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Gavin Walker's "The Jazz Show" - May features
Gavin Walker's "The Jazz Show" is heard Mondays 9PM to midnight on CITR 101.9 FM and online. Each show features an entire album at 11PM.
The 11:00PM Jazz Features this month:
May 1: Lee Morgan “Tom Cat”.
May 8: Mary Lou Williams “Zoning”.
May 15: Charles Mingus “Cumbia and Jazz Fusion”.
May 22: Hank Mobley “Workout”.
May 29: Bobby Hutcherson “Oblique”.
May 1: “Tom Cat” was a fairly obscure album in the Blue Note catalogue and happily it’s now easily available. It was an important milestone in the recording career of trumpeter extraordinaire Lee Morgan (born in Philadelphia on July 10, 1938 and shot to death by his estranged girlfriend on February 19, 1972 on the bandstand at Slug’s Saloon in New York). At the time of this recording Morgan (who had a huge jazz hit with “The Sidewinder”) had returned to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers replacing the man who had replaced him.....trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. Morgan had by this time cleaned up his act as he had been strung out on heroin since 1958 and was now clean and playing better than ever. The three-horn front line was a familiar one and all three horn men were Jazz Messengers. The late Jackie McLean was with Blakey on and off for two and a half years from 1956 to 1958. Lee and trombonist Curtis Fuller were Messengers at the time of this date on August 11, 1964. They all knew one another and blended beautifully. McCoy Tyner (who will be at this year’s Jazz Festival) was to become a Jazz Messenger in late 1965 after leaving John Coltrane’s ever changing and expanding band. Tyner was the perfect choice for Lee Morgan as McCoy and Lee grew up together in Philadelphia, Chicago and Bob Cranshaw is a strong and creative bassist and holds down the bottom with his great sound. The surprise of the date is the drummer.....the one and only Art Blakey. Art had stopped doing sideman dates and a few years before this set but at the behest of Lee Morgan, who Blakey thought of as a son came in to do the date and of course sounds wonderful and adds so much musical colour to the band. Blakey always played differently as a sideman than as a leader which is a great testament to his musicality. The tunes are all composed and arranged by Lee with the exception of the ballad of the date called “Twilight Mist” by Tyner. We know that you’ll like this recording and it’s nice to know that it is easily available. Grab it while you can as sometimes these albums disappear quickly.
May 8: Mary-Lou Williams (born in Atlanta, Georgia on May 8, 1910 and died in New York on May 28, 1981) would be 96 years old today and she can as a jazz pioneer arranger/composer and pianist be called “The First Lady of Jazz”. Mary-Lou (born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs) was brought up in Pittsburgh and when she was 13 won talent shows and began working in carnivals and vaudeville and at 16 married saxophonist John Williams and moved to Memphis then to Kansas City where she became pianist and arranger in Andy Kirk’s fine big band. She wrote arrangements for Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and after divorcing Williams she married trumpeter Shorty Baker and formed a band with him that included a young drummer named Art Blakey. She re-settled in New York and eventually performed with the New York Philharmonic her famous “Zodiac Suite” (1946). Although her career had ups and downs she was always there and her life was a living history of this music. She was a quiet influence on the modern jazz movement as she befriended Tadd Dameron, Bud Powell and especially Thelonious Monk. She was very active in the years before her death from cancer. She toured Europe, performed concerts, gave lectures and played here in Vancouver in the late seventies; brought here by Brian Nation’s Vancouver Jazz Society. Mary-Lou was also Artist in Residence at Duke University in North Carolina from 1977 until her passing. Tonight’s feature is one of her best albums called “Zoning”.....it features Ms. Williams playing her compositions in a trio context with Bob Cranshaw on acoustic and electric bass and Mickey Roker on drums and a couple of pieces with the late Milton Suggs on bass and Tony Waters on congas that are very effective. Mary-Lou in this 1974 date proves how she kept up with the times and how timeless her music is. Happy Birthday Mary-Lou.....your music is forever.
May 15: Charles Mingus needs no introduction to listeners to “The Jazz Show” and his biography is on the web and in most jazz reference books. Mingus was born in Nogales, Arizona on April 22, 1922 and died of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in Cuernavaca, Mexico on January 5, 1979. These two works heard tonight are perhaps Mingus’ last great compositions. ‘Music from Todo Modo” was for an Italian film about the relationship of church and state in Italy and was directed by Elio Petri. Petri wasn’t able to use the score for the Italian version of the film through no fault of Mingus’ but the music was used in the American version. Mingus’ working band of late 1976 was used (the same band that played here in Vancouver at “Oil Can Harry’s” Jazz Room in that year). George Adams on tenor saxophone and alto flute, Jack Walrath on trumpet, Danny Mixon on piano and Dannie Richmond on drums and Mingus plus a variety of Italian musicians augmenting the group. The music is dark and moody and has fine solos by some of the Italians and the Mingus regulars. The beauty in this piece is the composition and changing moods and textures that are Mingus’ forte and of course, Charles’ presence on bass is of paramount importance.
The second long composition has even more mood changes and is again inspired by a film about the cocaine trade in Columbia and the deep division in this third world nation between rich and poor and ethnic groups eg. the Spanish versus the First Nations people and all the politics. Mingus in this composition called “Cumbia and Jazz Fusion” combines some of the ethnic music of South America with jazz and also makes a political statement about American Blacks in true Mingusean fashion which can be both pointed and angry and funny and sardonic. The people involved here as recorded in 1977 were the same basic band except that George Adams is replaced by a young Ricky Ford on tenor saxophone and Danny Mixon is replaced on piano by Bob Neloms. Again the band is augmented by extra reeds (saxophones, oboes, flutes, etc.) and by a long time Mingus alumnus: trombone master Jimmy Knepper. Along with the extra horns are three Lation percussionists including the great “Conuero” Candido. These two long works represent the last significant works by Mingus as not too long after this recording the effects of Mingus’ illness began to affect his stamina and playing ability. Mingus may be gone but his music lives.....listen up tonight!
May 22: Introduce Hank Mobley as the “Welterweight champion of the tenor saxophone” is a cliche and cliches were not part of Hank Mobley’s style but as with all frequently used sayings there is a element of truth at the core. Mobley in his time was surrounded with “heavyweights” namely Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane and it was they that got the bulk of attention as they were making ground breaking musical statements. Also both Trane and Sonny had very compelling sonorities. Hank’s style was smooth and flowing and he had a sound that he described as “not a big sound and not a small sound but a round sound”. Hank was a consistent player and not one to alter his style as Rollins and Trane did so Hank didn’t get the same attention although in many ways he is just as important a modern voice as Trane and Sonny.
Hank was born in Eastman, Georgia on July 7, 1930 and died in Philadelphia on May 30, 1986 of double pneumonia. Hank was raised by his mother in Newark, New Jersey and as a young man took a few lessons then taught himself the saxophone starting on the alto then the baritone (both in E flat) then finally on the tenor, his main horn. Hank also taught himself to write and arrange and was soon playing all his horns in Paul Gayten’s rhythm and blues band in 1950-51. He was discovered by the great bop pioneer Max Roach and worked with him for a couple of years developing his tenor and composing chops. Further gigs with Tadd Dameron and Horace Silver followed before Silver’s band became the Jazz Messengers under Art Blakey. After Blakey Hank rejoined Roach in 1959 and by this time Hank had become a prolific recording artist with albums full of his own tunes for Blue Note and Prestige. Hank was so talented as a writer that during recording sessions he would sit in a corner and score a slew of parts for everyone in the band and grind out new tunes in a short space of time. Hank really came to prominence as a member of Miles Davis’ quintet where he remained for two years and it’s during this important tenure that tonight’s feature took place. “Workout” is one of Hank’s finest and not only for the formidable Mr. Mobley but by his company. Grant Green on guitar shares the front line with Hank and the two jell beautifully. The perfect rhythm section si Wynton Kelly on piano who is as consistent as Hank, Paul Chambers on bass and Hank’s favorite drummer “Philly Joe” Jones. With the exception of a standard tune, an old favourite called “The Best Things in Life are Free” the tunes are Hank’s and he wrote all of them in the studio during the recording session! Hank went on to a long recording and performing career until the late seventies when ill-health forced him to stop playing and a lung was removed. Hanks’ history with drugs and alcohol was very much a factor in his demise and he died in obscurity and poverty. It was only through the Blue Note re-issue program driven by archivist Michael Cuscuna that Hank was re-discovered by a whole new generation of jazz musicians and listeners and posthumously given the honours and recognition that he deserved when he was alive. “Workout” is a workout so check it out tonight!
May 29: By now everyone knows that Bobby Hutcherson is coming to the Jazz Festival this year. His biography has been posted here before and he was a “jazz feature” artist on April 3 with his album called “The Stroll”. If you missed that you don’t want to miss the feature tonight and this recording is one of Bobby’s finest from an important period in his musical history when he was still based in New York. He had already made an important quartet album with Herbie Hancock on piano called “Happenings” (that one cries out for a Rudy Van Gelder re-issue). Tonight’s feature was never issued until the early eighties in Japan. the similarity in personnel and the fact that it was a quartet date prevented it from being issued soon after it was done in 1967. “Oblique” is a masterpiece and thankfully it is easily available today.
Hutcherson and Herbie Hancock work so well together that they are a near perfect match and the young and sadly ill-fated bassist Albert Stinson is a plus. Stinson died of an overdose a few years later and we lost a potentially important style setter. Albert was only 25 when he died on June 2, 1969. Stinson had worked with drummer Chico Hamilton, vibist Terry Gibbs, saxophonists John Handy and Charles Lloyd and guitarist Larry Coyell. Albert is an important piece in this album’s mosaic as is drummer/percussionist Joe Chambers. Chambers composed two of the selections on the date, Bobby did three and Hancock’s famous theme from the sixties film “Blow Up” is featured. “Oblique” stands out from and center as one of Bobby Hutcherson’s finest recordings. See you and Bobby Hutcherson at this year's’ Jazz Festival.
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