolo (1965), and it is a step above most of the other albums mentioned here. That includes his opening track, “Yes I Can, No You Can’t”. While Morgan is clearly aiming for a groovy crossover hit, at least it’s not a literal copy of his earlier success. Billy Higgins decides not to hold back on this one and hits that backbeat as hard as he can; no more relaxed groove for Morgan to ride. The three soloists go all-out, with Higgins getting more energetic as each solo progresses. This piece is altogether more fun, partially because it seems as if the musicians are trying to see how far they can take this conceit, almost parodying themselves in the process (mainly Higgins).

Up next, Blue Mitchell’s quintet opened its 1965 album Down With It! with “Hi-Heel Sneakers”, an R&B song arranged to sound like “The Sidewinder”. This time, Al Foster (not Billy Higgins!) is on drums. Also featured is a young Chick Corea. The change of cast does spice things up a bit, but ultimately it’s following the same formula.

For the final Morgan selection, we have “Cornbread”, the title track to another of his 1965 albums, and we have Hank Mobley on tenor sax and Billy Higgins on drums again. This is an improvement on all the previous copies, save perhaps “Yes I Can, No You Can’t”. It’s elevated by Mobley’s best solo among these tunes and the presence of Herbie Hancock on piano and Jackie McLean on alto sax. Maybe the fact that the rest of the album is also a cut above many of the others here helps the title track.

Speaking of Herbie Hancock, in 1962 he recorded a funky and popular tune called “Watermelon Man” on his debut album, Takin’ Off. Is anyone surprised that Billy Higgins was on drums? Incidentally, Hancock’s better at copying himself than many of the other musicians mentioned in this post. Although his first follow-up, “Blind Man, Blind Man”, was mediocre (and it happened to have Mobley on sax), his second, “Cantaloupe Island”, could contend with the original. (In case that sounds familiar, here’s a popular song that sampled it: US3’s “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)”.)

None of this is that relevant, except to say that Hank Mobley had a trick up his sleeve for the title track of his next album, “A Caddy for Daddy”, recorded in 1965. Instead of copying “The Sidewinder”, he imitated “Watermelon Man”! As always, Mobley’s version is much worse than the original.

In January of 1966, Blue Mitchell recorded “Bring It Home To Me” on his album of the same name. I guess his quintet’s last single wasn’t successful enough, so this time he enlisted Billy Higgins to play drums. The formula is getting pretty stale after the rash of “Sidewinder” copies in 1965, but Blue Note and their artists were dogged in their pursuit of a hit single, despite being incredibly uncreative.

A month later, Wayne Shorter recorded “Adam’s Apple”. Shorter has too much self-respect as a composer to rip off “The Sidewinder” like the others, but the piece does serve the same purpose. What’s interesting here is that Shorter, unlike Morgan, Mobley, and Mitchell, is firmly ensconced in the post-bop school of jazz during this period. He had been with Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet for at least a year and a half, and had recorded his most avant-garde album of his Blue Note period four months earlier. Somehow, this trend was not exclusive to the hard bop musicians; whether under pressure from the producers, or pursuing the glimmer of success, many musicians in the Blue Note stable were resorting to this sad strategy.

I know I have provided way too many examples of these pieces already, but I guess that’s the point. Let me give a couple more from 1967 just to show that this trend didn’t completely peter out, even if Lee Morgan had abandoned it by that point. By now, they had stopped copying “The Sidewinder” directly. First is Donald Byrd’s “Blackjack” from the album of the same name, again with Hank Mobley and Billy Higgins. Next is Wayne Shorter’s “Tom Thumb” from Schizophrenia. Third, we have Mobley’s “Hi Voltage”, featuring none other than Higgins. Even Jackie McLean fails to deliver anything interesting with such lacklustre material. While I may be stretching to fit at least the first couple into the “Sidewinder” mould, I think they are ultimately in the spirit of the tune, and probably owe their existence to its success.

What conclusions can we draw from these pieces? First, if you want a hit, you’d better get Billy Higgins in your band. Of the “Sidewinder” imitators recorded before 1969 mentioned in this post, the only ones on which he didn’t play were the two Shorter tracks and the earlier one by Mitchell. (Higgins seemed to play on only one album in 1969 and 1970, so maybe he wasn’t available for Mobley’s albums in those years, mentioned below.). I’d like to think this whole endeavour was his idea, and he becomes increasingly dominant as he participates in more of these recordings.

Hard bop musicians such as Morgan and Mobley were struggling to remain relevant as classic hard bop waned during the 60s. This went hand in hand with the ascendancy of post-bop, which incorporated modal jazz and some developments of the avant-garde into the mainstream. As the decade progressed, bereft of ideas and desperate, these staid hard boppers began to adopt some modal elements or to increasingly make use of simpler pop forms. Lee Morgan ultimately took the former course before his untimely demise in 1970.

Meanwhile, Hank Mobley was spiralling towards utter inanity. Hear, for example, the title track “Reach Out” to his 1968 album. He reverted to the tried and true on his 1969 album, “The Flip” but came up with a brilliant way to surprise listeners on his 1970 album, Thinking of Home: you get almost to the end of the album relieved that there’s been no “Sidewinder” copy, but then the last track hits and Hank disappoints you with “Talk About Gittin’ It”.

By the end of the decade, fusion had emerged and Blue Note had folded, so this is the end of the “Sidewinder” story. Let me end with what may, at first blush, seem to be a “Sidewinder” copy, Kenny Dorham’s “Una Mas” from his album of the same name. But it was recorded before “The Sidewinder”, so is surely not a copy of Morgan’s hit. Una Mas is the first of a series of five excellent albums with a frontline of Dorham and Joe Henderson and is the latter’s first recording. Since Dorham is a relatively obscure but important hard bop trumpeter, consider “Una Mas” a hipper version of “The Sidewinder”.

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The Quest

Tonight, I had a listen to Mal Waldron’s The Quest. This album is from 1961, featuring Mal Waldron on piano, Eric Dolphy on alto sax and clarinet, Booker Ervin on tenor sax, and Ron Carter on cello, backed by Joe Benjamin on bass and Charlie Persip on drums.

Before listening to The Quest, I was only familiar with Mal Waldron from the 1955 Cafe Bohemia recordings of Charles Mingus’s Jazz Workshop and the Five Spot recordings of the Eric Dolphy–Booker Little quintet made a few weeks after this album. It’s definitely in the “post-bop” or adventurous hard bop vein, so the tunes and solos are more ambitious and interesting than the typical hard bop fare.

The highlights of this album are Dolphy and Ervin, but I’m big fans of both of them so who is surprised. The previous year, they were both with Charles Mingus, and can be heard to great effect on the live album Mingus At Antibes (see my earlier post). Meanwhile, the lowlight is Ron Carter’s cello. He just doesn’t have anything interesting to contribute, and, more importantly, he takes significant solo space away from Dolphy, Ervin, and Waldron.

Waldron wrote all of the album’s tunes, and his compositions are quirky and varied, with the exception of the two somewhat dull ballads. The first, “Duquility”, has Carter playing the melody (ugh) and no solo by Dolphy or Ervin (double ugh!). The second, “Warm Canto”, has Dolphy playing the clarinet. Although he frequently played bass clarinet and so you might be interested to hear his regular clarinet playing, it’s disappointingly uninteresting. At least “Warm Canto” features some groovy playing by Waldron.

For the most part, the pieces suffer from being too short. The exceptions are the album’s standout track, “Status Seeking“, and the closer, “Fire Waltz”. With four soloists, there is little time for anyone to really get going. But, as always, Dolphy makes great use of the time given to him. It’s a good thing Ervin’s style is so different, otherwise it would be impossible to follow him.

The last thing that disappointed me about this album is Mal Waldron himself. Based on the recordings I mentioned above, I had high expectations for him. Don’t get me wrong, I think Waldron plays well on the album, it’s just that I was hoping for something more.

On the Five Spot recordings, he sounds more spirited and inspired. For example, compare his solos on the two versions of “Fire Waltz”: The Quest version vs. the Five Spot version. In part, this is because he has more time to develop his solos. The other major reason is that the higher calibre of rhythm-section mates spur him on. Richard Davis was an important bassist in 60s post-bop, playing extensively with Eric Dolphy and Andrew Hill, among others. Ed Blackwell was a member of Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking quartet of 1960-1961.

In sum, I think this album, although a solid one, isn’t entirely successful. Most of the tracks are good, and Dolphy and Ervin both play well. Waldron is good too, but has sounded better elsewhere. I can only dream of what this would have sounded like without Ron Carter’s cello.


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