Monday, November 5, 2012

R.I.P. Ted Curson

Ted Curson died yesterday (June 3, 1935 – November 4, 2012).  If his contribution is recognized at all, it's for his time spent with Charles Mingus, but Curson had a long career and created a singular, instantly recognizable sound.

Born in Philly, Curson went to the Granoff Conservatory, also John Coltrane's alma mater [You can read my interview with Mr. Granoff in the book Coltrane on Coltrane, by Chris DeVito].

Ted moved to NYC in the mid-1950's and started playing with Cecil Taylor. In 1959, he recorded tracks on "Love For Sale" w. Taylor, including this tune, "Little Lees" [Interesting how much Monk there is in Cecil's playing here]:



Ted's playing here uses many of the elements that are further developed as he matures: frequent use of ornamentation, flourishes, moderate vibrato and register leaps.
Ted on pocket trumpet
"Into the Hot," an hybrid album issued under Gil Evan's name was actually split between ensembles led by Johnny Carisi and Cecil Taylor. Curson is on the track titled "Mixed." He's active in the arrangement but only does a brief solo near the end. You can Listen here to the whole LP or skip to 34'21" if you just want to hear the Cecil Taylor track.

In 1960, Curson joined Mingus, along with Eric Dolphy. Curson had his troubles with Mingus (what else is new) and stayed only long enough to appear on two recording sessions. His solo on this Mingus gospel romp shows him as a fine soloist, heavily blues inflected, using a strong upper register as well as fluid runs to drive home his story:







He next joined with tenor player Bill Barron and formed a group with Herb Bushler on bass and Dick Berk on drums. In 1964 they recorded a lovely Curson ballad, "Tears For Dolphy":


Not long after, he went over to Europe and ended up in Finland, where he became very well known. He moved back to the US in the 70's, but continued to go back every year to play the Finnish Pori Jazz festival.

Often a sideman, Curson made only a handful of recordings as leader in each decade of his career. One of those was a 1990 album called "I Heard Mingus." This is a Curson ballad off that album called "Lost Her," It's beautiful playing; lovely tone, thoughtful, with Ted showing great agility getting around the horn.


Thank you, Ted, for your contribution. Your great spirit is exemplified by your appearance here with this ensemble at Newark High in 2009.


You can find an article here that Ted wrote on other deceased jazz musicians.  This Chris Kelsey interview with Curson is about the most extensive I could find.

1 comment:

Maury Martin said...

Thanks for recognizing an underappreciated player who had found his sound.