Keno Duke/ Contemporaries: Crest Of The Wave (1975) Trident Records

Selection: Uschi (Keno Duke)

.  .  .

Song title dedicated to the designer/photographer credited with the front cover, “Uschi” , which is a female name, apparently the Germanic diminutive of Ursula. The name Keno is also Germanic in origin. Somewhere is a connection, but there seems little known of either. The dedication is to Keno’s father, “Juliano”, the Latin “Julianus” derivative spelling found in Portugese and Spanish, the Italian form being Giuliano, so not from around these parts, and no internet reference I could find.  A few pieces of a jigsaw, final number of pieces unknown.

Artists

Keno Duke, drums; George Coleman, tenor saxophone; Frank Strozier, alto saxophone/ flute; Harold Mabern, piano; Lisle Atkinson, bass; recorded at Minot Studios, White Plains, N.Y. engineer, Randy Adler; front cover photo, Uschi Hahn.

Keno Duke’s very small discography consists of just two albums for Strata East under the name Jazz Contemporaries, with George Coleman and Harold Mabern in common,  Reasons In Tonality (1972) – too much Julius Watkins french horn for me, Sense Of Values (1974) and this title for the obscure Trident Records label.

Keno seems to have disappeared without trace in the mid ’70s, having little or no internet footprint apart from this small discography. He is a capable drummer, nothing out of the ordinary; his strength, unusually for a drummer, was composition. If you are still out there Keno, give us a shout. Any one who knows anything more, tell.

DJ’s like the beats –  Keno’s most sampled tracks are the funky Too Late, Fall Back Baby from the Strata East Sense Of Values album (and The Universal Sound sampler), and Some Other Time from Crest Of The Wave. These are a little lightweight for me, not much use for DJ dance tunes, and the selection Uschi is made of stronger stuff. After a brief drum-solo establishing Keno’s credentials as leader, a lyrical easy opening theme gives way to a tasty upright bass sortie by unknown to me player Lisle Atkinson, before handover to George Coleman to develop the driving force over the modal backdrop. Great.

The best known of the Keno Duke’s Jazz Contemporaries is George Coleman, of Miles Davis’ Quintet (1963–4, replaced briefly by Hank Mobley) and tenor saxophone on Herbie Hancock’s iconic Maiden Voyage (1965). Coleman is a very capable tenor player, why else would Miles have chosen him? But not everyone’s premiere league , why else would Miles have let him go? Stealing the limelight, possibly, as with Hank? An inventive and fluent  player who maintained the spirit of  ’60s jazz through six decades, frequently in collaboration with fellow straight-ahead players  Harold Mabern, the late and most swingingest Billy Higgins, Sam Jones and Ray Drummond.  Coleman still with us, age 84. Clean living, good genes, and maybe just a little luck. We all need that kind of luck.

Music

Great-sounding album from 1974, in the Strata East vein, high energy, punchy, bright, lively pre-digital.  One foot in the Spiritual Jazz genre, the other … a bit more whimsical, funky. An album led by a drummer puts you at risk of death-by-drum solo, and there is one briefly, but on the whole the Jazz Contemporaries keep everything in proportion.

Coleman is the strongest element, along with Mabern’s melodic-leaning piano. Altoist Frank Strozier was one of the Vee Jay young lions from 1960, led a few titles of his own, but was destined ultimately to be a sideman, and eventually left music altogether. His place here is owed to frequent collaboration with Coleman, but his solos are the lesser of the two. Coleman can really turn on the heat, and with a growing fierce hard tone weaves blisteringly fast runs with interesting musical ideas.

George Coleman joins Harold Vick, and Harold Land, in my list of players to listen out for: they are undervalued.

Vinyl: Trident Records TRS 501

Little is known of Keno Duke, or indeed the New York record label Trident Records (active 1975-82) which released just six titles, in the spiritual /modal jazz vein of Strata East.

The artists appear interchangeably between Trident and Strata East, and both used the same studios, Minot Sound, White Plains N.Y. Effectively, they might be one and the same.

 

Collectors Corner

This album piqued my curiosity, repaid with some interest, nothing earth-shattering, but I was becoming frustrated by a string of mediocre sounding albums, like a 1978 Prestige Jazz Masterpiece Japan Victor press of a New Jazz album NJ 8265, “Where?” Ron Carter, Mal Waldron, Eric Dolphy, what a line up!

New Jazz is a frustratingly rare and expensive label in its original form, which were not infrequently troubled by the inclusion of recycled vinyl during manufacture. A Japanese copy is less rare, less expensive, and avoid the disappointment of contaminated vinyl, and one turned up, from Victor Japan, so I took the risk.

A 1961 Van Gelder recording by rights should sound fantastic but sadly it was completely lifeless, dead, a really poor transfer or Fantasy copy tape bodge. Unfortunately I forgot that I had a similar experience with another Prestige/New Jazz title by Victor, low gain, wishy-washy nothing sound.

I thought about starting a Bad Jazz Reissues Section, Rogues Gallery with warning flags. Might be a big one, any thoughts welcome.

Toys-R-Us , Vinyl Edition.

If like me you occasionally find yourself drifting off in a late night listening session, and I suspect one or two out there do, I was introduced by a kindly friend to a little device called a Safety Raiser, by Audio Technica. It is a solution to  prevent a tonearm cart spinning  in the run-out groove overnight. That is a lot of hours use for no benefit.

It is designed to fit almost any turntable, even my Avid, which is a fairly quirky design.It is exasperatingly fiddly to fit, and has a tendency to malfunction occasionally and has required jigsaw-puzzle  reassembly, but when it works, it works! When correctly aligned, and you have remembered to prime it before play, it lifts your tonearm up clear of the vinyl surface, at a point you set just short of the record label. Depending on your listening habits, you may find a device like this – there are probably others, something that can prolong an expensive cartridge life considerably.

It is also fun. Takes me right back to one of my first record players with an auto-changer, an arm that automatically lifted up at the end of the single or album and jerkily returned to its resting point after play (and clicked off, something the Safety Raiser doesn’t). Maybe one day audiophile turntable manufacturers will fit such a device as standard. Or with the benefit of modern technology, a facial recognition-triggered rubber hand, that swings out and slaps you in the face if you appear to be dozing off. The Safety Slapper™

Any other remedies for vinyl malpractice welcomed. Or indeed anything else. And whatever happened to Keno Duke? Someone must know. I love a happy ending, though they seem increasingly rare in our collective dystopia.

Happy Approaching New year, has to be an improvement on the last.

LJC

16 thoughts on “Keno Duke/ Contemporaries: Crest Of The Wave (1975) Trident Records

    • Good to hear about Keno Duke! I was a subscriber to Down Beat in the sixties and early seventies and I have a note in my mind about a review of Keno Duke and his quintet in 1970. A most interesting quintet, with trumpeter Fielder Floyd, tenor saxophonist Frank Haynes, pianist John Hicks, bassist Ronnie Boykins and (then) Clifford (Keno) Duke.
      Fielder Floyd was a very interesting trumpeter and a friend of trumpeter Olu Dara, both from Louisiana. I hear him much later (cassette) as a member of trumpeter Earl Cross’ Ninette. Frank Haynes recorded with drummer Dave Bailey’s quintet.

  1. I purchased my pre-loved copies of both the Strata East and Trident Lp’s way back before CD’s and bar codes. I have always preferred the sound quality of the Strata East Lp and to my ears the group plays with more spirit as well . My Trident 501 has the light blue label , not sure which label was the original . Keno’s Strata release made it to the pages of Down Beat in the May 8, 1975 edition gaining a 3.5 star review. Keno was also the composer of the title track to Harold Mabern’s Trident release “Pisces Calling” TR 506 . Copyright of album 1980 and has the trident label design you show for TR501.
    Back in 1963 when Miles Davis was in San Francisco trying to put a band together for a Black Hawk engagement he ended up with Coleman, Strozier and Mabern ,Strozier and Mabern left or got fired after that date. Interesting that the three were together 10 or so years later. Finally the reasons listed for Coleman leaving Miles ( he resigned) was not enough work and constant late payment . It was also said that he was not a fan of the direction the Hancock/Williams/Carter group were taking the music.
    Keep up your great work !!!!!!

  2. George Coleman. Underated. I suspect because his best work was often on other peoples’ records. Prime examples being Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and Walton’s Eastern Rebellion.

    • Agreed that his best records were other people’s dates (particularly the Eastern Rebellion), but I need to add that his best work was done live. I will always remember one evening at the Keystone Korner where he and Hilton Ruiz has us all standing on our chairs, stomping and yelling. I’d never experienced anything close to that before or since.

    • Not to mention his time with Miles which covered MY FUNNY VALENTINE, FOUR & MORE and if i remember correctly SEVEN STEPS TO HEAVEN…

  3. Trident is a fabulous label. The Frank Strozier is not very good, but the other five are totally fabulous. I highly recommend them all. This is the album that started it for me. Good stuff.

    i have not found myself falling asleep while listening, but I rarely listen late at night. That device is still pretty neat.

  4. The idea of a bad reissue section would be very helpful. Had very different experience with 70´s reissues from Japan. Some really good and other the complete opposite.

  5. I think that the Bad Reissue list is a great idea. With the wave of nostalgia engulfing the past we better remember how bad vinyl could be (oh, the hipsters buying the rechanneled for stereo issues…)

  6. You could buy one of those socket timer things. Set the timer to switch the power off at a time you know you’ll never make. Ok, the tonearm will rest on the record. Is that a bad thing? Don’t think so.

    A length of rope tied around your neck, then threaded through an hoop fastened to the ceiling and then tied to your tonearm. When you fall asleep and lie down, the rope will lift your tonearm. You could die using this idea. But you’d probably die happy! Unless you had Robert Glasper on the turntable… 🙂

    Next idea is the best idea! Give all of your records to me (except any Robert Glasper albums). Turntable and all equipment too! You now have no worries! I will burden myself with them! Just to help you!

  7. Great choice of record! I loved Sense of Value and was recently looking at this title, timely review (for me). George Coleman “warm” tone is great, I didn’t know he had been part of the Miles quintet! I recommend the Dick Griffin on Trident, and actually all Dick Griffin lps…

    Greetings from France,
    Romain

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