Former phantom post, now ready. WordPress thinks this is only an update, so I have had to repost it afresh. Apologies.
Selection : Fosterity (Foster)
Christmas Bonus Selection: Shutout (Foster)
Freeman Lee (trumpet) Frank Foster (tenor saxophone) Elmo Hope (piano) John Ore (bass) Art Taylor (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, October 4, 1955
Line up of quartet and quintet format, both selections are the five man group.
Who was Frank Foster? I confess I didn’t really know much, time to put that right.
A tenor player with a hard husky tone, Foster was noted for his contribution to the sound of the so-called New Testament Edition of the Count Basie Band, from 1953 to 1964. During that time his tenor is found on various Donald Byrd albums, Joe Newman, Kenny Burrell and many others. After leaving Basie he dabbled in small group formats, flirting with funky hard bop and soul jazz – song title “Skankarooney” about says it all – leading two sessions for Prestige and one for Blue Note (see Collector’s Corner below). The ’70s found him in a long-term collaboration with Elvin Jones, appearing on a dozen of his titles.
As an arranger, performer and educator, Foster enjoyed a long and distinguished career: Artist in Residence at Boston’s New England Conservatory, Grammy awards and nominations for big band arrangements, composed and orchestrated material for various prestigious bands The Carnegie Hall Jazz Ensemble , Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra, honorary doctorates, and finally the highest honour in jazz: NEA Jazz Masters Award (2002). A more divergent path is hard to imagine for Elmo Hope.
Elmo Hope, an early hard-bop pianist whose promising career was dogged by drug problems. These resulted in the loss of his New York cabaret card and forced migration west, which had the benefit of injecting hard-bop into the west coast jazz scene, while supporting its flourishing hard drug supply industry. I suspect this may be the explanation for his disappearance from the album title “Hope Meets Foster”, retitled Wail, Frank, Wail. Returning to New York, he found favour with Riverside, another artists whose name was inevitably drawn in to his titles: Here’s Hope! High Hope! and Hope-full. Drug and health problems continued to diminish his career, which was cut short by his untimely death in 1967 at the age of 43.
Hope’s piano style has garnered considerable critical approval, much of it too late to do any good to his career. (Citations all from Wiki, I claim no originality)
“dissonant harmonies and spiky, contrasting lines and phrases”… “somber, internally shifting chords in the introduction; punchy, twisting phrases in the solo; and smoldering intensity “… “Hope’s sense of time meant that his note placement was unpredictable, falling at various points either side of the beat but not exactly on it” …”he is dynamically smoother than Monk, with a spidery, spacey touch. His harmonic and compositional approach is intricate in design and almost eerie in execution”…” unusual and light, a combination of delicacy and boldness that was all his own”… “a style that parallels Powell… a pianist and composer of rare harmonic acuity and very personal interpretation”
An interesting pianist worthy of more attention than he received in his time.
Of the trumpet player on this date, Freeman Lee, even less is known. Some sources suggest he had previously played with Duke Ellington, and later abandoned music to become a science teacher, remaining invisible (other than to his students) until his final departure in 1997.
Vinyl: Esquire 32-033 UK 1st release of Prestige 7021 Hope Meets Foster
Prestige metal, small initials RVG hand-etched, no AB or other marks of provenance that I can see. The quartet tracks have a quite prominent reverb added to Foster’s tenor, reminding me of bootleg recordings of Charlie Parker and Lester Young – someone playing at the distant end of a large room. Maybe that is the effect Rudy wanted, or Frank wanted, but it is a little disconcerting on first hearing. So I have chosen the quintet pieces.
Cover art: three wrongs don’t make a right. I don’t think any of these three covers tell you what kind of music is in side, surely the one purpose of cover art? It is not fore-father’s heritage, it is not primitive expressionism, and it’s not a crudely assembled montage of words in a blackmail letter. Art Directors, my office, now. And about that title, fellas. Wail?
Vinyl: Esquire 32-033 UK release of Prestige 7021.
The liner notes are a strange polemic on bop, swipes at Dave Brubeck, and rehearsing Fosters future assessment of himself: = “I’m a hard bopper” he told an interviewer with the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program in 1998. “Once a hard bopper, always a hard bopper”.
One of Foster’s best albums from the ’60s (according to his 2011 NYT Obituary) was Manhattan Fever released in 1968 on Liberty Blue Note. In one of those strange and sinister coincidences that accompany any one paying attention to life (rather than looking at their phone), this morning in Liguria, Northern Italy, I picked up a copy of Blue Note BST 84278 Manhattan Fever by Frank Foster on a market stall, purchased around six hours before I started writing this part of the post. Doppleganger!
Despite the label indicating a German re-issue, like this one above, it bears the VAN GELDER machine stamp in the run-out, indicating authentic US master heritage. This can only happen if we are experiencing unpredictable and intermittent faults in the space-time continuum, over parts of Europe in the 20th and 21st Century. I believe this is the case.
Whilst scientists have busied themselves studying thermometers, un-noticed, objects have begun to slip from their proper time and place to create future anomalies.
But I digress.
UPDATE December 16,2015
Just for the record, ahem, here is the original Hope Meets Foster cover inverted to its original form.
Seems to be a take on “Dr Livingstone, I presume”
Missionaries, Journalists, Explorers, and Empire. I’m sure it meant something to someone, at the time. Just not now.