Alan Lee: Australian Jazz Anthology (1973-4) Jazzman (2015)

UPDATE April 26 :  LOST ALBUM  “MINGUS AT RONNIE SCOTTS, 1972” (see Collector’s Corner foot of post) 

I’m still in beachcomber mode right now, wandering the jazz musical shoreline, picking up odd pieces of musical interest, Hopefully you find something of interest too. Another trip down under, bonza! (Aussie slang, equivalent to “awesome”)Selection: Enchanted Lady  (Milt Jackson)

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Tracklist (compilation)

A1  Alan Lee Quartet – Sunflower (Freddie Hubbard) 9:28
A2  Alan Lee Jazz Quartet – Dance Of The Adolescents  (Stravinsky) 4:58
A3  Alan Lee Quartet  – Love Song 10:13
B1  Alan Lee Quintet And Friends – Enchanted Lady (M.Jackson) 5:58
B2  Alan Lee Quartet – Sketch 5:56
B3  Alan Lee Quartet – Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5*   5:39
B4  Alan Lee  Quartet – Bailero*  6:15

Artists 

“Enchanted Lady”:  Ken Schroder, baritone saxophone; Ray Martin, bass; Ron Sandilands, drums; Kenny White, guitar; Tony Gould, piano; Alan Lee, vibraphone;  recorded 1974 at East Recording Studio, Melbourne, Australia, John McDiarmid, recording engineer, Producers – Alan LeeBill Hawtin.

Other tracks: Ted Vining, Jochen Schubert, Jeannie Lewis – vocals (B3*, B4*),

Music

Original track Enchanted Lady: Impulse AS 9193 “Memphis Jackson” – Milt Jackson and Ray Brown Big Band

Alan Lee’s cover of “Enchanted Lady” has a relaxed but swinging pulse, to which a baritone sax adds a perfectly choreographed solo, sonorous footsteps floating over the bar lines, against Kenny White’s insistent guitar comps. The Milt Jackson original also sounds pretty good, and Lee’s cover of the track introduced me to an Impulse album I was unfamiliar with, and to be honest, I wouldn’t otherwise have looked at. So it’s a win:win day.

Alan Lee Quartet/Quintet sound fresh, not pushing the boundaries, nor karaoke Americana, an original flavour, this album is perfect for sitting back on an evening sofa, nursing your choice of poison – Irish pot still whiskey for me at the moment, and “wash away the dirt of the day”. Jazz cures all ills, though is not yet available on prescription.

The Vibraphone

Notes from a vibraphone player, JD Wolfe: “A very strange instrument indeed. Costs a fortune. Weighs a ton. Takes forever to set up and tear down at the gig, and you need to plug it in when you get there. You need a truck to move it and a barn to store it in. Hardly ever called for in a working band, and very rarely anyplace else.

So why would anyone play it? It has a completely unique and wonderful sound. It’s tremendously expressive, and can fit in many genres of music, even if it does not often get the chance. The players who can really play make it laugh, cry and do everything in between”

Jazzman Release Notes:
 
“There are few Australian originals in jazz, though vibraphonist Alan Lee surely ranks alongside the best. Australian jazz is and always will be an interpretation of the American art form, but throughout his long career Lee has ploughed his furrow undaunted: ‘What I want is the fire! Whether it’s John Coltrane’s Blues Minor from Africa Brass or Backwater Blues by Lead Belly, I want the emotion, the gut wrenching pain, the cry from within!

 

These are uninhibited words. A musician and bandleader who cut a number of jazz sides for small independent Melbourne labels from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, Lee has always searched for this fire, evident in the broad styles he’s covered throughout his career, and which we have attempted to explore here, the first and only collection of music from Alan Lee. From ’60s soul jazz, to the deep modal sounds of the early ’70s and cross-genre experiments exhibited in his chamber jazz, Lee’s personal life has been as varied and explorative as his music, a journey that has taken him beyond the thresholds of jazz improvisation and spiritual awareness.

The tracks that feature on this anthology were recorded by various incarnations of Lee’s band and are taken from across three albums recorded between 1973 and 1974. These albums represent the sole output in LP format that can be credited to Lee as band leader, and all are collectors’ items in their own right.
 
The deep modal version of Love Song and Freddie Hubbard’s perennial spiritual jazz standard Little Sunflower are both taken from the self-titled LP ‘Alan Lee Jazz Quartet’. The album ‘Gallery Concerts 1973′, which was recorded for Bruce Clarke’s jazz sub-label Cumquat Records, provides us with a fierce electric-jazz version of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring: Dance Of The Adolescents plus the plaintive chamber jazz of John Lewis’ Sketch as well two tracks featuring vocalist Jeannie Lewis; Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 and the beautiful Bailero in which Lee exchanges the vibraphone for the conductors role in presiding over a jazz trio accompanied by a seven piece concert ensemble. Completing this compendium is a track taken from the 1974 follow-up recording for Jazznote, the album titled ‘The Smilor’; included is a cover of the Milt Jackson-penned Enchanted Lady.

What you are hearing on this album is the story of one man’s travels, a journey within a foreign art form but also a journey within himself. Illustrated in the stories Lee shares, such as his correspondence with fellow vibraphone player Gary Burton on how to achieve advanced extended techniques for the vibraphone (resulting in pages of technical diagrams) or travelling across the US to purchase an original 1940s Deagan Imperial Vibraphone from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ‘Just to get that Milt Jackson sound’. There are moments of deep introspection and intellect in Lee’s playing, emotional music that contains and shares a common spiritual oneness, seeking the thrill he experienced after first listening to Lionel Hampton and the Benny Goodman Quartet. The emotion, the gut wrenching pain, the cry from within

Vinyl: Jazzman JMANLP 078 released October 30, 2015.
 
Produced for re-issue by Gerald  “Jazzman” Short; compilation mastering by Colin Young, See Why Audio; cover art original painting by David Tolley; sleeve-notes and archive research, James Pianta, (who was also the Producer of the two Jazz Roundtable Pyramid Pieces Australian jazz compilations).
 

 

Collector’s  Corner

I’m well behind the curve with these Australian jazz reissues, but the musical content is worthy of attention. even the operatic vocals of Jeannie Lewis, and from me that is saying something. 

Alan Lee albums appear to be quite collectable – The Smilor (1974)  sells at between £100 and £250. Discogs tells the story – 

That’s probably me done with Australian Jazz, for now.

I have a certain admiration for entrepreneur/music curators like Gerald “Jazzman” Short: a discerning ear for little-known but excellent music worthy of attention, unobtainable originals,  jumping through all the legal licensing obstacles, high quality audiophile manufacture, deliver at a reasonable price-point, they offer an enjoyable road of discovery of music you would not otherwise hear. For little more than pocket-money.

If you have any musical explorations to share, why not throw them in?  And how are some getting along with recent Tone Poets? I’m curious as I haven’t jumped in with the last few.

Postscript

Over the last two years, under the rule of the Medi-ocracy, a lot of WhatsUp funnies were in circulation, now past their amuse-by date. One, you may have seen, I decided to keep:

1931 composition by Duke Ellington, lyrics by Irving Mills.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Horizon Scanning

It’s Record Store Day, Saturday April 24, and as I type this, Man-in-a-Shed has been queueing approaching two hours outside a record store in darkest Dorset, along with hundreds of other record collectors. RSD is a uniquely cruel way of selling records, forcing collectors to queue in the cold for hours to buy the only one copy of the record allocated to that store. Why not also beat the collectors with sticks, stamp on their toes, and douse them with freezing cold water? 

Online sales for any remaining RSD stock starts at 8pm Friday 29th April, but can you take the chance your choice will remain?  Inevitably, some copies will find their way onto Discogs, at a significant mark up. It’s that, or persuade a friend to queue up in the cold, which is what I have done. 

On the shopping list for me is this RSD 22 Special Release, Mingus, Live in London 1972.

A fifty year round trip – London’s Soho 1972, to RTI Camarillo, California, and back again to London, 2022 RSD, and no Avios. Official live recordings at Soho’s Ronnie Scotts are generally impeccable: perfect small venue for jazz acoustics, appreciative live audience, who double up as  sound-baffles.

UPDATED April 26: My initial fears that this would just be a special edition of the widely circulating bootleg CD have been allayed by advance reviews of The Lost Album, which provides a little background to the origins of the tape source, gleaned from the detailed accompanying booklet..

“The end of Mingus’s 1972 European tour, Columbia Records (established in the UK as CBS ) sent a mobile recording truck to Ronnie Scotts, to tape the sextet for two nights. Release fell by the wayside when the following year, in 1973, Columbia dropped its entire jazz roster except for Miles Davis.” (quoting Downbeat).

London Jazz News, April 2022

Resonance Records is a specialist US  jazz label with a track record in “lost” live recordings. I have three RSD Resonance issues, the Bill Evans In England – whose recording source is a “trench-coated bootlegger with a portable recorder in his lap”, rendered legitimate by retrospective licensing from the Evans estate. The Adderley in Seattle  is another “amateur” tape of a live Adderley performance. Eric Dolphy Musical Prophet  includes two all-but unlistenable transfers of Dolphy albums – Iron Man and Music Matador (alt takes). Despite the stellar personnel, many United Artists Alan Douglas sessions are not very good recordings, and sadly these two are no exception.

The Bootleg Mingus at Ronnie Scotts CD

The bootleg double CD of Mingus at Ronnie Scotts (above) has almost identical track timings to the Resonance Lost Album, which points to a common source: somebody at Columbia/CBS leaked, or more likely, copied the original tapes to generate an unofficial unlicensed  bootleg. Only two things wrong – It is a CD, and it is mastered for CD from a 2nd generation tape of unknown transfer quality. 

Back to the Resonance Edition. US reviewer of  The Lost Mingus:

Lee Rice Epstein, The Free Jazz Collective April 2022

 

“Arguably more than any other label, Resonance Records—and particularly producer and co-president Zev Feldman—understands that, despite the middling quality of recordings circulating on the bootleg market, nothing beats a properly mastered archival release”

 

“And for a recording like this one of Charles Mingus playing live at London’s Ronnie Scott’s, from August 1972, the long-circulating bootlegs have met a King Kong of an archival release in Resonance’s brand-new The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott’s.

 

 The shows at Ronnie Scott’s club were professionally recorded the mastering gives listeners a great opportunity to listen closely to the drums and bass, eclipsing whatever might have been heard on previously circulating bootlegs”

 

The reviews so far are based on listening to the Resonance CD edition, no mention of the vinyl quality in any of the text. The vinyl vs CD sonic debate is rarely if ever mentioned in online reviews, because they all operate on the digital platform. Their only question is CD vs. Bandcamp.  You will have to wait for me to find out if it was worth Man-in-a-Shed ‘s long early morning queueing for the vinyl.  

LJC

First Listening Mingus Lost Album

Utterly gorgeous! Stupendous!! Magnificent recording and playing. Is just about the best sounding record in my entire collection, a must have.

 

 

5 thoughts on “Alan Lee: Australian Jazz Anthology (1973-4) Jazzman (2015)

  1. I agree with your theory about the RSD but with an appreciation: some thumbtacks in the feet while we wait at the door of the store and if it may be that it is mandatory to wait in the fetal position, although on second thought it is better not to give new ideas. I have tried (unsuccessfully) to get the “Art Pepper meets the Rhythm Section” MONO from Craft. Hard task. I finally got it online (successfully) at triple its price. It’s sad but that’s how it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a child of the ’60s and fluent in ‘strine, Aussie slang, Earl’s Court Argot, Free Sheilas big sign, seems timely for an early ’70s recording, no? “Eye-level arch airman pickle, emma chizzit?” But this “fair dinkum”… got me reaching for Google translate.

      Like

  2. Uuuh, very much interested in the Bill Evans in England and the Adderley in Seattle, so please let your audience know if it was worth all the early morning queuing…

    Like

  3. I’ll leave my comments on Aussie Jazz till I have a bit more time….I have had a copy of the Mingus at Ronnie Scotts for some years and the quality is great for an ‘unofficial’ release. From what I recall, it was captured by folk from Columbia/CBS, so somebody must have leaked the tapes somewhere along the line….An official version should be pretty stunning

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