Danny Moore (flugelhorn) Frank Strozier (alto saxophone, flute) Harold Mabern (piano) Stafford James (bass) Louis Hayes (drums) at Media Sound, NYC, November 5, 1977
Last heard recording on 1962, in 1976 Strozier returned to the studio after an absence of fourteen years, at the age of 40. This album leads off with a rather long version of the Marvin Gaye tune “What’s Going On” , which gives the album its’ name. I’m not big on Motown so I give that a wide berth and pick the most melodic of the Strozier compositions, Ollie. It must be a diminutive of Oliver, but which of the many jazz Olivers is anyone’s guess. Nice key changes, mood and pace. Seasoned support from the usual suspects also from the VeeJay days, Louis Hayes and Harold Mabern, with Junior Cook’s collaborator Stafford James and a new name, Danny Moore.
Strozier the younger, as featured on those ’60s Veejays, betrayed a lot of Jackie McLean influence, acid tone and a scattering of big ponderous notes contrasted with fierce aggressive working of the mid and upper registers . By the late 70s you can still hear that influence , but now less, Strozier is closer to the free-flowing lyrical manner of Cannonball Adderley, (and let it be said that’s not a bad thing), elegant grace notes embellish his fast melodic runs, decorating it with elegant figures and flourishes.
I appreciate many would not rank Frank Strozier in the top league of alto players, and quite rightly, he’s no Art Pepper or Sonny Stitt, but I can’t help but I enjoyed listening to his earlier work and was curious to hear how he shaped up in modern times, and Steeplechase is/was one of the oasis of good vinyl recordings before the music world was taken over by Evil Silver.
This also promised to be something unusual in vintage vinyl production – direct cutting (whatever that is) Never seen one like this before, and a Limited Edition” (Rare!), not expensive, the answer had to be yes.
Vinyl: Steeplechase SCD 17001 Direct Cutting Limited Edition Send out for a Danish and they come back with this lot! A cast of thousands: supervisers, producers, balance engineers, assistant engineers, cutting lathe operator, graphic designers, a liner note writer.
OK, now, who’s the assistant engineer? Michael, that’s three lattes, four cappuccinos, an Americano black no sugar, two double espressos, and an Earl Grey for Mr Winthur. Thanks.
“Dad, Dad, what did you do in the Great Vinyl Famine?”
“Well son, those days were hard, Twenty Fifteen to Twenty Twenty. We got by on scraps of anything we could lay our hands on. VG minus collection fillers, reissues, compilations, anything, really. You know, some people would sell their grandmother for an original Blue Note. In fact, as I recall I did sell your great grandmother for an original Blue Note. A Horace Silver, as I recall.
Those were desperate times, but pretty soon, we ran out of extended family. Aunts and uncles didn’t fetch much, hardly get an OJC for the pair of them.”
“What happened then, Dad?”
“Collectors turned on each other. Word got round that so and so had a hoard of Prestige originals. Come nightfall his house would be surrounded by salivating vinyl collectors, haggard and sunken-eyed, pawing at his windows. Terrible things happened to satisfy their craving for vinyl”
“Sounds awful Dad. So what happened then?”
“Science saved the day. They perfected 3-D printing, son. Now everyone can have original vinyl, for next to nothing. Pass me that Mobley 1568. No, not one without the blood stains on the cover…the nice mint one…”