Anyone that knows me well knows that for years I have been into buying records. Although my rate of purchase has slowed down a bit in the past few years with other expenses mounting, there are still, now less regular, bursts of complete music consumerism. This past week I managed to pull in four records that on the surface, without any planning, have quite a bit in common.
Each record features guitar, bass and drums. Two records feature a saxophone out in front of the rhythm section. It took me a minute to realize their similarities because honestly, the four records couldn’t be more different.
In chronological order…
The Paul Desmond Quartet – Live
Paul Desmond, alto saxophone w/ Ed Bickert, guitar; Don Thompson, bass; Jerry Fuller, drums
I bought this record on a late night impulse while browsing around a few jazz related message boards. The nerdy subject of “jazz played on the telecaster” came up and after a few mentions of Ted Greene and Bill Frisell a poster made a few mentions of Ed Bickert (along with this YouTube clip), one of my favorite unsung jazz guitar heroes. Ed is a Canadian guitarist that shared many gigs with the Don Thompson and Terry Clarke at a now defunct club in Toronto of which I don’t know the name. Don Thompson was into recording gear and had the wherewithal to record each gig they played which then turned into several records in the coming decades including most famously, Jim Hall Live. This record features alto saxophonist Paul Desmond playing standards with the house rhythm section. After about one-and-a-half listens I’ve realized this record is just a study piece for swinging, medium tempo playing and a great example of beautiful guitar playing on standards. Other than that , it’s pretty boring as every tune seems to sit at the metronome marking of “crusty white dude tempo.”
Ginger Baker Trio – Going Back Home
Ginger Baker, drums w/ Bill Frisell, guitar; Charlie Haden, bass
This record came to me after an unassuming search through the $1 bin outside Hideaway Music in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. I’ve been aware of this record for years but was always weary of hearing the drummer from Cream (!) play with two jazz musicians I greatly admire and love. Simply put, this record is weird! I don’t know how it works but if you see it around (especially for $1) give it a shot. They play a few original compositions, the Thelonious Monk blues “Straight, No Chaser” (which Baker nearly swings on), and “Ramblin’,” one of my favorite early Ornette Coleman tunes from Change of the Century. The album closes with a strange spoken word piece by Baker about the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.
Ralph Lalama – Circle Line
Ralph Lalama, tenor saxophone w/ Peter Bernstein, guitar; Peter Washington, bass; Kenny Washington, drums
Another great find from Hideaway Music’s $1 bin is this great, straight ahead date featuring first class New York musicians on Dutch label Criss Cross. This record utilizes the typical Criss Cross programming of any mid nineties record. A few original tunes with the bulk of the album filled out with standards. What the Paul Desmond record lacked in feel and variety, this record makes up in the first two tracks with an up tempo tune and a ballad duet between bass and saxophone. Peter Bernstein is one of my favorite guitarists so any chance I have to hear him play and have his music in my collection I take it. His playing on this record isn’t exactly showcased but he does take a few great turns as he always manages to do.
Tatsuya Nakatani, percussion; Mary Halvorson, guitar; Clayton Thomas, bass
After finding and listening through my $1 bin purchases, I left the house Friday night to hear a performance by Japanese percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and his Gong Orchestra. The concert was really great and featured sets by Nakatani as well as his ensemble. Having seen Nakatani play several times around my senior year of college at Connexions Art Gallery in Easton, PA, I’ve come to know what’s in store when I see him perform. Still, it’s always great to see someone perform with such vigor and focus. After the concert I browsed the selection of CDs for sale and found this record which I’ve been curious about since first reading about it several years ago. Mary Halvorson is one of my favorite guitarists playing modern music today and the chance to hear her in a completely improvised setting with musicians she doesn’t always play with really piqued my interest. From 2002, this recording is great for several reasons. Firstly, it is awesome to hear what Mary Halvorson sounded like 9 years ago. The foundation is the same but it is great to go back and listen to where her current sound came from, especially considering that she is still pretty young. Second, the improvising is great and never loses momentum. Each piece is on the short side and features great interplay and textural development. Third, the recording sounds great! When part of the music is meant to push your idea of texture and tone, sound quality is important!
Here’s a small link round-up of my beer reviews as posted on drinkphilly.com