Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Band That Could Have Been?

I don't think there were any solid plans to ever bring together Bill Evans, Jim Hall, Zoot Sims, Ron Carter and Philly Joe Jones in a working band, but wouldn't that assemblage of like-minded players have been something to experience? A tantalizing taste of what could have been can be found on the handful of tracks that this ad-hoc quintet recorded in 1962. Evans rarely employed a horn (be it saxophone, trumpet or, in that very special case, harmonica, as played by Toots Theilemans on the 1978 Affinity album) for his own recording sessions. Although there are numerous examples of his inspired interaction with horn men throughout his early career, by the time he starting running the show in 1959, Evans was loath to bring in extra artillery. And for good reason; apart from Affinity, few of his albums featuring expanded ensembles really comes off. Evans had refined the trio format to a fine art and interlopers seemed to upset the calibrated balance. Something tells me he was also a creature of habit who enjoyed the comfort zone of the compact threesome.
This session, unreleased at the time, is a noteworthy exception. Sims is the perfect saxophonist for Evans, a lyrical, melody-obsessed improviser who mates a gorgeous tone with virile, yet always relaxed, swing. And, as an older stylist who grew up worshipping at the altars of Lester Young and Ben Webster, Sims was anything but a frenetic hard bopper. Although obviously touched by bop, Sim's closest allegiance was to the rhythmic verities of the swing era, a grounded approach that suits Evans well.
Could this band have existed outside the controlled walls of a recording studio? Considering that -- as far as I know -- Carter was the only ensemble member who wasn't either plagued by drugs, drink or both, the chances of success might have been slim. Let's just be thankful we've got what we've got and cherish it.
The seven tunes (one in two takes) can be found on the album Loose Blues.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shining Silver

Was the government slipping something into the water supply in 1959? Or was it something that only jazz musicians were drinking? Let's just say it was a zeitgeist thing; change was in the air and the excitement of it all was energizing all the best players. The great Horace Silver wasn't among the cutting edge artists of the time, but if he wasn't shaking things up in the manner of Miles, Coltrane, Mingus, Brubeck, and Ornette, he was certainly honing his special artistry to a rare level of achievement. This edition of his rip-roaring hard bop ensemble was among his best. Saxophonist Jr. Cook and trumpeter Blue Mitchel get only a slice of solo time yet they make the most of it, not by cramming in all they can and racing to a blistering climax, but by constructing cogent statements that impressive through judicious concision. The leader then jumps in and stretches out, constructing a brick-by-brick improvisation that's a model of near abstract funk. His left hand never wavers from the monstrous vamp while compact melodic phrases build one on top of another, spelled by crazy quotations and off-kilter traps that the pianist seems to be setting for himself. Cliches, delightfully employed, are set against twisted phrases that suggest the ruminations of a very funky four-year-old let loose on the family keyboard. And what about the steaming groove that drummer Louis Hayes and the underrated bassist Doug Watkins lay down? Yes, '59 was a very good year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Loaded Bass

Bassist Gary Peacock certainly gets his licks in when working with his chief employer Keith Jarrett, alongside drummer Jack DeJohnette in the so-called "Standards Trio." Despite the many solos that the superstar pianist allots Peacock, there's still significant aspects of his musical personality that remain hidden. To hear the bassist in all his multi-dimensional glory these days, you have to turn to his work with others. I find his interplay with pianist Marc Copland -- particularly in a duet setting -- to be specially rewarding. There's a sense of yearning and deep mystery to a performance like this that you hear far too rarely with the Jarrett trio. Peacock's woody sound is also fully captured here in a way that even escapes the pristine fidelity of the Jarrett ECM recordings. Much like Jarrett, Peacock has his prolix tendencies, but both men convey the most expressive depth when paring their technique down and concentrating on extracting the juice from every well-chosen note.
"Calls and Answers" can be found on the Copland-Peacock recording "What It Says" on the Sketch label.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fancy Footwork

Unlike the late President Gerald Ford, I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but the most physically coordinated person I admittedly am not. So I come to the first generation Hammond organ players with much respect and not a little wonder at their multi-limbed dexterity. Although all kinds of weaving bop lines and greasy blues phrases are emanating from the dual keyboards, the sounds generated from the instrument's lower extremities are what tend to grip my attention. Did these guys have eyes in their feet? How do you keep those swinging bass lines popping from the pedals below while grooving on the keys above? To me it seems a minor miracle, but then again manipulating the vacuum cleaner correctly can strike me as a triumphant act as well.
Be that as it may, Don Patterson was really quite the juggler, keeping hands and feet independently alert and working overtime. The throbbing bass undercurrent that he lays down, grounding this "Impressions" -like workout, is thrilling in its rhythmic solidity and unerring harmonic accuracy. Not to ignore all the activity on the surface, but the substrata action, at least for this flabbergasted listener, is just as riveting. Booker Ervin takes a typically vivid solo that strikes me as being just the right length, considering that modal pieces like this tend to encourage elephant age improvisations. And drummer Billy James, the unsung champion of this performance, exhibits the supportive swing of such 1960s peers as Grady Tate and Al Harewood: utterly dependable, ever-elegant, rhythmic engines steaming behind the onrushing trains. And when the mighty Ervin drops out, the fun really begins. Patterson and James go to town, more than happy to prove that the melodic interjections of a horn or the chordal underpinning of a guitar are unnecessary for them to generate a full-rounded sound or to maintain intensity and interest. A performance like this inspires me to possibly consider clog dancing lessons. Well, maybe not.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Taking the Time

The 1954 Bethlehem album "Basically Duke" isn't a full-fledged Ellington tribute, but it includes a smattering of Duke classics and the presence of three players associated with the band: Pettiford, Clark Terry and Jimmy Hamilton. I don't own the album -- too bad, because I'd love to know who's responsible for this attractive arrangement. Hamilton, the featured soloist, couldn't have possessed a more mellifluous tone and fluid approach; this is the epitome of effortless playing. Pettiford, for his part, is pure class. His interweaving lines during the theme statement and firm support throughout Hamilton's solo turn are evidence of the selfless contributions he could dependably provide. That is, when he wasn't grabbing the spotlight with his flashing bass and cello solos. Indeed, Pettiford was a strange figure whose historic role is difficult to assess. Although routinely acknowledged as the pioneer of bebop bass playing -- he can be heard on important nascent bop sessions with Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie and others -- O.P. is conspicuously absent from the Parker-Gillespie axis during the major years of the musical firmament. (Pettiford sequesters himself away in Ellington's band from 1945 to 1948, bebop's peak years of fertile innovation.) He demonstrates his true gifts as a player,composer and occasional bandleader in the 1950s; particularly impressive is a 1956 trio date that finds him with tenorist Lucky Thompson and guitarist Skeeter Betts. Pettiford was also instrumental in introducing the cello to jazz, but to err, it must be remembered, is only human.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Check Please

Call it a privileged moment; a brief segment of time that, in this gorgeous case, stands outside the official body of the song. For a musical minute and a half that acquires the weight and beauty of a full concerto, Art Pepper delays his entry to Legrandland to spin his own story. Not exactly an introduction, this brief but sumptuous improvised fragment is typical of the concentrated power that Pepper regularly summoned in the last decade of his out of control merry-go-round of an existence. If "The Summer Knows" ended right there, I'd walk away fully satiated. But then I'd miss the dessert.
Mainly a feature for bassist Williams, this performance still reveals much of the legendary Pepper magic. Legrand's wispy melody doesn't seem to engage him nearly as much as his own filigrees and bookending statements. Starting at 5:54, the saxophonist digs in again, pulling extemporized morsels of melody from the air, giving himself the well deserved last word.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oscar Takes a Chill Pill

Gary Giddins recently mentioned to me that his favorite piano duet recordings were the Pablo albums pairing Count Basie and Oscar Peterson because each of the two participants could be so easily identified. Have two players ever had such diametrically opposed styles? Oscar never met a note he couldn't jackhammer into a two bar phrase, while Bill Basie seemed reticent to touch a key for fear of disturbing it. Yes, it doesn't take a listener with Giddins's attuned ears to tell them apart.
In this charming get together Basie takes to slow blues as if to the manor born; the big surprise is that the loquacious Canadian also dons the cloak of the kid from Red Bank, New Jersey. Has Peterson ever played so sparely? And why didn't he bask in effective simplicity more often? Restraint may have been the greatest tribute that Peterson bestowed on the older master.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Idea of North

There are few pleasures of the aesthetic variety that match the personal discovery of an artist hitherto unknown to you. Lars Gullin was a superb baritone saxophonist from Sweden who was nothing more to me than a name that invariably popped up in references to Scandinavian jazz of the pre-ECM era. I can't exactly recall how I stumbled across this clip, but I'm just glad I did; Gullin had a rare gift that was hidden from me for too long. His mellifluous tone and lyrical leanings have much in common with peak-period Gerry Mulligan, but Gullin's extraordinary composure lends him distinction. In the second part of this too brief clip he's joined by (presumably, as per posting ID) saxophonist Rolf Billberg, another mystery to me. And he too makes an immediate first impression in the handful of seconds that he's featured. Billberg's also been influenced by American cool school players of the 1959s -- in his case Lee Konitz -- but like Gullin, he transcends mere imitation through musicianly focus. Their duet is brief but glorious.
Now to find more of their work and move on to other (to me) shadowy figures like pianist Bengt Hallberg, a favorite of Miles Davis. Just what I need in my life, a new jazz obsession...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Getting Misty

If I never hear "Misty" again it will be too soon, but when there are interpretations like this...The young Warren Vache sounds so poised and inventive (as he still does), while bassist Slam Stewart steals the show with lovely melodic turns that demonstrate how expressive his simultaneous bowing and humming technique could be. (To hear him display his wares at ballad tempo rather than swing time is a special treat.) Trading eights between trumpet and bass was also an inspired move, nudging Vache and Stewart to give it their best shots in the limited time available. Today Slam is missed; Vache is perpetually underrated and Wein needs a new sponsor for his New York fest.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tradition In Transition

Miles Davis was striding between two worlds in 1970 and an invaluable clip like this is all you need to be convinced that the on-the-cusp tension brought out some of the great trumpeter's most invigorating playing. "Sanctuary" has him first intoning in "Sketches of Spain" fashion, the vaunted lyricism of the previous two decades fully intact. As things heat up and "Spanish Key" moves into funky overdrive, Davis, determined to match his plugged-in sidemen in intensity, unleashes glorious coils of rip snorting lines and jagged bursts of sound.
With intimations of the past still in plain sight, while being elbowed by visions of the fusion future, Davis's music, circa the start of the new decade, laid out his intentions clearly. Change was imminent, but old school beauty was not to be lost just yet.

Thank You!

If It's Not Asking Too Much

Dear Powers That Be: Please reissue Ornette Coleman's 1972 Impulse! album "Crisis" in the U.S. Please.
Drawn from a 1969 New York concert, this sorely missed album features a Coleman quintet that gathered together familiar faces including bassist Charlie Haden, trumpeter Don Cherry, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman and drummer Denardo Coleman, Ornette's 23- year-old son. Although the other horns are heard only during the melody reading on this track, it's obvious from Coleman's impassioned improvisation, as well as composer Haden's typically burrowing solo, that the band was in grand form that night. The album's absence particularly hurts because there's precious little recorded work from the late 60s-early 70's period when Coleman still led acoustic bands prior to plugging in with Prime Time.
And if it's still not asking too much: Please post more album tracks onto YouTube. Please.

All The Things He Is

Jim Hall turns 80 next month. The recent years have been rough on the master, but he can take consolation in the fact that he remains the premier jazz guitarist. Not to slight contemporaries ranging from Wes Montgomery to John McLaughlin, but no jazz plectrist has yet to match Hall's extraordinary touch, harmonic imagination, lyrical bent or economical approach. His sound is instantly recognizable and consistently beautiful. Equally munificent is his craving for new musical experiences. If ever there was a man who could safely luxuriate in his own comfort zone it's Hall, but something keeps pushing him to rattle the cage. His openness and generosity is clearly illustrated when he goes head-to-head with younger players who have been influenced by him. The stealthy Bill Frisell wears his Hall credentials more openly than the dashing Pat Metheny, but Hall himself takes both stylists in stride. It's the old man who makes the young bucks sweat.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Cool Was T-Bone Walker?

Answer: very.
In doing some research on basic T-Bone info, what do we find? It's a centenary year for the immortal musician, a brilliant guitarist, singer and songwriter ( "Stormy Monday Blues" anyone?) who was as comfortable in a jazz setting as he was in the blues. Here, fronting an A-list J.A.T.P band, Walker is his old unflappable self, pealing off silken guitar runs touched by characteristically eccentric touches and singing so smooth it gives you the tingles. With T-Bone you hear those that he obviously listened to for inspiration -- Charlie Christian, Eddie Durham -- as well as later giants who turned to him for guidance: B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix.
And speaking of eccentricities... Walker may have held his guitar like a keyboard at times, but he still played a recognizable instrument. Clark Terry, on the other hand, leaves his horns behind for his solo, tooting the blues on a mouthpiece. Not surprisingly, T-Bone seems to get a kick out of it. As Dizzy and company likewise feel for this Texas titan.

Eric Edits

The wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am force of this brief but telling performance is a perfect example of how a focused artist can assert his individuality in a relative blink of an eye. From the first cymbal blast on, "G.W." practically explodes like water from a busted hydrant. Barrelling through the boppish head in no time at all, Dolphy is then out of the gate and charging through a compact solo that decisively announces his unmistakeable sound and approach. And much like a studio improvisation from another alto deity, Charlie Parker, it's over before you know it, leaving the desired paradoxical afterglow:You're left satiated yet wanting more.(I love how trumpeter Benny Bailey is on Dolphy's tail practically before his solo concludes; these guys are laying down the jazz equivalent of a three minute single and leaving not a second unaccounted for.)
Dolphy's work here reminds me of some of his equally brief yet satisfying statements on Oliver Nelson's classic "Blues and the Abstract Truth." Assessing just how much space he had, Dolphy would tumble in, grab your collar with a burst of weird intervals and jolting rhythms, and jump ship before you knew what had hit you. Be they miserly in length or expansive, a Dolphy solo --whether on alto, bass clarinet or flute -- had its maker's name on every note.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eddie the Eccentric

The line between individuality and sheer eccentricity can become mighty porous sometimes. Take the late pianist and vibraphonist Eddie Costa. If remembered only by aficionados today, Costa, judging by the myriad sessions he appears on during a brief (1956-1962) recording career, was a well-respected and in-demand player. And versatile as well; he can be found alongside giants as diverse as Coleman Hawkins and Ornette Coleman, Bill Evans and Benny Goodman, Gunther Schuller and Tony Bennett. Yet for all his adaptability, scooting blithely from mainstream dates to avant-garde projects, Costa was anything but a proficient, faceless musician.In fact, given the opportunity, exhibited here on one of his few album as a leader, he shows himself as among the most unconventional, near strange, stylists of the era.It's difficult to pin down Costas's piano influences; sometimes traces of his friend Bill Evans can be detected, other times, Monk, Tristano, Silver and Brubeck rear their heads. Antecedents are immaterial though when it comes to character-filled playing like this. Costa is no one so much as himself, a player who obviously adored risk and its unpredictable rewards. The breaks in particular are jolted by his weird sense of time, darting rhythms and those gothic rumblings in the deep bass region that became a trademark of sorts. That Costa avoids willful oddness for its own sake is the secret to his distinction. No doubt about it, he was an authentic eccentric.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jimi Forty Years On

1970 was the year that Jimi Hendrix both left this world, and, nine months earlier, recorded his greatest performance. First take a moment to appreciate the fact that the late show performance of "Machine Gun" -- the New Year's Eve take that was included on the album "Band of Gypsys" --was captured on videotape. (Do we have footage of Charlie Parker stealing the show at J.A.T.P with "Lady Be Good" or John Coltrane tearing through "Chasin' the Trane" at the Village Vanguard?) Let's just give thanks for the technology that's allowed us to experience this epochal moment.
Jimi left us much, much too soon, but this terrifyingly vivid performance proves that he didn't leave us with promises unfulfilled. "Machine Gun" is the climax of his too short career, a summing up of all that he had achieved as a guitarist and sonic mastermind, as well as a gift to future musicians. It can also be heard as Hendrix's unspoken challenge to those who would follow: "This is what can be done with an electrical instrument -- now where are you going to take it?"
The beauty and musical significance of "Machine Gun" lies in Jimi's expressive use of technology. Never had a guitar been made to cry with the pain that he extracts from it. An electric guitar that is, one hooked up to an arsenal of amplifiers and effect boxes, all in Hendrix's unerring control. The machine was essential, but the man told it what to do.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

One Degree of Separation

from Chico Hamilton that is. It's been rough period; first Buddy Collette and now Tony Curtis. And what do these two dissimilar artists have in common? CH.
Collette is heard here in fine form with Hamilton's 1955 quintet. (To understand why guitarist Jim Hall cites Charlie Christian as a major influence, just listen up.) Buddy's been listening to Lester Young and has assimilated the tenor giant with great style. In all, a breezy example of West Coast cool before it got frigid and rigid.

Tony Curtis crossed paths with Hamilton a few years later on "The Sweet Smell of Success." I've not seen all of either Tony or Chico's film appearances, but it's likely that neither was ever more riveting than in this cinematic gem. (Alright, Chico was more effective in "Jazz On a Summer's Day" -- he didn't have any lines)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Count's Cojones

Where did Count Basie get his nerve? Among the many felicities to be found on the original version of "Lester Leaps In," few are as exhilarating as Basie's utterly original, stripped-to-the-bone piano work. The man of the hour, Lester Young, indeed leaps and lopes,sounding not a wit like any of his peers. Basie is just as audacious, just as anxious to calmly spit in the eye of swing conventions.If, say, Teddy Wilson's elegant improvisations were finely crafted sentences, Basie's keyboard utterances were a sprinkling of vowels. How did he get away with it? It all comes down to the brilliant, wild moment at 2:45 when he begins his solo. Following the horn riff that sets up the break, Basie gets ready for his closeup. "Ding-dong, Ding-dong." Four notes, a mere two notes repeated. Call it telegraphic, minimalist,frugal, aphoristic, whatever -- it's just plain ballsy. (Try to imagine what Waller or Tatum might have fit into that moment in the sun.) Everything about this "Lester Leaps In" is gorgeous, but Basie's revolutionary contributions ( later to offer inspiration to such giants as John Lewis, Ahmad Jamal, Jimmy Rowles, and Thelonious Monk) are so off-the-wall, yet so right -- they can make you laugh out loud.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Accompany This!

I'm not in the running for president of the current John Scofield fan club. His tone grates on me and I don't find his improvisations terribly compelling. But that is now and this (clip) was then. Brookmeyer may be the featured artist here, but for me, Scofield is the star. He shadows the valve trombonist so adroitly and with such deference that you could focus on his just-right accompaniment and be well satisfied. There's a lovely sense of modesty, mated with genuine respect for an older master, on display here.
(To counterbalance my initial Scofield-bashing, I have to praise to the skies his thoroughly atypical "Quiet" album of 1996, which finds him sticking exclusively to acoustic guitar. His playing and writing is exceptional, as is the occasional contribution of guest soloist Wayne Shorter on, thankfully, tenor saxophone.I adore this under-the-radar masterwork.)

Fusion Pipe Dreams: Part Two

Miles Davis delved into the David Crosby songbook with his 1970 recording of "Guinnevere," originally heard on the C,S,N debut album of the previous year. If only he had taken the plunge with this earlier Crosby classic as well -- Its minor key moodiness and arresting changes would have suited Davis and the rest of the "Second Great Quintet" perfectly. Davis on muted horn, Shorter on tenor, Hancock insinuating the harmony, Carter and Williams stirring up a suggestive rhythmic pulse...ah, pipe dreams.
The Byrd's 1967 performance is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. Crosby inhabits the misty poetry at the core of his song, while bassist Chris Hillman is simply outrageous, careening off into space yet somehow anchoring the piece. Unfortunately guitarist McGuinn doesn't seem to have a handle on the song's fragile mood -- his solo turn meanders where it should sing -- and the group remains grounded. Nonetheless this classic album cut is an unacknowledged high point of proto-fusion; a promising, if tentative, blend of folk-rock, Indian exoticism and jazz.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beyond Jimmy Smith

The Hammond organ, electric guitar and drums combo that brought Jimmy Smith to fame in the mid-1950s needed a kick in the pants by the time the Seventies rolled around. Larry Young's groundbreaking work with the Tony Williams Lifetime on the 1969 release "Emergency!" was certainly a sonic declaration that the rules had dramatically changed for the basic organ trio. Applying Rock-era energy and amplification to the mix, Williams, Young and John McLaughlin emphatically stated that the good old ballad-blues-and bop days were a done deal.
"Timeless" a one-off 1974 project that united guitarist and leader John Abercrombie, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and keyboardist Jan Hammer (here relying on the Hammond) certainly draws on a post-"Emergency!" vibe, but also takes its own swerves in the road. As befits an ECM project of the time, there's a more ethereal quality to the music. "Ralph's Piano Waltz" inhabits a spacious sonic landscape that evokes mystery and drama. There's a haunting ebb and flow to the piece, enhanced by DeJohette's brilliant sense of dynamics. And that unexpected bridge -- the hook of the tune -- gets you every time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


When Lee Konitz is on, no one can touch him for pensive playing. He's certainly on for this "What's New" duet with Bill Frisell. The contrast between the improvisers is beguiling. Lee avoids stating the melody as assiduously as Frisell keeps circling back to it. Both methods work beautifully. The full band "What Is This Thing Called Love" fragment that follows is fun, but the Konitz-Frisell get together is profound.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Getting It Right

Not long ago I attended the opening set of the Charlie Haden Quartet West at Birdland. Although the news that longtime member Ernie Watts was being replaced by Ravi Coltrane was encouraging, neither Coltrane nor the band itself ever really found the groove that set. Far too many long, unfocused solos clotted the atmosphere. If there were few involving moments, there were quite a few instances when things went off the rail completely. A self indulgent tenor soliloquy by Coltrane was, well, self indulgent; just because Dad pulled that feat off with honors doesn't mean his offspring are obliged to try. But nothing came close to pianist Alan Broadbent's strikingly inappropriate solo piano outing on Ornete Coleman's "Lonely Woman." Cloyingly rhapsodic and laden with brocaded passages, the just-plain-wrong improvisation practically begged to be taken out of its misery. What was he thinking?
Here, Broadbent, a stylist whose early trio albums I admire, particularly "Personal Standards," gets it right. If his interpretation veers away from Silver's lusty funkiness it takes on a suitable spirit of its own. Foster, no funkmesiter either, nails it as well.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cause You've Got -- Personality

This remarkably warm performance is from a generally remarkable performance film of Duke Ellington with seven eminent members of his 1967 band, including alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, trumpeter Cat Anderson, trombonist Lawrence Brown and the man of the hour, tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves (bassist John Lamb, and drummer Rufus Jones round out the ensemble). Each of the horn soloists, and, of course, the leader himself, were utterly distinctive instrumental stylists for whom personality was a given. You knew each of these men from their first note forward. Their sounds were their ID cards; their solos, chapters from their autobiographies. And yet when they conjoined these individual approaches, the result was somehow indivisible. Such was the magic of Ellingtonia.
The great Gonsalves may be best known for his epic, combustible improvisation on "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, but I wish this -- and other thoughtfully impassioned ballad performances like it-- would register as his recognized legacy.To hear how elegantly he combines the breathy sensuality that was Ben Webster's gift to tenor saxophonists with authoritative touches of bebop's rhythmic drive, was to experience a player who had carved out his own identity from the disparate resources the jazz tradition had offered. Gonsalves could swing his tail off when called on, but few could also caress a ballad with his concentrated ardor.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pure Blue

Is this what it sounds like when a musician has distilled his art down to its very core? When he knows that one note more, one tone less distinct, would dash the crystal to bits? But listening to a career-defining performance like this, you understand that Baker's not going to let that happen. On a night like this, it can't happen. The stars have aligned, at least for this performance, and the trumpeter is being protected by the jazz gods. They are speaking through his horn and his wounded vocals and they won't let anything go awry. Their beneficence even extends to Harold Danko's spare, heartbreaking piano solo and adroit accompaniment.
You hear this and wonder how Baker could have done anything but immediately announce his retirement right onstage in Tokyo. But he didn't and we got another year of scarred beauty from him. Don't listen to this too often, you wouldn't want to risk comparing all music to it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Benny's Bugle

By all accounts, Benny Goodman wasn't the kind to spare anyone's feelings if his neurotic dander was up. So we can assume that he wanted the younger cornetist Ruby Braff at his side for this informal 1968 romp through "Avalon," although he could have retained the original clarinet-piano-vibes-drums configuration of the quartet with which Goodman broke up Carnegie Hall thirty years before. That Braff fits the bass-less outfit like a glove is no surprise, he was a consistently marvelous mainstream player throughout his six-decade career. (If anything, you wonder how the famously prickly brassman got along personally with Goodman, the master of insensitivity. Dan Morgenstern and Loren Schoenberg will have to pony up any anecdotes.) No matter, the music is sheer fun, buoyed by comradely good spirits. Goodman and Hampton are out to show that time hadn’t diminished their swing; Braff, again, no surprise, is a model of melodious tact. Pianist Stacy’s resourcefulness covers for the missing bottom, while Krupa exhibits the aggressive bass drum oomph that endeared him to generations of proudly assertive drummers including Tony Williams. I’ll surely be singing Braff’s praises in the future, but for now hear him in tandem with another great reedman, Bob Wilber, on the Arbors release: “Soprano Summit - 1975 and More!”

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Road Not Taken

John Gilmore spent the better part of his professional career playing with Sun Ra, a gig that allowed him to not only play smoking tenor saxophone and clarinet but to chant in harmony when called on, play various percussion instruments, and wear funny hats and colorful vests. (And live in a communal situation with an orchestra–load of men, but let’s not go there.) Who could resist that? Well, Gilmore himself apparently did, at least for a brief moment in the mid-1960s when he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He can be heard to fine effect on the Blakey album “S’Make It,” but actually seeing him with the band concretizes this strange interlude. The fact that Gilmore sounds so good in a straightforward hard bop setting gives us a tantalizing taste of a career path he might have taken. With Blakey breathing down his neck in that hit-it-or-hit-the-road way of his, Gilmore turns in a charging solo that sets off lucidity with passion. So much so that the gale force solo by Lee Morgan that follows doesn’t diminish Gilmore’s efforts in any way. But space was obviously the place for Gilmore and he soon returned to the Sun Ra fold -- hard bop’s loss was Saturn’s gain. For more strong Gilmore work minus the Sonny Blount unit, try “The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard” on Impulse!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Baby Steps

What a fascinating clip this is! Remove the images of Burton and Company's Summer of Love getups -- drummer Bob Moses's Nehru nightmare wins the prize -- and you might think you were listening to a particularly hip performance from, say, Red Norvo. In all, it's more a delicious bit of modern chamber jazz than a glimpse of the fusion future. Steve Swallow is still on acoustic bass, Coryell has yet to turn up the juice, Moses is on his best behavior, and Burton remains downright polite. Tame only in relationship to where things would go in a year or two, this band could have stayed in this relatively conventional mode and still have generated interest as a kind of updated Modern Jazz Quartet. But the siren song of fusion was calling, and each of these men had to answer it in his own way.
Still, those are some sweet threads!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fusion Pipe Dreams: Part One

By the mid-Sixties, if not earlier, Miles Davis was actively listening to pop and rock music. By the late-Sixties his own music was displaying rock influences -- hear the Hendrix-derived "Mademoiselle Mabry" from the 1969 opus "Filles de Kilimanjaro" for starters. In 1970 Davis recorded a spacey, Indian-infused take on David Crosby's "Guinnevere," which had debuted just a year earlier on the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album. Ever since hearing that performance (first released in 1979) I've tended to file away classic rock tunes that I wish Davis had looked into. "Coming Back To Me" is one of the Jefferson Airplane's masterpieces, a moody sonic dream that stands as one of the great ballads of the era. The Airplane had certainly been listening to Miles: Grace Slick, the composer of "White Rabbit," -- yet another masterpiece from the glorious "Surrealistic Pillow" album of 1967 -- described the song as being a cross between "Sketches of Spain" and "Bolero." Although Slick had actually written the song for an earlier band, The Great Society, Davis was obviously still in her ears. Hear her recorder obligato to Marty Balin's plaintive vocal on "Coming Back To Me." In her own modest, hesitant manner, Slick is channeling Davis. Maybe that's what alerted me to the song's potential for an MD interpretation. I can just hear Davis etching his way through a diaphanous melody that seems to evaporate in the air, right after piercing your heart.
File this one under Fusion Pipe Dreams...

Wayne Shorter: Role Model

Sometime in the Fifties, the great jazz critic and aesthetician Andre Hodeir wrote a crusty essay, "Why Do They Age So Badly?" stating his contention that jazz was strictly a young man's game. It was a dumb idea then and it remains just as dumb now, particularly with Wayne Shorter giving lie to the entire notion as we speak. Just in time for a new millennium, Shorter, then into the seventh decade of his musical career, assembled the first permanent, fully acoustic jazz ensemble he had ever led, and began making the most avant garde music of his life. In league with a quartet of considerably younger players, Shorter's music became more responsive, elliptical, mysterious, poetic, unpredictable, dramatic, disruptive, and gorgeously arresting than it had been since the saxophonist left Miles Davis's band in 1969. There are more dangerous ideas in that septuagenarian head of his now than there ever were. In his own dart-and-dash improvising, lyrical writing and open form band leading, Shorter outstrips the majority of contemporary jazz musicians, young or old. If this is jazz maturity, I say bring it on.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Israels On Israel

Say what you want about Chuck Israels as a musician; as a man, he must be applauded for his sheer guts. I happen to hardily admire Israels as a bassist, particularly his 1960s work with Bill Evans -- the gig that, like it or not, Israels will be most remembered for. A straightforward player with a sturdy tone and an ever musical imagination, Israels nonetheless never stood a chance when it came to critical reputations. His guts had much to do with that. In 1962 Israels took on one of the most challenging roles a jazz player has ever placed him or her self in. After the sudden death of the bassist Scott LaFaro, his employer, Bill Evans fell into an understandable funk. LaFaro had not only revolutionized the role of the jazz bass, granting it an unprecedented independence, he and Evans (as well as trio mate drummer Paul Motian) had also developed a group concept that similarly liberated established roles within a small group. With his colossal technical skills and fearless inventiveness, LaFaro was a phenomenon who, like Jimmy Blanton, showed what could and should be done, and then, in the blink of an eye, was gone.
Who could replace LaFaro? Who would want want to? It was a thankless job, but someone had to do it. Enter Israels, who, while influenced by LaFaro, as was every open-eared young bassist, was already quite comfortable with his own more conventional style. He urged Evans to resume playing and became the anchor of the pianist's trio, with only intermittent gaps, between 1962 and 1966.
Israels was no revolutionary like LaFaro, but he remained a dependable and engaging player during his entire tenure with Evans. One of my favorite bass solos is his fleet and melodic turn on Johnny Carisis' "Israel," the beautifully crafted blues he recorded with Evans and drummer Larry Bunker on "Trio '65". (Numerous polished solos and solid accompaniment by Israels can be heard on other significant Evans recordings including the stunning "At Town Hall.") Bassist Eddie Gomez comes on board in 1966. According to Evans himself, as well as a legion of fans, Gomez's entrance signals an artist rebirth for the pianist. I tend to believe that Gomez, with assistance from early 70s Ron Carter, sends the acoustic bass into a maelstrom it has yet to ascend from, but that's another story ...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Charlap Steps Out

Bill Charlap is special. Here's a performance that glories in melody. Billy Strayhorn's tune, originally found on Duke Ellington's 1957 album "Such Sweet Thunder," is stated with minimal embellishment by the pianist; his gorgeous touch and judicious use of space tell the story. Deep improvisation is beside the point, yet only a seasoned jazz player could have pulled off this performance with such taste and grace. Knowing what not to say, becomes the mark of genius.
Charlap's surrounded here not by his regular trio mates, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, but by bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Bill Stewart in a group dubbed the "New York Trio" to distinguish it from the Washington-based crew. And once again I'm made aware of how extra special Charlap sounds when stepping out on the Washingtons. Piano trios don't come any tighter, but I find Charlap's usual trio too constrained, too formal. (Charlap's admiration for Oscar Peterson may express itself more fully in the airtight group concept, rather, thankfully, than in Charlap's own playing.) Kenny Washington knows his hard bop lexicon backwards and forwards, but, to my ears, he's not the most sympathetic of percussionists, particularly in this setting. Whitney Balliett would use the word "pinioned" when describing overly rigid drummers, and that's the adjective that always springs to mind when I hear Kenny W. with Charlap. I much prefer the pre-Washington albums that Charlap made with other rhythm teams, including "Distant Star," "Souvenir" and "Along with Me." Those recordings display a sense of relaxation and expansion that went noticeably missing when Charlap hooked up with with the regular crew.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Effective Guitar Work

Now here's a band that, hopefully, won't find itself tossed off in the far receses of jazz history. I profess total ignorance of Julie Andrews' rendition of this lighter-than-air ditty as sung in the 1966 film "Hawaii." But I do know that Elmer Bernstein's Oscar-winning song brings out the best in Frisell and Scofield. This performance also demonstrates the significant importance of technology as it applies to individual style: both guitarist's distinctive sounds are dependent on the electronic effects they are utilizing. Products of the rock era, these effects are judiciously used, in the hands of sensitive players like Frisell and Scofield, to enhance an unmistakeable jazz aesthetic.
Frisell unveils the spacious lyricism we've come to expect from him; Scofield, for his part, is particularly aware of the value of the chiseled phrase -- being in continual contact with Frisell must have rubbed off on him. A special performance from a near-forgotten band well worth investigating.

"My Wishing Doll" can be heard in its original recording on "Bass Desires" (ECM Records)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Listen and Weep

For a guy who could blow anyone off the stage (or out of a recording studio) with the sheer velocity of his playing, Johnny Griffin also knew how to take it way, way down. What made Griffin truly great was his seeming awareness of each note he played, applying the appropriate heft and warmth to achieve a tone that coated the air. The notes could fly fast, but they all had weight, each packing a visceral punch. I love how he takes his time here, making sure every musical utterance counts. (Ok, I'm not so crazy about that hoary blues riff at the conclusion of his solo, but he makes up for it with his concluding Ben Webster-ish flutter, a subtly beautiful homage. )

I also enjoy the non Duke-like arrangement by Kornel Fekete-Kova with that nifty sax interlude following Griffin's improvisation, and the obviously practiced Budapest Jazz Orchestra with its brace of flugelhornists. Discerning expats like Griffin could always find the cream that the Continent offered.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Less Than Less Is More

The more I listen to John Lewis, the pianist, the more radical he seems. A brilliant composer and bandleader, Lewis was also a uniquely receptive accompanist, surrounding his fellow Modern Jazz Quartet member Milt Jackson, or, for that matter, anyone onboard, with impeccable chordal jabs or, his specialty, melodic phrases that draped the improviser in counterpoint clover. With the spotlight trained on him, Lewis displayed the same wit, ingenuity and unsparing frugality. A quiet iconoclast, Lewis was a staunch minimalist long before the term came into common use. If something could be said with four notes, why not play two? Or even one?
His economy of means is downright audacious, particularly in an era when pianists were still dealing with the implications of Art Tatum and Bud Powell, musical tigers who regularly devoured as much of the keyboard as was humanly possible. (Comparing Lewis with the era's most popular jazz pianist, the proudly prolix Oscar Peterson, is a hoot; they may as well be playing different instruments.)

Here, Lewis interprets his most famous composition, one he probably played hundreds of times by 1965, with characteristic freshness. His internal editor is working overtime, cutting, cutting, cutting -- yet everything that needs to be said is all there. Hemingway spoke of the iceberg effect that he aimed for in his spare writing, implying rather than revealing the mass that was hidden under the sea. This is that effect translated into jazz practice.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Muddy Swings

Why does this 1963 version of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" swing so hard? The rock steady groove that bassist Willie Dixon and drummer Clifton James lay down, unswerving yet bursting with sheer bounce, doesn't hurt. Nor do Buddy Guy's perfectly placed acoustic guitar fills. But the rhythm genius is McKinley Morganfield himself. Hanging behind the band's beat, yet kicking it inexorably forward, Waters is as cool as they get: a charter member of the never-show- 'em-how-hard-you're- working school. This is swing so deceptively intense it hurts.

("GMLS" can be found on the 1964 release, "Muddy Waters, Folk Singer")

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Love Supreme

A visionary tenor wants to pay tribute to another visionary tenor -- an established master, far more acclaimed and vastly more popular -- who has nonetheless lent the younger outsider all out support. So how does Albert Ayler tip his hat to John Coltrane in early 1967? First he picks up the alto saxophone, an instrument totally peripheral to his reputation. Then he strips down his septet, sending his trumpeter brother Don and drummer Beaver Harris out for a breather. Finally, surrounded by two bassists, a cellist and violinist, Ayler trades his characteristic squall for lyrical effusions that offer his praise and respect in forthright song. No, Ayler doesn't play it straight; there's no mistaking the twisted tone and slanted phrasing. But there's also the marked sense that he's exploring a different route of expression here, one that seeks exultation not by way of extroverted displays of emotion, but through relative restraint. Ayler could stir up musical trouble at the drop of a hat; his friend John deserved something special and he got it.
Little wonder that Ayler, along with fellow epoch shaker Ornette Coleman, had the bittersweet privilege of being the handpicked musical performers at Coltrane's funeral later in the year.

(Groovy as this visual tribute may be, to hear "For John Coltrane" in pure audio splendor head for Albert Ayler: Live In Greenwich Village: The Complete Impulse Recordings)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don Who?

Don Joseph is (was?) a footnote to a footnote in jazz history. A trumpeter and cornetist who spent the 1950s building a sturdy reputation among discerning leaders, he was already off the national scene by the end of the decade. Joseph makes a surprising reemergence on a recording done for (who else?) Uptown Records in 1984: the impressive "One of a Kind." And then he's gone again, or at least from recording studios.
It's a shame, because Joseph was one of those musicians who was truly wedded to the lyrical. Much like Tony Fruscella, another obscure trumpeter he's often linked with, Joseph was a curious amalgam of bop and earlier jazz influences. You hear echoes of Bobby Hackett and Buck Clayton, Chet Baker and Miles Davis, Bix Beiderbecke and Armstrong, in Joseph's finest playing, all wrapped in his own warm, rounded sound. His well-crafted improvisations, laden with melody, never overstay their welcome. Joseph always found, as my friend Seth likes to say, "the pretty notes," but there was nothing cloying about his work. Making pretty, he reminds us, can be a tough job.
Here's one of the only two clips of Joseph that have surfaced on YouTube. I have no idea when this was shot-- I'm assuming sometime in the 1980s or early 90's. Joseph, playing "Embraceable You" on cornet, is in fine fettle, blowing the pretty notes with customary ease, injecting subtle bop rhythms to goose the flow. I find it very moving to hear how Joseph's achingly lyrical solo inspires trumpeter Mike Morreale to his own quite lovely lyrical improvisation. Enjoy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Old Faithful

I was alerted once again to the power of certain durable standards after unearthing an admittedly minor recording from 1989, "Art Deco" by Don Cherry. One of those projects that looks great on paper yet just doesn't come alive to any truly satisfying degree, "Art Deco" unites three members of Ornette Coleman's original quartet: trumpeter Cherry, drummer Billy Higgins and bassist Charlie Haden. They are joined by tenor saxophonist James Clay, a virile stylist with a spotty recording career -- 29 years separate his first session as a leader from his next. "Art Deco," with Cherry in noticeably restrained form, always struck me as an officially released rehearsal tape. There's a tentative feeling to the entire session; the participants only really spur each other on during the final track, "Compute." Even attributing leadership to Cherry, rather than the quartet at large, seems a bit spurious, as each of the foursome are given featured performances.
One of these features is the jewel. "Body and Soul" exists as a looming challenge to tenor saxophonists ever since Coleman Hawkins' historic 1939 hit recording-- You approach "Body and Soul" with serious intentions or you don't come to it at all.
Clay takes to it like catnip. Announcing his focus with a short introductory burst of force, he approaches the performance with clarity and poise in mind. His breathy tone and darting approach suggest vintage Rollins at times, but Clay remains his own man as he embraces a song whose crafty chord changes and memorable melodic design are a gift to a skillful player.He sounds more comfortable and individualistic on this nearly sixty year old evergreen, than he does anywhere else on "Art Deco." No surprise, "Body and Soul" can do that to you.

(Addendum time: As a pianist was left at home, Haden comes to the fore throughout, his own unaccompanied solo short and very sweet. And Clay's later feature, "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" certainly has its moments as well.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When Bill met Claus...Again

I came to Bill Evan's 1974 "Symbiosis" a little late. Actually I listened to it for the first time last week. Although I've had the CD reissue for years, I understand what the delay was all about. I revere Bill Evans above all jazz pianists, yet I have my limits of veneration. By 1970 his playing had begun to significantly change, and not, to my ears, for the better. In his final decade, Evan's improvisations took on a brittle, slightly mechanical edge, marked by a heavier touch and distracting forays into the higher register that lent his playing an artificial flavor. His ballads became mannered and schmaltzy in a way that would have been previously unacceptable to him; his uptempo excursions frenetic and mechanistic. (Long before I knew of Evan's problems with cocaine during that last decade, I felt his playing was becoming increasingly and uncomfortably nervous.)
Others love this period, believing that Evans was stretching himself, deliberately taking a more aggressive stance than lent his playing a deeper swing than ever before. I mostly hear anxiety and artistic uncertainty. Of course there are performances of extreme beauty scattered throughout the last ten years, but for me, 1958 (when Evans joins up with Miles Davis) to 1968 ("At the Montreux Jazz Festival'' being the last fully satisfying album) is the period I return to when I want to get caught up in the umbra of pure creativity.
So "Symbiosis" was not high on my must-hear list. And, having finally lived with it for a bit, I'm certain it's no lost masterpiece.
It is a bit nutty though, that's for sure. Evans had previously collaborated with arranger Claus Ogermann on the disasterous hack job, "Theme from the V.I.P.s" and the disappointing 1965 album, "Trio with Symphony Orchestra." Now they were back together again, only this time Ogermann was the sole composer as well as arranger and conductor. His "Symbiosis," is a two part work with a schizoid feel: a jagged woodwinds-based first movement followed by an overblown orchestral movement. (A particularly misguided interlude finds Evans taking on the electric piano, an instrument that sounds as if it's causing him increasing pain with every key touched.)
And yet...
The second movement opens with Evans featured, slowly etching a theme of fragile beauty that, while suggestive of a dozen tunes from the " Spartacus" theme to "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?," elicits a stunning Evans improvisation nonetheless. Calm, collected, avoiding cliches, the pianist sounds like his old self. And as a parting gift to both the featured soloist and the listener, Ogermann allows Evans the concluding minute of the work --a wistful reprise of the largo that reminds you why you spent the time working your way through this often bewildering project in the first place.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Caroline, Yes

I run hot and cold when it comes to Charles Lloyd. His debt to early '60s Coltrane in instrumental and compositional style is so obvious and presented in such a blatantly adoring manner by Lloyd himself that it never fails to make me uncomfortable -- and quickly bored. The sincerest form of flattery? Perhaps. But it takes stronger listeners than myself to wade through yet another ten-plus minute modal vamp improv, a la Trane's 1961 "India," that regularly pervade Lloyd's ECM recordings. And don't get me started on the West Coast spiritualism and, worse, the maracas.
Yet when the time comes to caress a ballad, few tenor saxophonists possess Lloyd's concentrated power and heartfelt tone. Coltrane is still peeking through the notes, but Lloyd seems to be tapping into the earlier take-your-time stance of the sax giants of his youth. Whether Lloyd actually listened to Johnny Hodges or Ben Webster or Lester Young (how could he not?) is less the point than that he somehow absorbed a pre-bop aesthetic that imbues his most thoughtful work --be it a standard or even a free improvisation -- with a more personal sound and cogent ideas.
His next recording, "Mirror" (to be thoughtfully released on my birthday in September) has its share of lovely moments, notably a surprising take on Brian Wilson's "Caroline, No" that does justice and then some to the "Pet Sounds" classic. I applaud Lloyd for his occasional off-the-wall choices of repertoire, but they don't always work. ("God Give Me Strength, the stirring Bacharach-Costello ballad on "Voice In the Night" didn't come off at all, but then again, no one has been able to bring out its true luster other than Costello himself). Lloyd respects Wilson's winsome melody, yet extends the song's form, to winning effect, when he needs to.
It's on performances like this, and a few choice others including "I Fall In Love Too Easily" -- with the leader on equally effectual alto -- where I hear Lloyd, the authentic, unashamedly conservative stylist and not Lloyd, the unrepentant adulator.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Leave it to Miles

It would probably be appropriate to have a first post devoted to Lester Young, but there's plenty of time to touch on his enduring genius. Miles Davis, Young's greatest heir when it came to the deployment of the perfectly placed note, the well-chiseled phrase and a judicious, ultra musical use of space, gets the nod today.
When considering how jazz musicians can make seismically significant statements in the most compact of settings, I'm always called back to the title track of Davis's 1958 album "Milestones." (The piece was entitled "Miles" on the original recording in order to avoid confusion with a different composition, "Milestones," that Davis recorded in 1947. Although Davis receives composer's credit for both tunes, pianist John Lewis actually wrote the earlier piece, but that's another story...)
So how do you alter jazz history in five minutes? First you assemble a splendid aggregate of players: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, altoist Cannonball Adderely, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, each integral to the success of the performance.
I love that, unexpectedly, Cannonball is first out of the gate. A prolix soloist who, at that time wouldn't think twice about rattling off a machine gun volley of bebop virtuosity, Adderely doesn't so much reign himself in here as keep melodic figures paramount in his improvisation. No wonder Davis picks up on Cannonball's last six notes to jump start his own solo, itself an incredible display of acute lyricism wedded to surprise --where does he find those off-the-wall/just right note choices? That Coltrane jumps on Davis's concluding phrase to start his own highly melodic solo is again no surprise (wouldn't you?). While the horn men take a tidy two choruses each to say all that needs to be said, Garland sits this dance out all together, contributing to the whole with perfectly placed, effortlessly swinging accompaniment. Jones and Chambers are Jones and Chambers, an incomparable rhythm team at their peak.
And the shifting of jazz as we know it? A gorgeous round of solos also couches a serious investigation into modal improvisation, the move from playing on chords to playing on scales that Davis and company would delve into deeply the next year with the sublime "Kind of Blue."

If this performance isn't a perfect example of how to move mountains in the space of a relative instant, what is?

A less sprightly but still gorgeous alternate take should be heard for the sheer invention displayed: each of the three solos are markedly different from the issued take. Just, well, beautiful.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Looking for the lyrical

The story goes that Lester Young found himself on a tour bus with a young gun saxophonist itching to show off his prodigious technique to the older master. Planting himself in front of the laconic Prez, the garrulous bebopper proceeds to blow every speed demon lick he knows in motor mouth fashion. On finishing his dash, the saxophonist looks to Young for approval, yet couches his neediness in bravado. What, he asks, did the jazz patriarch think of that display of goods? Not bad, Young answers, but can you tell me a story?
And there you have it. Like Lester, I too am hungry to hear a story told through an instrument. Not a checklist of technical achievements or a resume of ready-for-use phrases, but a well-told narrative that makes its point through melody, balance and economy, and then jumps on the fastest stagecoach out of Dodge. 
With this blog I salute improvisers, old and new, who know how to get in, get the job done and then  leave before being begged to. Style has nothing to do with it. The same sense of the beautiful as well as the importance of organization and frugality can be found in the very best players from turn-of-the-century New Orleans  to today's budding jazz visionaries. 
Nonetheless, it's a rarer quality than might be expected and getting rarer all the time. I want to applaud this sensitivity to the poetic wherever I hear it, be it in an older recording or on a bandstand last night.
Can you tell me a story?