Mal Waldron: Seagulls of Kristiansund (1986) Soul Note

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

Selection: Seagulls Of Kristiansund (Waldron)

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.

. . .

Artists

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.

Music:

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)

Grachan Moncur’s “Love and Hate” (heard on Jackie McLean’s Destination Out) comes to mind, as does Booker Little’s “Man of Words” (Out Front) and Andrew Hill’s “Dedication” (Point of Departure).

 

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

Collector’s Corner: Mal Waldron

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.

 Interview with Mal Waldron on his 86th birthday.

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 seagullsbut 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

LJC

20 thoughts on “Mal Waldron: Seagulls of Kristiansund (1986) Soul Note

  1. Warm Canto is a beautiful track from The Quest album .Sounds like Ravel or some modern classical piece.

    I have a reissue on OJC. There isn’t a weak track on it. The album features an amazing collaboration between Eric Dolphy and Booker Ervin contrasting their styles and phrasing to great effect.Not sure if they collaborated on other projects.

    Highly recommended album and , to my ears ,OJC sounds fine.

  2. After listening to most of the suggestion on this page, I’ve got to say that you struck conceptual gold with the Suspended Time Jazz™-designation. Those tunes are nice places to be in. I will try and suggest two more (not ballads, but I hope that’s ok): Gene Ammons: “Ca’ Purange (Jungle Soul)” from Bad! Bossa Nova and Ahmad Jamal: Poinciana from But not for me

    • Interesting, Ralph, I have both. The Jamal I know well, but I haven’t played the Ammons in many moons. Esquire mono, 32-178, VAN GELDER metal, bless you Esquire. . Ca Purange goes on the turntable tonight, thank you for the suggestion.

  3. Great post, thanks for putting it into words. Another example for me would be Bobby Hutcherson’s “Verse”, on “Stick-Up!”.

  4. This is so beautiful it’s scary. Wow! At ~17:16 Blackwell scared the living daylights out of me… and half the Vanguard audience. I am awaiting with bated breath the copy of The Quest I just ordered and now must add this to the list. Coincidentally I have just been reevaluating Charlie Rouse and this confirms my notion that he is a much better player than I ever realized. I was just too young to know better. Workman’s playing on this track is miraculous.

    Coltrane was a master of suspended time.

    Finally, apologies to “Vinyl Word.” Forgive me for forgetting Sly Stone’s maxim – “Different strokes for different folks.” I am too opinionated by half.

    • Charlie Rouse – great sound .Played over 10 years with Monk “ Straight No Chaser” is my favourite but it’s all great. In the old film clips, he just stands at the back , looking vaguely disinterested ,then blows an amazing solo.

      Recommend off the beaten track “Two is One “ on Strata East 1973 .A major divergence for Rouse into some very edgy , aggressive , somewhat experimental soulful jazz. It sounds like its coming from a “ police no go area “in New York City ,brilliant jazz and very atmospheric

  5. Whenever I listen to The Quest, I feel like listening to Goodbye Pork Pie Hat with Charles Mingus on AH UM ( also the other way around).

    • Clearly the writer has put a lot of effort into this Mal-blog, a labour of love. It sorely needs some Youtube uploads, or rips, to flesh out the descriptions, but it is a good reference point for Mal’s recordings, many of which I am not familiar with. Disappointing few if any of the posts attract comments.

  6. ”Warm Canto” is so good. Love Waldron. This Seagull album sounds superb. ”Snake Out” makes me think of the Five Spot albums with Dolphy. Blackwell on drums here as well, one of my favorites.

  7. Had to get this on CD in a 4 LP boxset because just like GtF I can’t pay the market rate.
    FYI the performance was also video recorded and released on DVD with material that’s not on either LP.
    IMHO they missed a piece of music even more exquisite than Seagulls.
    All Alone another of Waldron’s tunes, which is one of my desert island discs.

    • Thanks, I had no idea this had been filmed. Thanks.

      All Alone/ Left Alone is a great piece, I think I have a version Left Alone Revisited on Steeplechase CD, with Waldron and Archie Shepp, great stuff

      Original here?

      • Left Alone would have originally been sung by Billie Holliday but they never recorded it. I have that Archie Shepp LP, incredible music especially considering how frail they both look.
        Assume you’ve seen this documentary but just in case..

  8. I agree this is a wonderful example of the treasures to be found on Soul Note. Rouse is especially interesting being outside his work with Monk. “The Git Go” mentioned above with one side dedicated to Status Seekers is also excellent. As far as other so called Suspended Time Jazz I can suggest a few from out of left field. “Gnostic ” from Some other stuff , Grachan Moncur III on Blue Note, “Mademoiselle Mabry” from Filles de Kilimanjaro , Miles Davis on Columbia and at the risk of another Doom Girl laser ,”Zee Zee ” from Gil Evans Live at the Public Theater Vol2 featuring Hannibal Peterson. I will now retreat to my bunker just in case.

    • Interesting nomination of Moncur’s Gnostic.

      When first I reviewed Some Other Stuff, back in 2012, I chose the more mainstream track Thandiwa as the selection. I was still in “short trousers” with this darker stuff https://wordpress.com/post/londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/18145
      Too soon, at the time I was still discovering Blue Note soul-jazz and Big John Patton.

      Great thing about maintaining a varied vinyl collection, including some rash and ill-judged purchases, you can find your tastes “growing up”. Some those early purchases you decided you didn’t like, take on a new life, like Moncur.

      Sadly, not my Cecil Taylors, which each time, sound worse and worse.

  9. Nooooo, LJC! I’ve been looking for this record forever, and now the already high prices will go up even farther! You devil! 🙂

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