Tom van der Zaal Time Will Tell (Self-Released 2019)

NEW RELEASE – TOM VAN DER ZAAL

Not-quite-so-young lion alert: Tom van der Zaal’s hard bop gem Time Will Tell.

Tom van der Zaal - Time Will Tell

Personnel

Tom van der Zaal (alto saxophone), Floriaan Wempe (tenor saxophone), Rob van Bavel (piano), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Matheus Nicolaiewsky (bass), Joost van Schaik (drums)

Recorded

in 2019 at Fattoria Musica, Osnabrück

Released

in 2019

Track listing

A Not So Beautiful Friendship
Favela Chic
Dilemma
Enrichment
Smile
Time Will Tell
The Ballpark Fence
The Gospel Song


The Netherlands is solid as regards to young reed and brass players that recreate the classic mainstream jazz aesthetic in their own image. Among a bunch that includes tenor saxophonists Florian Wempe and Gideon Tazelaar and trumpeters Gidon Nunez Vas and Ian Cleaver, Tom van der Zaal is one of the to-go-to alto saxophonists, a product of the rich heritage of (hard) bop city #1, The Hague.

The manner in which now and then some young birds bring appetizing goodies to the family is heartening. Time Will Tell is such produce, a contemporary take on the classic 50’s/60’s style that was epitomized on the Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse labels. Van der Zaal is assisted by the brilliant Dutch veteran pianist Rob van Bavel, bassist Matheus Nicolaieswky and drummer Joost van Schaik. Floriaan Wempe performs on two tracks. Also present, on four compositions, rabbit in the hat and one of the greatest guitarists in mainstream jazz: Peter Bernstein. Bernstein oozes taste, as clear as plain day light once again on Time Will Tell, his umpteenth performance the last decade and part of an immense discography.

Van der Zaal’s gift of conjuring up fresh rhythmic variations and catchy songs reveals itself in Latin-inspired swingers Favela Chic and Enrichment, which live in the realm of vintage Carribean-tinged beauties like Joe Henderson’s Mamacita or Kenny Dorham’s Afrodisia. The fluent pulse of Dilemma is bookended by an elegiac part that hints at both Black Is The Color and the lengthy psalmodic intro’s of the John Coltrane Quartet. The ballad Time Will Tell runs along a particularly intriguing harmonic route. And what about the snappy, uptempo The Ballpark Fence? Considering the band’s firm push on the throttle, it is appropriate and perhaps not coincidental that the cover shows Van der Zaal kneeling beside a classy monster oldsmobile. To switch to baseball terms: the band hits it right out of the ballpark!

Tom van der Zaal is a lean leopard, light-legged, makes snappily phrased twists and turns and loves his quotes, as is the jazz leopard’s wont. Including the occasional unfeigned whoop or wail, his balanced playing goes to the heart of the melody. Van der Zaal and Wempe rip and roar through the friendly battle of fours and simultaneous improv of Favela Chic, which follow up the vibrant waterfalls and drops from the fountain that Rob van Bavel charms from the piano, supported by his trademark firm and obliquely voiced chords and wonderfully astute bass lines. Time Will Tell is right up the alley of Van Bavel, European class act who is a versatile seeker of new vistas but has remained rooted in hard bop ever since he’s been part of the spectacular Ben van den Dungen/Jarmo Hoogendijk Quintet in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Nowadays Van Bavel is pianist of the premier Dutch hard bop outfit The Eric Ineke JazzXPress.

Bernstein’s intro to Charlie Chaplin’s Smile is plainly gorgeous. Smile is the album’s surprising and swinging cover song and definitely appropriate. Because the energy and palpable enthusiasm of Van der Zaal & Co. on Time Will Tell ignite a broad smile from crown to chin.

Check out the website of Tom van der Zaal here.

Jaki Byard - The Jaki Byard Experience

Jaki Byard The Jaki Byard Experience (Prestige 1969)

The Jaki Byard Experience is not for the faint-hearted.

Jaki Byard - The Jaki Byard Experience

Personnel

Jaki Byard (piano), Roland Kirk (tenor saxophone, clarinet, manzello), Richard Davis (bass), Alan Dawson (drums)

Recorded

on September 17, 1968 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PR 7615 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
Parisian Thoroughfare
Hazy Eve
Shine On Me
Side B:
Evidence
Memories Of You
Teach Me Tonight


No doubt, those that long for the continuous flow of the sounds of surprise go to Jaki Byard and Roland Kirk. In particular The Jaki Byard Experience, which most likely brings about shock, curiosity, delight and finally surrender. Two distinctly unconventional individuals for the price of one. The quartet of Byard’s eleventh album on Prestige is completed by bassist Richard Davis and drummer Alan Dawson, a sublime duo that bonded with Byard for the first time in 1963 and whose instincts are cooperative instead of merely supportive.

Although active in the Boston area since the late 40s, Byard made his mark in New York with Charles Mingus in the early 60’s, dazzling listeners and audiences with his eclectic style. Kirk burst on the same scene around that time; blind one-man-band playing tenor sax and exotic saxes that he found in shops like the stritch and manzello, adding whistles that hung on his chest, shoulder, hip or even ear, appearing to be a sideshow attraction to the general audience, a musician with exceptional declarations of independence to cogniscenti and colleagues.

Both shared the gift of mining the multi-faceted tradition and simultaneously pushing it to its outer limits, both were unique personalities that refused to take indiscriminately the innovations of Ornette Coleman, playing a kind of hide and seek with avant-garde instead of merely engaging in ersatz Free Jazz. Byard’s encyclopedic knowledge of early jazz forms is legendary. Kirk, who also landed a place in Charles Mingus’s band in the early 60’s, mixed blues with modernity and unusual virtuosity. Their music is a world unto its own. And it brims with enthusiasm. Like Thelonious Monk’s music.

An improviser should work with the fixed material in a piece to avoid hackneyed phrases.

That’s Monk, the Buddha of jazz, occasionally breaking silence with conceptions that are at once practical and enigmatic. Paradoxically, what seems to be a knockdown argument led him down the path of “rooted freedom” as opposed to freedom for freedom’s sake. Freedom for freedom’s sake is a dead end street. Free love is ok but mostly equates with detachement. The opportunities inherent to mass consumption suck: fast food and sugar are killers. Both conceptions ultimately exhaust themselves in the need to preserve meaning. The equilibrium of passion and reason cannot blossom in the absence of transcendence. Monk may have been a puzzling personality but he most likely had rooted freedom on his mind while teaching beautiful and original alternate chords to friends and journeymen, and writing Trinkle Tinkle and Criss Cross.

And Byard and Kirk understood. As a result, one gets served a dish of delicious music that while worked out within the textures of harmony and melody, sends mysterious scents out the backyard into the alley and teases the palate with an abundance of spicy flavors; implicit loyalty to unpredictability and deeds of gutsy passion that keeps any negative sensation of self-consciousness out the door.

One gets a rebellious version of Bud Powell’s Parisian Thoroughfare, which is introduced by a turbulent intro in the root key, segues crisply into the theme and is developed with the thunderous blasts of Kirk’s solo’s on, respectively, manzello and tenor saxophone. Manzello Kirk is a scudding jaguar. Tenor Kirk is the leader of the buffalo tribe, deceptively light on his feet and howling with fatherly authority. On both instruments, Kirk’s sense of old-fashioned swing is palpable and his timing is angular and agile throughout his long story, which ends with a roar on simultaneously played horns.

Byard throws himself into battle with hammering bass notes, shrewd combinations of distorted chords, endless staccato bop motives and a climax of tart Earl Hines-ish embellishments. His rubato interaction with Alan Dawson’s snare rolls is one of the examples of the quartet’s sublime and lively interaction. As is the high energy of bassist Richard Davis. Davis has his share of storytelling, mixing strong arco bass with mischievous dissonance and bended notes on multiple strings. This is jazz that rivals the archetypical rock bands of the late 60’s. Mind you, on acoustic instruments!

It makes sense that Byard included a composition of Monk, himself a master of dedication. Evidence is the session’s second example of controlled mayhem. Perhaps the curious balancing act of Kirk, a rollercoaster ride of phrases that are wrenched from his gut and purposefully evade the changes, may be hard to digest. Regardless, it is a rare feat. Kirk apparently only takes a breath twice. Cat with the lungs of a whale.

One gets the hefty boogaloo treatment of the traditional Shine On Me, romantic and sardonic piano-bass duet of Hazy Eve, twisted Fats Waller homage of Memories Of You. Coasting is absent in Byard’s case. He’s the guy that wears haute couture on top and shorts beneath, strollin’ on the snow-bound path. Kirk’s the man on the barstool whom everyone tells his stories too. And he’ll remark: “Never end your sentences on a vowel.” They are the proud underdog. One wonders if Byard’s recorded vocal that precedes the opening of Parisian Thoroughfare and the record – “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud” – is pride or pastiche.

Definitely the things they’re saying so loud are of the utmost excitement and authority.

Postville

PROFILE – SWINGADELIC

Bassist Dave Post, who has been leading the “little big band” Swingadelic since 1998, responded to the Instagram page of Flophouse Magazine. Since then we corresponded about the kind of music we love and Dave cherishes. Dave unconditionally loves what he refers to as “the good shit”, meaning blues, big band swing and classic soul jazz. In existence since 1998, Swingadelic performed at New York City clubs like Swing 46 and played at the festivals of Allentown’s MusicFest and NYC’s Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing, among others. The band maintains a busy tour schedule, predominantly on the East Coast and in the South.

Swingadelic’s music relies on the solid beat and robust swing of Post and his rhythm colleagues and contributions of band veterans as pianist John Bauers and trumpeter Carlos Francis. A number of luminaries, notably tenor saxophonists Buddy Terry and Bill Easley, have passed through the band. Not surprisingly considering Post’s preferences, Swingadelic brings entertaining (jump) blues and blues-based jazz ranging from the big band era to the soul jazz era of the 50s and 60s. Many tunes that the band plays originated in the ‘chitlin’ circuit’ of black clubs, such as The Honeydripper, Exactly Like You and Castle Rock. The band’s uplifting and in-your-face repertoire, including many original compositions, is marked by original, strong arrangements and excellent, soulful blowing. Over the years, the band has made an interesting transition to more sophisticated material and its catalogue of eight releases now includes tributes to Duke Pearson (The Other Duke), Allen Touissant (Touissantville) and Johnny Mercer (Mercerville).

I asked Dave about his (musical) upbringing, how he got Swingadelic going for so long now and what might be in store. Dave says:

“I was born and raised in Elizabeth New Jersey, sort of a poor and gritty industrial city and moved to Hoboken in 1988 as the town was becoming gentrified. At that time, there were a lot of artists and musicians living there and gigs were plentiful. My dad was an amateur accordion player and I was not into music until the early 60’s when I got some Tijiuana Brass, Beatles and Mamas & Papas records. But what really sealed the deal for me was hearing The Rolling Stones on the radio. From there I went back to Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley, the Chess Records guys. That somehow brought me to jazz, via the organ cats like Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and Leon Spencer. I started learning bass by listening to those records as a teenager. I started playing in Polish bands and rock’n’roll groups, local orchestras, bluegrass, wedding bands, anything.

“I started Swingadelic in 1998 and have been very fortunate to be able to play with a lot of great musicians. I think the reason we worked so much is because we were willing to play any type of music that clients wanted. A swing dance, sure. Background music, no problem, a wedding? Of course! The real secret to keeping a band together is to get a lot of gigs and pay the guys! My favorite bands and bass players are so many. Ray Brown is on top if the list. Then there’s Horace Silver, Dexter Gordon, Tito Puente, Wilson Pickett, Ellington and Basie. This list can go on forever!

“I don’t know what is next for Swingadelic recording wise. Maybe a bunch of 60’s tunes re-imagined for big band, or a Mose Allison tribute or an all original composition CD. Who knows!”

Swingadelic’s latest release Bluesville (May 2020) is a reflection of the band’s roots in blues, big band blues and organ grooves and what they nightly bring on stage, including songs by Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and Mose Allison. Among others, it features saxophonist Bill Easley, singer Vanessa Perea and organist Kyle Koehler. The Late Late Show, a hit for Dakota Staton in 1957, has sweeping vocals by John Bauers. The punchy arrangements bring to mind the Ray Charles Band of the Atlantic years. Vanessa Perea carries the luscious What’s Your Story, Morning Glory, best known in the Ella & Louis version, to a suave conclusion. Ellington’s The Mooche is endearing homage, all high register brass and reed and tart muted trumpet intermezzos, contemporary in the subtle accompaniment and greasy solo of guitarist Boo Reiners. The shuffle blues of Riffin’ On McGriffin’ is perfect foil for organist Kyle Koehler and Bill Easley’s hot sax burns a hole in, among others, Willie Dixon’s I Love The Live I Live.

Check out the website of Swingadelic here.

Jimmy Rowles

SPOTLIGHT ON – JIMMY ROWLES

(in cooperation with Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven)

It’s no use to make anything holy if only for the inherent failure of leaders and followers to meet the standards of deification. Holiness also implies submission to a cause one dares not criticise. So jazz and its leaders are not holy. It’s easy to succumb to the impulse. I have to confess that on a number of occasions, I have typified the great Charlie Parker as “The One” and “part rebel rouser part Messiah”. No doubt a blasphemous analogy in the view of the religious community. No doubt a definition that Charlie “Yardbird” Parker would take with a grain of salt before carrying on with one of his unforgettable bird flights. Then again, most likely something true jazz aficionados would not blame me for posing.

Holiness may be hyperbole but the value of jazz as a transcendent and spiritual force is immense. By nature, jazz breaks borders. In the arena of club or studio, it doesn’t in principle matter if you’re black or white, young or old, or which country you come from. As long as you understand the beautiful language of jazz. However, the business side of jazz – it might be a general cultural phenomenon – has always been hype-driven. And so it has come to be that young “new stars” are signed to major labels overnight, while middle-aged masters struggle on the outskirts of the jazz landscape. Sometimes, they float to the surface as “elder statesmen” on the international stage with the help of encouraging colleagues, promoters, journalists, A&R people and club owners. At that moment, you will most likely read an article in the mainstream media that reflects the saying, “wow, that old-timer sure knocks everybody for a loop!”. As a consequence of the business’s age discrimination, crackerjack and influential performers as Joe Henderson, Tommy Flanagan, Charles McPherson, Lou Donaldson and Dee Dee Bridgewater have in their 40s performed under the radar for years, to come out on top in the last stage of their careers.

Sometimes they’re there all the time, under the radar, like Jimmy Rowles, who traveled along a very curious route with generous outpourings of piano artistry. In 1973, as Gary Giddins, jazz critic sui generis, noted in Visions Of Jazz (Oxford Press, 1998), Town Hall billed Rowles as “California’s greatest jazz pianist” preceding a Johnny Mercer concert. A tad chauvinistic, no doubt, but not such a crazy idea at all, even considering the fact that Oscar Peterson was based on the West Coast. In the mid-70s, Rowles already had maintained a career for twenty-five years and after a hiatus in the 60’s relocated to New York. Half of the audience in the clubs where he had residencies, mostly Bradley’s and The Cookery, consisted of hyper-attentive pianists.

His underground reputation makes the question who really is Jimmy Rowles rather problematic. This is how far I go: He’s omnipresent as a recording artist yet many of his albums as a leader are rarities. Rowles, born James George Hunter in Spokane, Washington in 1918, started his career as early as the early 40’s, touring with Slim Gaillard and Lester Young, Benny Goodman and Woody Herman. He hit his stride in Los Angeles, which was rife with opportunities to record and work in the studio system. Rowles recorded with Benny Carter, Buddy Rich, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Ben Webster, Shelly Manne, Al Cohn, Pepper Adams, Nat King Cole, Barney Kessel, Lee Konitz and many others. He had a special rapport with tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, cooperating on Sims’s excellent Pablo recordings in the late 70’s.

As an accompanist of singers, Rowles was non-pareil and in constant demand. He supported virtually all the great singers: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Peggy Lee and Diane Krall among others, whom Rowles and Ray Brown encouraged to sing. He’s featured on Billie Holiday’s Songs For Distingué Lovers from 1957. Rowles sang himself as well, in a conversational style that is not virtuosic but charming and with a grittiness that is leavened by Billy Holiday-ish legato phrasing. He sings a couple of songs on his best-known record, The Peacocks, featuring Stan Getz from 1978.

His knowledge of songs was unparalleled. Rowles knew more than two thousand songs and included many oddities in his repertoire. During his lifetime, he gradually developed a library of songs and charts in Los Angeles, a treasure trove for musicians and producers in need of half-forgotten songs. Rowles had a special fondness for the Ellington/Strayhorn songbook, particularly rarely-performed compositions, which he mined with peerless sense of harmony, melody and characteristics of the solo’s. He also delved into Wayne Shorter’s compositions from the Art Blakey period. Rowles shares with Duke Ellington a detailed use of space and sparse dynamics. He’s an elegant player with intriguing, oblique voicings. Yet both sharp wit (if you listen to him closely, you will imagine that he must have been a fellow with a great sense of humor) and unpredictability stand out in a style that is instantly recognizable. For a description of a unique Rowles solo, I turn again to Giddins, who commented on Rowles’ cooperation with Zoot Sims on Cole Porter’s It’s All Right With Me:

“… played in a rampaging long meter that perfectly captures the give and take between stalwart tenor and daring piano. During Zoot’s first improvised chorus, Rowles pumps him up with chords; in the second, he brings in crescendo tremelos that gather like storm warnings. His own two-chorus solo is of a sort no one else would attempt – a coherent montage of hammered single notes, offhanded dissonances, wandering arpeggios, abrupt bass walks, trebly rambles. When Sims returns, the pianist probes every open space, spurring him until you think they might burst out of orbit.”

(Billie Holiday, Songs For Distingué Lovers – Verve 1957; Zoot Sims, If I’m Lucky – Pablo 1977; The Peacocks – Columbia 1977)

Thank you Mr. Giddins. There’s a shameful lack of mention of Rowles in jazz literature, which leaves detailed info about the life of Rowles hanging in the air. That’s the reason I called Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven, Swiss connaisseur and former manager of bassist Ray Brown and comrade to numerous jazz greats. (Reisser-Beethoven commented on Ray Brown’s Bass Hit recently, see here) Jean-Michel was a friend of Jimmy Rowles and he spills the beans below. Very enlightening.

Jean-Michel Reisser-Beethoven: “Jimmy should be better known, but he actually was not concerned with fame. He was conscious about his merits. And he was always much in demand anyway. There is no doubt that he is one of the greatest pianists in jazz history. Everybody in the business knows! Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock checked him out in New York and they were astounded. They knew who Rowles was but not that he was that good!

“I admire the way Jimmy took risks as a piano player. Somehow he always came out on top, I’ve rarely ever heard anyone like that. At the same time, his playing is balanced. A great example of his courageous style is his solo on Satin Doll on the Henry Mancini ’67 record. (listen here) He played something totally different than expected, everybody went crazy. And he goes right to the heart of the melody. Did you know that he learned to play stride from Ben Webster? Jimmy and Ray Brown – who also was an excellent piano player – were friends with Ben Webster. Ben learned them to play stride.

“Jimmy played with Lester Young and his brother Lee as early as 1940. And later on with Charlie Parker. Of course, playing with a genius like Parker is a challenge. But Jimmy knew all the great composers, Ravel, Debussy, Bartok, etcetera. So his harmonic sense already was excellent. He said to me: ‘That is what saved me!’

“Jimmy knew all the tunes, and then some. Eventually, Jimmy rented a place to store all his charts, which turned into his Library of Songs. Everybody who wanted to record a tune but forgot how it exactly went turned to his library. It is run by Jimmy’s estate nowadays. Just last year, I forwarded the manager of Michael Bublé to the library.

“I first saw Jimmy perform in 1978 in Nice. Back then festivals were different. Artists played for days on end. So that was a treat. Jimmy was a very funny guy. He loved his drink and was a real party man. Jimmy and Harry “Sweets” Edison used to call Ray Brown “Raymond Fucking Brown”. Haha!

We were talking backstage at the Nice festival in ’78, Jimmy and I and a lot of musicians. A French jazz journalist approached Jimmy, telling him that he really liked the way he sang and that his voice seemed similar to that of Nat King Cole. Jimmy replied with dry wit, “Well, maybe Nat King ‘Cold’. Everybody cracked up.”

Here are a number of must-haves according to Jean-Michel:

(Jazz Is A Fleeting Moment – Jazzz 1976; Plays Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn – Columbia 1981; Duets – Cymbol 1980)
(Shade And Light – Ahead 1978/Black & Blue 1991; Don Bagley, Basically Bagley – Dot 1957; Richie Kamuca, Charlie – Concord 1979)
(Zoot Sims, Party – Choice 1974; Scarab – Musica 1978; Sometimes I’m Happy – Orange Blue 1988)

Jimmy Rowles passed away in 1996.

Shirley Scott - Hip Soul

Shirley Scott Hip Soul (Prestige 1961)

Hip couple, hip soul. Finding a hip crowd for the collaborations between wife and husband Shirley Scott and Stanley Turrentine was a cinch.

Shirley Scott - Hip Soul

Personnel

Shirley Scott (organ), Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Herbie Lewis (bass), Roy Brooks (drums)

Recorded

on June 2, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7205 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Hip Soul
411 West
By Myself
Side B:
Trane’s Blues
Stanley’s Time
Out Of This World


Organist Shirley Scott released no less than eighteen albums on Prestige from 1958-61, including the subsidiary label Moodsville. Excluding six albums that the company released from 1965-67, when Scott had already become part of the Impulse label roster. Tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, married to Scott in 1961 and divorced in 1971, guest-starred on five albums by Scott on Prestige and Impulse. In turn, Scott was featured on four of her husband’s Blue Note albums.

They not only had grown accustomed to each other’s faces on daily bases, meshing musical styles hardly posed a problem. Scott had started her organ combo career with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and therefore had plenty experience of playing with a highly original tenor saxophonist. The collaboration of Scott and Turrentine is about the blues and a fair share of standards and modern jazz. It comes as no surprise that the prolific recording duo was a popular attraction in the circuit of clubs of the soul jazz era.

The beautiful Shirley Scott looked great on a record cover, and high-spirited. Don’t mess with Shirley. Music-wise, her tasteful, driving playing style demands attention. Largely ignoring the revolution of Jimmy Smith, Scott preserved an orchestral approach during her years on Prestige, the settings of her organ ‘old-fashioned’ almost like Wild Bill Davis, the style full of gospel and swing and with few tinges of bop. It is only during her tenure on Impulse that Scott expands her territory with more elaborate single lines and a more modern sound.

Hip Soul is as good an example as any of the Scott/Turrentine combinations on Prestige. The group, including bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Roy Brooks, performs the mid-tempo, down-home blues of Hip Soul, the sophisticated melody of Benny Golson, 411 West, the pleasurable standard By Myself, John Coltrane’s (surprise pick) Trane’s Blues, the catchy blues line by Turrentine, Stanley’s Time and Arlen/Mercer’s Out Of This World. Sounds like an appropriate second set at, say, New Jersey’s Club Harlem or Chicago’s Theresa’s Lounge, the crowd in anticipation of another hour of lurid down-home jazz.

They take their time to stretch out during the course of the very enjoyable 11 minutes of Out Of This World. Scott’s solo consists almost strictly of chords, the suspense hinging on voicing, her meaty touch and gospel feeling. Turrentine, the Single Malt of tenor saxophonists, all peat, oak, berries, cutting the phlegm and leaving a layered taste in the palate, demonstrates his unique way of bending blues-infested notes, sometimes stretching them as little but imposing wails, a hypnotizing brew. He swiftly phrases through his finest story of the album.

Stanley Turrentine passed away in 2000. Shirley Scott in 2002.

New Hammond Sound Project New Hammond Sound (New Organ Sound Records 2019)

NEW RELEASE – NEW HAMMOND SOUND PROJECT

Experiment and crossover groove go hand in hand on New Hammond Sound.

New Hammond Sound Project

Personnel

Carlo de Wijs (Modular Hammond), Jordi Geuens (d)

Recorded

in 2019 at Organtasy and Studio Doetichem

Released

as NOSR 001 in 2019

Track listing

Side A:
Element CM
Twin Souls
Relation
Side B:
Element DM
Drawbar Beats
Element 80


Remember Prince singing: “I’ve seen the future and it will be.”

That was about Batman. But the Purple Pied Piper saw the writing on the musical wall as well. He knew the future was hip hop. And he saw that it “worked”. At least until it came to a grounding halt in the ratrace of the corporate realm.

I’ve seen the future of the Hammond organ and it works through the creative and technological endeavors of organist Carlo de Wijs and his associates of the New Hammond Sound Project. A first-hand account of the workings of his Modular “hybrid” Hammond can be found in our interview here. I saw New Hammond Sound perform at Hammond Happening last year, read here.

As one of the select few that experiments with the integration of modern technology into the analog, tonewheel-driven Hammond B3 organ, De Wijs created a truly one-of-a-kind instrument that fulfills the promise of the “primitive” innovations of forebears as diverse as Joe Zawinul and Lou Bennett. It should be only a matter of time until the industry picks up on it.

The question arises what is to be done with the Modular Hammond on a creative level and De Wijs gives a push with his first New Hammond Sound Project LP, recorded in cooperation with drummer Jordi Geuens in real time, quite a feat that New Hammond Sound repeats in a live setting with the addition of Job van Nuenen’s visual arts. The Hammond organ is heard in all its splendid and new-found glory on six tracks that are not jazz but show big chunks of jazz in the way De Wijs phrases his stories; six De Wijs compositions that have a trance-like quality, begging for an audience at the periphery of the mainstream.

Is New Hammond Sound a kind of urban doom jazz trance? Perhaps. Sometimes De Wijs meets Kraftwerk (Twin Souls), sometimes tunes are infused by shades of Paul Bley’s Synthesizer Show (Drawbar Beats) or Procol Harem (Element DM). There’s a certain Stevie Wonder motive that De Wijs builds into a soulful thread (Relation, the one tune that would have benefited from a more ‘loose’ drummer than Geuens, whose otherwise super-tight drumming is the tie that binds) that he graces with gritty lines like a revved-up Jimmy McGriff. There’s that intense climax (Element 80) that feels like Wilco on a Krautrock kick. So much for comparisons. New Hammond Sound is diverse but coherent, a set of futuristic grooves dramatized by De Wijs’s staggering variety of sounds that range from pure Baptist Church organ and other-wordly crunch to eerie impressions of thick fog. It’s underscored by loops, oscillated undercurrents, bleeps and what not, and a Moog bass that rumbles from the depth of the ocean.

Speaking about water, it is hardly superfluous to state that De Wijs is dancing in the rain and has tossed away the umbrella. Bold steps, perhaps not entirely surprising when you take a closer look at the career of the 57-year old organist, who has continually ventured beyond his straight-forward jazz roots.

Find New Hammond Sound here.

Check out the website of Carlo de Wijs here.

The Triumph Of Dehumanisation

RUDY VAN GELDER –

Blogger Richard Capeless a.k.a. Deep Groove Mono adds an exciting chapter to the book of publications on the legendary engineer Rudy van Gelder. Capeless recently launched the website RVG Legacy, preserving the work of Van Gelder with background stories, equipment analysis and (previously unreleased) pictures in cooperation with the Van Gelder Estate and Van Gelder Studio. See here.

Dubbed ‘an equally important band member’ by the famed Dutch engineer Max Bolleman, it pays to look at the role of the sound engineer in jazz, since it is his work that shapes our appreciation of the artist. Who wants to listen if Freddie Hubbard is buried in a mix of loud cymbals and muffled piano? That’s like eating chili con carne and discovering that the beans have been substituted by gumballs.

A pioneer in close miking and reverberation technique, “The RVG Sound” is synonymous with immediacy, space and a distinctive ‘thick’ piano sound. He made the musicians sound as if they were playing live in your room. In cooperation with Blue Note’s Alfred Lion, Van Gelder created a unique level of authenticity and in effect – almost all of the Blue Note musicians were black – a hard-core and unsurpassed black aesthetic in the world of modern music. Lest we forget, Van Gelder was the engineer on many more labels, including CTI, Impulse, Prestige, Savoy, Regent and Verve and recorded Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey and Sonny Rollins among many, many others.

Van Gelder, as it goes with ‘artists’, met with critique, notably from Charles Mingus, who said that his uniform sound deprived the musicians of their particular character. But if “The RVG Sound” is indeed considered uniform, it is a triumph of dehumanisation that meets with worldwide enjoyment to this day, and many days to come. Now and then, one hears the quibble that too much attention is focused on Van Gelder at the expense of his contemporaries. Indeed, there have been equally extraordinary engineers, for instance Roy DuNann and Val Valentin, but the truly innovative genius of Van Gelder is beyond dispute.