Rapidly approaching, lazy days and warm nights, the living is easy, an early taste of Summertime. Head-To-Head, another Jazz Standard goes into the ring, this time, “Summertime“, an aria composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. Who can’t lip-sync the opening line? The lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, the author of the novel Porgy on which the opera was based, although the song is also co-credited to Ira Gershwin.
Miles offers the definitive Gil Evans arranged version, the voiceless narrative of Porgy and Bess, Miles trumpet floating over a cushion of air, Gil Evans orchestral arrangements. . However what really caught my ear recently was a reprise of Freddy’s magnificent Impulse title, “The Artistry of”, Freddie Hubbard’s audacious reinvention of this all-time classic, with flair and an extraordinary assembled company: John Gilmore, Tommy Flanagan and Curtis Fuller, each of whom bring their own signature vocabulary and execution, plus Freddie.
Particularly delicious is the voice of John Gilmore, unexpected and provocative harmonies, an independent train of thought, already one foot on the planet Saturn. Flanagan swinging, rapid fire serpentine flow, mastery of the keyboard. Fuller shows there is more to trombone than the comic/ tragic wa-wa-wah or Glen Miller lockstep marching band. Freddy’s warm full tone contrasts with Miles sparse detached coolness. They are both great, really! When faced with a difficult choice between two things, I say, have them both!
MILES DAVIS – PORGY AND BESS (1958)
Selection: Miles Davis – Summertime (arr. Gil Evans) from Porgy and Bess, Columbia CL 1274 (1958)
. . .
Johnny Coles, Bernie Glow, Louis Mucci, Ernie Royal, trumpet; Miles Davis, flugelhorn, trumpet; Joe Bennett, Jimmy Cleveland, Frank Rehak, trombone; Dick Hixson, bass trombone; Willie Ruff, Gunther Schuller, Julius Watkins, French horn; Bill Barber, tuba; Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque, flute; Danny Bank, bass clarinet; Cannonball Adderley, alto sax; Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums; Gil Evans, arranger, conductor. Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC, August 18, 1958 (Summertime)
Miles impressionistic front-line teases at the melody, Evans’s arrangement centers around a repeated line or riff, which changes color and texture throughout as Davis improvises over the melody. Its a short piece and a classic.
Vinyl: US Columbia CL1274 Six-eye mono
The difficult part to understand is why the Columbia Matrix Code is a 2nd mix, not a 1st mix. Are they all 2nd? It looks like a mono six eye from 1958, but maybe a 2nd mix from a couple of years later. During the rip I noticed it has very low gain: I had to crank the volume up 20% more than usual to stretch the histograms to fill the db, or whatever., I don’t understand these things. Is the second mix a lesser thing?
FREDDIE HUBBARD – THE ARTISTRY OF… (1962)
Selection: Freddie Hubbard – Summertime – from “The Artistry of”
. . .
Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Curtis Fuller, trombone; John Gilmore, tenor sax; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Art Davis, bass; Louis Hayes, drums. Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, July 2, 1962
John Gilmore spent nearly four decades touring and recording with the Sun Ra Arkestra . Plenty of Sun Ra hipster followers out there, I can’t add anything. What is interesting is Gilmore’s few excursions on other artist recordings, starting I think with. Blowing in from Chicago (Blue Note, 1957) co-leader with Cliff Jordan, Other Blue Note liasons include with Andrew Hill (Andrew!!! and Compulsion), Pete La Roca (Turkish Women at the Bath/ Douglas), and a handful of Impulse titles, including others McCoy Tyner (Today and Tomorrow) and less well-known, and more unexpected, The Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard.
Gilmore reputedly gave lessons to Coltrane in the late ’50s, but stylistically he is something of an enigma. Less an explorer of Outer Space, more an explorer of earthly harmonies, willing to step outside, but not too far. The interplay is the harmony between Curtis Fuller’s trombone and Gilmore’s tenor, and it is Gilmore who plays the bad boy, sliding off the expected path..
Summertime opens with a symphonic prelude which is quickly discarded, replaced by a more modal approach. Tommy Flanagan throws in some lusciously dark chord changes, which I imagine includes an “augmented fifth” or something, rocking backwards and forwards. Gilmore and Fuller fit in behind the beat held by Louis Hayes, parp Parp, parp Parp. And we are away. Freddie comes in, his rich burnished tone, and solos follow in turn, including a beautiful melodic construction by Flanagan. The tune of Summertime is not far away, but this is no Miles-sound-a-like, but a vehicle for a very different interpretation.
All the other tracks are absolute gems, including The 7th Day (Hubbard), and Caravan gets another imaginative reworking, you will soon forget about Blakey, or may be run an A:B comparison of your own. That’s the beauty of comparative A:B – it enhances your appreciation of both.
Vinyl: CLP1649 UK EMI/HMV issue of US Impulse A27, mono.
Sadly I don’t own a US pressing of this outrageously lovely album, just UK EMI/ HMV. EMI are usually very polished performers but don’t match up to original Impulse: the link to Van Gelder mastering had been lost. A solid professional transfer from copy tape does not have the acuity and dynamic presentation of the original mastering, though you probably wouldn’t be aware of the loss – at least not until you play them side by side.
I haven’t seen this album get proper recognition, perhaps because the Impulse packaging is such a car-crash. Funny word, “Artistry“. Consider: “The Artistry Of John Coltrane”, what message does that send – flower-arranging? The title suggests it is a compilation, Best of Hubbard. Freddie looks quite glum on the cover, trumpet posed unconvincingly on his knee. The song titles listed prominently on the cover include jazz staples like “Caravan“, implying it is a re-tread of old famous jazz tunes. No mention of the fabulous line up, because it’s all about Freddie, right? Art Director, my office, now. Polish up your resumé!
It is not until you turn over the back cover (UK flipback) – if you get that far- you discover the stellar line up, and it is not until you mount the record on the turntable that you realise you have a gem.
As Summertime approaches, time to hit the deck, and open something suitably refreshing. Mine will be my new friend, a Mâconnais white from Burgundy: Viré-Clessé. Having embarked into the expensive and dangerous territory of Pouilly-Fuissé, and it’s aristocratic neighbours of Mersault, Chabilis, and the outrageously expensive Montrachets , I found in Viré-Clessé the equivalent of The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard in a bottle. White orchard fruits with a hint of toffee-apple, pineapple and cream, subtle minerality and balanced acidity, fleshy with a long and satisfying finish. John Gilmore, Curtis Fuller, Tommy Flanagan, and of course Freddie. No sponsorship or inducements received. You might ask, why not?
LJC “LIFESTYLE GURU” SPECIAL – Cullinary notes, to accompany jazz-listening. I have no idea if this stuff of interest to jazz listeners, but I think it is an opportunity to unite the senses, the union of tasting and listening. I have long said jazz is like fine wine for the ears. Here is a chance to turn the tables, good wine is like jazz for taste buds (but contains sulphites)
WINE – White Burgundy from The Macon
A little more exploration of the wines of the Macon wines is on my recently-revived sister site Age Improves With Wine. No beard required, and sorry, craft beer enthusiasts, you will need to go elsewhere for your preferred tipple.
There are over thirty villages in Macon that produce wine at village level. Individual villages often have a bias towards one end of the taste spectrum (more minerality than fruit, more fruity than mineral…) which is why pooling wine under the banner “Macon-Villages” often produces a more satisfactory balance. However it also results in “levelling down”.
At first I was bewildered by the sheer variety of offerings, villages and names in the Macon. The wine trade is no help, as they are in the business of selling, not informing. The Wine Expert writers concentrate on the unaffordable high-end stuff that interests wine experts. Consumer-reviews/opinions are a guide to other peoples tastes, not yours: you will find quickly not the same thing. As usual, it’s necessary to find your own way, by trial and error.
I found several Macon AOC areas where local growers consistently produce a more attractive wine than other villages, and better than mere blends, and at an affordable price. I didn’t say “cheap”, I said affordable, which is wine-speak for at least 10, more likely 15, up to 20 something, name your own currency £ – $ – €. Up to this price-point, a disappointing bottle is just part of your learning curve, and shouldn’t put you off. Any higher price becomes more like Russian Roulette, but with worse odds.
One of the best known AOC in affordable-Macon is Saint-Veran, though personally I don’t much like it. Among the others, a consistently good choice has been Macon-Lugny. The best I have found so far in price and quality is Viré-Clessé. My producer pick is Domaine Les Gandines and its killer expression is their Climat Les Gandines, a special plot which gets special treatment. I am sure there are many others.
Distribution of Domaine wines is patchy and it may not be available to you locally , especially USA. The cooperative Caves de Viré-Clessé accounts for a large amount of local production, and higher volumes mean wider distribution, and accessibility. I thought it good enough to buy six. As always, seek out the best producers, to combine best place of origin with wine-making skill, and aspiration to quality over lowest price. Trial and error starts here. When ready to take the plunge, anywhere is a good place to start.
Burgundy whites go perfectly with Comté, France’s favourite and finest hard cheese. Made only in the Jura region of Eastern France, with milk exclusively from Montbéliarde or Simmental cows, who feed on high-altitude pasture populated with varieties of alpine flowers that create its unique nutty fruity flavour, not unlike Swiss Gruyere, only more textured and dense. Strict quality controls allow only around half the cheese produced to be sold under the protected name Comté with its green bell logo.
Its quality improves as it is aged, from 6 to 18 months or more, priced accordingly, The 24 months has stunning depth of flavour. Aged Comté is THE BLUE NOTE of French cheese, not to be confused with Blue Cheese, which is altogether a different kettle of fish.
The essential skill in buying Comté is to familiarise yourself with “cost per kilogram”, buried in the small print by the manufacturers. Comté is priced according to how long it has been aged (affiné). Basic Comté aged 6 months is priced by French supermarkets at around €12-€15/kg, 12 months at €20/kg, 18 months at €24/kg, 24 months at €40. Having tried all the age-versions, the 15 months aged offers the sweet spot.
Cheesy-pedia, a source I just made up, shows you where AOC French cheeses come from, and their relative production volumes. Cheese names are protected and use of that name confined to their area of production, bit like wine, and with lots of other regulations. They love regulating, and trying to work around regulations, it is a national sport.
Note: I miss-spelt Comté earlier, as Compté, which is how I used to pronounce it – wrongly. It has no “p”- because it is not pressed by Plastylite. It’s cheese, not vinyl, and it tastes better too.
LJC Lifestyle Concierge reviews male grooming products: beard oil, moustache-end wax, and skin moisturiser for the gritty urban lifestyle.(Declaration of Interest: no beard)