Fifty years ago next month three musicians released an album that five months earlier they had got together to record. They weren’t just any musicians. But together they hadn’t recorded before, and would never do so again. A half a century on following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the post-credit crunch world where the banks have lost their once invincible air of respectability, big business still rules the money jungle. The album using those two words, and a new meditation on our western economy as a failed way to live, is marked next month with the release of Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue by Terri Lyne Carrington. On the cover of the original artwork of the LP of Money Jungle the biggest point size of the lettering for the musicians is accorded to Duke Ellington, then as now a talismanic figure whose music reached musicians and non-musicians alike the world over. Four days before the Money Jungle sessions it was business as usual for Duke, and with his orchestra he was in a New York studio recording tracks such as ‘Monk’s Dream’, ‘Do Nothin’ Till You Hear For Me (Concerto for Cootie’), and ‘The Lonely Ones’.
The seventeenth of September 1962 was different though, and with the maverick Mingus and bebop pioneer Roach rather than the gathered ranks of the orchestra this was a pared down piano trio album, like no other in Ellington’s vast discography before or since. Why so? Well, first of all because of the power of the personalities you don’t think of it as a piano trio album which is weird. In recent years Vijay Iyer in some ways has showed the modern way to look at this album with, not a trio take although that would be interesting, but just him playing ‘Fleurette Africaine’ in a California studio that later appeared on his album, Solo.
Money Jungle isn’t about instrumentation, it’s about people and ideas. The songs are mainly by Ellington yet the politics are a communality of all three players’ expressed in different ways but essentially the same in the context of the civil rights movement.
Side one opens with ‘Money Jungle’ and then there’s the beautiful ‘Fleurette Africaine (African Flower)’, ‘Very Special’, and ‘Warm Valley’, with side two ‘Wig Wise’, ‘Caravan’, not Ellington’s tune but Juan Tizol’s, and finally ‘Solitude’. CD-era listeners will know the album differently and so perceptions have been altered by time as formats change. So the order of the songs were changed and unreleased songs ‘A Little Max (Parfait)’, ‘REM Blues’, ‘Switch Blade’, and ‘Backward Country Boy Blues’ were now heard for the first time.
Enter Terri Lyne Carrington fresh from the drummer’s Grammy winning success with her vocals-based album The Mosaic Project, and with the extra tracks in mind Provocative in Blue has kept these to the fore so ‘Backward Country Boy Blues’ is the third track with a Lizz Wright vocal, and the other unreleased 1963 tracks are also there plus originally released songs, though not ‘Warm Valley’, ‘Caravan’ and ‘Solitude’, as Carrington’s own tunes ‘Grass Roots’ and ‘No Boxes (Nor Words)’ plus pianist Gerald Clayton’s ‘Cut Off’ take their place.
Carrington says she first heard Money Jungle as a CD version in the new millennium and felt “something mysterious about it,” explaining further. “There was an energy that moved through the tracks. There was this tension that you could hear, and yet they fit together like a hand in a glove.”
Her rearranging of the album has many dimensions. It’s layered with a big cast and is very political. We look to jazz people to say it as it is, no nonsense, and that’s what TLC and her musicians do here. To rolling solo drums a voice at the beginning says: “People are basically vehicles to just create money, which must create more money to keep the whole thing from falling apart, which is what’s happening. There is no profit under the current paradigm in saving lives, putting balance on this planet, having justice and peace or anything else. You have to create problems to create profit”, at which Christian McBride kicks in with the loose strung sound of Mingus you recognise from the title track of Money Jungle. The track ends with a collage of voices including that of Dr Martin Luther King speaking in December 1963 and President Barack Obama.
On the second track there’s a link to jazz royalty with the voice of Clark Terry, one of Miles Davis’ early mentors in the rap at the beginning of ‘Fleurette Africain’, as spelt here, before Clayton against a luxuriantly laidback Carrington rhythm and a lovely bigger ensemble arrangement that still retains the intimacy of a small band and conjures that mystery Carrington has referred to in her original reaction to the album. The core band is Carrington with McBride and the piano and Rhodes of Gerald Clayton, but the cast is expanded as the album progresses; as a feminist statement track 11 is also significant with new singer/songwriter Shea Rose’s contribution extolling womanhood.
Uniting the past half century with the present at just under the five-minute mark the album goes almost silent, and no less a figure than Herbie Hancock, as “the voice" of Duke Ellington, says: “If jazz means anything at all, which is questionable, it means the same thing it meant to musicians 50 years ago: freedom of expression. I can’t help feeling that the music has outgrown the word jazz. The greatest danger to civilisation is that we don’t appreciate enough our natural heritage. Musicians of the past have influenced all musicians of the future. I think jazz will be listened to by the same people who listen to it now: those who like creative things, whether they understand them or not. If it is accepted as an art the popularity of it doesn’t matter. When you get into popularity then you’re talking about money, not music.”
After the original Money Jungle sessions, two days later Ellington played solo for a TV broadcast, and it was ‘Fleurette Africaine’ he played that day. A week later he was recording with John Coltrane for Impulse.
Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (Concord) is released on 25 February. The cover of 1963 album Money Jungle, top. Terri Lyne Carrington, above
Jazz singer Tammy Weis and pianist Tom Cawley have co-written the first song on the new Erin Boheme album What A Life. Produced by Michael Bublé the album features the star crooner’s band, with Wisconsin-born Boheme (above) duetting with the Bublé-sounding Spencer Day on the excellent ‘I’d Love To Be Your Last.’ Weis, a British Canadian singer who has become an integral part of the sophisticated UK mainstream jazz vocals scene with her highly rated jazz club appearances and recordings, together with Cawley better known for his work with Curios and Peter Gabriel, have written ‘Everyone But Me’ driven by a kind of modified rumba feel, think the feel of Caro Emerald’s ‘A Night Like This.’
It’s a snappy opening to a record that seems guaranteed to receive commercial radio airplay. Bublé fans will head straight for ‘I’d Love to Be Your Last’ which has the potential to be a huge hit with its crossover country sound.
Less alt.country than Lady Antebellum there’s a kind of zeitgeisty 1970s vibe coming through as well on the album from around fifth track ‘The Last Time’ written by David Foster who also penned the Diana Krall performed song ‘I’ll Make It Up As I Go’ featured on Robert De Niro-starring film The Score. ‘Do I Do’ has got instant impact and mainstream soul fans might very well take to Boheme’s superb self-penned and jazzy ‘One More Try’.
Originally signed to Concord at just 17, a protégée of the distinguished jazz pianist and arranger Mike Melvoin who helped Boheme in the early part of her career Michael Bublé also warmed quickly to Boheme’s voice and her putatively Carly Simon-inspired sound. His touring band has worked with the singer on the sessions for the album, with pianist Alan Chang, guitarist Dino Meneghin, bassist Craig Polasko and drummer Rob Perkins appearing plus strings. Boheme says that Weis and Cawley’s song ‘Everyone But Me’ “was the story of my life”, and other songs on the album include a cover of Coldplay’s ‘In My Place’ and Boheme’s ‘What A Life’.”
Released on 5 February in the US. Erin Boheme pictured top. Tammy Weis above right. UPDATE: UK release, 25 March
Slipped out sooner than you think, the debut of tenor-of-our-time Chris Potter on ECM is fast approaching with a 28 January release. I haven’t heard it yet but going by Potter’s last few superlative appearances in the UK with his own band at Ronnie Scott’s during the Jazzwise to the Power of 15 week and previously with McCoy Tyner, and the fact that this is a special “new label" event The Sirens will for these reasons be anticipated as one of the first major saxophone statements of the year.
Inspired by Homeric legend, the Chicago-born Potter, who celebrated his 42nd birthday just this week on New Year’s Day, is on his habitual tenor and soprano saxophones plus bass clarinet, joined by past and present Potter band pianists the sophisticated avant gardist Craig Taborn, and upcoming Cuban David Virelles on prepared piano, celeste, and harmonium. (Virelles also appears on Tomasz Stanko’s double album Wislawa set for a February release). Potter also brings in Brad Mehldau trio and Fly bassist Larry Grenadier, and happening Charles Lloyd drummer Eric Harland. Tracks are: ‘Wine Dark Sea’, ‘Wayfinder’, ‘Dawn (With Her Rosy Fingers’), ‘The Sirens’, ‘Penelope’, ‘Kalypso’, ‘Nausikaa’, and ‘Stranger at the Gate’. SG
The Sirens cover top and Chris Potter above
Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues
BAG Production ***1/2
Unfold Ordinary Mind
BAG Production ****
The first of these albums may have a fancy title, but don’t let that put you off as there’s a bit of joshing going on; it’s not something that might earnestly seek to detain Professor Brian Cox for too long. Down-home from the beginning, Ches Smith’s loose feel on drums underpins the only-a-little fogey-ish environment; and you won’t usually hear trumpeter Ron Miles play like this, certainly not when he was with Bill Frisell. Joshua Redman who has been in his own jazz 2.0 career brave new world phase (1.0 was the glorious Wish and Moodswing days) on fantastic form again on his own records since Compass, working cleverly in tandem with leader clarinettist Ben Goldberg who has written all the tunes (except for one) on these records.
There is plenty to savour on Subatomic Homesick Blues recorded just under five years ago, including the pretty opening of ‘Asterisk’ leading eventually to fine, loose double bass backing from Devin Hoff, and a Ron Miles trumpet line you would have thought no-one was capable of playing any more, at least in atmosphere terms, with the demurring reeds a perfect backdrop. And who knew ‘Who Died and Where I Moved to’ would swing quite as much as it does? No, me neither. An album where everyone knows you shouldn’t be too nostalgic but can’t help themselves.
The quintet album Unfold Ordinary Mind is the more out-there music of this pair of albums, although I certainly wouldn’t want to start thinking about what on earth an “ordinary mind" is. That would be much too boring. More to the point, it is different, with (let’s call him the Marc Ribot of his generation) Nels Cline, and superbly visceral Tim Berne associate Ellery Eskelin, who joins the fray in a two-tenor assault with the gentler Rob Sudduth making up the five as Goldberg and Smith stay on from the other album. ‘Parallelogram’ gives a good account of what Cline can bring to the party, but track four called ‘Lone’ is where it gets deeply serious (the horns stark and real at the beginning), and the feeling that there is an existential dread at the heart of the record that Cline manages to interpret in his own forthright way resorting to an appealingly dank car-park blues with tantalising little bell-like sounds from Smith. Unfold Ordinary Mind is avant rock with loads of improv where history is junked without even the thought of a backwards glance. An extra point for the adventurous streak, and Cline going for it on ‘Stemwinder’. SG
Both albums are released in the States on 5 February. No UK release date so far. UPDATE 9/1/13: The US physical, and US/international digital release date, is now 19 Feb
While for Kit Downes last year involved performing with a variety of bands including Troyka whose album Moxxy picked up good reviews across the board, Anglo-French band Barbacana, and appearing on Golden Age of Steam’s Welcome to Bat Country issued late in the year, 2013 will see the acclaimed ex-Empirical player release a quintet record with piano again at its heart.
Featuring members of his trio, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren, with Golden Age of Steam’s James Allsopp on bass clarinet, and cellist Lucy Railton, the album was recorded at Fishmarket Studios by Robert Harder who produced The Cherry Thing released last year to considerable acclaim.
The new album to be titled Light From Old Stars combines a variety of elements from chamber jazz signifiers in the arranging style through to free improv on a track such as ‘Owls’ and the more cinematic “road movie” conception of ‘Outlaws’, or the remoulded ‘jam’ blow-out feel of ‘What’s the Rumpus.’
Recorded on a Steinway sourced from Beccles in Suffolk Light From Old Stars is to be released in April by London-based indie jazz label Basho, home to The Impossible Gentlemen and Gwilym Simcock, and follows Downes’ albums the Mercury nominated trio album Golden (2009), and Quiet Tiger (2011).
Tracks are ‘Wonder and Colossus’, ‘Bley Days’, ‘Outlaws’, ‘What’s the Rumpus’, ‘Two Ones’, ‘Falling, Dancing’, ‘Owls’, ‘The Mad Wren’, and ‘Jan Johansson’. Details are sketchy so far, but ‘Bley Days’, which the quintet played live on selected dates last year, is Downes’ homage to Paul Bley, and the final track is clearly named as a tribute for the lost leader of Swedish jazz, pianist Jan Johansson who died at the young age of 37 in 1968. Johansson is best known for his classic album Jazz på svenska (‘Jazz in Swedish’), which used European folk music as an ingredient for jazz improvisation, one of the first to do so. ‘Jan Johansson’ is a quietly yearning dream-like track that begins with a scamperingly laidback Maddren rhythm, a low piano rumble, and a lovely melody line that Downes and cellist Railton state in unison before the softly unfolding melody line ascends.
Quintet tour dates include: Capstone Theatre, Liverpool, 2 March; Komedia, Brighton, 8 March; The Hive, Shrewsbury 13 April; Bonnington Theatre, Nottingham 18 April; and Jazz in the Round at the Cockpit Theatre, London, on 29 April, with more dates in May and June
Kit Downes above
Crazy name, crazy guys? Very possibly, going by the postcard pictures on the band’s website. I suppose Shatner’s Bassoon could conceivably have been Nimoy’s Nadaswaram or Doohan’s Dulcimer if Chris Morris hadn’t provided some inspiration instead. But maybe there’s something to be said about the perils of band names becoming better known than their lovingly crafted music: Hamster Axis Of The One-Click Panther, anyone? Sadly but a fleeting musical memory.
Aquatic Ape Privilege, the Leeds band’s debut due out on the Wasp Millionaire label in February, opens up with a pleasurable guitar squall from Craig Scott conjuring for a moment the reclusive twang of undersung prophet-of-suburbia Billy Jenkins among the squelchy keyboards, toy effects and disembodied spoken word on opening gambit ‘This Is How You Make A Buck’.
The Bassoon swell to a six-piece combo augmented with a second drummer for live dates, and have been around for a little under three years. Their influences are Tim Berne, Mr Bungle, and importantly John Zorn, who produced that funk metal band’s cult debut album in 1991. Zappa also figures as a reference point and so too, surely, the reigning saint of Leeds improv, the outrageously influential Matthew Bourne.
With four longish tracks among the seven, the opener plus ‘Altered Beast’, the intriguingly titled ‘Breakfast with Boghead’ (beats toast, although not sure about the parrot retching), and the closing track ‘Someone Killed My Panda, the album is a fun rollercoaster ride with some formidable improvising, but they certainly don’t take themselves too seriously. I liked saxophonist Ollie Dover’s talkatively emotive saxophone opener to ‘Boghead’, and hopefully the jokes won’t wear too thin after more repeated play. The signs are good so far. SG
Released on 11 February. Shatner’s Bassoon play Oporto, Leeds on 15 January; The Cluny, Newcastle 29 Jan; The Noise Upstairs, Sheffield on 13 February; The Fish Tank, Durham 18 Feb; Sandbar, Manchester 19 Feb; The Fox and Newt, Leeds 23 Feb; The Splinter, Newcastle 24 Feb; Vortex, London 26 Feb; Safehouse, Brighton 27 Feb; Club Integral, London N16 on 7 March; and Ort Café, Birmingham, 8 March
Shatner’s Bassoon pictured
Hymns Spheres, released complete for the first time as a double CD set, recorded in Bavaria on an eighteenth century Karl Joseph Riepp organ at Ottobeuren Abbey in 1976, is in this complete version bookended by a ‘Hymn of Remembrance’ right at the beginning, and a ‘Hymn of Release’ at the end of the second disc, with the nine-movement ‘Spheres’ forming the rest. The only version on CD (as opposed to the harder-to-find vinyl) that does exist lopped off five of the Spheres movements and the pair of Hymns.
Jarrett for the recording experimented with the Trinity organ’s stops to reach notes beyond the tempered scale, and in so doing contributed to part of the album’s unusual nature. Occasionally the music sounds ultra modern, a soundtrack to a vast galaxy of limitless space Jarrett’s vision and the remarkable instrument he plays created in tandem. Yet the contours of the improvisation allow the music to dive back into the baroque especially on the hymns, which will be a revelation to those only familiar with the existing CD where they don’t appear. The hymns are less experimental, it’s true to say, or at least have a more familiar back story, the catharsis after the dancing on the edge that the Jarrett faithful will be familiar with at his solo piano concerts, which he sometimes achieves by playing a gospel-influenced song.
As intense in its own different way as the early piano odyssey Facing You, and the much later masterpiece Testament, this audacious album which Jarrett followed up in 1980 by returning to Ottobeuren and further developing his approach to appear as Invocations/The Moth and the Flame, has an otherworldliness that I guess will appeal to the magpies of electronica, the passage of time and austere Benedictine acoustics no barrier at all. Jarrett has achieved a music on Hymns Spheres that surrounds itself in the ineffability of the past to reflect on the equal mystery of the present.
Released on 14 January
Saturday lunchtime gigs are very unusual but sometimes a good thing comes along and you’d be a fool to miss one, no matter the time.
Back in October there was one such occasion, when the Cloudmakers Trio launched their debut album. It was a special gig, not just because of the time but because the line-up was different as the band’s usual drummer Dave Smith was away touring in South America with no less a figure than Led Zep’s Robert Plant.
Instead the audience had the chance to hear very in-form Ivo Neame octet drummer Dave Hamblett who took the Cloudmakers and Outhouse drummer Smith’s place, and the more alert members of the audience quietly munching pizza in the spectral gloom of the Dean Street Pizza Express Jazz Club must have picked up on the clear evidence that while little known beyond musician circles Hamblett was the coming man, following his graduation from the Royal Academy of Music with first class honours a few years earlier, and picking up a Yamaha Jazz Scholarship along the way.
Whirlwind records who in May will release a live Lee Konitz album have picked up on Hamblett’s promise indicated as well on Ivo Neame’s superb album Yatra, and Light at Night, the drummer’s highly promising debut for the label, is released in February. There are eight tracks on the album, with the title track kept to last and it features Hamblett with members of saxophonist Josh Arcoleo’s band (bassist Calum Goulay and Ivo Neame) plus saxophonist Joe Wright, the increasingly mature sounding guitarist Alex Munk, with all the tunes written by Hamblett.
Recorded in the studio in the latter part of 2011 Hamblett is pictured in the artwork in front of autumnal trees with the low sun just about nudging some blurry sunlight through reluctantly obliging branches.
The album is all about the optimism of youth, and while it’s not too overly romantic Arcoleo’s old fashioned lyrical tenor shines through time and again. Hamblett credits Martin France in the notes, and the Spin Marvel drummer has clearly influenced Hamblett especially in those light, nimble strokes that effortlessly push the horn players on without ever seeming too martial or rigid.
While this recording is perhaps only an early statement of intent and the tunes lack immediate impact, it’s easy to enjoy the musicianship at work and realise that a fine new drummer who we’ll all be hearing much more about in the future has arrived. He’s appearing on 8 February with his group at The Forge in London’s Camden Town when Light at Night is launched. Other dates coming soon are St Lawrence Chapel in Ashburton (17 Feb); the Beaver Inn, Appledore (18 Feb); Dempsey’s, Cardiff (20); and the Lescar in Sheffield (27 Feb). SG
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