The Art Of Taylor

ART TAYLOR – I don’t know about you but every time I discover a piece of vintage footage or oral history on YouTube I get all excited, over the moon really, like a kid receiving presents from Santa Claus. I’m sure those fascinated and spellbound by the classic age of jazz have similar feelings.

So here’s Art Taylor in 1994, talking with fellow drummer Warren Smith at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. The vivacious, self-proclaimed hardliner looks back on an amazing career and life as an expat in Europe with a lot of flair and humor and points out the value of the democracy of jazz. Taylor boldly tackles taboos as race, prostitution and the American Nightmare. He also demonstrates his style on the drumkit, with special emphasis on the all-important ride cymbal. A priceless piece of oral history that should be viewed as a platform for discussion at conservatories around the world.

Watch the interview here.

Taylor, born in 1929 in New York City, was probably the most prolific drummer in modern jazz history (“I NEVER was late!”) who played with Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan and countless others. A legend, who also published the controversial book of interviews Notes And Tones in 1977. Below are some of the albums that featured Taylor.

Art Taylor passed away within a year after the interview, on February 6, 1995.

Serious Fun

PETER GUIDI – Flutist, saxophonist, teacher and bandleader Peter Guidi sadly passed away on April 17. Besides being a regular performer on the European circuit, Guidi has been a driving force in the Dutch landscape as head of the jazz department of the Amsterdamse Muziekschool and bandleader of numerous prizewinning youth orchestras such as Jazzmania Big Band. Many of the children that Guidi teached have gone on to become accomplished professional musicians. And, lest we forget, young talents that have opted for a civilian career instead of jazz music have experienced unforgettable life lessons from the passionate, firm but fair Scottish-Italian resident of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Strikingly, ex-pupils always speak with a lot of admiration and fondness of their former mentor.

I met with Peter for our interview last June. Guidi was a connoisseur of jazz history and a zealous fan of hard bop, which for him was a fundamental force in jazz: accessible, bluesy but clever, the one genre that possesses the capacity to capture audiences, lure beginners into the jazz realm and satisfy talented young lions. Guidi was enthusiastic, generous, energetic and only deafening church bells would’ve been able to stop the flow of uplifting jazz talk. Guidi’s motto was: jazz, like life, is fun, but serious fun. I enclosed the interview here.

The Dutch National Jazz Archive interviewed Peter Guidi for its lovely, enlightening series of interviews Jazzhelden. Dutch language speakers only. See here.

Last week it was communicated that Guidi was seriously ill. The following day, a large group of students and ex-students performed in front of Guidi’s apartment in Amsterdam’s De Pijp neighborhood. See the reportage of the touching event on AT5 here.

Peter Guidi was 68 years old.

Bass To Infinity

BUSTER WILLIAMS – MOVIE

Film maker Adam Kahan is in the process of finishing a documentary about bass player Buster Williams, Bass To Infinity. Kahan, who is also making a praiseworthy effort of wrapping up movies about pianist Junior Mance and multi reed man Rahsaan Roland Kirk, has set up a funding project on Kickstarter and is about to cross the finish line with his Buster Williams docu.

Williams, born April 17, 1942 in Camden, New Jersey, is at home in both mainstream and avant-leaning surroundings. One of the most sought-after modern jazz bassists, Williams started out with Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt in 1961 and since has cooperated with Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Woody Shaw, McCoy Tyner, Geri Allen, Steve Turre and many, many others. He was the bass player of choice for The Jazz Crusaders, recorded extensively with Larry Coryell and was part of Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking Mwandishi group. Williams stayed with the pianist from 1969 to 1977. The Penguin Guide says of Williams’ style: “Buster Williams’ harmony is impeccable and he has a rhythmic sense that is unfailing, feeling and utterly original.” Williams has been recording steadily as a leader ever since his 1975 Muse album Pinnacle.

Inevitably, considering the bassist’s vast discography, Buster Williams’ expert, dark-toned contributions to modern jazz have found their way to the pages of Flophouse Magazine. See the reviewed albums below.

Check the website of Buster Williams here.

Hot Bim House

CHARLES MCPHERSON IN CONCERT – Last Thursday, the audience at Bimhuis, Amsterdam was delighted by the simultaneously burning and sophisticated message of alto saxophonist Charles McPherson (78), one of the prime torchbearers of the bop tradition.

McPherson’s last album, 2015’s excellent The Journey, suggested that the veteran saxophonist wasn’t planning to rest on his laurels. At the Bimhuis, the Joplin, Missouri-born saxophonist, who has been associated with, among others, Charles Mingus and Barry Harris, made abundantly clear that he remains a force to be reckoned with in a live setting as well. In great shape and eager as a young lion, McPherson presented a program of tunes like What Is This Thing Called Love, Lester Leaps In, Off Minor and original compositions by McPherson such as Reflections On An Election.

It’s memorable to be witnessing the real deal, the kind of phrasing, timing and storytelling so typical for the bop and hard bop era. McPherson conjures up vivid images of Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Criss while at the same time delivering supple lines, fluent phrases, blood-red tag endings and humorous asides all his own, topped off with an edgy sound reminding us that his brand of jazz came from the kind of joints where, with the regularity of a clock, a burly whisky drinker is arguing at the bar with a dishwater blonde whose mascara has been steadily running down from her crow’s feet to the decorated birthmark on her left cheek. Meanwhile, the viper is trying to trade his junk.

McPherson’s forceful wail and unexpected excursions in the high register of the alto point out that the saxophonist, like all old-school cats, could in fact do without amplification; he carries the band, particularly noticeable during his rendition of Nature Boy, a beautiful melody and the most surprising pick of the evening. The controlled fury of his lines at breakneck speeds is easily taken for granted. His lines in themselves are sustained efforts of literal storytelling: they comprise a reflection of his personality while also following a logical, musical course. This is most evident during the ballad Embraceable You, the vehicle for some of Charlie Parker’s most enduring statements and a canvas too for McPherson’s breathtaking figures that slowly but surely gain momentum.

The band may have been somewhat out of habit, since bassist Daryll Hall, involved in an unfortunate accident, had to be replaced at short notice by Dutchman Joris Teepe. Occasionally, one of them is waving with a piece of music paper. However, the members of McPherson’s group provide a bed of roses for McPherson’s resolute game of bop, blues and ballads. Like the inclusion of Nature Boy, another surprise was in stock: one would expect some tough customers as accompanists of a monster player like McPherson but instead the trio exhibites an unusual, but far from unbearable, lightness of being. The distinguished Teepe is pure silkiness, pianist Alberto Palau’s touch is restrained and drummer Stephen Keogh’s intricate shadings and subtle rhythmic variations are reminiscent of the great Alan Dawson’s style. Not so much hard but subtle swing. It has its charm, and the boss alto on this particular Bimhuis meeting, Charles McPherson, is very charming as well, conversating more intimately and wittily with the audience as the evening progresses.

Charles McPherson

Place and date: Bimhuis, Amsterdam, March 8, 2018
Line-up: Charles McPherson (alto saxophone), Alberto Palau (piano), Joris Teepe (bass), Stepen Keogh (drums)
Website: Charles McPherson.

Tenor & Alto Madness

CHARLES MCPHERSON, GRANT STEWART, ALAN SKIDMORE – LIVE

Great weeks for fans of real jazz and sax aficionados in The Lowlands. The English tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore has been touring the country with the trio of pianist Rein de Graaff, bassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Ineke. Last chance to see this excellent group also including saxophonists Tineke Postma and Benjamin Herman perform is tonight at The Bimhuis, Amsterdam and tomorrow at Tivoli, Utrecht. On March 8 the 78-year old alto saxophonist Charles McPherson, who has been keeping the flame of bebop burning in a most confident, energetic and excellent way, will be playing at The Bimhuis in Amsterdam. Great gig! McPherson will be assisted by pianist Alberto Palau, bassist Daryll Hall and drummer Stephen Keogh.

And on Monday the 5th of March, tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart will be performing at Murphy’s Law in The Hague. The 46-year old, Canada-born Stewart is one of the most prolific saxophonists of mainstream jazz today. He’s a fixture on the NYC scene and has been performing all around the world. Stewart played and recorded with, among others, Jimmy Cobb, Clark Terry, Louis Hayes, Brad Meldau, Larry Goldings and Eric Alexander.

The concert at Murphy’s Law, organized by Equinox Jazz Productions, starts at 21:00. A rare opportunity to hear one of the best in the business in an intimate setting. Stewart is performing with Dan Nicholas on guitar, Kenji Rabson on bass and Wouter Kühne on drums.

Find Murphy’s Law here
Check out Grant Stewart’s website here.

Cook, Book!

BOOKER ERVIN – THE GOOD BOOK

Booker Ervin - The Good Book

Acrobat released a 4CD set of Booker Ervin: The Good Book – The Early Years 1960-1962. It is a compilation of performances from Ervin’s debut album The Book Cooks, That’s It and guest appearances on albums by Horace Parlan, Mal Waldron, Teddy Charles and Bill Barron. At the time, the Denison, Texas-born Ervin had just made his mark in the group of Charles Mingus, his forceful, fire and brimstone-style being a big asset on classic albums as, among others, Mingus Ah Um and Blues & Roots. Ervin was ready to capitalize on his recent exposure through the Mingus association, but regardless of his recording activity life as a freelancer in New York was tough. It turned out that the tenor saxophonist never really gained the public acclaim he deserved.

There are a number of misunderstandings about the life and career of Booker Ervin, a tenor saxophonist adored by legions of classic jazz fans and, to be sure, certainly also derided by some because of his supposedly ‘superficial’ wailing style. For one thing, Booker Ervin is a sincere, passionate and unique saxophonist but not the harmonically advanced Coltranesque musician a number of critics and aficionados believed him to be. The English saxophonist and writer Simon Spillett, who wrote the liner notes to The Good Book, tackles other myths as well about the life and style of Ervin, who died in 1969 at the age of 39. Rarely does the jazz fan encounter such extensive and insightful essays. Spillett has written the definitive account of Ervin’s life and offers a balanced evaluation of his legacy in a booklet that would look far from silly as a separate publication. On the contrary.

The Book Cooks showed Ervin’s potential, That’s It perfectly nails his singular aesthetic. The contrast of his style with Eric Dolphy’s on Mal Waldron’s The Quest is one of the reasons why that album is epic. Acrobat also picked intriguing albums by Bill Barron (Hot Line – The Tenor Of Bill Barron) and Teddy Charles (Metronome Presents Jazz In The Garden At The Museum Of Modern Art), both very collectable LP’s. Hopefully Acrobat will focus on mid-and late career in the future.

Check the Acrobat website here. Buy The Good Book here.

Red Ahooo! (Red 001)

NEW RELEASE – RED

Ahooo! is the buoyant debut album of Red, a groove jazz outfit that swings the ol’American way.

Red - Ahooo!

Personnel

Ellister van der Molen (trumpet, flugelhorn), Gideon Tazelaar (tenor saxophone), Bob Wijnen (organ), Wouter Kühne (drums)

Recorded

in 2017 at Studio Smederij

Released

as Red 001 in 2017

Track listing

Mr. Feelgood
Toi Toi Moi
Delegatrix
DTR/Stardust
Just What The Doctor Ordered
The Red One
Big “P”
Ahooo!


When asked about his style, cellist Tristan Honsinger said, ‘I’m not playing me, I’m playing us.’ A very wise statement. Although she’s in a totally different musical zone, it can be readily applied to Ellister van der Molen. The Dutch trumpeter, engaged in bop, hard bop, Latin jazz, even Dixieland, has a lot working for her, not least a consuming passion for that tradition. She’s part of the group Red, collaborating with her longtime companion from The Hague, pianist/organist Bob Wijnen, tenor saxophonist Gideon Tazelaar and drummer Wouter Kühne. Red presents the kind of accessible, foot-tapping organ combo jazz that was such a prevalent entertaining force in the sixties. Its update for the 21st century is fresh, energetic, a lurid and clever hodgepodge of funky thickness and tart soul jazz uplifting enough to transform any self-respecting couch potato into Swivel Hips. Hey, it’s Mr. Swivel Hips to you.

There’s more to it than just groove. The fluently swinging Van der Molen tune Delegatrix has the trumpeter crossing the Mason-Dixie line to shake hands with the post bop boys of Blue Note in the mid-sixties. Her placing of notes is sparse and intriguing, the ending of her solo an enthusiastic question for Tazelaar to answer. Van der Molen wrote DTR to segue into Stardust. Van der Molen’s crystalline sound topped with a side of huskiness, with tinges of Farmer, Terry, Morgan, is featured in the former, Gideon Tazelaar’s smoky phrases are featured in the latter. They share a sophistication that runs through the whole down-home program, that consists of bashful flagwavers like Van der Molen’s Mr. Feelgood, Wijnen’s The Red One, nifty funk jazz as Van der Molen’s Toi Toi Moi and Wijnen’s Just What The Doctor Ordered.

Jimmy Heath’s Big “P” brings the group into the realm of classic mainstream jazz. Twenty-year old Gideon Tazelaar, dubbed ‘a young man with an old soul’ by the Dutch bop piano master Rein de Graaff, builds a sweeping solo from a sassy entrance and takes part in an upheaving section of simultaneous improvisation with Van der Molen. Wijnen’s statements are precise and audacious, a highlight in an altogether saucy and dynamic rendering of Hammond accompaniment.

Ahooo!, the title track, is an exuberant, funky showstopper. Built on a foundation of rousing figures on the snare drum, the group is rejoicing, like a bunch of old friends out on the weekend. There’s a jubilant aspect to Van der Molen’s style in general, certainly not blood-red, more the red of strawberries and the hearts that kids draw.

Buy Ahooo! here.
Check out Ellister van der Molen’s website here.