Sunday, October 28, 2012

Great Black Music

I was fortunate enough to attend the first night of this 1977 concert series. Braxton's
collaborative group with Jenkins and Smith was stellar
. They had recorded for Delmark
a decade earlier. Music, as the AACM would later say, stronger than itself!

I have a truckload of jazz ephemera from my days living in Chicago and New York, and I've been thinking I should post some of it here on Gems. Even though this is supposed to be a blog that shares rare and unusual recordings with its visitors, every now and then I can't resist posting some visual stuff. So here is a selection of posters and flyers from some noteworthy but mostly undocumented jazz performances. I thought for this first installment I'd concentrate on Chicago and shows by members of the revolutionary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Many of these concerts I attended, and all of them are a testament to the dedication of some great players who were in the music solely to advance tradition, art and culture. By the time I was in Chicago, the first-string AACMers had mostly decamped to New York. But there remained some very fine players, some of whom are represented here. To wit:

This Joseph Jarman performance comes from 1975. A show done
a year later at the University of Chicago was the first jazz concert
I saw after moving to the city. That solo show
was later released 
on the Art Ensembles' own label, AECO.
This performance by multi-reed player and flute maker
Douglas Ewart took place in 1977. The concerts below, featuring

Ewart's adventurous clarinet choir, were also held that year.
I missed this one, unfortunately. George Lewis was (is)
an amazing trombonist, electronics wizard, philosopher,
theoretician and – now – author and historian. He and

Douglas Ewart worked together quite often in the late
'70s. This show is from 1977.
Here's Chicago's first couple of creative music. Later the 
Colsons made occasional appearances in New York, and
eventually moved there in the '80s.
I saw this solo concert. Lester divided the performance into
two sets – the first consisted of free-from improvisation and
the second a reinterpretation of a number of jazz classics.
His rendition of Miles' "Walkin'" – replete with walking – 
was hilarious!
Ken Cheney is one of the less well known AACM members,
he's been a fixture on the Chicago scene since the '60s.
works most often with reed player Mwata Bowden.
This series was from 1977. Ed Wilkerson was one of the
younger AACM members at the time and was just
beginning to display his talents as a composer and
arranger. He often partnered with Light Henry Huff.
Kahil el-Zabar was the AACM's chief percussionist – and I
don't believe I ever saw him play a trap set. This concert
was a one-time event, and the group was a superb one.
Ari Brown went to work with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers
not long after this performance.
The Underground Festival was organized as a counterpart
to the recently created Chicago Jazz Festival. The bands
featured were all from the creative music community,
mostly AACM groups, and the shows were very successful.
I saw Threadgill's legendary Sextet(t) and they were even
better than they were on record.
Here's one of Ed Wilkerson's early bands, Shadow Vignettes.
He later put together Eight Bold Souls, featuring many of
the AACM's younger members. I always loved Ed's approach
as he brought a welcome bit of levity to the often overly
serious attitude surrounding the new music. These shows
were from 1981.
Back in the 1970s, many AACM concerts took place at the
University of Chicago. The university's radio station had a
number of knowledgeable DJs who were fans of the new
music, and they often promoted shows like this one by AEC
drummer Don Moye and Von Freeman's son, Chico.

That's just a sampling of some of the music that could be heard in Chicago in the late '70s and early '80s. Audiences for creative music were small but enthusiastic, and there were a number of sympathetic journalists who respectfully reported on AACM doings for the Chicago Reader, Down Beat and even the straight dailies. While I was a student at the U. of C., I attended as many shows as I could and experienced many memorable moments. 

Occasionally a recording of one or another of these concerts would come my way, and I thought since this is indeed a music blog, I'd share an excerpt from one of them. It's from another University of Chicago show, done on February 11, 1977, and features Don Moye's Malinke Trio. The late reed player and composer, Julius Hemphill, is the trio's prominent soloist for the opening part of the performance. Next comes a bass-and-drum duet demonstrating Favors' big sound. Then it's Moye who takes over with an extraordinary display of his precussion skills on conga. I doubt this group existed beyond this one performance, but the cohesion exhibited is a testament to the musical prowess of the players. Don Moye later had a drum ensemble called Malinke, but this trio may be one of the first examples of a Famoudou group with that name.

A caveat: The recording quality of this aged dub is not the best. I've doctored it a bit, but there's still some wow-and-flutter, background noise and other audio flaws. The music, as always, is amazing so I hope you'll pardon any sonic imperfections.

Malinke Trio
Don Moye
Julius Hemphill, sopranino, as, fl; Malachi Favors, b; Don Moye, d, conga, perc.
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL; February 11, 1977

1. Alto solo #1, trio
2. Bass and drum duet
3. Alto solo#2, trio
4. Alto and drums duet
5. Sopranino and conga duet

Find it here:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Goin' to Kansas City

The unfortunately ill-treated inside cover to Decca's classic "Kansas City Jazz" album. Basie's
been obliterated, but there's a candid of the legendary guitarist Floyd Smith, and one of Joe
Keys from the Blue Devils and another of the unjustly obscure Clarence Trice. Most of these
shots must have been taken during Decca's marathon November 1940 recording sessions
with the guys from Kay-Cee.

It's my firm belief that the familiar swing of jazz – as we understand it today – came to us from the Tom Pendergast's Kansas City of the 1930s. Specifically, from the men and women who created an original sound in the city's many night clubs, dance halls, speakeasies and dives. Four beats to the measure never swung so hard.

Here's impresario Gene Norman with a couple
of wannabe starlets, digging the sounds of
our offering for this posting. A typical period
from the editors at Down Beat magazine.

If you're not convinced, I offer this posting as as Exhibit A. It's from Decca Records' 1957 series of regional reissues (the "Chicago Jazz" LP posted a while back is another) and it features a veritable who's who of KC players. Most of these recordings were originally done in New York over a seven day period in 1940, so they come from a time when the heyday of Kansas City jazz had largely passed. But present are many of the original Blue Devils plus pianists Pete Johnson and Mary Lou Williams. The real treat is the two sides from Basie's superb composer and arranger, trombonist and guitar man Eddie Durham.

You hardcore collectors certainly know that all these tunes are available elsewhere – especially the familiar Basie numbers. But having them all in one place is a treat. You get a real feel for KC's hotbed musical environment. The two titles by Mary Lou are fairly obscure and feature terrific work from Shorty Baker (pre-Ellington, of course) and driving solos from long-forgotten Andy Kirk tenor star, Dick Wilson. Ms. Williams herself is in full command of the keyboard and her arrangement of "12th Street" occasionally foreshadows the developments of bop several years hence.

Gems' copy of the original release
is a little worse for wear. We
to use the LP version for the upload.
Then there's Eddie Barefield's unattributed clarinet on "South" with Lips Page's pick-up band. That coupled with the leader's muted trumpet solo and Don Byas' still-developing tenor sound make the tune a classic. Pete Johnson's band rollicks through a tune named for the Kansas City Colored Musician's Union, Local No. 627, with the cast the same as for Lips' titles. Great Don Stovall here. Roll 'em, Pete!

The standout for this posting has to be the rare Durham sides. Not only do we get Eddie's advanced electric guitar work, but Buster Smith demonstrates why Bird's sound was compared to his in Parker's early days. And catch the soli toward the end of "Little Girl" – fabulous Durham writing and very tight playing by the guys. 

Note that the liner notes for this LP refer to its selections as "dance compositions." Exactly right. This was music to move your feet to, and if you're like me your toes will be tapping. This is the music that taught the rest of the jazz world to swing. Mixed in, of course, were some of the greatest jazz statements by some of the music's greatest practitioners. You only have to catch the bookended solos by Hershel Evans and Prez on "Doggin' Around" to understand that.

So, download and roll back the rugs! As always, these tunes were ripped from the original vinyl with, in this case, no cleaning of the sound.  

Kansas City Jazz
Various Groups
Personnel listed in download
Decca DL 8044

Pete Johnson's Band
November 11, 1940
1. 627 Stomp
Joe Turner and His Fly Cats
November 11, 1940 
2. Piney Brown Blues
Mary Lou Williams and Her Kansas City Seven
November 18, 1940 
3. Baby Dear
4. Harmony Blues
Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy
November 7, 1940 
5. The Count
6. Twelfth Street Rag
Hot Lips Page and His Band
November 11, 1940 
7. South 
8. Lafayette 
Count Basie and His Orchestra
August 9, 1937 
9. Good Morning Blues
10. Doggin' Around 
Eddie Durham and His Band
November 11, 1940 
11. Moten's Swing
12. I Want a Little Girl

Find it here: