Eddie Harris - The In Sound

Eddie Harris The In Sound (Atlantic 1966)

Folk hero in his prime.

Eddie Harris - The In Sound

Personnel

Eddie Harris (tenor saxophone), Ray Codrington (trumpet A1, B1, B2), Cedar Walton (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)

Recorded

on August 9 & 25 in New York City

Released

as Atlantic 1448 in 1966

Track listing

Side A:
Love Theme From “The Sandpiper” (The Shadow Of Your Smile)
Born To Be Blue
Love For Sale
Side B:
Cryin’ Blues
‘S Wonderful
Freedom Jazz Dance


“El Cheapo.” That’s how Eddie Harris apparently called himself in the mid-1980’s. The tenor saxophonist was recording in the studio of engineer Max Bolleman in Monster in The Netherlands and Max was thinking that this was kind of weird. Harris introduced and continued to define himself as “El Cheapo.” His toying with various electronical devices, especially when broken down due to faulty wiring, was accompanied by self-deprecating remarks. “Oh yeah that figures, I’m ‘El Cheapo’”.

It is weird. Perhaps best ranked in the realm of irony? Chicago-born Eddie Harris started out with a big bang and enjoyed a major hit with his version of the theme song from the movie Exodus in 1960. A beautiful, breezy tune that showcased Harris’s upper register sounds of the tenor saxophone. He changed course in the mid-1960’s and followed his own path on the Atlantic label, recording a series of gritty avant-soul jazz records featuring amplified saxophone. Another unlikely hit was scored with the live Swiss Movement LP with pianist Les McCann in 1971. Okay, but to get back to irony, Harris subsequently released various surprising albums with r&b and vocals, among those the comedy album The Reason Why I’m Talking Shit. His best-known tune from the period is Eddie Who? Seriously funny tune. And ambiguous, mentioning various contributions of Harris to jazz. I remember when you used to play with Count Basie / That was Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis / My name is Eddie Harris / I’ve got one of your videos jack / That was Eddie Murphy / My name is Eddie Harris.

We haven’t forgotten you, Eddie. On the contrary. Which jazz musician has enjoyed two major hits in his career? He may have been under the radar in the latter part of his life. But various people have sung praise during his lifetime and since his death in 1996. Just a few examples, staying close to the premises of Flophouse Magazine. Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander considered Harris’s solo on You’ll See on Jimmy Smith’s All The Way as the ‘best blues solo in F ever’. Swiss drummer Florian Arbenz recorded a different version of Harris’s Freedom Jazz Dance on every issue of his twelve-LP saga Conversations. Finally, Dutch alto saxophonist Benjamin Herman praised Harris courageous crossover mentality, mentioning Mean Greens as one his favorite records.

Freedom Jazz Dance was featured on The In Sound, released in 1966. It was the first record after his mainstream period on VeeJay and Columbia that demonstrated a will to experiment, albeit not yet with ‘electric sax’ or various amplified instruments. It was the first album that put Harris’s thorough understanding of Coltrane’s playing in the limelight. The LP featured Cedar Walton, Ron Carter and Billy Higgins. Major-league company, in its prime.

Evidently, Freedom Jazz Dance is the album’s high-profile and lasting composition. It was famously covered by Miles Davis on Miles Smiles in 1967. It is still marvelous and fresh. If only for the tremendous groove, kickstarted by the gritty counter beats of Carter, Walton and Higgins, which is strengthened by the churchy pattern of the tambourine. Carter’s booming sound and long notes ring through the breaks like school bells. On top of all this is the playful, Ornette Coleman-ish melody. It’s hypnotic, it’s like being at a party that grows more cheerful and intense by the hour, like being among people with uncommonly good, uplifting vibes, merging in a trance in a dance in a buffalo stance.

Eddie blows a fuse. It’s the climax of a record that started with Harvey Mandel’s The Shadow Of Your Smile from The Sandpiper, Harris was asked to add another movie theme song and says in the liner notes that he said why not, making it his own with his typically punchy, no-nonsense tone and down-to-earth, well-paced phrasing. He blows a meaty ballad and a roaring blues and goes Gershwin, everything vivid and accessible. He’s pushing the envelope but giving people their money’s worth. A wild man, a kind of Rufus Thomas on sax.

He goes Porter with the hard-hitting Love For Sale, marked by an overwhelming tornado of notes, as if the sound of the heavy tread of the heavy feet from the lonesome cop that introduces the nocturnal endeavors of the tale’s world-wary prostitute in the red light district is washed away by the frenzied footsteps of a dozen violent gnomes.

Eventful transitional record by El Cheapo. Nothing cheap about it, mind you.

Cédric Caillaud - pic 1

Swinging The Melody

Parisian bass player Cédric Caillaud has very original and specific ideas about how to expand on the tradition. “There are plenty ways of creating new things in the standard repertoire.”

He will be back in New York next week. More than two decades ago, Caillaud, as ambitious young lions are wont, started to check out the Big Apple scene. Now he’s reached the age of forty-eight and takes along his teenage daughter for the trip down memory lane and a ride through the bowels of the asphalt jungle. “It’ll mostly be big fun and sight-seeing. But I will visit friends and go and see music at places like Small’s. I had a band with pianist Spike Wilner at one time. As the owner of Small’s, he is doing a great job for jazz.”

Regardless of his transatlantic connections and though Caillaud tours quite a bit in Europe, even as far as West-Africa, the La Rochelle-born bassist is firmly based in Paris. One of the most gorgeous places in the world, City of Light, City of Romance and for jazz buffs, forever linked with unsurpassed American expatriates as Kenny Clarke and Bud Powell, Paris is a place that has always had jazz running through its veins. At any given night, lone half note rangers and flocks of paradiddle-doers enter the premises of one of the beautific ‘arrondissements’, instrument case in hand, in the case of Caillaud, a big bag that holds his upright bass. He’s a staple of Chez Papa in St. Germain du Près and Le Petit Opportune nearby Les Halles.

A sought-after player that played and recorded with a variety of people from Scott Hamilton, Bobby Durham, René Urtreger to Manu Dibango, Natalie Dessay and Thomas Dutronc, Caillaud recorded four albums as a leader. A far cry from his beginnings in La Rochelle. “It is impossible in this region to be a professional musician. La Rochelle is a quiet and nice provincial town. But I was interested in music and started playing electric bass in the weekend. Your typical garagerock. Me and my friends loved the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I discovered Jaco Pastorius and Weather Report. That’s how I basically got into jazz. At that time, I didn’t know who they were. I thought that they were a bunch of young guys! It was only later that I learned that Wayne Shorter was a famous jazz musician and that Joe Zawinul had played in the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. I started going to the mediatheque and borrowing real jazz records. That’s when I changed to double bass.”

Caillaud is a strong bass player with a sound like a big woman that wears stockings and high-heeled boots made for walking. A tone that rattles the bottles behind the bar. A worthy contender in the lineage of Ray Brown, John Clayton, Pierre Boussaguet, he strives for a challenging combination of groove and confident intermezzi. “Essentially, I’m proposing another role of the bass. The evolution of double bass in popular music is very significant. It is a genuine solo instrument by now. Why not play melodies and solo’s? I love to let people discover the beauty of the double bass.”

Moreover, Caillaud makes it his business to carefully arrange all his projects, giving every of his four albums a distinct vibe and challenging allocation of roles whether it’s the hard-swinging Emma’s Groove or the lithe and airy With Respect To Jobim. “I want everything to have a live feeling, to give people music that lives and breathes. In order to achieve this, I use original arrangements and stress different colorings. That’s why on, for instance, the Jobim record, I featured flutist Hervé Mischenet. He’s a genuine flute player, not a saxophonist that plays flute on the side. And he used four different flutes to realize the coloring that I was looking for.”

Swinging The Count, featuring pianist Patrick Cabon and drummer Alvin Queen, serves as a top-notch, rather stunning example. Why this tribute to Count Basie? “Basie is a very important sound. Most people talk about Duke Ellington. And I love Duke Ellington. I play the Ellington book in the Duke Orchestra in France, a great orchestra. But Basie is about the essence. He didn’t read, played blues and gave a special feeling of happiness and exuberance. He played music from other composers but gave it his own identity. It’s pure swing. I have a lot of experience playing the Basie repertoire in great groups like drummer François Laudet’s big band. On Swinging The Count, it was a very great experience to play with the amazing Alvin Queen. He has a real black beat. My goal was to celebrate Count Basie’s music in trio form. That has never been done with this line-up. Oscar Peterson did quartet recordings and there’s the two Count Basie records with Ray Brown and Louie Bellson. I love the Basie recordings from the 1950’s and 1960’s because of the maturity of Basie and the sound of the bands. Amazing quality and great composers and arrangers like Quincy Jones and Neal Hefti.”

He’s the kind with good faith in mainstream jazz. “It’s perfectly possible to create new things in the mainstream repertoire. Essentially, jazz is very simple. It’s like Alvin Queen told me: ‘It’s just swing and melody!’ Of course, you can have different inspirations like African or Asian music or whatever and create a lot of things. But basically it’s all about context. I love someone like Benny Green. Each recording is always musical, lively and in the tradition.”

The generation of Caillaud, inspired by the resurgence of interest in classic jazz, music that had balls and grew from the earth like potatoes and cucumber and chili pepper, was embraced by the old guard. “It was important to me to play with older musicians and listen to their stories. I was friends with Pierre Michelot. He told me: ‘When I was young, I started to play with older musicians, I learned the repertoire and I learned to play. Then I became a veteran. But it was impossible to play with the young people in the 1980’s. They didn’t know the repertoire and only played their own compositions.’ It was frustrating for him to deal with the fusion period. But he was happy when my generation arrived.”

And now Caillaud spreads the word to inspiring youngsters around town. Lucky little boogers!

Cédric Caillaud

Discography:

  • June 26 (Aphrodite 2006)
  • Emma’s Groove (Aphrodite 2009)
  • Swinging The Count (Fresh Sound Records 2013)
  • With Respect To Jobim (Fresh Sound Records 2020)

Check out Cédric and his albums on Fresh Sound here.

Eran Har Even Shorter Days (World Citizen Music Records 2024)

NEW RELEASE – ERAN HAR EVEN

Shorter circuit? On the contrary.

Print

Personnel

Eran Har Even (guitar), Omer Govreen (bass), Wouter Kühne (drums)

Recorded

in February 2023 at Roode Bioscoop

Released

as World Citizen Music Records in 2024

Track listing

Lost
El Toro
The Big Push
One By One
Nefertiti
Dance Cadaverous
Capricorn
Night Dreamer


It’s not exactly armageddon that is conjured up by guitarist Eran Har Even on his tribute to Wayne Shorter, the greatest composer of the post-bop era. No mistaking, dark and ominous clouds are rolling. Brown leaves are dancing on the cobblestones like gypsies wandering over the moorland. Occasionally, the world is upside down, its blue and green resembling the colors of the head of someone who has been hanging out of the saddle of his horse on his way to the illusion of Eldorado. There’s tenderness and melancholy, a tear of sorrow, a tear of joy. This is how it should be on a record of Wayne Shorter compositions.

There is no piano to back up Even, an Amsterdam-based, Israeli axe man who played with Benny Golson, Gilad Hekselman, Jasper Blom, Logan Richardson and is a prolific partaker in the Dutch scene. His broad sound scape makes up for this suavely and he’s filling the canvas with nifty combinations of single runs and off-kilter harmonies. The tight-knit and flexible duo of Omer Govreen on bass and Wouter Kühne on drums brings out the best in Even.

There is a mixture of deceptive simplicity and challenging movements in Shorter’s compositions that is most appealing to jazz musicians, not least listeners. Obviously, Eran Har Even thoroughly comprehends the Shorter Book and re-created it to make an appealing piece of his own, whether it’s the stormy version of Lost or the lesser-known Capricorn, which swings freely and bites its own tail like a snake. Interestingly, the Juju album or anthemic Footprints is absent. He did pick the classic Nefertiti from the Miles Davis period and Night Dreamer, a great album climax that mixes nocturnal New York shadows with the whirling winds of the desert.

Eran Har Even

Find Shorter Days here.

Eddie Higgins - Soulero

The Eddie Higgins Trio Soulero (Atlantic 1965)

Fine pianist from the periphery of the jazz landscape recorded his third album on the incomparable Atlantic label.

Eddie Higgins - Soulero

Personnel

Eddie Higgins (piano), Richard Evans (bass), Marshall Thompson (drums)

Recorded

in 1965 at Universal Recording Corporation, Chicago

Released

as Atlantic 1446 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Tango Africaine
Love Letters
Shelley’s World
Soulero
Side B:
Mr. Evans
Django
Beautiful Dreamer
Makin’ Whoopee


Eddie? You mean, the Eddie? Sure, man, you don’t have to tell me who is who. Eddie is a fine pianist, we used to hang at the Brass Rail, colorful guy.

Perhaps this is the question-and-answer query of quite a few jazz dinosaurs. Not mine though, to be honest. It was only after discovering Eddie Higgins on an online jazz forum that I started to listen to him and finally acquiring some of his records, including Soulero. And it was only after I started to dig into his career info that I found out, oh, it’s thís Eddie, I heard him but it somehow didn’t register. Because Mr. Higgins played on Lee Morgan’s Expoobident, Wayne Shorter’s Wayning Moments and Wes Montgomery’s One Night In Indy. That’s right. Not bad. By the way, the late Wayne Shorter asked him back for 2002’s All Or Nothing At All and 2013’s Beginnings.

It all started in Chicago for the Cambridge, Massachusetss-born Higgins. A pianist that was versed in swing and bop and led various bands in The Windy City opposite fellows like Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie and Wes Montgomery. He played with the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Jack Teagarden, Oscar Peterson and Sonny Stitt and was the house pianist at the high-profile London House from 1957 to the late 1960’s. He made quite a few records in the USA with Milt Hinton, Rufus Reid, Ray Drummond. It seems that he was very popular in Japan, having released 20+ records on the Venus label with, among others, Scott Hamilton from 2000 till 2008. Where was I? I don’t have a clue. Probably, as cult country star and the world’s funniest whodunnit-writer Kinky Friedman would say, out there where the buses don’t run.

I was alert enough, though, to notice an online comment on Higgins by jazz buff and reviewer Randy L. Smith. Smith, based in Japan, saw him perform in Fukusaki in 2006 and 2007. He provided me with an interview with Higgins in Cadence, written by Dan Gould. Interestingly, Higgins, who lived in Florida by the time of the interview, tells of his surprising refusal to act upon the request of Art Blakey to join his band in 1960. It was just after Higgins’s feature on the Morgan album on October 14, 1960, which included the famed Buhaina. In theory, Higgins would join the then-current line-up of Morgan, Shorter and Jimmy Merritt and would be the replacement of Bobby Timmons. But he refused, seeing one huge plus – immediate acclaim and world-wide touring – but a lot of negatives: (with kind permission of Dan Gould)

“First of all I’ve got a great job here in Chicago in the London House and my kids were very little at that point. And the idea to be on the road all the time and not seeing my children grow up is a negative. Number two, this is pretty much an all-junkie band and I’m not only nót a junkie, I don’t even drink or smoke pot or anything at all. I would be out of the loop as far as the social life of the band, plus the fact that I’m the only White guy in the band. And at that time in jazz history there was a very strong Crow Jim feeling that if you’re White, you couldn’t play. And obviously they knew I could play or I wouldn’t be on these record dates or asked to join the band, but still there’d be a… definite racial bridge to cross there working with the Jazz Messengers and playing in probably mostly Black clubs for mostly Black audiences and so forth. And third, I heard by the grapevine that when payday came the first guy that got the money was the connection for the heroin, and not just Blakey but the rest of the band, too. And if there’s any money left over then they pay the hotel bill and if there’s anything left over from that then maybe the guys will get a few bucks. I had a family and rent to pay and insurance payments.”

Blakey replied: ‘You’re kidding’. Because as Higgins says, to get an offer from The Jazz Messengers is like being touched on the shoulder by God. In the end though, it seems a perfectly logical decision.

Atlantic somehow got wind of Higgins. Perhaps, Ahmet or Nesuhi Artegun were conscious of the fact that Higgins served as producer for Chess Records. Anyway, they got him in the Universal Recording Corporation studio in Chicago with his long-standing rhythm section of bassist Richard Davis and drummer Marshall Thompson.

Soulero was the end result. Hip sleeve. The look of love sells, doesn’t it. Atlantic was pushing Higgins in the direction of soul jazz. There is a decidedly Ramsey Lewis-style vibe. Richard Evans and Marshall Thompson were worthy and prolific contenders in the jazz business. They are sophisticated while working up quite a storm. There is a notable diversion of groove, divided between Higgins’s Tango Africaine, the ‘bolero’ of Soulero and the bass-driven swinger Mr. Evans. Folk melody Beautiful Dreamer and Bill Traut’s Shelley’s World represented the lighter touch of Higgins. A baroque introduction defines Love Letters. Higgins intriguingly works his way through the bridge of the iconic, John Lewis’s Django. Makin’ Whoopee is made into a nifty and entertaining flagwaver and is developed from nice ‘n’ easy to fast and, finally, furious Speedy Gonzales-tempo.

Certainly not a waste of time. The Ertegun Bros seemed to agree, as they released The Piano Of Eddie Higgins the following year, even going to the expense of adding an orchestra. They knew he was a fine pianist. But there are many fine pianists out there and Higgins seemed to have a knack of flying under the radar.

Listen to Soulero on YouTube here.

Tom van der Zaal 1

Zing went the strings of his heart

Lyrical alto saxophonist and canny jazz entrepreneur Tom van der Zaal thought big and cooked up an album with strings. “It’s taken three good years of my life. I wanted everything to be top-notch.”

Bright blue, yellow and red rays of light dart across a stage that almost resembles Madison Square Garden. Pools of sweat bring back memories of the last monsoon season. Crazy young fans dominate the clean scene. Van der Zaal shows pics of his performances at various Indonesian jazz stages. He grins excitedly. “I’m a bit jetlagged. It’s quite a trip and the difference between climates is enormous. But it was all worth it. It is like playing at a pop festival and the people keep you in high regard. Most of the fans over there are young and absolutely crazy. But not merely crazy in the sense of plain enthusiasm. Some of them knew all about my work and said that they had been waiting for my visit for years. It’s fantastic. The tour was cancelled a few times. But it finally came through with the support of the Erasmushuis.”

He hovers over an espresso at Jazz Coffee & Wines on the beautiful Noordeinde street in The Hague. Quite the opposite of Jakarta. A gusty wind comes down from the North Sea. Its residential grandeur warms your bones. The city that seats the national government is the home base of Van der Zaal, a well-groomed, vivacious fellow with a healthy blush on his cheeks. Bon vivant. Go-getter. Having arrived at the second phase of his career, not a young lion anymore, Van der Zaal is out there to compete and cook up new strategies. He’s serious about the definition of ‘new’ and gains traction after his well-received Time Will Tell album from 2019, which featured ace guitarist Peter Bernstein.

His next ‘phase’ involves Sketchbook Of Dreams, which adds a couple of rearrangements of compositions from Time Will Tell to new material that was specifically written for this inspired ‘with strings’ project. “A lot of ideas come up at night. It seems that creativity is inspired by darkness. When I get an idea at night, I get up out of bed and write it down or sing a melody in my phone, even if it’s only four bars. It may be a starting point for something to work on the coming day. They’re like sketches.”

An all-consuming affair. One doesn’t put together a string album overnight. Van der Zaal is much akin to a quarterback that takes up the extra tasks of coach, agent and personal trainer. “This kind of project usually involves a team of approximately eight people. I’ve almost done everything myself. Preparation, arranging, budgeting. I’m quite ambitious and don’t care whether it takes sixteen hours a day. It turned out to be a very good occupation for me during the pandemic. It kept me busy and in fine mental health. And I knew that I had some good thing going on once the restrictions were abandoned. At least, after all this work a good response is what I’m hoping for!”

“It basically comes down to an expansion of all kinds of capabilities. Both business-wise and artistically. Musically, it has been quite challenging. Writing charts and arranging is not something that you just do on the side. I really dug into the practice day and night. Obviously, I’m familiar with the great ‘with strings’ records of Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Frank Sinatra. But I wanted to make my own kind of album. I listened a lot to the treatments of classical pieces by Bill Evans and threw myself into the string quartets of Ravel and Mahler. I am very much influenced by their movements and intervals.”

“Even still, I’ve got a lot to learn and look forward to work more often in this vein in the future. It really fits my style like a glove. I’m a lyrical saxophonist and match well with the warmth of strings. 50% of what I do is sound, so I really need to take care of it! That’s why I’m also a gear geek. I ordered one of those famous Ribbon microphones that amplified the tone of guys like Cannonball Adderley. But it got stuck at customs. I had to use another mic. It’s probably undiscernible but things like this keep bothering me. Still, it turned out beautifully.”

You oughta take Sketchbook Of Dreams to your second date. You won’t take no for an answer. Put it on. The flickering of candle flames heightens the intensity of melancholia. The streetlights wink languorously to the lamp post. The piano is tipsy, telling corny jokes. It’s a lush affair, to say the least. Bordeaux wine-red strings embrace the tender but punchy alto saxophone of Van der Zaal. The palette ranges from Coltrane-ish drama to sweet-tart balladry. The great Dutch pianist Rob van Bavel accompanies beautifully and embellishes the intriguing movements of Dance Of Hope And Prospect. Van der Zaal rebounds from his chair. “Rob is a giant. Every time I hear him play I keep thinking that Holland is blessed to have a guy like this in its ranks. We specifically wrote Dance Of Hope And Prospect for Rob.

A subtle Latin feel is predominant throughout the album. “Our bassist Matthias Nicolaiewski is Brazilian. I keep asking him for new music, the things that almost nobody is familiar with out here in the West. That’s how we came up with Luiza from the legendary Antônio Jobim, one of his lesser-known tunes. It’s one of the most beautiful melodies ever and suits the range of the alto sax perfectly.”

Van der Zaal hired the Grammy Award-winning engineer Dave Darlington to look at the scores. He specifically wrote string introductions so that he may switch between performances with quintet or orchestra and tease audiences with radio edits on Spotify. He considers a vinyl release and is planning performances in Brazil, Indonesia, the illustrious Ronnie Scott’s in London. A man with a plan. “There’s an idea behind all aspects of the album. In general, I have reached the age that I don’t need to make miles any more like a youngster playing for a couple of bucks in bars. I do enjoy playing, of course, but I’m more conscious of what I’d like to achieve.”

He has come a long way from the boy that grew up in the home of a saxophone-playing father, who passed on his musical genes and business acumen. “I grew up with a strong sense of the tradition and listened to Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke. My father had a job but he played alto saxophone and clarinet. He has great ears and intuition. I have been lucky, because he took me to rehearsals and concerts when I was just a little kid. I studied with Simon Rigter and David Lukasz when I was 16. Around that time I went to my first afterparty at North Sea Jazz, taken by the sleeve by Wynton Marsalis, soaking everything up until 10 in the morning. That was when the jazz bug really got to me.”

North Sea Jazz has moved to Rotterdam. The jazz life of The Hague is close to his heart. For four years now, Van der Zaal and singer-songwriter Toine Scholten have organized the Jazz En Route festival, performances in various places along The Hague’s elegant avenues. “It’s mainstream but we look for a connection with postmodern stuff. We’re not aiming for a new North Sea Jazz. But I have noticed that there is a certain nostalgic feeling among musicians, certainly Americans. They miss that special vibe. Jesse Davis said that one of our places gave him that old North Sea feeling for the first time in twenty-five years. He was talking about our spot at the Indigo Hotel. You wander through a kind of speakeasy bar, then a cocktail bar, until you’re in a great jazz room. It’s a really cool experience.”

Van der Zaal washes away his last espresso with a small glass of water. He smiles, tired but fulfilled. “Once the sound of the last notes has died from the December festival, the organization for next year starts. It is a very time-consuming affair. It’s somewhat like Sketchbook Of Dreams. ‘All or nothing at all’, so to speak.”

Tom van der Zaal

Check out Tom’s website here.

Stan Getz - Dynasty

Stan Getz Dynasty (Verve 1971)

And the Bentley driving guru is putting up his price, anyone for tennis… wouldn’t that be nice?

Stan Getz - Dynasty

Personnel

Stan Getz (tenor saxophone), Eddy Louiss (organ), René Thomas (guitar), Bernard Lubat (drums)

Recorded

on January 11 and March 15-17 at Ronnie Scott’s, London

Released

as V6-8802 in 1971

Track listing

LP1 Side A:
Dum Dum Dum
Ballad For Leo
LP1 Side B:
Our Kind Of Sabi
Mona
LP2 Side A:
Theme For Emmanuel
Invitation
LP Side B:
Song For Martine
Dynasty


By 1970, Stan Getz had plenty reason to be proud of an already very successful career of approximately twenty years. To be sure, Getz had led a turbulent life of drug addiction and jail sentences. I remember reading an apology of his behavior by Getz in a Downbeat issue of the late 1950’s, which is decent or odd, depending on your view or mood. Contrary to general opinion, the withdrawal symptoms of cold turkey are not horrible or a hellish hurdle. Nasty, for sure. But the thing is, it’s harder to stay clean and Getz struggled all his life. Not least during his second marriage with Swedish Monica, who was his manager for many years. Quite the task. Getz was a tough customer. Few if any colleagues sang praise of his personality or were liable to break into my buddy your buddy misses you… On the contrary. When Getz had heart surgery later in life, trombonist Bob Brookmeyer commented: “Did they put one in?” Ouch.

Let there be no mistake that in the first place though, Getz was a gorgeous tenor saxophonist who released top-notch records as early as the early 1950’s on Norman Granz’s Norgran label and became the incredibly successful frontman of the bossa nova craze in the early 1960’s. What are your favorite Getz albums? Mine? Sweet Rain (1967) is something else. I think Live At Storyville 1 & 2 (1951) with Jimmy Raney is indispensable. Classic stuff. His ‘with strings’ album Focus is intriguing and groundbreaking. I’m crazy about The Steamer. (1956) But I’m even more crazy about Dynasty. Not only underrated and essential Getz, but a masterpiece of organ jazz as well.

The early summer of 1970 found Getz in Paris, where he visited the tennis tournament of Roland Garros. Why not? A bit of relaxation won’t hurt. Getz may have seen Czechoslovakian Jan Kodes beat Yugoslavian Zeljko Franulovic in the finals. Remember? Nope. There is no doubt that these cats hit a mean ball, otherwise they wouldn’t have come this far. But their match could hardly have been comparable to John McEnroe-Björn Borg or Nadal-Djokovic. At any rate, while in Paris, Getz also went to the Blue Note club. There he saw the trio of French organist Eddy Louiss, Belgian guitarist René Thomas and French drummer Bernard Lubat. As Getz put it in the liner notes of Dynasty: “I had been told that jazz in France was dead, and sure enough the club was almost empty. I walked in and my mouth fell open. I heard some hard core swinging jazz, everybody was dipping in, really taking their piece.” Getz arranged a couple of unannounced rehearsal engagements at the Chat Qui Pêche. “I decided then and there to present these musicians to the rest of the world.”

And so it came to pass. That is, after a short while. Getz had to hurry back to the USA when his father passed away in the fall. Back in Europe, the band was recorded at Ronnie Scott’s in London in March, enough material to fill a double LP set, though it is said that a small part was recorded in the studio. It’s an enchanting, hypnotic release. Don’t we all have big favorites? Don’t we all share stories of records that we never tire of hearing and that have found a special place in our hearts? Usually, these are the kind of albums that we discovered in our youth, making an indelible impression, mingling with the confusing and liberating forces of adolescence… It’s a kind of magic. Later in life, we still cherish and listen to these favorites. We can dream them up in a flash. They take you back to the innocence of youth, the internalization of hurt… You with me? You play any big favorites?

Musicians are aficionados and listeners as well. And vice versa, occasionally. Musicians know all about magic. And the absence of it. They love to be in a zone and work a bit of magic, to approach that feeling of innocence and internalize hurt, feelings that are recognized by the audience. I think that some people at the three nights at Ronnie Scott’s from March 15-17 definitely were in a zone. To begin with, Stan, Eddy, René and Bernard. I think that the audience at Ronnie Scott’s was damn lucky. Getz is flying like an eagle, swift and flexible, eyes on its prey, swooping from the edge of a breeze, winner taking all… He’s sweet, a father caressing his son. His tone is velvet, candlelight, golden earrings on a Parisian brunette. He hasn’t been nicknamed The Sound for nothing.

Getz was impressed by these European cats with good reason. Actually, René Thomas was relatively known in the United States. Getz may not have been familiar with him but the acclaimed guitarist from Liège in Belgium had made a big impression in New York and Montréal from 1958 till 1961. Collaborators Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins had expressed their admiration of Thomas. Thomas recorded one album for Riverside in the USA – Guitar Groove. It seems to me that Thomas is involved to no end, always playing as if his life is depending on it, always brimming with ideas. Then there’s the unmistakable gypsy-feeling of the legendary stylist from Wallonia, same area where Django Reinhardt was born and raised. And Toots Thielemans, from Les Marolles in Brussels. Lots of brilliant poets of sound out there.

Born on the island of Martinique and formerly a singer in the popular group Les Double-Six, Eddy Louiss was a pianist and organist that strayed from the Jimmy Smith-style and came into his own as a challenging player that crossed genres and peppered his lines with exotic twists and turns. His sounds veer towards the solid tones of Brian Auger and Keith Emerson. The band plays strong tunes by Louiss, one cooperation between Louiss and Thomas, two by René Thomas, one by Albert Mangelsdorf – Mona – and one standard by Bronislau Kaper – Invitation. The CD reissue includes Benny Golson’s I Remember Clifford.

None by Mr. Getz. Always the supreme interpreter, Getz delivers some of the finest tenor stories of his career… a snake charmer of the tantalizing Dum! Dum! Dum! and a Neo-Lestorian King of modal-bop-latin-funky-ish Our Kind Of Sabi, both highlights that feature classic Eddy Louiss… immaculate bass lines, subtle accompaniment, moving from satin cushion to church to brick wall sounds and swinging with swirling, chili pepper lines… the European answer to Larry Young. Getz stuck to his word. Plenty of room for ses amis to stretch out. Plenty of absolutely killer songs that are captivating from start to finish.

Dynasty is like waking up in the wee hours of the morning, drowsy, or as we say around here, sleepdrunk, realizing that you had the coolest dream, striving to return to it immediately, if only… Getz provides, Getz was in a zone. Did Jan Kodes found himself in a zone in his final match on Roland Garros? His zone perhaps, but not the zone. You have to ask Roger Federer for that kind of zone. How is it to be in that zone and how is it when it’s absent and is it something you can ignite? Who knows what the answer by Federer will be? What the answer of Getz would’ve been? Hard to tell. But we can take a wild guess.

Wild guessing also applies to the question why this band broke up. It is said that, when Getz wanted to take this European group to the USA, union disagreements put a stop to this. The other story though is that Getz had a beef with Lubat and wanted to add Roy Haynes to the group. Thomas and Louiss stood behind Lubat. More likely. End of a fantastic band.

The Ghost, The King And I We Got Rhythm (Sound Liaison 2023)

NEW RELEASE – THE GHOST, THE KING AND I

Fresh tribute to George Gershwin. Seemingly impossible but that ain’t necessarily so.

The Ghost, The King And I - We Got Rhythm

Personnel

Rob van Bavel (piano), Vincent Koning (guitar), Frans van Geest (bass)

Recorded

on March 19, 2023 at MCO in Hilversum

Released

as Sound Liaison in 2023

Track listing

It Ain’t Necessarily So
I Loves You Porgy
‘S Wonderful
Summertime
I Got Rhythm
First Prelude (The Man I Love)
Second Prelude (The Blues)
Third Prelude


Giving credit where credit is due, pianist Rob van Bavel emphasizes the trio interaction that is seamlessly developed with bassist Frans van Geest and guitarist Vincent Koning, hence The Ghost, The King And I. (pun intented) It is in existence since 2008 and has performed all over the world. We Got Rhythm, a celebration of the music of George Gershwin, is already the trio’s sixth release. A Gershwin tribute may seem a downtrodden path. Not in the hands of these Dutchmen, who recorded this album for a live audience in the studio in Hilversum.

Plenty originality. With a capital P. ‘S Wonderful is joyfully old-timey, wonderfulee one might add, a rendition that conjures up the ghost of Fats Waller, exceptionally executed and segueing into fluent swing. I Got Rhythm is a similar mix of pre-bop stylings and modernity, incorporating contrafact-king Charlie Parker in the lively process. While It Ain’t Necessarily So thrives on a funky beat, First Prelude (The Man I Love) presents a thoroughly enjoyable blend of classical devices and the blues. A sparkling introduction by Vincent Koning sets up the rhythmically upbeat, perennial favorite Summertime.

Over the years, 58-years-old Van Bavel has developed into a man of many trades. A veteran of Woody Shaw and Johnny Griffin outfits and the exciting Jarmo Hoogendijk/Ben van den Dungen Quintet, he has been part of the hard-bopping Eric Ineke JazzXPress for years now. At the same time, he also rearranges classical pieces with his son Sebastiaan, also an acclaimed pianist. In the business, Van Bavel is known as that rare tickler of the eighty-eighty keys that, regardless of the condition of the piano, always tears it apart unfazed.

Studio 2 harbors a fine piano and Van Bavel relishes the occasion. His lines are crystal clear, oozing with exceptional technique that is never demonstrated for virtuosity’s sake. Hearing all that stuff, his melodic construction work of simple riffs, bluesy trillers, beautiful baroque harmonies, locked hands-playing, bass commentary on the right hand-phrasing, all this leading to a perfectly logical climax, is an awesome experience. In fact, always an elation. Like watching the marvelous outpouring of lava from the Etna.

Both features of the prelude – its origins in improvisation as well as latter-day formality – are explored by The Ghost, The King And I. Third Prelude is simply sublime. An eleven-minute-long marriage of swing and rhapsodies, with Koning sounding somewhat like the great René Thomas, Van Geest typically driving the band with a warm tone and great feeling and Van Bavel indulging in high classical drama.The fluency they share between them is demonstrated like it’s nothing.

Gershwin would’ve undoubtedly admired the imaginative We Got Rhythm by The Ghost, The King And I, the cream of the European crop.

The Ghost, The King And I

Find We Got Rhythm here.