Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone) Herbie Hancock (piano) Cecil McBee or Reggie Workman (bass) Joe Chambers (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 14, 1965 and February 24, 1966
Shorter recording with Miles – ESP and the formative Plugged Nickel sessions – and recording for Blue Note, both in combination with Hancock. Together they shake off the last remnants of bop and swing to define a new direction, post-bop.
Davis’ second great quintet, half of whom are present here, were responsible for six albums that encompass the post bop genre, and The Collector fits well into the early sequence, of course sans-Miles : E.S.P. (1965), Miles Smiles (1967), The Sorcerer (1967), Nefertiti , Miles In The Sky, and Filles De Kilimanjaro (all 1968).
Understatement and looseness is the beauty of this music. Shorter’s bitter, downbeat melodies insinuate their way into your consciousness, not so much tunes as slowly unfolding melodic canvas. In solo, he is Coltrane-framed, but more energetic in connecting the dots than some other of his more stripped-down work.
Hancock rewrites the role of piano accompaniment, freed from merely delivering the changes, no longer a backdrop of rhythmic accents, but an interloper in the harmonic progression of the ensemble, listening closely for emerging ideas, will-o-the-wisp, fleetingly amplifying and developing them further, before picking up the next emerging thread, weaving it into the spider’s web.
Fragments of suspended time and direction, air and space, tonal colouring, – these are the fruit of the rhythmic independence of percussion freed from keeping time. Anthony Williams went on to realise this more fully for Miles, but Joe Chambers was more than half way there.
Of all the instruments, the bass acts as more the final custodian of the piece, though it too has freedom to operate in the upper register, adding tonal textures and contrasts as well as the supporting harmonic floor. The very capable Cecil McBee or Reggie Workman here, though Ron Carter was Davis’s natural choice, his supple bass maintaining momentum while tiptoeing into any open spaces.
These two recording sessions fell off the Blue Note release schedule, I would guess due to the impending sale of Blue Note to Liberty, rather than any perceived issues with the music. Alfred Lion had a lot more on his agenda than to be midwife to post-Bop, a mantle thankfully taken up by Columbia.
A number of important formative post-Bop recordings remained in the Blue Note vaults, until unearthed by Michael Cuscuna in the twilight years of United Artists, and granted a second life by King for the all-consuming appetite of Japanese jazz enthusiasts.
◙ Vinyl: GXK 8153 King Records, Japan (1980)
Alternative: United Artists edition, which I avoid like the plague.Blue Note LT-1056
I bought a dozen or so of the LT series United Artists before the penny dropped that they were sonically deeply unpleasant, which is a shame, since they offer mainly unissued material from the Blue Note vaults and deserved better production. King engineers have I think done Van Gelder’s recording justice. It has a power and the majesty that commands your attention, where United Artists finds you noticing the ceiling needs repainting soon.
In fairness, it should be said that King have been known to produce some fairly anodyne transfers with rolled off top-end and weak presentation, while UA engineers did on occasions pull off some amazing transfers, notably in the twofer series. But my general impression of the LT series is that something was fundamentally wrong in the way they were done. What King achieve here is fundamentally right, retaining the hallmark Van Gelder sound and presentation, without trying to improve it or introduce more problems to mask lesser problems.
The mid ’60s was a particularly fertile period of the evolution of jazz, and worthy of the attention of collectors. Intrinsically good music, all of the tracks here are interesting, and spend a good amount of time on the LJC turntable (which is sounding particularly fine at this moment, since a certain key cable modification, more hi-fi voodoo)
People sometimes ask me which year I think was the most import in the development of jazz. Usually I plump for 1959, though I think 1965 a close run thing, or may be even 1956 at a pinch, all for different reasons.
However a pingback (no idea what function they perform) on one of my pages from a fellow WordPress blogger, NighthawkNYC “I Hate The Grammys” (linked, a good rant, I enjoyed it) prompted me to think, why all of those years, 1956-65 and shades either side are so much more interesting than the media-fawning prize-giving celeb-infestation of today. I paused to think, and I thought may be I should have rant too. If you’ve got a minute, pull up a soapbox and sit down.
Jazz musicians came mostly from modest, unpromising even no-account backgrounds. They invariably started young, and grew their talents by hard practice. They were tested through a ruthless process of natural selection by which only the best were pulled up on board. No-one got a place in a Miles quintet or with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, a contract with Blue Note, Prestige or Impulse because of their family connections, because they were a celebrities son, to make up a diversity quota, or because of their looks. The only ticket of entry was the ability to play better than their peers. .
The result is music borne out of extraordinary highly concentrated ability: ability to create music with spontaneity, energy, that swings, that excites, that explores, that satisfies, that communicates emotions, that dazzles our listening senses. That is the process which brought about the magic of Davis, Shorter, Hancock, Carter, Williams.
The motive of money, which appears to account for a lot of Grammy behaviour, is strangely ambiguous. Though prompted by the need to make money, if only to pay for the next fix, hardly any musicians (aside from Miles) made even a modest amount out of playing Jazz.
It was in the process of making music rather than money, as a group enterprise, that musicians came alive, had a purpose, that fulfilled them, and that offers us something we can share and enjoy too, today.
As Blakey I think said, Jazz washes away the dirt of everyday life. But in addition to its cleansing properties, there is something spiritually nutritious in jazz. It is a rich seam, it is impossible to run out of, there is always something to find, to discover, to rediscover, to make new connections, find new pleasures. Yet if you turn on your TV, scan the news headlines, turn on the entertainment media, it doesn’t exist.
May be it’s better that way. We don’t have to share, it can be our secret.
Though borrowing from the example of Kanye West and the Kardashians, it did occur to me there might be some potential for an exclusive LJC Clothing Line – the signature brown striped blazer, maroon polyester polo necks, a range of funky medallions in a choice of precious metal finishes. I think it could attract a lot of followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Money can be cool, no?
In passing, I LJC has just crossed the two million page views milestone. That means it takes just over four years to get the number of hit these celebs get in a few days. Do not adjust your mind, it’s reality that’s at fault.