Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wish I'd Been There: Carnegie Hall '49

My good friend Tom Curry is the former co-proprietor, along with Bob Porter, of Phoenix Records, one of the old school Boston jazz labels. He recently he gave me "Charlie Parker and the Jazz Stars at Carnegie Hall '49." On the heels of my labyrinthine (half-finished) post on Bird, I thought I would write a simple appreciation of this fine recording. Here we have Bud is at his height, with Max and Curly on "All God's Children..." Bud's playing leaps off the recording. Max plays brushes here and this is cool for me, as I often find his kit pitched too high for my taste. Even though brushes can make a higher pitched sound than sticks, here they sound, well, throatier. Miles, Serge, Stitt, Benny Green convene for "Four." I never got that bullshit about Miles lacking technique. His smoking solo here presages his nonet "Birth of the Cool" solo. Serge sounds a bit fragmented in his solo, playing in short bursts. Yes, Stitt sounds like Bird, but you would not mistake the two-the tone is different, for one thing. Phrasing is similar, although Stitt doesn't cross as many bar lines as Bird. Benny Green is fantastic-combining a balsy sound with genuine bop harmonic understanding. They also do "Hot House," "Ornithology"...Well, you don't want a set list. Let's move to other highlights: Hearing early Sassy falls in the category of sheer pleasure, and she kills on "Mean To Me." Sarah uses a fair amount of vibrato and some repetition, which stylistically keeps one of her feet in an older, swing camp. Plus-she's got stride piano accompaniment, which could actually be her(someone let me know who it is) which also gives it a swing, rather than bop feel. But the quality of her voice is sublime and she doesn't play as fast and loose with the melody as she does later on, when her singing moved into the Baroque/Rococo. This is completely seductive. Getz is, well, Getz-ian on "You Go To My Head," joined by the Konit-zian Konitz. They are soulmates at least in that they fall on the same end of the saxophone tonal spectrum. Konitz is already looking for something different. A full Tristano aggregation pipes in on "Sax of a Kind." Eventually, we get to Koko, with Bird and Red Rodney. The head is a bit sloppier than the well-known version with Diz. Bird's solo is just as fiery and assured as his version with Diz, but the revelation to me is Rodney's solo. I always thought Red was a great player, but I put him half a step below Magee and Fats. At this point, he doesn't have quite the upper register they did (a range he did develop later on), but here he plays a fantastically adept and creative solo. For this alone, you need to seek out this CD. Someone needs to sink their teeth into his life and do a bio of Rodney: prodigy, junky, con man, safe-cracker and serious contributor to jazz.

15 comments:

rob chalfen said...

Jimmy Jones was her invariable pianist in studio then so that's a reasonable guess

Bruno Leicht said...

That's a fantastic recording; especially Bird's set is "beyond categories" (my favorite Duke quote).

It's interesting that there are two sources for the Bird performance: One is directly from the radio broadcast, I don't know the other source; maybe a micro in front of the stage?

Until the whole affair has been issued on this CD, the whole concert had been spread over three LP's (if you include the radio broadcast it were four LP's.)

Red Rodney's life was indeed a total mess. The liners to one of his latest LP's tell it in short terms: Red Rodney, one of the highly underrated, tragic figures in the modern jazz world.

I think, even compared to Bix's, Bud's, Bird's, or Pres's multiple sufferings, Red Rodney (and along with him Art Pepper and Hampton Hawes) belongs to the many "Men of Sorrows" one can find not only in jazz history, but in the history of music in general.

Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert -- these men suffered; and it's no coincidence that they were German speaking.

They all searched for the Blue Flower of romanticism, just like their soul brothers of jazz in the 20th Century. They all wanted to create the one, perfect melody, the most beautiful form, the most advanced rhythm, they wanted to create beauty per se, be it as composers, or as jazz improvisers.

Steve Provizer said...

Although you are seldom reasonable, you are often right. Danke.

Bruno Leicht said...

Yes, Steve, I know that I don't know anything ;) If it's that what you mean by "seldom reasonable". I'm no scientist, just a trumpeter with ears.

I've heard Red Rodney live on stage, in 1986 I guess. It was before or during the time when he advised Clint Eastwood for his semi-authentic movie "Bird". It's a pity he hasn't played *all* the trumpet parts there, isn't it?

Anyway, he played pure acoustic Bebop with some "Coltranesque" undertones; and I still have the sound in my ears. The "Forum" in Leverkusen is quite big; but Red & Ira filled the whole room with their horns, almost off mikes.

Long after he had passed away, I'd found this beautiful LP from the Danish "SteepleChase" label, recorded in 1988, Red Giant. There he played his very special version of "Giant Steps" in 3/4-time, then as a medium bop-bounce.

Quite a humorous man, wasn't he? But his whole life was a long chain of major and minor catastrophes. The year 1963 was especially tragic for our brass colleague: His father died, and he lost his wife and 14-year old daughter during a car crash. His wife lost control while she was driving him home. He was sleeping in the back of the car.

Quote from the extensive liners by Chris Sheridan:

"When asked by Fred Bouchard how a musician cultivated individuality, he (Red) replied: 'I tell them, Man you got to live! You need joy! Tragedy! Feeling!' (Down Beat, September 1984). One might also add: Maturity."

Chris Rich said...

Brew is the best. I explained the difference between euro boomers and ameri boomers on the phone this morning which elicited a chuckle.

Ameri Boomers are spoiled clowns who have now driven the nation into a ditch over craven greed. Euro Boomers were born into wreckage and privation from the most destructive land war the world has ever seen.

It makes them more thoughtful. It wasn't hip to be stupid and selfish there although younger generations are getting the malady.

In America it is practically mandatory to be stupid, arrogant, uncurious and craven. Oh and childish. An ameri boomer can live to be 60 and still be a glorified 15 year old stuck in that aging body.

Steve, to me you are an honorary euro boomer and I wish there were more like you.

Me and good old Zinman were discussing this over coffee yesterday morning. Zinman genuinely likes Europe and has a fairly evolved appreciation of their situation and circumstances.

I know a few other artists from here who carp about the place like kids who resent their parents in that pathetic 'yay america' mindset.

And this despite the fact that Europe has been their sole reliable gravy train for touring and accolades. Yes, biting feeding hands is the American way.

Steve Provizer said...

Bruno-that comment was directed at my friend Rob, not at you!

Steve Provizer said...

So, the thing that separates Rodney from the others you mentioned is that he didn't seem to have a "victim" mentality. He took action and, when necessary, he "took his medicine."

To some extent, the myth of Romanticism necessitates a martyr. and unless you are actually close friends with any of these people, it's hard to know what has become myth and what was real. Was Bird the guy who told the youngsters to stay off dope, or was he the guy who wanted what he wanted when he wanted it and screw the other guy? Both, no doubt, but that kind of fluidity of character is death to easy biography and mythology. You gotta be careful about that stuff in jazz, or you end up with a history that's steeped in nostalgia and not real people.

Chris Rich said...

The mythos making seems to grow out of the early writers context. They were a jolly bunch delving into an arcane corner of urban exotica and reporting their findings in the manner of non fiction adventure writing popular in the time like T. E. Lawrence memoirs or something only about music.

Mythos sells. A few marginally useful scholars begin to show up at some point and obsessive keepers of recording and sheet music lore who made a body of reference stuff.

Then the media side seemed to drift to a variation of daily newspaper sports writing, only about music.

That persists to some degree with the more acumen challenged writers out there, it is like a middle brow counterpart to celebrity coverage or something and hasn't much to offer.

Now is better, it seems, amid the flotsam of Ashley Khan coffee table books some real gems arise like Robin Kelley's Thelonius Monk or Lewis Porters work on John Coltrane.

I sometimes get the sense Mr. Albertson is like the living bridge between the early scene he must have experienced in youth and what it has become at its best. I get the sense his Bessie Smith was the intimation of the new standard.

All in all it is essential to make works that fully establish context of family and community. Robert Caro and William Manchester had it covered. Why can't more of the self appointed punditry figure it out?

Bruno Leicht said...

Steve, next time please don't say "danke" (it's German), and then address the one you're talking to, so that the right one will have the chance to respond ;)

Bruno Leicht said...

Oh, it's very clear to me that many of these composers are quasi wrapped in myths of all kinds; but, there are many facts (medicinal reports for example, diaries etc.) you can still check after more than 150-200 years.

Most of these guys were also physically sick. Beethoven had poisoned himself (unconsciously), Schubert had syphilis, Schumann was ... well, he was mentally ill at the end of his life, Hugo Wolff, Nietzsche ... man, they all suffered, physically and mentally. Were they martyrs? No, of course not, just humans with deep conflicts, and also common illnesses of the times they lived in.

In the 30's and 40's of the last century it was tuberculosis who killed many jazz musicians.

Okay, it was often caused by drug abuse, not enough sleep, and also mental problems too: Fats Navarro, Charlie Christian, Bix Beiderbecke, Bunny Berigan etc. etc. ...

Martyrs here? No, the same as above: humans and their various problems.

Myths? Too many to count them all in a single blog comment.

Alone Ross Russell's questionable biography "Bird Lives" contains so many lies that it's really hard to tell the difference between facts and fiction. Unfortunately was this very book the main source for Clint Eastwood's film, which is deplorable, as is the crappy soundtrack.

And now, I gotta go, rehearsing with my teacher colleagues at the music school. We got a big concert in May.

Best,

Brew

Steve Provizer said...

Brew-bad timing. In the very short space between Rob's post and mine, yours appeared. Hence the confusion...

About martyrdom-I'm certainly not suggesting that these musicians chose to be poster boys for the cause of romantic mythology. As a species, we do seem to have a need to swing wildly between scape-goating people and putting them on a pedestal. In a mundane way, it simply adds a level of titillation that people find stimulating (sexual substitute?). Good luck with your concert!

Bruno Leicht said...

No problem at all, Steve. It's weird, isn't it? Sometimes nobody seems to be online, and then everyone at the same time ... But it's not real, 'cause Chris has the absolute power here ;)

I'm going out now, we have our Labor Day tomorrow, and there's an old rite in Germany: It's called "Dance into May" ... some abuse it brutally, and do the "Drink into May" ... Prost!

Bruno Leicht said...

P.S.: The concert will be open air, on May 28. On stage you will find the complete faculty of the music school's jazz department: Bass, piano, guitar, drums, flute, saxophone, and trumpet.

We will play mostly our own compositions, except one: Hampton Hawes' beautiful "Sonora", arranged and slightly extended (+ 2 bars) by yours truly. I guess that Hamp would love to hear that. I call such tunes "forgotten standards".

Chris Rich said...

Well it used to just be open until 'Cousin Micheal' went and wrecked it.

When the Jersey State troopers finally knock on his door and we know it went down, I'll resume the original mode. I should probably show you and Matt how to do comment moderation.

Tom C said...

Unfortunately, that CD was released by Jass Records (J-CD-16) in 1989 and is no longer available. The last two releases of this concert was by "Cool N Blue" CD 105 and "Definitive Records" DRCD 11375. I did find a copy of the Jass release at Amazon for $14.89, in case anyone is interested. The Definitive release may be found at Grooves Inc. for $26.68. This was Voice of America material and has been released on many labels. Thanks for the plug, Steve. it was originally Phoenix Records until we were threatened with a law suit by some guy in St. Louis who had registered that name. We ended up with Phoenix Jazz Records and the Parker and Stitt material was sold to Michael Cuscuna who released it on Blue Note and Roulette in the early 1990s.