UPDATE January 10, Harry M photo Charlie Rouse 1969 Jazz Expo added
Revisiting the Italian Soul Note label and its chest of jazz treasures, this recording is a real oddity : Mal Waldron, Woody Shaw, Charlie Rouse, stellar line up, but in the mid ’80s. Recorded live in NYC by a Japanese engineer, a reflection on birdwatching in coastal Norway? Nothing here makes any conceptual sense, but it is one of those conflations that makes perfect musical sense, once the needle drops.
Join me, with another LJC first, the Jazz Twitchers…
Caution! Atmospheric unfolding piece, many lengthy quiet passages, time stands still, this not a quick hit, you need time to listen and absorb the music. Set aside time and you will be rewarded.
. . .
Woody Shaw, trumpet; Charlie Rouse, tenor sax, flute; Mal Waldron, piano; Reggie Workman, bass; Ed Blackwell, drums; recorded live at the “Village Vanguard”, NYC, September 16, 1986; recording engineer Kazunori Sigiyama; mastered at PhonoComp, Tribianao, Milan, Italy by Gennaro Carone; issued by Soul Note in 1989.
Mal Waldron encompassed a wide range of musical styles during his lengthy career, from hard bop, through Billie Holiday accompanist, to brooding, rhythmic, introverted and freer settings.
His New Jazz album The Quest – Warm Canto – has Dolphy unusually on conventional clarinet, a stunning session. A good example of a romantic/almost classical cinematic landscape, that falls outside the usual categories of hard bop, post-bop and avant garde. Re-tune your ear, as a warm up:
Warm Canto (Waldron, from New Jazz The Quest)
On vinyl: LJC mono vinyl rip of the UK Extra issue, has a sharpness and detail in definition – compare Ron Carter’s pizzicato with the stereo Youtube upload below, no doubt souced from CD, which sounds vastly inferior in my opinion, but still beautiful music.
Seagulls of Kristiansund (Waldron)
Seagulls of Kristiansund offers another atmospheric musical landscape, hypnotic slow pace, improbably effective – bird-calls! Extraordinarily rendered naturalistic sounds by Charlie Rouse and Woody Shaw, and sense of natural open air, absent urban dust and smoky dive. This live Waldron session at Village Vanguard must have captivated and transfixed the fortunate audience, in the presence of a great moment in music.
Similar musical territory is found in Clifford Jordan’s Glass Bead Game (Strata East) “John Coltrane”. and Grant Green’s languid, seductive gem, Idle Moments. A genre that doesn’t have a name, other than Suspended Time Jazz™
I know what I think, but before pressing the “publish” button I like to snoop around online, to check what others think of an album. I chanced on this review of Mal Waldron’s Seagulls, so passionate, articulate and insightful, I didn’t feel I could say it better. It covered everything I would want to say. In an unusual step for LJC, I hand over the post to very articulate jazz blogger Darkforcesswing:
“Browsing the other day, I stumbled upon a Soul Note record I’d heard back in college but never revisited: Mal Waldron’s The Seagulls of Kristiansund: Live at the Village Vanguard…
The band immediately struck me: Charlie Rouse on sax, Woody Shaw on trumpet, Reggie Workman on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums. All hardbop heavy hitters, some—like Waldron—with avant-garde tendencies. You can hear vigorous uptempo swing on the first track, a reading of “Snake Out,” Waldron’s signature tune. But the one I keep coming back to is the title track, a true jazz dirge.
If there’s one thing I love in jazz, it’s that—those pieces that move beyond ballad-hood into an almost oppressive sadness.
(LJC interrupts – all three of these tracks have been my selection on these three titles, we are on the same wavelength, so I have added links to rips)
I just love these works that take their time and trudge along, ideally forcing an emotional engagement on the part of both the soloists and the listener.
This is one of those pieces, crawling along at a near-stillness, Waldron and Workman laying out a spare framework in the background, like a bruise deepening into blue and purple over the course of almost half an hour. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Ed Blackwell playing this slowly and sparely before. I think of him as an almost jolly mid- or uptempo player, most at home feelwise when he can really crackle and make the most of his marchy cadences. Here, he’s not even playing time, just a pitter-patter of cymbals and other metallic implements. Waldron and Workman are implying a tempo, but it’s really more of an ooze, a melting forward of time.
The soloists get down deep with it, wading in the muck. You have these players (Rouse and Shaw) who were known as hardbop workhorses, typically heard burning along in muscular fashion. Here they’re forced to engage with the poetry and stillness of Waldron’s conception. Shaw’s playing really puts his feelings on the line. I always recall in the liner notes of Point of Departure how Kenny Dorham describes hearing “Dedication” and being brought to tears. Again, I think of these really hardass golden-age jazzers being stopped in their tracks by something so SLOW and non-virtuosity-oriented, where you’ve just got this sprawling canvas and you have to paint a picture with one of those tiny watercolor brushes.
Blackwell and Workman carrying on a dialogue of micro sounds: taps on the rims of the drums, little arco squeaks. And Waldron hanging out in back like the grim reaper. In a brilliant essay on Mal, Ethan Iverson referred to these three players collectively as the Evil Trio. Here, it’s more like the Heavy Hearted Trio, but I see what he’s getting at.
Once the horns are gone, Waldron wades in, singing so slowly and beautifully through the keys.
I just love this idea and vibe so much. Jazz to me is not about the toe-tapping and the finger-snapping and the brassy glitz. It’s about this kind of meditation, where you’re dropped in an environment and you’re forced to get to know all of it, to explore in the dark. Workman knows about this, and his bass solo isn’t a “bass solo,” where the music stops and the showing off happens. It sounds like a Spanish guitar, thrumming along underneath Waldron’s purplish note cloud.
I have listened to this piece on repeat all week. “Seagulls of Kristiansund” is one of those performances that removes itself from an album, from a discography, from a genre even. It stands out as a moment of communion. A word like “stunning” doesn’t even begin to carry the proper weight.”
LJC adds: Amen, beautiful writing, great depth, great music. Other reviewers echo:
“The Seagulls of Kristiansund defies traditional jazz style conventions and in a way it almost defies the jazz genre” (amateur Discogs reviewer)
“The title track is a haunting meditation in which the interplay between piano and bass supplies one of the album’s downright thrilling features.(amateur Amazon reviewer).
What more can I add?
Vinyl: Soul Note 121 148
It is always interesting what an artist considers their best achievements – remember Coltrane’s nomination of Blue Train as his best work, (though at an early point in his career) Here is what Mal considered his best acheivements.
Do you have five favorite records from your body of work?
Mal: Impressions is one. [Addison Farmer & Tootie Heath] Then The Teddy Charles Tentet. The Mal Waldron-Steve Lacy Quintet on America-Disk. I like The Quest, with “The Warp and the Woof.” And the fifth is with Joe Henderson on “Soul Eyes.”
Interesting. Apart from The Quest (a different track preferred), none of these are on my Waldron List. Joe Henderson on “Soul Eyes.”? I had to look up this CD, line up and format way out of my comfort zone. What’s up?
Mal Waldron has a long and varied musical presence in the jazz oeuvre, recording with countless important artists. What would he consider his best work? At best, it is a pointer to other of their works you may not have encountered, which may be worth seeking out. You can’t argue with an artist’s perspective of their own works, but I have to say it is different from that of a passing listener, who is listening to a whole world of other music. There is a gap here which I am at a loss to fully understand.
Personally, I recommend the Seagulls album.
My less-romantic encounter with seagulls occurred on a balcony in France, where I carelessly left a delicious moist breakfast “pain abricot” momentarily unguarded on the picnic table. While my back was turned, a passing seagull swooped down from the sunny skies, scooped it up with their beak , and flew off.
Eye on the main chance, bloody scavanging seagulls, but such is nature, survival of the flyest.
Any other examples of Suspended Time Jazz?
UPDATE January 10, 2021: Harry M photo, Charlie Rouse 1969 Jazz Expo