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Cecil Payne, baritone, alto saxophone; Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Wynton Kelly, piano, organ; Wilbur Ware, bass; Albert Heath, drums. Recorded December 16, 1968, at Town Sound Studios, Englewood, NJ. First released in 1973 on the Strata-East label.
Jinxed! Everything touching this record worked like a charm: a bad-luck charm.
Eric Dolphy Series: Strata East dedicated this short series to Eric Dolphy, who died accidentally in a Berlin hospital on June 29, 1964. No Trip Advisor star rating for you, German Health Service!
Side 1 Track 1: a dedication to Martin Luther King, fatally shot in Memphis on April 4, 1968, eight months before this recording date.
Two of the leading players – Wynton Kelly and Kenny Dorham – died just a few years after recording it, and the studio in which it was recorded burned to the ground two years later.
“Fire destroys Jersey recording studio”:
Always look on the bright side, find good things in a bad situation! Cecil Payne enjoyed a long active musical career, recorded into his mid seventies, an advertisement for the health benefits of lifting that weighty baritone sax (average 5kg) all those years. The final curtain fell in 2007, at the age of 85, a remarkably good innings for a jazz musician, many of whom never made it to 40. I wonder, with those longevity benefits, is it too late to take up the baritone myself?
Starting out in the big bands of the 40s, Payne worked with Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Tadd Dameron: “the first baritone saxophonist to develop a coherent style to suit the complex and fast-moving bebop idiom“. It earned him a place on some landmark mid ’50s albums including Kenny Dorham’s Afro-Cuban (Blue Note),Tadd Dameron’s Fontainebleau (Prestige) and Ernie Henry’s Last Chorus (Riverside). From a promising start, however, his potential as leader was obscured by returning to a big band setting, joining Afro-cuban leader Machito (1963-66), Woody Herman (1966-68) and Count Basie (1969-71). Later he blended into Philly Joe’s Dameronia,
In line with his bop credentials, several of Payne’s recordings were on theme of Charlie Parker: Cecil Payne Performing Charlie Parker Music (Charlie Parker Records, 1961), and Bird Gets The Worm (Muse, 1976). He also recorded a third cover of music from The Connection (Charlie Parker Records, 1962). A complete set of recordings for Charlie Parker Records – confusingly, most not actually recordings of Charlie Parker – was issued by Amazon on a load-bearing 30 CD set, the sort of Christmas gift you dread getting from a well-meaning aunt (or malevolent uncle).
The most widely known baritone player was probably Gerry Mulligan, whose playing offers a light and airy tone in the era of West Coast cool jazz. Sorry, Gerry, on that instrument, my heart belongs to Sahib Shihab wrestling the instrument to the ground, followed closely by Pepper Adams (Mingus Moanin’! ♪Duh,dida,da-diddle-a-duh♪). I’m not going to make the mistake again of listing the twenty best players. Payne is a skilled ensemble player, though not always pushing the baritone to its idiosyncratic limits, as angle-grinder burr, and a Moluccan cockatoo squawk.
Wynton Kelly … on organ – whoever heard of such a thing?
I’m still finding my way around Strata East Records, sort of “off-piste” for jazz directions in the early ’70s. Apres-ski, a very inventive cocktail with a jigger of funk and good measures of post-bop, afro and spiritual jazz: no gold lamé pants, and probably not much chart potential at the time.
Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell steered Strata East through around fifty albums over a decade It is first label I noticed using a collector-helpful date in its catalogue numbering series – starting at SES 1971, 1972, then 19731, 19732, 19733 … and so on until (19)8001, (19)8002 and (19)8003. With the arrival of The Evil Silver Disc™, Strata East commenced the SESD series, reissuing much of its ’70s catalogue for disciples of The Shiny Thing.
Vinyl: Strata East SES 19734
This Strata East cover bears an unusual aesthetic. Black and white design, artists in performance pictures but on the front cover not gatefold or back, which is graced with a drawing by producer Cliff Jordan’s 13 year old daughter. Austere rather than “cheap”, understated as though to signpost the serious intent of the music, and a hint at its mystic, spiritual quality.
A touch of NY/jazz collective politics, the musicians credits are explicitly listed “in alphabetical order”. No Hollywood casting hierarchy here.
Good, unobtrusive stereo recording, well-balanced image, centre-weighted, no special stereo effects to speak of, and good dynamic and tonal range. Natural sound, but remember it’s still 1968, plenty of time ahead for things to go wrong. It is not Blue Note and Van Gelder, but a lot better than many in its day.
It is a mid ’70s East Coast pressing and etching O.O. is a new one for me. O.O. mean anything to anyone? Some years ago, when I was required at work to comment on a lengthy section of draft text, it was customary to make brief observations in the margins. When something struck one as particularly tendentious (look it up, if you must) the conventional marginal comment was ” oo “. I’ll leave you to figure that for yourself. I don’t think that applies here. There is no ear here, or any other part of human anatomy.
Unlucky Zodiac Signs of 2018
Not that I am superstitious touch wood but after reading all the bad luck signs associated with this Strata East album, I checked my own zodiac sign for good and bad luck in 2018. Bummer.
“For zodiac signs, Taurus, Sagittarius, Aries and Virgo, the coming year isn’t bringing a good sign. This year may see you have heartbreaks, losing out on opportunities and suffering through medical ailments. But, the ray of hope in all this is that none of these things remain permanent.“
Phew, that’s a relief then, just temporary bad luck.
It was my good luck to spot this rare Strata East album in a London store. It was the sellers even better luck that someone came into the store that day who appreciated it and was willing to pay the not-inconsiderable going rate.
Brighter side, much.