A guest post by LJC reader Clive D, writing as Vinylla
So, LJC has been soliciting yet again … for vinyl acquisition stories….
One afternoon, relaxing with my usual Ximenes (Ed: I think Ximenes refers to a cryptic crossword puzzle. I’ll butt out now, promise, no more interruptions) I recalled how, in my youth ( I must have been around 16 – a mere half century ago) I would listen to “Newport News” on a UK Warner (invariably abbreviated) Bros. LP of Chico Hamilton, in a record store listening booth of my Home Counties town. The focus of my attention? Not the leader, reader, but one Eric Allan Dolphy – who else? I had been learning the alto saxophone (with a trumpet player teacher … don’t ask), and despite playing in various local soul bands (high spot? Undecided Souls audition at a heaving Ram Jam Club, Brixton; low spot? failing it), my real love was jazz.
Eric Dolphy at Flemings Hotel, London, 1961
Photo taken by, and reproduced with the kind permission of Val Wilmer
In my impoverished state, I couldn’t afford LPs, but fortunately, one evening, listening to a jazz programme on Radio Caroline, I was able to record on my Grundig 2-speed open reel tape recorder the very same track. Jazz on the pop pirate, you ask? Yes indeed, a one hour slot, with our host swapping banter with one A. Blackburn, whose tones, co-incidentally, I am half-listening to now, reminding me that while I was digging Eric, my contemporaries were grooving to the likes of a certain quartet from nearer home (btw, is that pensioner really still on the airwaves? … hang about, I detect the sound of projectiles on glazed properties.)
But then my faithful Grundig, together with the precious tape, was half-inched in a repair shop burglary – perhaps another E.D. Fan? … OK, unlikely.
During the great U.S. vinyl famine of the 70’s (at least for UK consumers), there was little chance of acquiring the record, until, in a store not a stone’s throw from the P.M.’s alma mater, I happened upon “That’s Jazz” Chico H. reissue (WB 56 239). According to my (occasionally reliable) record buying archives, this would have been 1979. Not long after I had started work for a small company, in a rather niche area of my line of business; the manager of our team became world famous, and found a place in the the Thunderer’s (Sunday edition) Rich List (apparently he still talks about working with me).
Note the relentless use of square cut-away on front cover, possibly inspired by original issue of “Free Jazz”. Interesting idea, but a bit impractical when it snags your outer clear plastic cover, and rips.
Ephemera corner: A contemporary flier for the That’s Jazz re-issues series (reminder to self: must start the regular decennial tidy-up of filing system);
That’s about the end of the purely vinyl strand of the story , so it’s all downhill from now on.
Vinylla continues, regardless…
So intrigued by the alto solo – multiphonics, altissimo register, outside sound – I embarked upon a transcription (bear in mind this before the era of software for speed reduction with constant pitch). As transcription junkies will know, the task gets a leg-up by knowledge of the Norwegians (think about it) of the song. But where to find a lead sheet for N.N? (and for that matter, what was the connection between Mr. K. Dorham (composer) and Dolphy/Hamilton? (biographical note: though K.D. and E.D. of course did record together under the ‘Newport Rebels’ banner, the Hamilton number was recorded one year before … must get my research team on the case. And talking of the Newport Jazz Festival (which we weren’t, strictly speaking) reminds me of the curious incident of the philosophy professor, my Japanese teacher, three budgerigars, and ‘Jazz on a Summer’s Day’, (the story does lead to another vinyl collection, eventually), but, I digress…
Step into the frame (back to the lead sheet) a certain Don Sickler (q.v. this very parish), Second Floor Music, and a song book with N.N. (did it help? A bit, but since Eric mostly played “outside” the chords, maybe not too much … ).
Sadly, my efforts wouldn’t hold a candle to the pros , but the work did lead to correspondence with Dolphy researcher and multi-instrumentalist Thierry Bruneau, visiting him in Paris ( , France), where we saw his collection of Dolphy memorabilia, viewed pre-release excerpts of “Last Date” (the movie, obvs., not the record), and generally had a memorable time.
July 1991, it is then, a Summer break from slaving over my magnum opus (no, not the transcription, a work-related opus), and an evening visit to Duc des Lombard’s jazz club with Thierry, where we meet up with Ken McIntyre (with whom Thierry is playing) – not to mention Mike Zwerin, Claude Colpaert (French jazz writer) and assorted ex-pats for a pre-gig dinner,
Fashion Note: Ken was wearing a similar parachute-suit get-up (not quite so iridescent as example pictured) when we met; Paris – haute couture capital? Well, chacun a son gout.
(and incidentally have an excellent off-menu vegetarian meal – yes, really, vegetarian, Paris – we are of that persuasion. But don’t buy the rounds there – franc-ly les prix are a bit steep). As the aforementioned Europe popular music (popular music?) correspondent of the international Trib. says to us of Dolphy: “where did he get those notes from?”
In the opportunity of a lifetime, Thierry kindly invites me to play alto with him and Ken at the gig. (Since you ask, no, I, after a nanosecond’s thought, decline, wisely I feel, all things considered).
Fast-forward to around the time of the great millennium computer-crash-that-never-was, and by this time, steadily shakily en route to my present status of self-employed (but having generously granted myself an extended sabbatical), I was lured by the cruelly deceptive promise of noise-free recordings to acquire, I confess, on the format we deprecate, a reissued “Three Faces” c/w another Hamilton album (Warner Jazz 9362478742). Purchased, it seems, 13 Dec 2000, (only two days after the wedding anniversary – must have been part of the celebrations).
Last year, (the sabbatical firmly bedded in) on our annual visit to the “Eastern Capital” (Tokyo, keep up) I succumbed to the temptation of a 24-bit local evil S.D.™ reissue of “The Three Faces of Chico”, in Tower Records, Akiba. (Honest, that was my sole reason for venturing to the district. Maid cafes were far from my thoughts). A further rationalisation for my purchase (I needed one) was the reproduction of the original cover – a great improvement on That’s Jazz cover design.
Mis-translation on the obi?
Song titles on Japanese records are usually translated phonetically into the Japanese katakana syllabary (used for foreign words, technical terms etc.) so eg Dolphy’s composition “Miss Movement”(track 1) becomes :
mi-su ・ muu-vu-me-n-to
But track 5 “The Best Things in Life Are Free” is unusual, translated into Japanese and so is shown in (mainly) Japanese kanji characters:
(jiyuu ga ichi-ban)
… which really means “freedom is best”; perhaps not quite the meaning of the original title.
ichi-ban? Seems familiar?
For more (really?) see the forthcoming book “An A to Z of deciphering Song Titles on Blue Note (and other labels) Japanese issues”. B.S.T. Vinylla, ed. LJC, publ. LJC Press, Burnt Norton
So, not only N.N. (again), but at Yamano music (Ginza now – you have to make the most of your Tokyo Metro one-day ¥720 pass – the patient Mrs. Vinylla would, I am confident , agree), it was difficult to pass up another local find on the Marshmallow label (limited edition, as well, choice of vinyl, or T.E.S.D.™, which did I plump for? – my lips are, as was the album, sealed).
Then, reading on the sleeve note a credit to Thierry, I discovered from label proprietor Mitsuo Johfu that sadly Thierry had gone to the great jam in the sky; his open-reel tapes of alternates from the Alan Douglas sessions had, though, finally been put to good use by Mitsuo-san on “Muses”
… but wait, the wedding guests are becoming curious about my ocean-going sea bird collar … must be off…
Many thanks to LJC, for letting me hitch a ride on his time machine, and for his kind editorial support!
What a great website!
LJC says: Flattery. How could I resist? What a touching tribute. Hope you enjoyed taking to the air with Vinylla. How does he have all that TokyoJazzCollector know-how? I know I’ve enjoyed being able to put my feet up and let someone else do the heavy lifting.
Some of you must have stories to tell – encounters with greatness, collector tall-tales, your worst ever purchase, the time you took your favourite record to a party and never saw it again, until years later in your best friend’s collection…
If anyone else fancies contributing a guest post, send me your idea. I’ve got time to fill while the British economy crashes around me.You know you want to.