Sahib Shihab (alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute), Jimmy Woode (bass), Joe Harris (bongos) Kenny Clarke (drums) Ake Persson (trombone) Francy Boland (piano) Produced by Gigi Campi, engineer: Wolfgang Hirschmann; recorded Cologne, Germany, May 8 and 9, 1963.
Music: Sahib Shihab
Featuring the cream of ’60s expatriate jazz musicians in Europe, a sort of loose collective recording over a decade under the watchful eye of Cologne’s jazz godfather,Gigi Campi.
A cut down version of the Francy Boland Big Band has a big-band feel but puts Sahib firmly in the spotlight. Sahib Shihab is probably my favourite bari-player, also here on alto and dabbles a bit on flute, but we won’t talk about flute. He has a uniquely creative line in solo construction, breaking time, pausing in unexpected places, running over the bars, reaching out in unpredictable directions, performing musical twists, somersaults and back-flips yet managing to land on his feet, amply fulfilling Whitney Balliett’s definition of jazz: The Sound of Surprise.
He extracts all this from this beast of an instrument, the baritone saxophone, without ever sounding like the swinging Gerry Mulligan, or indeed a member of the avant-garde. His only rival on baritone is to my mind Pepper Adams, who manages to pull off similar agile feats, no less inventive, but perhaps with a more deliberately swinging pulse.
Band leader and classically trained Belgian pianist Francois “Francy” Boland reminds us he can swing on keyboard too, as does Ake Persson the Svinging Svede jazz bop trombonist, a permanent feature of Francy Boland Big Band, who provides fluent counterpoint to Sahib’s bari (and alto, and occasional, did I mention, flute).
Shihab’s compositions, largely modal following a strong opening unison-brass melody and varied time signatures, have a perfect retro feel and therefore sound timelessly modern. Compared with the style of jazz emanating from New York in the early ’60s it is hard to believe this is of the same era.
A man seriously ahead of his time, Sahib anticipated by nearly five decades the present-day hipster beard and black frame glasses, and fortunately not the jaunty-angled baseball cap, trilby or cheese-cutter favoured by the East End DJ Collective. Shihab pictured right with flute, and Danish blonde with bongo ( probably not one “Joe Harris” bongo player credited on the liner notes)
Vinyl: Schema Rearward RW130LP Milano, Italy 2008
Original Edition: ARGO LP 742
I am breaking the rules about original pressings, but sadly an original edition has not come into my possession, though I have bid on it several times. One of those records that always seems to get away, in demand by the DJ community. (I guess their bids have the hidden advantage of being tax-deductible)
No matter, Rearward is a modern Italian reissue label I hold in high regard. They produces faultless reissues of otherwise very hard to get recordings from the ’60s Gigi Campi/ Francy-Boland Cologne jazz scene. I have several other Rearward Sahib Shihab titles and Francy Boland sets (they must have a licensing exclusive on Gigi Campi recordings).
I assume from the “High Fidelity” reference it is a mono recording, but the sound is so fresh and bright, tonally rich, you never stop to think or ask the question. That’s what a good recording often does.
Jacket: Warning! Bar code ahead!
Collectors love covers. Not just the big bold artwork, heavy card and glossy laminate, there are some small details you get attached to about vintage record sleeves too. The large proud catalogue number at the top right of Blue Notes, the address which invites you to send for their catalogue (they want you), the bragging about the technical prowess of “High Fidelity” when such things were new, hand in hand with a belief in progress through science and an ever better future.(a false dawn, as it emerged). Period charm.
The reverse Pavlovian reaction for me is the bar code, the merest sight of which causes an involuntary flinch: modern! A give-away of non-original status reissues, it doesn’t belong on a 1963 recording, an anachronism in the context of faithfully reproduced original Argo liner notes.The dissonance is compounded by its association with the bip, bip, at the checkout end of the supermarket conveyor belt, mass-produced goods, everything says wrong! to a vintage record collector. However, this is one of those times when you have to up your medication, it’s for your own good..
A copy of this Rearward reissue popped up the same week in several West End stores I frequent, one of those coincidences that sometime happen to baffle collectors. I had no hesitation in adding another Sahib Shihab record to the shelf. An original will turn up at some point, however this music won’t wait, it is irresistible.
Rearward have published three Sahib Shihab titles (two of them double albums): RW102, RW119 and RW130. These albums feature around 40 tracks between them, of which 28 tracks are unique, the rest duplicates . 17 of those 28 tracks appear on only one of the three records. Of the remaining 11 tracks, 8 are duplicated on one other album, and 3 are duplicated on another. Every album has tracks that are unique to that record. You need to have all three titles to have a complete set of all 28 Sahib Shihab tracks. In the process you get some additional duplicates.
RW130 Summer Dawn (current post): 5 tracks total, two of which are unique to this album (Side 1) , and three (Side 2) which also appear on RW102
This is not to obscure that this is great music, albeit lousy record reissuing practice on the part of Milan’s Rearward (though I guess, compared to the process of government in Italy, it looks quite orderly)
Coming up shortly on LJC:
More Impulse! – the third 100 stereo titles(my thanks to readers who have been sending me in label shots, some very helpful additions to the ultimate reference guide to original Impulse)
Also a long-awaited return to the hi-fi improvement road with a tale about Electricity, and of course more interesting records, what else?