Selection: John Coltrane ( Bill Lee) 7:45
. . .
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.
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.
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!