Prime Cuts: Gil Evans & “Where Flamingos Fly”

By Carl Glatzel, Editor

I revisited some of my favorite albums on the Impulse! label and decided to take another look at Gil Evan’s thought-provoking 1961 release, Out of the Cool.

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Out Of The Cool (Japanese remastered edition), 1961

Although many people may prefer the lengthier and more complex “La Nevada” or the upbeat throwback of “Sister Sadie”, I, historically, have always been drawn to the quiet simplicity of “Where Flamingos Fly”. Let’s start with the title — and what a title! Already, it evokes a sense of mystery and noir. What was Evans imagining when this track was arranged and performed? Seemingly, it’s a very moody and somber place where these brightly-colored birds dwell.

Seemingly, it’s a very moody and somber place where these brightly-colored birds dwell.

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Evans’ mastery of arrangement and timing is brought to life in this 5-minute masterpiece. It could be described as a concerto for trombone. Which leads us to another curiosity — the selection for lead voice: trombone. It may have worked with a trumpet or, even more so, a flugelhorn. However, Evans’ choice in a trombone sets the mood beautifully here. There is an understated melancholy in the sound of Jimmy Knepper’s playing which also displays an uncanny grace and humility. After listening to this track countless times I can’t really see any other instrument playing this all-important role.

There is an understated melancholy in the sound of Jimmy Knepper’s playing which also displays an uncanny grace and humility.

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Ron Carter, double bass. Photograph by Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images.

A solitary piano repeating the same 4 notes opens the track, soon woodwinds join in the theme and Ron Carter’s strong arco double bass picks up the bottom end with slow, melodic lines. The drama conjured up by the short introduction is staggering. Knepper’s trombone rises out of nowhere to start off his sad, lengthy solo. As the trombone winds around slow-moving turns the sound of hushed percussion and brass begin with fills. But through it all we hear that lonely trombone as it courses through the track. It ends with a return to the 4-note theme and it gently expires — as if vanishing into thin air. It’s an achingly beautiful composition that rarely gets much play these days.

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Sketches Of Spain, 1960

When Gil Evans is mentioned it’s hard not to look back at his historic stint on Columbia with collaborator Miles Davis. Albums like Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain are the usual suspects in most playlists. But as far as creativity and raw emotion go it’s hard not to give Out of the Cool, and more specifically a gem like “Where Flamingos Fly”, a spin or two.

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Alice Coltrane and the Death of a Giant

By Carl Glatzel, Editor

Alice Coltrane replaced McCoy Tyner in John Coltrane’s lineup in 1966. After her joining, the group’s output became even more spiritual in context and Coltrane’s personal playing kept pushing boundaries. There was an undeniable symbiotic relationship and mutual influence between John Coltrane and his wife, Alice. Coltrane took on the role of teacher in the ways of his brand of music and its relationship to Eastern mysticism. Religion had become an overt part of Coltrane’s music ever since 1964’s A Love Supreme.

There was an undeniable symbiotic relationship and mutual influence between John Coltrane and his wife, Alice.

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John Coltrane, saxophones. Photograph by Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images.

Coltrane’s highly-creative, cart-blanche tenure with Impulse! Records aided in his musical and religious journey, producing a varied and vast body of work in a relatively short amount of time. As Coltrane put it, he was in search of a “universal sound”. I believe it was in Alice Coltrane that he found his “musical compass”. His late-career recordings such as the posthumous Expression and Cosmic Music display the raw vigor and spiritual connection that his deft unit was known to typify. There was a new sense of urgency in Coltrane’s sound, his avant-garde leanings, along with frontline partner Sanders, were oftentimes brutal. A question which resurfaces time and time again is with regard to the direction of Coltrane’s music — what did he have in store?

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Cosmic Music, 1968

After the dust settled from her husband’s untimely death in July of 1967, Alice Coltrane returned to the studio to cut her 1968 solo debut, A Monastic Trio. Dedicated to Ohnedaruth, John Coltrane’s mystic pseudonym, this release teems with brooding and reflective tracks sometimes expressing anguish, other times promise. Some believe this release may have hinted at John Coltrane’s musical direction, a jumping off point of sorts. After all, Alice Coltrane was closest to the master and may have had the best insight to what made him tick.

On A Monastic Trio there is a heavy use of percussion, namely bells and shakers, which creates an Eastern-inspired drone effect. An effect that would be further developed by the addition of classical Indian instruments on later sessions. Alice Coltrane divides her playing equally on piano and harp. She tends to focus her piano on either upper or lower registers based on the mood of her composition.

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A Monastic Trio, 1968

The first two tracks are from a prior John Coltrane posthumous release, Cosmic Music. A fiery Pharaoh Sanders belts out angry solos on the opener, “Lord Help Me To Be”. Alice Coltrane rambles beneath the fire with thick, bluesy chords while Jimmy Garrison lays down a melodically strong bass line. On “The Sun”, we hear the band, including the late John Coltrane, on a vocal intro repeating a mantra: “May there be peace and love and perfection throughout all creation, oh God”. It eerily sets the stage for a composition of remembrance where Alice Coltrane plays a restless, searching piano. There are very lucid moments in her soloing with cascading notes that follow.

“May there be peace and love and perfection throughout all creation, oh God”.

The composition “Ohnedaruth” comes off as a requiem for the late saxophonist. The longest track, at just under 8 minutes, as well as the darkest, with its lower-register piano, droning percussion and menacing saxophone. John Coltrane is definitely top-of-mind in the frenzied voice of Sanders’ oblique playing. The following track, “Gospel Trane” most assimilates to John Coltrane’s bluesy modal work from earlier dates. As the most accessible track, we hear a more upbeat piano from Alice Coltrane as well as an orthodox drum solo from Rashied Ali. And Jimmy Garrison walks his bass, adding to the feel of a track from years past.

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Pharaoh Sanders, tenor saxophone. Photograph by Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images.

“I Want To See You” is the last track where Alice Coltrane plays piano. Again we hear a pervasive use of percussion. Her playing is comparatively brighter and shows off her exquisite right hand approach on keyboard. Based on its title it’s a heart-wrenching personal reflection by a still-grieving widow.

Although I’m a bigger fan of her unique and gospel-inspired abilities on piano her harp playing lends itself to the dreamlike quality of her compositions.

“Lovely Skyboat”, “Ocean Beloved” and “Atomic Peace” all feature Alice Coltrane on harp. These tracks are a precursor to her many subsequent albums on the Impulse! label. Although I’m a bigger fan of her unique and gospel-inspired abilities on piano her harp playing lends itself to the dreamlike quality of her compositions. The steadfast Jimmy Garrison continues to ground the bottom end of these tracks with his rich, ever-present notes.

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Jimmy Garrison, double bass

It’s still up for debate whether Alice Coltrane propagated her husband’s musical direction — in effect becoming an extension of his own vision. And although nobody can claim to play anything like John Coltrane we do have Pharaoh Sanders on several more recordings as a reliable and sincere follower on saxophone. With all the acclaim and idol worship surrounding John Coltrane and his other-worldly abilities you just have to wonder if he really was on loan from another planet. He stood alone. And now that both he and his wife have been taken from us that vision, that unique musical direction, will forever remain a mystery to his legions of adoring fans and disciples.

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A Houston House of Jazz

By Carl Glatzel, Editor

An unassuming mid-century bungalow in southwest Houston holds a jazz horde to be reckoned with. Local musician, photographer and jazz aficionado, Lindy Pollard, has turned his small but tasteful home into a living jazz museum. Some 5,000 titles grace his walls in custom-built shelving installed by the owner and his brother. Upon entering this treasure trove a visitor is oftentimes overwhelmed at the sheer volume. His collection spans decades as well as formats. Pollard will occasionally spin an LP but the bulk of his collection is of the compact disc variety. As neat and precise as the surroundings with its modern appointments, each album is arranged alphabetically by artist and is easily accessible. Pollard is quite literally ensconced in jazz whenever he sits to listen to one of his recordings or play with his cats. Seven-foot tall, vintage Klipsch speakers anchor his living room and offer a surround sound experience to be coveted by any audiophile. It’s safe to say this Houston native will never run out of things to listen to. His musical tastes run the gamut, from Brazilian jazz to vintage ECM releases to hard bop staples. Row upon row of out-of-print and rare releases sit waiting for an eager listener to happen by. Just standing amidst the volumes makes a jazzophile feel anxious.

Upon entering this treasure trove a visitor is oftentimes overwhelmed at the sheer volume.

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Pollard’s dining room, one of many rooms surrounded by his massive collection.

Having grown up in the 50s Pollard has held such virtuosos as Paul Desmond and Sonny Stitt in high regard. As we talked about the artists that fill his walls, he fondly remembers attending a Paul Desmond concert as a young sax student back in 1963. He recalls racing a classmate backstage to grab one of Desmond’s used reeds — one man’s treasure. His enthusiasm for jazz hasn’t wained one bit over the years. Having so many titles at his disposal helps to maintain a learning environment. “There’s always something new on a recording you haven’t heard before,” Pollard points out.

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Agharta, 1975. Miles Davis is a staple in Pollard’s collection.

Aside from being a long-standing Bayou City multi-reedist Pollard is also an accomplished jazz photographer and graphic artist. Boasting several hundred originals, he has attended countless venues showcasing some of the most notable icons in the history of the genre. Many images catch artists in candid and even reflective poses. Artists such as Miles Davis, Chet Baker and Duke Ellington are only some of the mainstays you’ll see in his portfolio. His love for the artform is apparent in his attention to detail — each shot a special moment in jazz history. His photos have been exhibited at local galleries over the years to much acclaim. As of recent, Pollard has taken up nature photography as well. With trips to state parks, and even to his own backyard, he has begun to fill new photo albums with his boyish love of nature.

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Despite being ensconced by CDs, Pollard still likes to spin vinyl.

Having visited this personal jazz vault several times over the years I never tire at slowly perusing the titles, wishing today’s circumstances would still allow me to do the same at local retail outlets—those were the days.

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The ECM Sound

By Carl Glatzel, Editor

The sounds contained in certain ECM recordings are evocative of the stark, oftentimes abstract, artwork that grace their covers. At the core there is a consistent sound that binds most vintage ECM recordings. It’s one of reflection and meditation rooted in a northern European melancholy. Major players, Ralph Towner, Eberhard Weber and John Surman are the keepers of that flame. For decades these jazz veterans have established and exercised the ECM sound. They’ve managed to create a musical brand unique to their own personal pursuits all the while unifying a label’s output.

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Solstice, 1975, allows one to delve deep into the Northern European aesthetic of the ECM sound.

With a multitude of introspective compositions in both solo and group settings, Towner cements himself as a pillar of the ECM sound.

Stepping out of his longtime association with the genre-bending group, Oregon, guitarist Ralph Towner began his long-time association with ECM in 1973. Along with his technical prowess Towner brought with him an established artistic direction and personal sound which meshed naturally with his new label mates. Towner outputted several solo albums which showcase his virtuosity on classical guitar as well as his uncanny talent for writing. With a multitude of introspective compositions in both solo and group settings, Towner cements himself as a pillar of the ECM sound. Some standout sessions are 1978’s Batik with legendary bassist Eddie Gomez, 1979’s Solo Concert with its excellent covers of John Abercrombie’s Timeless and the Bill Evans-associated “Nardis”, 1989’s City of Eyes and 1995’s Lost and Found. Towner continues his visionary association with the label to this day.

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Later That Evening, 1982, is one of many excellent outings by Weber in the lates-70s and early-80s.

German bassist, Eberhard Weber, brings a wholly-unique approach to the label. Weber’s background in mainstream jazz changed dramatically with his appearance on ECM in 1973 with his classic recording, The Colours of Chloe. Weber is a true virtuoso in every sense of the word, pushing the envelope on his own instrument and venturing into new sonic territory. He took initiative to re-construct his own instrument to suit his personal playing style, adding one then two strings to his double bass. The resulting effect is near magical — long, fluid lines seemed to dance off the fingerboard giving them a life of their own. His standout recordings usually include his working group Colours. 1975’s excellent Yellow Fields catches the bassist with feet in both reflective and faster-paced settings. On 1976’s The Following Morning Weber’s bass proves to be a subtle beacon in the gray mist that is the 10-minute “T. On A White Horse”. His playing here is indicative of what he brought to the label — a floating, elevated and cerebral sound that relies as much on space as it does technical virtuosity.

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Private City, 1987, situates itself in a timeless state—a place that Surman comfortably inhabits.

Last, but certainly not least, is English clarinetist John Surman. Having had experience outside the jazz mainstream before joining the label in 1979, Surman brings a sense of restless exploration. His recordings define the ECM sound in yet another light — one of experimentation and wanderlust. Surman’s playing is akin to that of a medieval minstrel, with storytelling at its core. Armed with soprano, baritone and bass clarinets Surman makes use of overdubs and synthesizers to round out most of his solo efforts. Although he also shines in group settings its his one-man shows that showcase his unique compositional style and depth of playing. Titles such as 1979’s Upon Reflection, 1984’s Withholding Pattern and 1996’s A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe expose his inventive soloing and tasteful use of electronics. Surman’s style lends itself to other genres as well, having ventured into classical territory. Works by Elizabethan lutist John Dowland are among some of his more popular achievements on ECM, offering proof of his flexibility and range as an elite instrumentalist.

Surman’s playing is akin to that of a medieval minstrel, with storytelling at its core.

One may find the only obstacle in truly appreciating the recordings by these modern masters is a lack of time. Time to focus on nuances, time for introspection and time for further investigation.

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Art Blakey’s Hardest Hits

By Carl Glatzel, Editor
Photograph by Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images.

This isn’t jazz, it’s war. On February 10, 1964 Art Blakey enlisted the aid of a special ops unit for his trailblazing mission — Free For All. This edition of the Jazz Messengers was the quintessential hard bop lineup and the perfect team for the job. The frontline was a heavily-armed triple threat consisting of Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax and Curtis Fuller on trombone. Cedar Walton on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Art Blakey on drums brought up the rear and had the near impossible task of grounding this tour de force. Blakey was a well-known beast on the skins — infamously destroying drum kits on stage — and was relentless on the Shorter-penned title track, which opens the album. There’s no slow build here, it’s an all-out assault from the word go. Blakey pounds away with everything at his disposal while the frontline crashes through the gate as if charging a bunker amid heavy shelling. With Blakey’s detonations blasting all around, each horn takes an extended solo while weaving through their fearless leader’s tumult. After a glorious 11-minute show of bravado from all parties the finale ends with a classic example of Blakey’s pure adrenal rush on the kit — a thunderous roar followed by a single hit on the hi-hat and then peaceful silence. An outright classic and well worth the price of admission.

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Free For All, 1964. For all its bravado and firepower there is an overarching sense of control and forward motion on this Jazz Messengers album.

By this outing, Shorter was at the very top of his creative game and shortly after he would be on his way to joining the fabled Miles Davis Quintet as its principal composer. On this album we have two great works by Shorter — displaying his versatile style in all its glory. The second track, “Hammer Head”, another Shorter original, is cooler than the bombastic opener and moves with a well-defined swagger. This is classic Blakey material where his famous press rolls and shouts introduce soloists who take the floor with commanding flair.

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Wayne Shorter, tenor saxophone. A follower of Coltrane, Shorter’s tenor is still one of the most distinguishable in modern jazz. Photograph by Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images.

The third track, “The Core”, is a Hubbard original and another cooker. This piece is a great example of Hubbard’s writing ability and another great showcase for the raw power behind this seamless unit. I’ve always been of mind that Hubbard played to his full creative potential as a sideman at Blue Note rather than session leader. His outings on both the Atlantic and CTI labels in the late-60s and early-70s have always been go-to listening to these ears.

I’ve always been of mind that Hubbard played to his full creative potential as a sideman at Blue Note rather than session leader.

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Freddie Hubbard, trumpet. A bright, muscular tone and chops to match, Hubbard’s performance on this session sizzles. Photograph by Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images.

The last track, a Clare Fischer composition, will throw you for a loop. Suddenly, and most dramatically, a truce is called and “Pensativa” is the white flag. This laid-back bossa tune would be right at home on a Hank Mobley album of the same period. It clocks in at just under 8-and-a-half minutes and is a sheer joy to listen to. We finally hear the bright, clarion call of Hubbard’s pristine trumpet and Blakey’s effortless timekeeping. “Pensativa” balances out this amazing album to create a truly unique recording — one which rewards fans with new insights upon repeat listenings.

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Donald Byrd’s Transitional Period

By Carl Glatzel, Editor
Photograph by Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images.

In the wake of jazz great Donald Byrd’s passing, there has been a revived interest in his critically-acclaimed Hard Bop period as well as his later involvement with funk and disco. There is a time between years 1969 and 1972 that is oftentimes overlooked — I like to call this Byrd’s transitional period. It was during these explorative years that electric instruments as well as a much more relaxed compositional style were introduced.

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Fancy Free, 1970

Byrd’s 1970 release, Fancy Free, offers a larger ensemble than previous recordings including key creative partner Duke Pearson on electric piano. Some call this abrupt end to hard bop stylings a knee-jerk reaction to the sparks that came from Miles Davis’ release In a Silent Way just a few months prior. Although not earth shattering as Davis’ effort, Fancy Free marks a significant change in direction for the hard bop trumpeter. The title track itself proved to be a favorite cover to such contemporaries as Elvin Jones and Grant Green, both on the Blue Note label.

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Electric Byrd, 1970

Davis’ 1970 release, Bitches Brew, opened a Pandora’s Box with regard to shifting the jazz paradigm and the dawn of jazz fusion. This powerful influence was felt in Byrd’s 1970 release Electric Byrd. Here we find Byrd in full experimental mode complete with post production studio effects. The material leaned to a floating, cerebral compositional style with less focus on groove and backbeat. Decidedly a brave outing by an even larger band consisting of 11 members. Davis sideman, Airto Moreira, keeps a tight bond to the Dark Prince as he lays down complex percussion over Brazilian themes. Collaborator Duke Pearson is back on electric piano adding to a very stylized and dreamy soundscape. Reedmen Frank Foster and Lew Tabackin are also in tow. After much free-form improvisation and Davis leanings we do get a taste of plain funk with final track “The Dude”. It shores up the album as if to put listeners at ease after the storm of pioneering uncertainty.

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Kofi, 1971

Along comes 1971 and Byrd releases yet another stellar session, Kofi. Regulars, Tabackin and Foster are heard here along with legendary bassist Ron Carter and percussionist Airto Moreira. The title tune nears 8 minutes and is a burner, it easily earns its Blue Note Rare Groove monicker. The rest of the album covers more adventurous territory. Most tracks hark back to the heady sound of Electric Byrd with its use of space and percussion supplied by magician Airto. Heavy electric piano dominates arrangements with Byrd’s airy trumpet gliding on top like a hawk riding a thermal. The album ends on Foster’s composition “The Loud Minority” which rings like a dark interval from the Buddy Rich Big Band songbook.

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Ethiopian Knights, 1972

Many critics will end Byrd’s transitional sessions here but I like to include the excellent 1972 release Ethiopian Knights. On this album we find Byrd delving into a dark jazz-laden funk. This is not the vocal-tinged upbeat funk of Black Byrd and definitely not the polarizing disco from down the road. This recording still owes indebtedness to Miles Davis and his experiments with funk elements at the time. There are still lengthy solos here along with a lot of electric bass and a barrage of drums. With only three tracks this album blows away many straight-up funk contemporaries with its hard-driving beats and surgical precision. All three Byrd-penned pieces are more singularly focused than their free-wheeling predecessors. Two long tracks, “The Emperor” and “The Little Rasti”, sandwich the 3-1/2 minute “Jamie” — an interlude piece which offers to cleanse the palette in between double helpings of multilayered funk.

After sitting back with these four excellent outings one can appreciate Byrd’s intent to experiment and reach. He still maintains a firm footing in hard bop interplay and virtuosity, added is his uncanny ability to mix electronics and funk elements to great effect. With so many artists indebted to him for his creative genius, pioneering spirit and focus on education Donald Byrd will be sorely missed.

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Big Band Horsepower: Buddy Rich and Maynard Ferguson

By Carl Glatzel, Editor

Fuel-injected and testosterone-drenched are not descriptions usually associated with big band music. Enter Buddy Rich and Maynard Ferguson. These prominent big bands of the late-60s and 70s throw convention and easy listening out the window. Each band had a fearless leader who was a virtuoso on his respective instrument.

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Big Swing Face, 1967

Buddy Rich, known the world over as the best drummer of all time, heads up his band from the rear with fireworks and showmanship. On several live sessions you can hear Rich shouting orders like a gunnery sergeant. He was notoriously hard on his players and it paid off in spades — leaving behind numerous recordings, most on the Pacific Jazz label, teaming with hard-driving, turn-on-a-dime tracks. Rich usually supplied a mix of compositions, both contemporary and jazz standards, on his albums. Some tracks dipped in to the WWI-era swing bag. However, it’s Rich’s contemporary tracks that really offer his band’s full pyrotechnic potential. A favorite of mine is the album Big Swing Face from 1967 on Pacific Jazz. On this release we can hear some true modern gems like “Mexicali Nose” and “Willowcrest”. The band roars in focused unison while Rich lays down superhuman drum solos. On 1969’s Keep The Customer Satisfied Rich pays tribute to the score from the film Midnight Cowboy with a lengthy medley that just about brings down the house. To have seen this band live would have been an opportunity to witness perfection.

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M.F. Horn 3, 1973

Maynard Ferguson, oppositely, lead from the front on both trumpet and trombone. He was best known for his “stratospheric” playing on trumpet having had the ability to hit a triple C in his trademark upper register. Ferguson was also known to dance on stage — achieving his usual euphoria by his band’s infectious swing. By 1970 he honed his players into a contemporary sound machine with the uncanny ability to play anything and everything. He sometimes covered pop themes such as the title track from 1974’s Chameleon or “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)” on 1977’s Conquistador without reservation. He made the “Theme from Shaft” on 1972’s M.F. Horn Two swing like nobody’s business. Some of his staples have aged very well including the moody “Eli’s Comin'” and the 10-minute epic “Macarthur Park” both from the excellent 1970 release M.F. Horn. Ferguson proved to be a genius at arranging — making familiar tunes wholly original and relevant. If anything, Ferguson breathed new life into big band orchestrations with his unabashed enthusiasm, bold strokes and crowd-pleasing material.

If anything, Ferguson breathed new life into big band orchestrations with his unabashed enthusiasm, bold strokes and crowd-pleasing material.

Next time you need a soundtrack to a formula one grand prix or a jumpstart to your day try spinning some Rich or Ferguson — seat belts are optional.

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Jazz Remembered

By Carl Glatzel, Editor

Back in 2000 I was given the opportunity to head up art direction for Deer Mountain Records, a Houston-based startup jazz label. Houston’s own Paul English was artistic director and principal performer and I was freelancing full time, trying to find as many jazz-related design gigs as possible. These were great days, when live jazz performances were still a cause for celebration at the historic Warwick Hotel in Houston’s Museum District — a sophisticated venue for equally-sophisticated music. Jazz aficionados and novices alike would gather and hang on every note of Paul’s masterful improvisations and Brennan Nase’s intimate double bass solos.

Most projects kept me in Houston, chasing down Paul and his collective group of artists with my friend and photographer, Ignacio Gonzalez, at different local venues.

After sitting down with Paul and his business partners I knew what was expected of me and soon my days (and nights) would be consumed with branding Deer Mountain Records. Most projects kept me in Houston, chasing down Paul and his collective group of artists with my friend and photographer, Ignacio Gonzalez, at different local venues. Other projects would take me on the road. One such project took me down the Texas Gulf Coast to direct a photo shoot at the Corpus Christi Jazz Festival, where chance would have me meet two saxophone greats.

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Dennis Dotson and Dave Liebman reviewing charts.

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Paul was booked to play at the festival with his group, but he also planned on cutting some live material with Dave Liebman and Ed Calle at a hole-in-the-wall studio nearby. Liebman and Calle were performing at the festival with their own traveling bands. My wife and I were tasked with offering a ride to Ed Calle to and from the festival, giving us a chance to talk about music and life on the road with a giant on the international jazz scene. Once at the studio I finally met Dave Liebman, a true living legend and a gentleman. Being a longtime fan and having listened to Liebman grace Miles Davis’ electric recordings, among others, I felt as if I already knew him. Being in that studio was a rare chance to witness what it takes to cut a world-class jazz performance — a chance to see virtuosos with amazing chops warm up, get loose and get to know each other musically. Incredible blowing like I’ve never witnessed before — Liebman, Calle and Houston’s Dennis Dotson on trumpet. Dennis, who held his own magnificently, stole the show with jaw-dropping solos. Bright, brassy and note-perfect passages immediately eliciting comparisons to Hubbard’s finer moments by everybody in the engineering booth. And as we worked around performers and studio equipment to achieve each perfectly-framed shot, Ignacio and I couldn’t help but smile with the knowledge of how special this all was.

Being in that studio was a rare chance to witness what it takes to cut a world-class jazz performance — a chance to see virtuosos with amazing chops warm up, get loose and get to know each other musically.

The night was capped off with a brisk walk down the street and a late dinner at a local dive, offering up even more conversation, laughter and camaraderie. And photos throughout all of this, capturing and preserving great memories for one art director’s all-too-quick brush with greatness.


All photography by Ignacio Gonzalez.


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The Curious Case of Baby Face

By Carl Glatzel, Editor

Roosevelt Willette, aka “Baby Face”, was somewhat of a mystery man. Even his birthplace is disputed — it might have been Little Rock or possibly New Orleans. One thing is for certain, however, his appearance on the jazz scene couldn’t have been more serendipitous. In the late 50s he met soon-to-be labelmates, Lou Donaldson and Grant Green, in New York after a move from Chicago. Donaldson, acting as unofficial scout for Blue Note Records, was a catalyst in signing both Willette and Green to the label. Willette’s soulful touch on the Hammond B3 reflected his gospel background and would later become a high-water mark, if not a significant footnote, in Blue Note’s storied past.

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Face To Face, 1961

Armed with a big, bluesy sound and brimming with raw emotion, Willette would go on to lead his own groups on two outings in 1961 — both excellent sessions: Face to Face and Stop and Listen. Each group featured Grant Green on guitar and Ben Dixon on drums. Willette’s first session, Face to Face, added the earthy, southern swagger of Fred Jackson on tenor — duck calls, squawks and all.

By the time of his debut as a leader Willette had an original sound pinned down — easily giving similar units such as Smith/Burrell and Turrentine/Scott a run for their money. Although it was early in the recording careers of each member, his group played like weathered professionals — effortlessly belting out greasy, gospel-tinged lines in flawless Blue Note fashion. Even Willette’s sideman contributions on Lou Donaldson’s Here ‘Tis and Grant Green’s Grant’s First Stand are standout examples of Soul Jazz at its finest. There was no doubting it, the man had the golden touch. It was a crying shame he didn’t get to record more for the label. With regular creative partners such as Grant Green, Lou Donaldson and Ben Dixon, Willette could have gone on to record several more albums in the same vein, perhaps even exploring larger group settings or varied instrumentation. Instead, he mysteriously left Blue Note and resurfaced a few years later on the Argo label cutting two more sessions as leader in 1964 — neither hitting the heights of his earlier efforts.

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Here ‘Tis, 1961

After Argo, Willette left recording altogether and made his way back to the live jazz scene in Chicago where he played from 1966 till his untimely death in 1971. How on Earth could such a natural talent fade away into utter obscurity? Willette’s chops were, arguably, on par with the likes of Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff. And yet, he wholly owned an original and identifiable sound — something quite difficult to achieve in a climate dominated by the innovators of his instrument of choice. Was there a falling out with his collaborators or label chiefs? Or did he pose a threat to more established artists on the roster? Unanswered questions and a handful of excellent tracks are all that’s left of “Baby Face” Willette’s checkered and mysterious recording career.

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David Sylvian and ECM

By Carl Glatzel, Editor

David Sylvian, former frontman for the highly influential post-punk band Japan (1977-1983), surprisingly held certain jazz artists in high regard. Upon starting his solo career, Sylvian brought with him his unique vocal talents, strong songwriting abilities and his unrelenting interest in experimentation. His new solo direction offered textures and moods strikingly different from those of his former band.

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Brilliant Trees, 1984

On his first few albums he tapped the virtuosity of some well-known musicians from the ECM label. Sylvian’s output displayed some similarities to the subdued ECM aesthetic. It was oftentimes quiet, dark and very personal. His tastes in composition and arranging also displayed many similarities to the Munich-based label. Mixed use of acoustic and electronic instruments to create a unique soundscape was standard at ECM. It was Sylvian’s own velvety voice which kept his music instantly recognizable and undeniably his own. His use of brass in some of his early albums helped to establish and reinforce his maturity as a composer and major artist in his own right.

Mixed use of acoustic and electronic instruments to create a unique soundscape was standard at ECM.

In 1984’s Brilliant Trees Sylvian begins the process by adding the distinguished trumpets of Jon Hassell and Kenny Wheeler to the mix. From the buoyant opener “Pulling Punches” with its slap bass fills, there is a concerted effort to use brass for coloring. The moodier “Ink in the Well” uses trumpet to an even greater effect, allowing a freer interplay with the leader.

On “Weathered Wall” we hear trumpet played with effects. Along with a mix of drums, keyboard, tape and the leader’s vocals this track displays a hallmark — a truly unique sound to Sylvian. Effects-laden trumpet is again heard on the heavy-synth “Backwaters” and the longer title track.

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Alchemy – An Index of Possibilities, 1985

By 1985 Sylvian had already changed his colors, reaching for something totally different. His album Alchemy – An Index of Possibilities again employed the trumpet talents of Jon Hassell and Kenny Wheeler. Comprised of three long tracks we hear Sylvian laying down a clear foundation for Eno-esque atmospherics, something he would return to in later years.

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Gone To Earth, 1986

On 1986’s double album Gone to Earth we hear vintage ECM-style musings of Kenny Wheeler on the second track “Laughter and Forgetting”. A trumpet solo on “Wave” is played competently with effects in what has already become a Sylvian staple. Ten of the 17 tracks are dedicated to instrumentals where long compositions take on an ambient air.

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Secrets of the Beehive, 1987

1987 produced what is sometimes referred to as Sylvian’s greatest and most personal achievement, Secrets of the Beehive. On this mostly acoustic album we hear the trumpet of Mark Isham. His horn sounds like a rising phoenix on the excellent track “Orpheus”. Although we hear Isham’s solo trumpet only briefly on this album it’s effect is lasting and adds to the well-rounded arrangements supplied by the critically-acclaimed composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. There is a muted appearance by Isham on the lazy “Let the Happiness In”. His trumpet meanders slowly down a path with the leader’s vocals creating a relaxed environment.

Sylvian’s early sound displayed an uncanny similarity to the ECM aesthetic.

Although Kenny Wheeler appears on 1999’s Dead Bees on a Cake, the 80s witnessed most of Sylvian’s arrangements for brass. His most recent albums explore a more minimalistic and clinical approach, quite opposite of his earlier recordings. Sylvian’s early sound displayed an uncanny similarity to the ECM aesthetic. The addition of brass in these pioneering, early-career sessions cement Sylvian’s compositions in this world — one distinctly made by human endeavor.

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