Selection 1: Miyako (Shorter)
Selection 2: DanceCadaverous
Listen to Jimmy Knepper picking up the tune and dancing in the dark, beautiful.
Ricky Ford (tenor saxophone), James Spaulding (alto Saxophone, flute), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Kirk Lightsey (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums) recorded at Englewood Cliffs, August 28, 1984, engineer and mastered by Rudy Van Gelder.
Ricky Ford (1954- )
Neither Ricky Ford nor Muse have earned a place in the repository of all jazz recording knowledge, JazzDisco Project. No recognition of artist or label, seriously underappreciated. OK, LJC will make it in its own marking.
All About Jazz gives Ford faint praise: “A strong, authoritative tenor player, Ford’s fluency in most idioms of modern jazz has perhaps hindered the development of an individual voice”. He makes good music to me. Somebody compared him to a combination of Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins, a comparison which I guess is the fate of any player following in the great tradition, but not necessarily a bad thing.
Gunther Schuller is more generous to this second generation of jazz musicians: “Ford’s music is neither narrow nor isolated; it is satisfied with neither yesteryear’s avant-garde clichés nor the financial blandishments of today’s jazz rock. It is solidly rooted in the past; its heart is big; its ears are wide-open, and so is its mind. It is more than a revival—it is an important new beginning.”
Ford recorded extensively for Muse and the revived Candid label in the ’70s and early ’80s, however towards the end of the eighties the vinyl format was abandoned in exchange for The Evil Silver Disk, and thence falls into the audiophile abyss. Nevertheless there is still a satisfying body of work to enjoy on vinyl. Ricky Ford found refuge in the traditional educator role, at the unusual choice of a University in Turkey, but still recording and playing today.
You get the dark but luminous compositions of Wayne Shorter in his creative prime, the mid to late ’60s, subtle and slow-building compositions of great technical prowess. It’s not Cole Porter or My Fair Lady, but Blue Note “new standards”, twenty years on. They take on a life of their own with Ricky at the helm. It is an odd tribute from a man born too late to be a player in the 60s, but picking up where Shorter went off to Report on the Weather, in his own manner and not obviously Shorteresque (if there is such a word) and not Short of Ideas of his own.
The contribution of the other players is not to be overlooked,with Jimmy Knepper’s distinctive trombone voice rooted firmly in the original bop era, and James Spaulding’s alto likewise, a hybrid of old and new voices which works unexpectedly well.
In addition to four Shorter tunes, Ford contributes two of his own compositions, and one reprise of Duke Ellington, in homage to his own place in Mercer Ellington big band in the mid ’70s.
Vinyl: Muse MR 5314
Mastered by The Master, Van Gelder, for Muse, a good vinyl combination.
Never judge an LP by its cover.
Off the back of reader recommendations on Muse, I wandered (in the rain) to my local record store for a browse, and laid my hand on this Muse. The cover ensured its neglect for some years, but this time I stopped to read the liner notes. The credentials of the musicians, produced by Michael Cuscuna, featuring many of the guys who played on the Shorter originals, what at first seemed a stupid idea, a Shorter tribute band? suddenly transformed into an audacious one. Van Gelder at the desk, Jimmy Cobb on drums, Knepper, Spaulding, Lightsey (again) FFS, why didn’t I know about this??
Here’s a few more Ricky Ford Muse albums I didn’t know about, (until I looked)
Well, that’s not strictly true, I had one already, the Red Rodney Three R’s, but hadn’t name-checked Ricky Ford, filed under Red Rodney. Only when you connect all the dots do you get the fuller picture.
It makes you think, how much of what you think you know is just like Swiss cheese, full of holes? Not that there is anything wrong with Swiss cheese. As you buy it by the kilo, the holes are free anyway, but they enable the slice to mix better say, with ham. So, a rare occasion when nothing is better than something. How often can you say that?