Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Boris Boots Monk

Monk in San Francisco, about to record for Riverside and accompanied by a mirthful Pannonica deKoenigswarter, popsicle and SF Chronicle in hand. Wonder what Monk has just said? William Claxton photo

Here's that bootleg I mentioned a couple of posts ago. A late offering for Monk's (now long-passed) birthday, we'll call it. A friend and visitor saw my reference to the Boris Rose bootleg which gave that earlier Monk posting its title, and he asked if I could upload the recording. Well, the way it works here at Gems is ... your wish is my command. So here 'tis.

The dapper Mr. Rose in his
later years.
But who is Boris Rose, you ask? Long-time collectors know the name because he was one of the original bootleggers of jazz material on a large scale. That was because he was one of the most obsessive documenters of jazz in the history of the music. From the mid-'40s right up until the 1990s, Mr. Rose recorded music and spoken word programs off radio and television broadcasts at an astounding rate. In the late '60s, he began to release some of the more historic tape recordings on his own highly idiosyncratic record labels. By 1969, you couldn't go into a reasonably large record store in any major city without encountering a raft of Rose product. You'd recognize them by their simple line-art, black-and-white covers, oddball titles and sketchy liner notes (when there were any notes at all). The music they contained was often some of the best by some of jazz's greatest artists, but their production quality was iffy, the editing amateurish and the recording info often wrong (sometimes purposefully so).

Needless to say, I collected as many Rose records as I could back in those days, and this Monk release is one of the best of them. There are no real surprises here: Monk is his usual superlative self, and John Ore and Frankie Dunlop keep a lid on things with aplomb. Charlie Rouse, one of the unheralded greats on tenor, takes some wild liberties with the High Priest's melodies while the leader lays out. Too bad he stayed so long buried under Monk's genius. I wonder what Rouse would have done if he'd followed his own muse?

Daughter Elaine Rose with Boris' picture and a sampling
of his massive tape archive. Wall Street Journal photo
A few more words about Boris Rose. The gent died in 2000, leaving his vast archive of tapes, acetates and records in the basement of his house in Brooklyn. I'd always heard he lived in a railroad flat on the Lower East Side that was filled to the ceilings with musty tape boxes, but it was not so. He was a compulsive recordist, but he was also compulsively organized in cataloging and storing his treasures. His holdings were so great that they hadn't even been cataloged by 2010 when his daughters were trying desperately to find someone or some institution to take the collection off their hands. I don't know if they succeeded, but you can read about their efforts here. And here's a quirky video that critic and author Will Friedwald made of his visit to the archive in Brooklyn (I always imagined Friedwald to be a rangy, cowpoke sort of fellow – boy, was I wrong).

Of course, one of the great problems with a collection like the Rose archive is the copyright issue. Who owns the rights to all that recorded material? And if any of it is ever to be released, how will the producers properly compensate the artists and ASCAP, BMI and all the rest? These were niceties that never troubled Boris. He just put stuff out, collected two bucks for each LP and kept recording.

Kind of like what we bloggers do today (except for the two-bucks part).

But whatever the fate of the Rose archives, this is one of its better documents. I've left his clipped starts and stops in so you can savior the full Boris Rose effect. Otherwise, the sound on the record is pretty much just the way it was way back in 1963 when Monk spent a few nights broadcasting from Birdland. Thanks, Boris!

Spastic and Personal 
Thelonious Monk
Alto AL 725
Thelonious Monk, p; Charlie Rouse, ts;
John Ore, b; Frankie Dunlop, d.
March 9, 16, 23, 1963; Birdland, New York, NY

1. Bright Mississippi
2. Epistrophy
3. ‘Round Midnight
4. Sweet and Lovely
5. Evidence

Find it here: https://www.mediafire.com/?tq3tcc37t4k6xhb

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Moody's Gamut

James Moody was one of the first modernists to seriously take up the flute and he proved to be as facile on that instrument as he was on tenor and alto. Bob Parent photo

I picked this record up many years ago in a basement used record shop in Hyde Park when I was living in Chicago. I got it along with a pile of Andrew White's self-produced LPs. Needless to say, I've listened more often to this James Moody effort than to any of those sides by the DC saxophonist.

Mr. Moody's output was prodigious, and this album is just one of scores he produced in the 1960s. But I'm including it here because it's so darn good. Recorded in 1964, it was one of two Moody did for for the independent Sceptor label, the one that featured the immortal Thad Jones. The album unfortunately fell through the critical cracks and disappeared from the label's soul-and-pop catalog after only a few years. But "Running the Gamut" is in the Gems archive and I think it's definitely worth an upload.

Trumpet master Thad Jones during a Blue Note recording
date, about a decade earlier. Francis Wolff photo
James Moody started out playing in Dizzy Gillespie's big band and proved to be such a powerhouse soloist that he soon was recording on his own for Blue Note. A trip to Sweden and an incidental 1949 date with local musicians resulted in a variation on "I'm in the Mood for Love" that became a smash hit when King Pleasure re-recorded it in '52 with lyrics for Prestige. After that, Moody was pretty much pigeon-holed as soloist single, fronting nameless groups for studio dates in a seemingly never-ending quest for a follow-up to "Mood." It was only in the late '50s, after Moody emerged from rehab due to alcoholism, that he began to find his own voice.

This date comes after James' long stint with the Chess/Argo label, and it places him in a post-hard bop, New York-style setting. Thad Jones had just left Basie and was about to launch his monster big band with Mel Lewis, and he's in top form here. Patti Bown is the pianist, and she's another of those journeyman jazz players who recorded frequently and exhibited real ability but never got much notice. I met her once in later years when she was living in the Westbeth Houses on Bethune St. in Manhattan and she was a big woman with an impressive, quiet presence. On "Gamut" she struggles with a sour-sounding piano and eventually comes up the winner. Youngsters Reggie Workman and Tootie Heath round out the section, providing the date with its progressive edge.

Ms. Bown, in a studio shot that was featured on the
cover of the only recording under her own name,
"Patti Bown Plays Big Piano," on Columbia.
Of the tunes, most are boppish, thoroughly modern sounding vehicles with lots of soloing space for the stars. One is entirely different – "If You Grin." A funk vamp, it features Patti Bown on organ, creating a sort of soul drone. To my ears, the tune anticipates what Miles would be doing half a decade later. A vocalist – a "thrush from Philly," as the liner notes put it – adds color to the ballad "Paint the Town Red." Marie Volpe (or Volpee – the record has it both ways) is unknown to me, but she has a nice head voice with a quivering vibrato. She also appeared on Moody's second Scepter release and then dropped out of sight.

The opening selection, "Buster's Last Stand," breaks down at the end, with the band bursting into laughter and Tootie tossing his sticks on the floor (clearly audible). What's so funny? Your guess is as good as mine, but the legendary Chicago DJ Dick Buckley use to claim it was because the band could no longer stand the out-of-tune piano that Bown was comping on. Give a listen and see what you think.

As always, this gem comes straight from the original vinyl and required no cleaning at all.

Running the Gamut
James Moody
Scepter S 525
James Moody, ts, fl, as; Thad Jones, tp; Patti Bown, p;
Reggie Workman, b; Albert Heath, d; Marie Volpe, v*.
August 1, 4, 1964, New York, NY

1. Buster’s Last Stand (Thad Jones)
2. Paint the Town Red
3. Em Prean Shore (Dennis Sandole)
4. Capers (Tom MacIntosh)
5. If You Grin (You’re In)
6. The Wayward Plaint (Dennis Sandole)
7. Figurine (Dennis Sandole)

Find it here: https://www.mediafire.com/?01f5jgsp733liao

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Spastic and Personal

A modest marker for one of the giants of modern music, and his life-long partner, Nellie, and their daughter, Boo-Boo.

Today is the 96th birthday anniversary of Thelonious Sphere Monk, surely one of the most idiosyncratic artists to create aural vibrations in the last century. A few years ago a friend gave me the photo above, taken on a fall day at the Ferncliff Cemetary in Hartsdale, NY. I was cleaning out my desk at work this afternoon and – purely by chance – I came across it. Maybe it wasn't by chance, who knows? Anyway, WKCR is running its annual Monk festival and it is a study in pure genius. You only have to listen to Monk's deconstruction of the blues on "Bag's Groove" from the "Miles Davis and the Jazz Giants" date on Prestige. That's minimalism like Philip Glass never imagined!

The title for this entry, by the way, comes from the name Boris Rose gave to one of his bootlegs, a 1963 broadcast that Monk made from Birdland. I ought to post that one here on Gems one of these days. Meanwhile, keep your corners bright when coming on the Hudson. Bye-ya!