Clifford Jordan: Night of The Mark VII (Muse) 1975

Selection: John Coltrane ( Bill Lee) 7:45

.  .  .

Artists

Clifford Jordan, tenor sax; Cedar Walton, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.  Recorded live in Paris, France, March 26, 1975, Muse album not released until 1978, issued in France and the US.

Artist of Note: Clifford Jordan.

Chicago tenor Jordan was a veteran of Blue Note from 1957 (BLP 1549, Cliff Jordan, John Gilmore – Blowing In From Chicago), teamed up here with frequent collaborator, the under-appreciated Cedar Walton, and the anchorman of Lee Morgan’s Sidewider and Hancock’s Watermelon Man: Billy Higgins, plus the excellent Sam Jones on bass.

After a number of promising titles for  Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside, determinedly not a follower of jazz fashion, hard-playing bop tenor Cliff Jordan found himself in the ’70s scouring  Europe for work.  He recorded for various labels likewise plowing a lonely furrow faithful to the modern jazz oeuvre like Strata East, Steeplechase, Muse, Beehive, Soul Note, Criss Cross and Mapleshade.

Jordan’s  main vehicle at the time of recording for Steeplechase was Cliff Jordan and The Magic Triangle, consisting of the line-up found here – Jordan,Walton, Higgins and Sam Jones. With so many good tenors in the Jazz Hall of Fame, Jordan was not discouraged but continued to be a strong voice making great music.

Music

The selection “John Coltrane” is a live performance of the Bill Lee composition on Jordan’s 1974 classic Glass Bead Games, a two session recording of legendary status for Strata East, on which Jordan leads two quartets—the first with drummer Billy Higgins, pianist Stanley Cowell, and composer/ bassist Bill Lee (father of film-maker Spike Lee)  the second retaining Higgins while replacing Cowell with Cedar Walton and Lee with Sam Jones.

Fetching sky-high prices on eBay, and reissued as a costly incomplete Japanese import, the Glass Bead Game title refers to Hermann Hesse’s 1943 novel, in which a futuristic game offers players who have mastered its rules an understanding of all arts, sciences and knowledge. Sounds in improvement on college education today. A year after the Strata East recording, Jordan found himself in Paris, recording a live set, and chose to add the composition  “John Coltrane” to the evening’s playlist, along with a title from another Magic Triangle album “Highest Mountain” (Steeplechase)

John Coltrane has a marvellous film-noir cinematic ambience, a deep spiritual ebb and flow, and an added vocal chant: John Coltrane, black spirit and first newborn.” In any other context it might be pretentious, but here, entirely fitting, the tribute to Coltrane is heart-felt, not by obvious imitation “playing like JC”.

Jazz writer Samuel Chell put his finger on it:

 

Walton’s haunting phrases on piano, Jones’s loping steps on bass, Higgins’ nervous chatter on drums, and then Jordan’s moving opener on sax… it possesses that same resonance as Coltrane’s introduction to a Love Supreme. I have a story to tell...”

Vinyl: 900.350 French Issue for Muse Records,  AREACEM pressing  (Les Applications & Realisations Acoustiques Electro-Mecaniques”  (active 1971-1980)

Three people credited with work on the cover, which is beautiful, has the spirit of Strata East. Now for the not so good news. I am not a fan of French vinyl. The pressing is prone to occasional random ticks, imperfections likely of manufacturing origin: ultrasonic cleaning doesn’t touch it, and it is visually near mint. I don’t find this issue with US Muse  pressings ( there is one). Red flag.

The groove depth and width has been set very small, leaving large swathes of empty vinyl land in the runoff groove.

The credits are strangely silent on the recording engineer. The gain is very low. I had to increase the rip volume  to double the usual to get the input right, usually a bad sign. You hear the engineer sharply turn the volume down live mid-stream when he saw dials going into the red, then turned the volume up clumsily at the song conclusion to exaggerate the audience applause. Amateur-night, Rudy would be turning in his grave. Nevertheless, for all its flaws it remains a compelling performance, I forgive rather than excuse its imperfections.

Collector’s Corner

This album for Muse marks Jordan’s first outing on the new Selmer Mk VII saxophone, released that year, designed for the rock era, according to Selmer, particularly rich in high harmonics. Recorded live in France, anyone not aware of the connection, the Selmer saxophone is a product of Henri Selmer, of Paris, the French saxophone maker.

You have to admit, “Night of The Mark VII” is not exactly a pulse-raising title for an album. “Night of the Taropatch Bb Ukulele Pro V” ? One can only conclude there was a sponsorship deal going down.

Monsieur Selmer, may I call you André?  – Bien Sur!  Mais c’est Henri…

Great André, perhaps you are looking for someone to help launch your new Mark VII saxophone? By a strange coincidence I am recording a live set  tonight here in Paris. This might be just the opportunity you are looking for… if we can come to a mutually agreeable arrangement. How much exactly does this new saxophone cost, André? 

50,000ƒ Monsieur Jordan. Je m’appele Henri…

What an amazing coincidence, André, exactly the figure I had in mind. Maybe we use it in the title for my new album? Deliver one to my hotel room.

D’ accord, Monsieur Jordan! Toute de suite!

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Clifford Jordan: Night of The Mark VII (Muse) 1975

  1. Interest definitely piqued. My favourite Jordan is “Clifford Jordan in the World”, to my ears even better than the much lauded “Glass Bead Games”

  2. Thanks for this review. This album had completely passed me by. No longer, a nice copy is hopefully on its way to me.

  3. The more attention Clifford Jordan gets, the better. It never fails to amaze me how this wonderful saxophone player developed over the years, from the Rollins-influenced late fifties/early sixties-guy to the supple yet edgy adventurous musician of Glass Bead Games with that special lithe tone, and a whole lot of great stuff in between. And those late-career appearances on Timeless albums like Cees Slinger’s Slingshot, amazing ‘jazz wisdom’ there for sure! The Highest Mountain and Blue Monk were featured on Cedar Walton’s Live At Boomers Vol. 1 & 2 featuring Clifford Jordan, Muse 1973. Another master, Walton, excellence beyond mere agility, offering of resonant vistas in the landscape of familiar changes and melodies, well, with just that twist of originality that kept jazz fresh, real and energetic for future generations… Cheers, thanks for sharing.

  4. Another reminder that there were still a few torchbearers who did not succumb to fusion in the 1970s. Jordan’s Glass Bead Game is on my want list and it’s worth pointing discerning listeners to the Eastern Rebellion LP recorded by the Walton/Jones/Higgins axis with George Coleman. That one gets regular outings chez moi!

  5. What a fortunate coincidence between sponsorship and this extraordinary cool music !
    I have a US promo copy and it is a enjoyable record in every situation.
    Muse forever !

  6. Jordan remains on the shortlist of my favorite tenors. For over three decades he never made a bad album. His live dates with his Magic Triangle band here are all fantastic spins and this record may be the best of the live bunch. If you can find a copy, Glass Bead Games, mentioned above, is his masterpiece and needs to be heard. But this, a lot more affordable, is amazing. Excellent choice.

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