At Newport 1957: Byrd, Gryce, Taylor – Verve/JP ’80’s


Cecil Taylor Selection: Nona’s Blues (Taylor)

 Jazz Lab Introductions: Willis Conover

Byrd Gryce Jazz Lab Selection: Love for Sale (Cole Porter)



Live at Newport 1957, a continuation of the post previously including the young Bill Evans and Eddie Costa, moves on the the emerging new piano voice of Cecil Taylor (with Steve Lacy), and the Byrd/Gryce Jazz Laboratory.

The young artists shared the bill with  jazz establishment stars like Armstrong, Gillespie, Bechet, and Mulligan. Timely to compare Blue Note 75 welcoming Hutcherson, Donaldson and Shorter.

Jazz on a Summer’s day, the audience is cool,  Newport Rhode Island sounds a great place to have been, Freebody Park.

Cecil Taylor Quartet is almost easy-listening, with the rhythm section holding down the base, Steve Lacy’s straight horn carrying melody, while Taylor begins to disassemble the piano convention. At times, it sounds like Taylor is playing a different number to the rest of the band. Perhaps that’s the thing.

The short-lived Gigi Gryce Jazz Laboratory quintet was formed to extend and seek out new directions for bebop. It’s all in the American pronunciation:  I get Ceecil Taylor, now I learn it’s G.G. Gryce, not Gigi.  This was apparently the only live recording of the Jazz Laboratory.

Postscript: By the late ’60’s the Newport Jazz Festival was featuring artists like Ten Years After, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin. During the 1971 festival,according to the official history,  “would-be festival goers occupying the adjacent hillside crashed the fence during Dionne Warwick’s performance of What The World Needs Now Is Love, initiating a major disturbance. The festival was halted after the stage was rushed by the intruders and equipment destroyed”. The world may indeed need love, but had moved on, not necessarily for the better.

jazz-riot Newport

Vinyl: Verve Japan UMV 2564 edition of US Verve, mono.

A bit cheeky with a Japanese edition, but sometimes you have to go with what you have. In any event, these live recordings are not exactly RVG studio-grade engineering, but of interest more for the music, at the crossroads of 1957.

Pressed by Polydor K.K. Japan 1981, around the same time as King were reissuing most of the Blue Note catalogue. That still qualifies it as a “vintage” Japanese pressing.


Insert: The Verve Jazz Classics story



Collectors Corner

newport-cigarettesOne of the ’60s rights of passage through my teenage years , I took up smoking, as you do when you are told you are not old enough to do something. I recall a fascination with things American, and a brand of cigarettes I thought particularly cool was Newport. A vivid turquoise pack, and sophisticated menthol.  I knew nothing about Newport as a place, or indeed a jazz festival, but I sensed Newport was cool.

Though it’s over three decades since I lit up, I still like the line from Bill Hicks. “A lot of my friends have quit smoking. Afraid of cancer. Bloody cowards”

Having no idea where Newport is, I checked the map and to my surprise found it surrounded by English named towns: New Britain, Windsor, Barnstable, Taunton, Gloucester, Wakefield, Manchester, and best of all,  New London. It’s almost like home.

LJC Cultural Notes: Hipster (slang)

LJC-Lichael-Caine-fastshow30At Newport. Jazz on a Summer’s day. And Night.

Cool. The audience was hip. Jazz was hip.

But were they “Hipsters”?

Newport Jazz Festival 1958 audience magnum

 1958 Newport Jazz Festival-goers, for some, way past their bedtime ( Dennis Stock, Magnum)

The current  British national broadcaster’s BBC Magazine caught my eye with a painfully hip analysis of “hipsters”, written by  a lexicographer of slang, Jonathon Green. My apologies in advance to any of you reading this while wearing a trilby with full beard. The choice of stock photos selected  to illustrate “hip people” are worth their weight in…


Man at bar smoking An original hipster…

“The original hipster wore Italian suits, listened to Charlie Parker’s brand of “cool” jazz, shot up heroin and doubled as what Norman Mailer, in a famous essay of 1957, christened “The White Negro”. Mass-marketed, he was the idealised stud of Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy philosophy”, at his incomparable best the taboo-shattering stand-up Lenny Bruce. Something cooler and blacker than the beatnik, he was a cut above the hippie, which, pre-bells and beads, signified a failed or at best wannabe hipster.

He vanished around 1960. Now he’s back (and she too) and the Urban Dictionary describes “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter”.

Been there, dare I say, done that too.”


Two hipsters .”.. and two unoriginal ones”
LJC continues…
I also remember Playboy magazine in the ’60s though I don’t think I ever actually read any of the articles. It wasn’t until I was well into my teens I discovered real women didn’t have staple-holes. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t very hip. Coming up to date, I don’t recall  ever thinking of Charlie Parker as “cool jazz” either though may be it’s just semantics. Maybe from the outside it’s all “cool” even when it’s bebop, burning hot. I also passed on the heroin.
I see above a continuation of youth tribes, was it ever thus, copying their friends, believing they are against  “the establishment” (mom and dad) whilst failing to note they are the new establishment in the making.  Nothing wrong with that. Every generation does it.
Cannonball Adderley put it neatly: “there are the people who act like they are hip, and people who ARE hip, you hear what I’m saying?”

6 thoughts on “At Newport 1957: Byrd, Gryce, Taylor – Verve/JP ’80’s

  1. The Jazz Lab records are all great bop listening! Gryce and Byrd could do nothing wrong at this time around 1957.

  2. after carefully looking at the group shown in the picture you can easily recognize:
    at least five nerds, one rockabilly (first on the left), three sleeping people (one girl with boyfriend and the first gent on the right), one smoking hipster with shades (in the night), a lone Afro-American among all-whites, a smiling and sprightly girl. others unidentified. anyone of these could have bought a 1568.

    • I like the Magnum photo, it’s a slice of life, taken at the time, no agenda, unlike modern stock photography selected by art directors, sidecar to an editorial brief. Probably nerds were the main 1957 audience, not hipsters, good catch.

  3. the Jazz Lab as coop unit existed only nine months. In that short period they recorded six albums. Two for Columbia and one each for Jubilee, RCA Victor, Riverside, and, of course, the Verve one.

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