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Bebop Spoken There

Sonny Rollins: "I work very hard. I wear out suits playing." - (Downbeat May 29, 1969.)

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Bob Brookmeyer: "The group's philosophy? We're saving to buy new uniforms - the ties wore out." - (Crescendo March 1965).

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Archives.

Today Thursday March 23

Afternoon
Vieux Carré Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Rd., Holystone, Newcastle (ish) NE27 0DA. 1pm. Free.
Archipelago - King's Hall, Newcastle Uni, 1:10pm. Free.
Evening.
Maine St. Jazzmen - Potters Wheel, Sunniside, Gateshead NE16 5EE. 8:30pm. 0191 4888068
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BABMUS - Jazz Café, 25 Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8pm. Free.
Andchuck - Hoochie Coochie, 54 Pilgrim St., Newcastle NE1 6sf. 8:30pm. Free.
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Tees Hot Club w. Jeremy McMurray (keys); Kevin Eland (trumpet); Mark Toomey (alto) - Dorman's, Oxford Rd., Middlesbrough. 9pm. Free.
New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band - Oxbridge Hotel, Oxbridge Lane, Stockton on Tees. 8:30pm.
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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jay Phelps Quintet: Projections of Miles @ Harrogate International Festivals - September 13










Jay Phelps (trumpet), Brandon Allen (tenor), Rick Simpson (piano), Mark Lewandowski (bass), Shane Forbes (drums).
(Review by Steve T/Photos courtesy of Matthew McKernon)
Prelude
This was never going to be nice and concise. In Jazz, Miles is my man. I wish it were otherwise and I had some lesser known tucked away to thwart the mass media situating him (with Hendrix and Marvin) amongst the usual juvenile poster-boy icons, but no, it's Miles.
When I was reading his autobiography in the early nineties, I filled in the gaps in my collection, which was everything apart from Bitches Brew, Kind of Blue and the Miles and Tadd Dameron Quintet: Paris 49 (which I bought cos I love/d the cover) featuring a young James Moody who I saw at a Newcastle Jazz Festival in the early eighties - anyone?
Miles is one of those artists, and there are a number in Jazz, where, just when you think you have the measure of them, you discover another album which leads to other albums and you're off again. I've had over fifty and there's still more I need.
What may be surprising is that, while I love it all, I'm more Gil Evans and Second Great Quintet than Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew.
The venue was Spiegeltent, a Big Top type erection on a large grass area in the heart of Harrogate, one of the poshest towns in the North of England; cabaret tables at capacity or very near to with a rough head-count of maybe a hundred.
A little over a tenner, around ninety minutes to Harrogate, a town I know quite well, this one was never in doubt.
Side One
I'm not actually hung up on bygone formats but I love the idea of people in their thirties wondering what a side one is.
The first part, Phelps told us, was pre-1960 Miles beginning with When Lights are Low with our man showing a lovely subtle touch when playing muted, the upright acoustic piano sounding ever so slightly old fashioned and out of tune, giving a nice retro touch and Brandon bringing real power.
Boplicity followed, which found itself on the Birth of the Cool album in ‘49, and not suffering at all from being reduced from nonet to quintet. This seems to be the favourite selection from those historic recordings, Miles choosing it to play with Quincy Jones at Montreaux following Gil Evans' death, and the Durham Alumni Band playing it in Sunderland during this year’s Big Band Festival.
Next up, If I Were a Bellhe said from 54 but I'm guessing it wasn't released until ‘56, opening his trumpet up, alternating with tenor and piano during fours with the drums.
I haven't played Blue in Green in years but I don't recall a bass intro, trumpet un-muted nor a sax shading it. Thought I might lift FDTs' copy to check but decided the uncertainty of memory was all part of the fun. Brandon seemed even more forceful than Trane’s original on this beautiful ballad but it worked, with even the missing note from towards the end of the original disappearing. 
All Blues meant no So What but it was great anyway though, once again, doesn't Miles remove the mute for his solo? Some new posturing, Brandon crouching while Jay points his trumpet down, lining up the two, comping during a lightning fast piano solo.

Prelude to Side Two
The Second Great Quintet. The freedom in this band is far greater than is generally recognised, perhaps because one thinks of the 'school' of Free Jazz, led by Ornette Coleman and including Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra and others. Like Trane and Mingus, Miles’ recordings are often considered more peripheral and I like the term Freebop, though I have no idea who coined it.
The group were initially overshadowed by the presence of Trane in the first quintet who had become Miles' major rival, as well as the huge impact and unprecedented commercial success that In a Silent Way and particularly Bitches Brew would have in the immediate aftermath of the Second Great Quintet. 
Consequently, it has taken much longer for this formidable combo to seep into the consciousness of Jazz hegemony, but in recent years I have read and heard several commentators claiming that this was the greatest Jazz group of all time.

Side Two
As lightning lashed around the structure, Shorter’s Prince of Darkness to open and one of Miles' many nick names, though I don't know which came first. 
Shorter again, who became crucial in the band, with Pinocchio and great to hear it played properly again. Yes I know there's no such word in Jazz but Weather Report’s effort on Mr Gone (a title some used to illustrate Shorter’s contribution to the album) was lacklustre and seemed unfinished and I've heard other inadequate versions recently.
Nefertiti, title track of my favourite SGQ album, found the rest of the band more or less sticking to the melody while the drummer was off doing all sorts of doodling, and it seems incredible that Tony Williams was still a teenager at the time of recording, though I believe by this time they no longer needed to lie about his age to get him into venues.
Another piece I should know but didn't, followed by Some Day my Prince will Comewhich Phelps said should have been part of the first set, but as far as I understand it, the song was recorded during this period but not released until years later. Anybody? He showed real feel and beauty in his trumpet playing and it featured the only bass solo of the night which was great; it's just when you get one every piece and they ain't got PC or Ron Carter.
ESP, another Wayne Shorter song and title track of their first album, brought things to a close about ten hours earlier than I would have preferred.

Epilogue
Were this an evening of commercial music they would have been called a tribute band. Although I have no problem with the idea per se, and have seen some fine Zappa and Prog tribute bands, not to mention Bjorn Again, I prefer to think of them as being like an orchestra, and nobody expects Stravinsky or Boulez to turn up and start waving their drumstick around.

Afterword
I had planned to stick Bitches Brew in the car but for some reason changed my mind. As I stood contemplating the world after the gig I suddenly remembered I'd put Herbie Hancock’s Speak like a Child in, which leads with his own version of Riot, one of the killers off the Nefertiti album; not as strong as the quintet version but both from ‘68 so I don't know which came first, but another delight for the journey home.
When I got in FDT was practicing for Friday and asked what it was like. What do you think?
Steve T.

1 comment :

  1. Incidentally, had I been hung up on bygone formats there's no way I could have amassed 50 Miles albums (let alone 60+ Zappa albums and multiple albums by hundreds of artists) so whatever the alleged vinyl revival that's constantly in the media is about, it isn't music.

    ReplyDelete

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Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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