Selection: Cousin Mary (Coltrane) – Buddy deFranco
A Coltrane composition which appears on his Giant Steps album. What a great opportunity to set out how the master approached it. Mono, naturally, Decca New Malden pressing on London American (crimson silver label). Gosh I had forgotten how good this is.
Selection: Cousin Mary (Coltrane) – John Coltrane, recorded May 1959 (corrected).
Anyway, back to Buddy deFranco and the woodwind section
Freddy Hill or Lee Morgan (trumpet) Curtis Fuller (trombone) Buddy DeFranco (clarinet, bass clarinet) Victor Feldman (piano, vibraphone) Victor Sproles (bass) Art Blakey (drums) recorded Hollywood, CA, December 1 & 3, 1964
The stellar line up first caught my attention. How come all these guys were in Hollywood in the run up to Christmas 1964? Who knew?
Bonus Track: Rain Dance (with Lee Morgan):
A very Blue-Note-ish composition credited to Victor Feldman, the man who famously turned down the offer to join Miles second quintet, a place thankfully taken by Herbie Hancock, history might have turned out differently.
Second bonus track: Straight No Chaser (Monk)
At least Victor Feldman swings it his own way, leaving the iconic lead tune to Buddy, who plays it deftly note for note. No-one can out-Monk Monk, so why try?
What first caught my attention was the impeccable list of journeymen – Blakey, Lee Morgan (brief appearance on two tracks) , Curtis Fuller, with Victor Sproles walking mightily tall on the bass. Everybody swings, puts in enjoyable feel-good performance
Listening recently to Ken McIntyre/ Eric Dolphy and Jimmy Guiffre, and now Buddy deFranco, I confess there is something strangely affecting about the clarinet – or bass clarinet – swung as a jazz instrument- its’ plaintive and strangled upper register, like the artist is really having to fight the instrument to get it up to those notes, those bottom octave with their woody tones so unlike the angry rasp of its brass relative, the constrained linearity of its melodic lines, presumably it lacks the valve-box-of-tricks of the saxophone. Yet it swings mightily on its own measured way.
Hearing deFranco for the first time, you are immediately reminded how innovative Eric Dolphy was at about the same time, having died just six months before this Buddy deFranco recording was made.
Original US title: Vee-Jay VJLP 2506 Leonard Feather’s Encyclopaedia of Jazz Volume 2 Blues Bag. Not the catchiest of titles, likely to have the record flying off the shelf,
UK distributors, President Records Limited, London gave the UK release something a little shorter, Blues Bag. But still failed to mention even in passing the calibre of the “sidemen”, some of New York’s finest, with British émigré Victor Feldman thrown in. Clearly no-one at Joy or President felt confident enough to write any liner notes, or willing to pay someone else to.
Sometimes your ears need a fresh sound, a break from the omni-present saxophone quartet or quintet. Different instrument requires a different approach, delivers a different presentation, plays to different strengths. I always associated the woodwind instruments with the New Orleans jazz heritage, so its good to hear it stretching out in a different setting. There’s more mileage in this yet.
The postman just delivered the 1992 ECM double Guiffre 3, 1961, with Bley and Swallow. More interesting changes.
Record label-wise, I am entirely unable to disassemble the relationship between Vee Jay, Joy ’60s (US NY label), President Records Limited, London (we don’t have a President. You do. Apparently) and where Leonard Feather fits in. And who Buddy deFranco was. Or is. So many questions. Nice recording, nice pressing, nice music, that’s what matters. Answers can wait.