Selected Track: Extension
George Braith (ts, ss, as) Billy Gardner (org) Grant Green (g) Clarence Johnston (d)Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, March 27, 1964
Born George Braithwaite in New York City to West Indian parents, in a family of nine children, who were all encouraged to take up an instrument (their father having found good use for his own)
Multi-instrumentalist Braith was one of the few following the steps of Roland Kirk, though Kirk sometimes upped the ante with three simultaneous horns . However, in Extensions, Braith largely forsook what might be seen as two-horn gimmickry to explore a singular musical voice. Still grounded in the guitar-organ combo, he pushes toward adventurous hard bop. When he does reach back for the double-sax technique on the selected track Extensions (see, aren’t I good to you?), it works well because it’s otherworldly tone is more in keeping with exploratory adventurous music than on the conventional sounds of soul jazz.
Grant Green contributes cooling linear lines, while Billy Gardiner pulls off the remarkable feat of playing the Hammond organ for forty minutes without ever sounding like Jimmy Smith. Which for 1964, with Jimmy still in the ascendant, must have required considerable restraint.
Vinyl: Blue Note BN 4171
VAN GELDER machine stamp but as I think is normal for this record, no ear present, indicating a first pressing by Liberty with NY labels and cover already prepared prior to the sale of Blue Note. Not that you would notice as it is a first-rate Blue Note style mono sound, hallmark Van Gelder mastering.
Great cover,(I assume) Francis Wolff black and white photography, printed with unique off-black chemical toner, and its reflective tint on traditional paper. They just can’t make this any more, it’s a beautiful artefact.
It is no bad thing to rediscover records that you had bought a couple of years ago, and re-evaluate your reactions based on your listening learning in the intervening time. It’s easy for me, as Year Zero in this case is little more than three years ago. Three years ago I preferred the soul jazz flavour. This time around the more adventurous lines appealed, which is interesting in itself. One of the pay-backs of blogging about records is that it constantly challenges you in this way. It also energizes your interest to know more, which itself widens your field of appreciation. In plain English, there is more out there to like than you are currently aware.
It also fuels to a prejudice of mine: the place of nostalgia in music. Again and again I come across old and not so old record collectors looking to recover their youth, using precious remaining time to get their teens and twenties back. “I love this track, I remember it playing on the car radio on my first date” or whatever. But, barring a miracle, that wasn’t me in the car with you. Everyone is free to follow whatever path pleases them, however I have already had my past, it has been and gone,the good and the bad. The future, however, remains a much more mysterious and exciting place – I only wish I had more of it. I certainly don’t intend to spend it reminiscing about the musical rights-of-passage of my youth. It is true. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.