Here’s the idea, hope you like it. Often, posts have been about this record or that artist or that label. But if we dice and slice things differently, hold the tune fixed, vary the players, instruments and timeframe, crystallise the different approach of different artists, and different fluency in the performance, may be we learn something different and extra along the way.
So LJC offers you some seasonal Winter Sun to welcome in 2015. Five Nights in Tunisia…all sourced from “original” vinyl (or the closest I have) of course.
I have chosen the great bop standard and soloist showcase A Night in Tunisia, credited to Dizzy Gillespie and his ’40s pianist Frank Paparelli, part of the standard repertoire of many of the greats.
The power of this composition is the way it builds tension through circling melodic and harmonic repetition, to the point where it demands release – provided by the cadenza, which propels the soloist flying into the sky on wings. The chorus then introduces a platform for an extended express-train ride solo hugging the chord changes, until a reprise of the melody signals the hand-over to the next soloist. Perfect. Sheer genius.
The players are the giants Parker, Powell, Miles, Blakey, and their successors, a chance to let rip for some of my favourite second generation front line, Mclean, Griffin, Bill Hardman, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons to name but a few. The cross-section provides opportunities for voice-based trumpet, and breath-based saxophone, and muscular driven piano, all the voices pre-eminent in modern jazz. (I have trimmed the samples of a bit of Blakey drum-solos, a personal choice, without exemplar in the earlier selections.)
What this cross-section of Nights in Tunisia should reveal is how the Parker legacy evolved through younger players in the decades that followed. Lofty goal, eh, LJC? Lets try it and see.
Some of the samples are quite short, others quite long, you can listen however you wish according to attention-span. Those addicted to pressing buttons, I recommend to keep hands in pockets for the duration.
Your Five Nights in Tunisia Excursion Itinerary
On arrival: Welcome drink and nibbles, meet and greet your LJC jazz chalet representative, collect your welcome pack, ask any questions, before heading off for the evening concerts.
Charlie Parker (alto sax) Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet) John Lewis (piano) Al McKibbon (bass) Joe Harris (drums) recorded live at Carnegie Hall, New York September 27,1947.
Better than the famed 1953 alto break (in my opinion) Released as Diz ‘n’ Bird, (Roost Records) taken from Vogue UK LAC12252, as vintage mid-’50s vinyl as I can get. The master shows how to fly, no seat reservation required. Winter Sun!
Bud Powell (p) Curley Russell (b) Max Roach (d) recorded May 1, 1951 remastered by RVG. Taken from Blue Note BLP 1503 (Lexington labels) The Amazing Bud Powell Vol 1. tk Alternate Master.
This selection puts to the test the maxim that Powell “translated the vocabulary of Parker to the piano”. The official take of Tunisia was a repeat, to avoid the alternate fluffed ending, but is the lesser of the two takes included on the Blue Note release, in my opinion. When you repeat, sometimes you lose the freshness and spontaneity, even though making good the “mistake”. The Powell recording benefits from Max Roach’s authority over the beat in a more exposed trio setting. Winter Sun!
Miles Davis (trumpet) Red Garland (piano) Oscar Pettiford (bass) Philly Joe Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, June 7, 1955
Miles, as always his own man, I’m going to play it my way, cool and swinging, a far cry from the original, stamped with his own chosen voicings. This quartet leverages Red Garland’s staccato block-chord style perfectly, a rhythmic/ stride piano underpinning worthy of Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder riff, I can nearly see shift dresses and beehive hairdos. Pettiford manages the heavy lifting while Philly Joe enforces the beat on the cymbals rather than the skins, so unlike Blakey thunder. Wonderful. Winter Sun!
Taken from Prestige LP 7007 The Musings of Miles (Prestige Fireworks/Bergenfield 2nd issue)
Art Blakey (drums) Sam Dockery (piano) Jimmy de Brest (bass) Bill Hardman (trumpet) Johnny Griffin (tenor sax) Jackie Mclean (alto sax) recorded for RCA in Studio No. 3, New York City, on April 2 and 8, 1957 . Release originally Vik LX 1115; taken from RD 7555 A Night In Tunisia RCA Victor (Decca test pressing)
Order of solos Jackie McLean, Bill Hardman, Johnny Griffin, Sam Dockery, Art Blakey… The joys of this version (trimmed of Blakey’s long front end drum solo for sake of brevity) include the young McLean playing his heart out, fighting to establish his own voice on alto while the Parker legacy is still running in his head; Bill Hardman’s reminder that it is possible to squeeze more notes out of three valves and your embouchure than over twenty keys on a saxophone; and the frightening velocity of Johnny Griffin, twisting and turning at a breakneck speed to demonstrate he is the fastest tenor in the West. I’ve let Blakey have his solo this time. Winter Sun!
Lee Morgan (trumpet) Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone) Bobby Timmons (piano) Jymie Merritt (bass) Art Blakey (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 14, 1960. Taken from Blue Note BLP 4049 A Night in Tunisia (47W63rd label)
Lee Morgan seizes the opportunity to dazzle, though I sense Wayne Shorter feels a little uncomfortable, his trademark gruff slightly sour tone somehow out of tune with the flying dervish spirit of the song, though he puts in a commendable effort “out of role”. Morgan however is the star performance..Winter Sun!
Time to head for home
All too quickly, as in real life, your musical short Winter Sun break comes to an end. It is time to pack your suitcases and head for home. Hopefully you found some interesting things during your stay in Tunisia, I know I did. You should now be all set for the new year, 2015. The days are getting longer, Summer is on its way.
Happy New Year to all, especially to comment posters, you know who you are, but WordPress tell me in their year-end round-up for Blog owners, the top five this year are Eduard Linshalm, DG Mono, dottorjazz, Rudolf and alunsevern.
Thanks guys, and all the others posters too numerous to mention. Comments are a considerable encouragement, in this effort to create a “jazz on vinyl community” where folk will feel comfortable dropping by, catching up, getting new ideas, answering questions, sharing some opinions and knowledge with those like-minded, be it on the music, the vinyl, the hi-fi, whatever floats your boat.
We don’t exist in the mainstream media, there is no commercial motive here, so we make our own space. Here’s to the future: it is imminent, due any time soon, but in the meanwhile, here’s to The Present. It’s all we have.