4186 • Hank Mobley • The Turnaround • Assembled from two very different sessions, two years apart, this one isn’t exactly cohesive, but then his prior release No Room had two lineups too. In addition, may I be so bold as to suggest that Mobley was getting left behind by the time this album was released? The Turnaround as a track is obviously the single, a commercial effort that lays down a catchy groove but doesn’t back it up with interesting horn work by either Freddie Hubbard or Mobley. There doesn’t seem to be much attention to detail here, the audio is a bit too hot and Mobley’s solo kind of just gives up rather than resolves. The recording quality is remarkably different on the next track, East of the Village, which features Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Butch Warren and Philly Joe Jones. Written in 6/8 but without the campy 60s feel, this track has Mobley sounding really fantastic. Needless to say it’s the earlier session. Mobley and Byrd each take turns at a solo, with nice support from the rhythm section. Both of their tones are crystal clear, expressive and inspired. The Good Life is a very nice ballad, with Mobley supported by rhythm section, especially by Hancock, before Byrd takes the melody. We’re back to the original lineup for the duration and fortunately Straight Ahead finds Hubbard and Mobley in nice form. For the record, the drums are still a bit too hot and I think Barry Harris could have paired down his comping. Mobley sounds ok on My Sin, another ballad, but it lacks emotion. The liner notes try and give him an excuse in saying “He does not find it necessary to impress you with phrases that display technique.” That’s kind of the problem I think. Playing pretty wasn’t enough to get by in 1965. You either had to move jazz forward or take a sidestep into soul, and in fact in both directions sometimes there was a concerted effort not to play pretty, as if you couldn’t be authentic in doing so. This album was not Mobley’s Turnaround, but it does showcase the rut he was stuck in. Surrounded by a stellar cast of musicians, he could still swing and craft a nice melody, but he wasn’t the singular voice that audiences were looking for the mid 60s.
4186 • Horace Silver • Song For My Father • this is Silver’s first recording since catalog 4131, which seems like a long time but actually just points to how prolific the label was in the 60s. Speaking of, this album has a quintessential 60s sound with Roger Humphries’ clave beat and Bossa influence overall on the title track. Silver bangs out the chords with authority to emphasize the rhythm, as if he’s still trying to play over Blakey. Joe Henderson appears on this track and fits the vibe very nicely, not trying to overshadow the leader but still crafting a beautiful understated solo. Carmell Jones is a curious addition, only because it’s his first and only Blue Note appearance. The Natives Are Restless Tonight features Jones well and shows he is a dynamic and technically proficient player. Henderson’s solo this time around is more adventurous and passionate, meanwhile Silver keeps hitting those block chords favoring rhythm and volume with the chords. There are two tracks where Horace’s lineup switches out entirely, with Blue Mitchell, Junior Cook, Gene Taylor and Roy Brooks coming in. Calcutta Cutie is the first of two and has always been one of my favorites on the album. The bulk of the song has Silver playing individual note lines, against just bass and drums. I like this kind of minimalist, paired down format a bit more than the sort of pop Bossa stuff. The other track with the alternate lineup is actually just a solo with bass and drums so the horns sit out entirely. Interesting they would even bother coming in for the minimal playing on Calcutta, but who am I to tell Blue Note what to do. This is one of those titles that sold very well for Blue Note and fortunately here there is a good mix of the pop / catchy tracks with fantastic musicianship and solos by Henderson in particular. #bluenote4100series
4184 • Sam Rivers • Fuchsia Swing Song • a very forward thinking quartet represented here with Jaki Byard, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, this debut album for Sam Rivers is free but not completely disassociated with rhythm and melody. The title track features very fluid soloing by Rivers and Byard meanwhile Carter and Williams keep a quick but still constant pace. Downstairs Blues Upstairs is perhaps more structured with blues changes very much implied if not followed exactly. There is a ton of space on this track even if Williams is filling the void with a consistent rhythm. Cyclic Episode is really the highlight, I think because the musicians seem more in tune with each other. Williams pays close attention to the others for accents and dynamics which adds interest while Rivers’ solo lines are relaxed and flowing. He has a few subtle Coltrane quotes that are fun to here before the track gets very quiet with just bass and piano playing about as softly as they possibly could. Interestingly each of these compositions including Cyclic Episode feel longer than they are. That isn’t to say you want them to end, I think it’s that the intentionally seamless melody and solo sections suggest even less of a structure than there is, so you lose track of where the musicians are headed. Luminous Monolith is up next and, aside from being fun to say, it features Rivers sounding a whole lot like Ornette Coleman. It’s an incredibly complex track structurally, and from what I can tell, harmonically as well. Rivers executes however and you get the sense that what you’re hearing is pretty groundbreaking even against the context of his saxophone peers’ music being released around the same time. #bluenote4100series
The Indo-British Ensemble - "Curried Jazz" (MFP, 1969)
Picked up a fat stack of cheap-ish heat from the man @karlheis
recently. This has been on my radar for about a decade, but the only other copy I ever saw was trashed and way overpriced. One for the 'rare, but not expensive' bin. Also one for the 'uncomfortably-titled' bin. But regardless, this record is all killer. The main thing this album does right and that a lot of others do wrong, is have more than one traditional Indian classical instrument. You need to have a true mixture, rather than just throw a sitar or tamboura in there and call it Indian-influenced jazz. This album features Dev Kumar on sitar, Chris Karan on tablas, and Sitara on tamboura. All three are classically-trained performers on their instruments who developed and pursued an interest in jazz. On the more jazz-tradition end, we have Kenny Wheeler (side 1) and Leon Calvert (side 2) on flugelhorn, Ray Swinfield on flute, Jeff Clyne on bass, and Bill Eyden (side 1) and Art Morgan (side 2) on drums. It is a true mix of Indian classical music, an already improvisational tradition, with modest avant-garde jazz, in the best sense. Hazy but contemplative, I highly recommend this album.
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