Adventures in collecting "modern jazz": the classical music of America from the Fifties and Sixties, on original vinyl, on a budget, from England. And writing about it, since 2011. 100% coronavirus-free content.
LJC thought for the day: you don’t judge a book by its cover, but by its contents. However, some covers just shout “No!” Fortunately in this case the contents say “Yes!”
Selection:Feelin’ Folksy (Mobley)
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Dizzy Reece, trumpet; Slide Hampton, trombone; Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Vince Benedetti, piano; Alby Cullaz, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums, recorded at Barclay Studios, Paris, France, July 12, 1969, re-mastered by Van Gelder for Liberty.
Dizzy Reece!Philly Joe! .. Slide Hampton?
The end of the ’60s saw Mobley gigging and recording in Europe: Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, and Paris, where The Flip was recorded. Returning to the US in 1970, Hank put down his swansong as leader, Thinking Of Home, issued a decade later by Michael Cuscuna for United Artists.
All that followed was an odd appearance in 1972 on Cedar Walton’s Cobblestone albumBreakthrough,(reviewed LJC 2015, including an in-depth contribution on Mobley by our resident Tubby-biographer, the slim and retro-suited Simon Spillett). Hank there sounding more like Wayne Shorter than himself. Apparently he played one track on an obscure Tete Montoliu album included only on the CD, then pasta la vista, last supper musically for Hank.
The Flip offers up the essential ’60s boogaloo track,The Flip, and a good one too, then onto the meat and potatoes of Mobley compositions. The selection Feelin’ Folksy is a jaunty minor swinger that I took to immediately. It feels at home among Hank’s composition and arranging development found on the later issued UA LT series like “A Slice of The Top”, where unusual brass textures are added by the euphonium and tuba, woven into the melodic and harmonic structure.
As for Hank, Mobley is hootin’ and honkin’, dazzling runs, stretching out, joyous playing, malted tones, and he plays with spirit, playing his heart out. His early works are collector trophies on account of scarcity, his early ’60s Blue Notes carry a heavy collector premium, but his later works like High Voltage, appearances on Lee Morgan later titles, that I find his playing personally most satisfying.
The stand-out guest here is Dizzy Reece: shades of Freddie Hubbard’s lovely fat tone and vulnerable vibrato, shades of Kenny Dorham, bright peppery figures, and shades of Lee Morgan: excitement. Joining them in Paris is “Slide” Hampton – Locksley Wellington “Slide” Hampton – who slides in with silky slide trombone that lends a nice well-rounded ’50s feel to the music. Hampton is still with us, age 85.
Philly Joe turns up, in Paris? Ou est le revendeur de drogue? Where’s The Dealer? La bas!
Vinyl: BST 84329
Never judge a book by its cover, a bottle of wine by a fancy label (always a bad sign) or in this case, an LP. Art Direction: Frank Gauna (notable art direction the iconic Bill Evans / Jim Hall album Undercurrent), Cover Designer: Bob Venosa (Tribute: “Bravo Venosa! Dali is pleased to see spiritual madness painted with such a fine technique.” –Salvador Dali). The Flip, a one-minute idea play on words agreed over lunch perhaps, but it has a certain charm, shame about the ring-wear and general tatty condition.
The vinyl quality exceeded all my initial expectations: bright airy, good dynamic and tonal range, recorded by a local engineer in Barclay Studios, Paris and re-mastered by Van Gelder. Well into Liberty new release catalogue at 84329, it has both the Van Gelder stamp and West Coast Bert-Co labels (wide kerning typesetting of album and artist name and seriffed 1 in Side 1), confirming my belief that around that time, new releases had the benefit of Van Gelder master metal on both Coasts. It was West Coast reissues of the Blue Note back catalogue that were mostly re-mastered locally from copy tape, not Van Gelder.
I overlooked this album, well, truthfully, I dismissed it as mere Sidewinder slipstream fodder. As usual, I was wrong about both The Sidewinder and The Flip. There are some great tracks there, to dig into, beyond the boogaloo. It’s a worry. How many other choices have I been wrong about? A sobering thought! Time to open a bottle of wine.
Home Decorating meets the Hi Fi
Never mind Meets The Rhythm Section, here is a meeting of opposites: home decorating and hi fi. It will come as no surprise that Hi Fi’s don’t like a paint brush dropping drips and spatter on them, or hapless painters crashing down from ladders on top of them. You could spend a couple of days dismantling everything, relocating them, and reassembling it all again, a thankless couple of days work. The general anxiety had prevented a long overdue refresh of the listening room, but you can’t hold out forever.
I got an idea from the artist Christo, who has a thing about wrapping things. Big things like trees, monuments, bridges, and completely bonkers things like this Wrapped Coast.
By a strange coincidence, at exactly the same time as Hank Mobley was recording The Flip in Paris, Christo was wrapping one million square feet of coastline at Little Bay, Sydney, Australia, realisation concluded in 1969. Spooky but we like coincidences, they tell us we are on the right road, temporal forces are aligned in the space time continuum, good things happen, everything is connected.
So, emboldened, the hour came, and LJC’s work of art was realised: Wrapped Hi Fi. Good eh?
I certainly felt The Fear perched on top of a step ladder next to the hi fi, leaning over the body of it to reach the top furthest corner of the picture rail, arm outstretched , tip of paint brush still centimetres short, centre of gravity falling perilously out of the zone of balance, where teetering and wobbling begin.
If The Fear was bad enough, collateral damage was worse. Robbed of the ability to listen to music for three days, the evening listening session was replaced by watching television, a depressing experience I never want to repeat.
The imagined ladder-toppling catastrophe didn’t happen, the glossing of the furthest corner of the picture rail above the hi fi was achieved by a solution suggested to me by a hi-fi buddy who had been there himself – lashing a small brush to a long stick with duct tape. The brown upper walls, now pristine calming white, the Christo wrapping came off, and the listening room transformed.
The icing on the cake, I chanced on a £12 chrome IKEA clip-on LED light, spotlighting the chrome Avid Acutus Reference deck spinning, throwing a reflection of the spinning disc onto the now white wall behind, the reflections trace the flatness of the vinyl, gently rising and falling. Never mind a retro lava lamp, this is the ultimate experience, a 60’s album moving reflection.
This is so seriously cool, I felt a need to share it. Modern Jazz, Hi Fi and home decorating tips. If you have any anecdotes that connect anything in this post now is the right time to share them.