Selection: Marjoun (LaRoca) – Muse, 1973
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Original: Majoun – Douglas, 1967
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The remastered Muse sounds quite different to the Douglas original. The stereo stage is quite different. The Muse sounds to me more “congested”, and the Douglas more transparent. Neither sounds “bad”, merely different. It shows what happens when the same recording is mastered by different engineers.
After a decade of reading Ebay sellers yelling “Shrink!” I left the shrink in place, in case someday it might add value.
Pete La Roca, drums; John Gilmore, tenor sax; Chick Corea, piano; Walter Booker, bass; recorded at Impact Sound Studios, NYC, May 25, 1967.
Born Peter Sims, the name La Roca was adopted during his early career in Latin bands. Breaking into the jazz scene in 1957 after catching the ear of Sonny Rollins, La Roca enjoyed a decade of prestigious sideman gigs with many of the top players of the day, culminating in his own Blue Note title as leader in 1965, Basra (BN 4205). The Turkish Women title for Douglas was his second and last album on vinyl as leader.
John Gilmore stepping out of his Sun Ra persona thanks to the persuasive skills of charismatic producer Alan Douglas. The line up is also graced with former Bill Evan’s bassist Chuck Israels.
Alan Douglas, full name Alan Douglas Rubenstein, assembled a unique series of musician permutations for United Artists Jazz series 1962-3. A gifted impressario, unfortunately he lacked a worthy champion in the recording/engineering department. Many of the “bendy tenor” series do not do justice to the artist talent, with messy recording and noisy vinyl pressings.
Speculation on my part, but Douglas seemed totally focused on A&R big-name musician chemistry, marketability, and contractual issues, oblivious to the less glamourous business of recording, mastering and pressing. Studio engineers and pressing plants? Not important in his mind.
After parting with United Artists, Douglas founded his own record label, Douglas Records, whose first release in 1967 was a Pete La Roca recording session, titled Turkish Women At The Bath, featuring the up and coming young pianist, Chick Corea. The series continued with an eclectic collection of artists including guitarists Ritchie Havens and John McLaughlin, and Malcolm X, who I confess I didn’t know played an instrument.
Five years later, the Turkish Women recording was sold to Joe Field’s Muse Records, who subsequently released it in 1973 under a different title, Bliss! (MR-5011), listing Chick Corea as the leader, though every composition was fastidiously credited to La Roca. The original classical painting of Turkish women bathing, by Jean Ingres, was abandoned in favour of a crop of Chick at the piano. Chick rises to the top of the credit last, displacing Gilmore on the Douglas.
At the end of the ’60’s, perhaps disheartened at the lack of opportunities for jazz drummers as leaders, La Roca forsook music, and, after a spell as an NY cab driver, retrained as a lawyer. Seeing his Turkish Women album re-invented as a Chick Corea album was apparently too much, Pete took umbrage, sued Muse, and won”. Muse were forced to withdraw the Chick Corea issue ( though copies remain in circulation, as mine) It was never re-released by Muse as a Pete LaRoca record. Having been taken to court by LaRoca over the leader issue, why would Muse do him the favour of earning him more royalties?
La Roca had just two albums as leader to his name, neither of which were significant sellers, judged by their scarcity today. On the other hand, Chick Corea’s standing had grown, earning growing recognition among record buyers.
Recall all those “Red Garland Quintet” recordings later issued as “John Coltrane” albums by Bob Weinstock ? Coltrane’s stock was higher than Garland’s at that time, it made business sense. La Roca would have fared better with composer royalties from more sales under the Chick Corea name than his own. Taking the recording’s new owner Muse to court over his hurt feeling was a vanity exercise, where ultimately, winning is losing (unless of course you are a lawyer)
The Bliss/ Turkish Women session is a rich pungent stew of later ’60s jazz. Modal, with a more free attitude to harmony and melody, it is typically an encounter between equals rather than the traditional heirachy of leader, front line, and rhythm section. Gilmore is forceful, Corea is inventive and beguiling, La Roca provides an expansive rythymic underpinning, every one else adjusts as required. At the end of the day, it is more Gilmore’s or Corea’s album, than La Roca’s. May be Joe Fields was right.
Vinyl: Muse 5011
Stamped “MASTERED BY (illegible)” If you can figure it out, say.
Muse sleight of hand in title change – : “Turkish Woman At The Baths”: (single woman, plural baths.)
Pete La Roca’s original title for Douglas: “Turkish Women At The Bath” : (plural women, single bath.)
One trick people use nowadays to throw internet searches off track is to introduce “accidental” spelling errors. As an alternative, I recommend the old Jedi mind-trick: “These are not the Turkish Women you are looking for”
Muse were not the only company to put their money on the Chick Corea re-positioning. Here, Rifi Records of Milan
Spain jumps in with Chick Corea, but a further change of title, again, from “Bliss” , now “Love Planet“, stealing the title of another track.
Spain has another go, below, sexy translation: Extasis. Lord knows what that “swollen object” is pictured on the front cover. Looks to me like a gall bladder. Nurse, screens…
Alan Douglas/Pete La Roca may have felt wronged by the elevation of Chick Corea to star status on their recording, but Douglas does not exactly have clean hands. Consider the Alan Douglas Collection, created for United Artists.
The United Artists Jazz Alan Douglas Collection:
Artistically, I found Douglas’s first title, Coltrane Time, the most unsatisfactory, a marriage forged in hell, pairing John Coltrane with Cecil Taylor. To make things worse, Douglas recruited New Thing trumpeter Ted Curson to further poison the quintet. Mercifully, Curson became unavailable for the date, and Kenny Dorham stepped into the breach.
Dorham was less than sympathetic to Taylor’s dissonant comping, constantly voicing disapproval. “The tension can be felt in all the performances…The recording was a limited success” AllMusic understatement of the century, however Cecil Taylor has a following, for whom he is a genius, some of whom have taken me to task over my inability to recognise it. Mea Culpa.
Coltrane Time was actually recorded some five year’s previously, in October 1958. At the time, Cecil Taylor was an emerging artist, having just made his debut album Jazz Advance (1956) for the short-lived Transition label, and a title Looking Ahead for Contemporary (1957). However in 1962, when Alan Douglas was setting out his stall for his United Artists Jazz Series, Coltrane had become Creed Taylor’s star signing to the Impulse! label. Coltrane’s stock was riding high, and to launch his UA Jazz Series, Douglas artfully repackaged this five year old Cecil Taylor date as “Coltrane Time“.
It’s a beautiful Coltrane cover photo, enough to persuade you to take up smoking, but nary a sign of Cecil Taylor, credits vanquished to the liner notes on the back.. However Coltrane Time was not the first time this recording had appeared. In 1959, United Artists had a go at packaging it as “Hard Driving Jazz” under the leadership of, yes, Cecil Taylor.
In 1958, John Coltrane had just issued his iconic title for Blue Note, Blue Train, and sessions as co-leader on some titles for Savoy, with Wilbur Hardin. By 1959 Coltrane’s signing to Atlantic must have been in prospect, so to cover their tracks, United Artist credits Cecil Taylor’s saxophonist as the mystery tenor player, Blue Train (scratches head, puzzled, Blue Train? Who could it be? )
What Joe Fileld’s Muse did to Pete La Roca, is exactly what Alan Douglas did to Cecil Taylor. The only difference was that Cecil Taylor wasn’t a lawyer.
UPDATE: Once again Harry M. turns up with the goods – Cecil (pronounced Ceecil) and Chick (pronounced,um, Cheek?) captured in 1969.
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Personal Update: blogging will be light, temporarily, no music at LJC. All mains power cables of the music system have gone off for upgrading, to Rhodium plugs and fuses. Cold turkey.
Any thoughts on the Alan Douglas Jazz series, the floor is yours – .Blakey – Three Blind Mice? Evans/Hall – Undercurrent? Ellington/Mingus – Money Jungle? Dorham/Mclean – Matador (recent RSD reissue sounded horrid)
United Artists Label LJC Links
Duke Ellington Money Jungle UK UA release – Factory Sample
Benny Golson And The Philladelphians – US UA – Plastylite pressing
Bill Evans Jim Hall – Undercurrent – US UA Stereo, not Plastylite
As you will see from the above, Plastylite were involved in pressing some United Artists titles in the late ’50s. Sometimes it is the mono but not the stereo. I have not found any RVG or Plastylite fingerprints on any Alan Douglas 1962-3 Jazz Series. Douglas was blind to the whole engineering/manufacturing thing. Also I don’t think RVG had a hand in any recordings, so Plastylite merely pressed whatever they were given. They sound poor because Douglas thought the artists was all that mattered, and failed to supervise recording and manage mastering process. One of music history’s unforgivable failures.