Two very different Lazy Afternoons, another LJC contrast-and-discover opportunity, one just a trifle more relaxing than the other, though some might disagree. Some might prefer a Busy Afternoon, on account of us under-employed find every day lazy. However, let’s go with the flow:
First Lazy Afternoon: from BLP 4205 Pete LaRoca – Basra (1965)
Selection: Lazy Afternoon
Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone) Steve Kuhn (piano) Steve Swallow (bass) Pete La Roca (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 19, 1965
Pete (LaRoca) Sims made just a couple of albums as leader, Turkish Women At The Bath being the other for Svenghali-producer Alan Douglas. He then abandoned music, driving a New York taxi to qualify in the legal profession, at one stroke robbing the world of a much-needed jazz musician, while adding one more to the world surplus of lawyers.
Sims returned to music in the late ’90s, approaching the age of sixty, with a group called “Swingtime” for Blue Note (CD-only, a sign of the times), endorsed with the following definition of his philosophy of jazz music:
“Music is the result of bow on string, breath through metal, fingers on ivory, sticks and mallets on brass and strings – all applied by real people who’ve taken the time to learn the skill and magic of it”
A good definition, which also sums up some of the reasons we have so few musicians today that measure up to the talent-pool of the ’60s.
La Roca’s swinging drums finally fell silent at the end of 2012, obituary courtesy of The Guardian.
Steve Kuhn I don’t know. Blindfold I would have said Duke Pearson or McCoy Tyner on piano, but I am sure Steve has his own songbook and manner. It’s perhaps the first time I have seen his name on Blue Note, a name I associate with ECM. Maybe I need straightening out here.
Pete La Roca’s mighty Blue Note debut Basra (1965), one of the stand-out Blue Notes of the ’60s, and infuriating difficult to find, but savoured for its modal style, unique and memorable tunes more than a little Joe Henderson influence evident.
Lazy Afternoon: Joe Henderson’s sublime breathy tenor outlines the dream-like, lingering melody; Steve Kuhn’s languid piano drifts in and out, eddys rippling around the notes, Swallow’s bass a firm undertow. As befitting of a leader, LaRoca supports, adding colours and highlights to the flow. As an easy-paced ensemble piece, a perfectly Lazy Afternoon. One of the finest Blue Note recordings ever.
Basra is also home to a host of brilliant tracks, I make no apology for a second bite of the cherry, first posted by a (comparatively) new jazz fan LJC in 2011. The more inquisitive might want to compare the same track ripped through a $150 Numark USB turnable and I-tunes with todays State of The Art 320kbps from the back of His Master’s Hi-fi.
Numark USB turnable rip (2011) 160 kbps direct to PC
Contrast and Compare:
Second Lazy Afternoon: Cecil Taylor – The World of Cecil Taylor (Candid 1960)
Selection: Lazy Afternoon
Archie Shepp (tenor saxophone) Cecil Taylor (piano) Buell Neidlinger (bass) Denis Charles (drums) Nat Hentoff (supervisor) recorded Nola Penthouse Sound Studio, NYC, October 12, 1960
Recorded a full five years before “Basra”, The World of Cecil Taylor burst on the 1960 stage. Archie Shepp takes no prisoners, but stays largely within Cecil’s unique reimagining of the original dreamy melody, a tune that probably only Cecil can hear.
It’s interesting to hear the other musicians try to sync with what Cecil is playing (collective improvisation), as Cecil is syncing with something entirely different in his head. It’s an interesting struggle that works well where there is common ground, signposted in a strong original melody.
Whitney Balliett on Cecil Taylor
On the second night of the final weekend ( of The Great South Bay Jazz Festival, 1958) , the pianist Cecil Taylor, accompanied by Sylvester Gandy on bass and Dennis Charles on Drums, played four of his own compositions.
Taylor’s music is, in the main, unclassifiable. It is an impoverished atonal music, that has jazz rhythms more often implied than stated, and forms that appear to be strictly his own.
An expert classically trained pianist, he plays with a hammering intensity that never lets the listener rest for a moment. The result is a passionate often grinding mixture of sounds, occasionally reminiscent of a bulging sample case of modern classical music, which chock-a-block range from graceful lyrical Debussy arpeggios to angry staccato chords that leap backward and forth two or three octaves at a time. …His work appears exciting and furious, trying to force its way to a level that has only been hinted at by the work of such modernists as Charles Mingus and George Russell.
Throughout Taylor’s performance, the audience fidgeted, whispered, and wandered nervously in and out of the tent, as if the ground beneath had suddenly begun to wobble.
The Sound of Surprise, Penguin Books (1959)
LJC on Whitney Balliett
Whatever your reaction to Taylor’s playing, Whitney Balliett’s writing sets a standard that is without peer. Sometimes, words help unlock your understanding of what is happening, to make sense of it. There are the “my music needs no explanation, it speaks for itself” school of musicians, but in Taylors case I’m not sure it speaks in any known language, at least not one known to me, so a translator is a useful companion.
Vinyl: Candid CJM 8006
Just as both these records are musically at opposite extremes, so their acquisition on vinyl is likewise. The Blue Note was the result of a trans-atlantic on-line Ebay battle in the small hours of the morning GMT, the Candid turned up in a marché brocante market stall in southern France, totally unexpected. There you go, Hi diddly-dee, a Collector’s Life for Me (hat tip Walt Disney)
I’ve done some writing, interested to hear your thoughts on a Lazy Afternoon, Cecil, Archie, La Roca, or indeed, lawyers.