Selection 1: Damn If I Know (The Stroller) – (Walter Davis Jr)
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The blues gets an unmistakable Shepp makeover, mixing bursts of free solo improvisation with the aggression of a screaming banshee, within a traditional harmonic twelve bar foundation. It’s The Blues alright, but not as we know it. Great! (Hold on, John Mayall has just phoned in unwell) There are around a dozen ticks on the front end but they pretty soon stop, so bear with it.
Selection 2: Sophisticated Lady (Ellington – Parrish)
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Another nightmare in Shepp’s inimitable Ellington on Elm Street interpretations, echoes of his affectionate dismemberment of In a Sentimental Mood on Impulse A-97 On This Night (1966)
Jimmy Owens (trumpet) Grachan Moncur III (trombone) Archie Shepp (tenor saxophone) Walter Davis Jr. (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Roy Haynes or Beaver Harris (drums), recorded at RCA Studios, NYC or National Recording Studios, NYC, January 29, 1968, engineer Bob Simpson.
Unusually classy line up, with many greats of the golden years
It has taken a long time to get Shepp, and by jove I think its close. Musical mayhem with Ben Webster reincarnated as Freddy Kreuger, as two personalities wrestle for control of the saxophone. Lyricism meets avant-garde head on, an irresistible combination which is more enticing than just relentless free-blowing or romantic boudoir sax – though both have their time and place.
This has the same attractive quality to be found in a number of Andrew Hill albums, where adventurous exploration of the keyboard takes place in seemingly more conventional harmonic structure – one foot firmly on the ground, the other foot firmly in mid-air, and the tension between the two maintains a sense of ” precarious balance” which avoids both stasis and falling over. However I am well aware friends of the Free Jazz Persuasion would consider this as being a wuss. They insist on music with no safety net. Their heart belongs to Dada. Personally I am content with another small step towards greater freedom, without the oxymoron of having to be totally free.
Cover: another great design credited to Robert and Barbara Flynn, who designed almost all the Impulse covers. It’s very Mandala-lite: typical late Sixties, Buddhist and Hindu reference which communicates spirituality without any specific brand of religion or religious commitment required. Having read a few Zen books during the Sixties and Seventies – my contribution to helping out the California self-help industry – I have to say I admire any belief system which has as its goal enlightenment, rather than submission.
As a lesson in how to do it right, the US Impulse gatefold looks like this. Wow. Drool.
Vinyl: UK Impulse MIPL 516 EMI UK first release of US ABC Impulse AS-9170
This UK pressing by EMI is credited to be a mono pressing (also released in stereo SIPL 516), which is unusual as ABC Impulse US release AS-9170 appears to be stereo only with no mono edition in the US. So for lovers of mono, its Brit or Bust. No RVG, but then the US edition isn’t either, so it’s a level playing field. Do we have the last laugh?
“M Cook”, stay behind after class, take a thousand lines “I shall not write on record labels”. If you lend your records to friends and fear you won’t get them back, you are moving in the wrong circles. Better instead to get yourself some new friends.
And as a final lesson to the Brits on how to finish a cover – the US Impulse which I don’t got.
That is nice.
Source: North London record store (that narrows it down to only two or three). Expensive visit as I hadn’t been for a couple of weeks, and so was compelled to buy several records in one go. Five actually. Not that I felt guilty, as I haven’t succeeded in even one Ebay bid in two weeks. Out there are collectors placing XXL bids, as on most auctions I was second-placed price setter. Realistically, it saved me a small fortune.
A reminder that the time to avoid Ebay is rapidly approaching. – the hiatus between Christmas and New Year. That’s the time when, family duties done, jazz collectors the world over retreat to the man-cave to escape TV repeats and Christmas specials, and thoughts turn to New Year treats on Ebay. I’ll be one of them, but some will also have pockets jingling with their annual pay bonus.
You forget that in a world of three or is it now four trillion people, just a few hundred jazz vinyl aficionados – in fact it only takes one to make or break your day. So let’s hear it for the plucky remaining record shops, and the guys who work in them, without whom life would be a duller place. I’ll let MC Kool-Kat have the last word:
Free jazz, spiritual, bebop-alulu, great! I’d like to move to North London – they seem my kind of guys, a bunch of cool dudes, like me.
Primrose Muswell Hill. East Finchley. Crouch End. Be-bop, skiddly-bop. That LJC, man, he’s so south of the river, they hardly got any record stores there. No comparison.
Peace and enlightenment to you all.