GREAT SHOWS AND CDS TO TUNE IN AND TURN ON

Jazz FM has been enlivening the airwaves not only with great music but some historic interviews with the giants of jazz in recent days. The largest commercial jazz in the world station recently scheduled a three part series of interviews with Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughan and Art Blakey, recorded by the late journalist Les Tomkins and now held by the National Jazz Archive.

Hosted by Helen Mayhew, the three hour long programmes feature highlights of many hours of interviews. The first one was with legendary drummer and leader of the Jazz Messenger, Art Blakey.. on Sunday July 25th followed by Oscar Peterson on Sunday August 1st and so don’t miss Sarah Vaughan on Sunday August 8th  starting at 9 p.m.

Before his death last year (2020) Les Tomkins gave his remarkable library of recordings to the NJA which consisted of interviews that were published in Jazz News, Crescendo and Melody Maker from 1950 onwards. Jazz FM is available on digital radio in the UK and on the free Jazz FM app. More details on jazzfm.com

Fans of Art Blakey’s drumming might want to seek out the Hank Mobley album Soul Station first released in 1960, hailed as his finest solo record and soon to be reissued by NotNowMusic. The tenor saxophone player had worked with the Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis Quintet, and is backed on this record by pianist Wynton Kelly, bass player Paul Chambers and Art Blakey, whose press rolls and drum solos are given plenty of space.

BRITISH JAZZ REVIVAL

British modern jazz was flourishing even during the Beatles era in the Sixties and many fine new groups were recording and gigging with their volatile, exciting music often broadcast on radio, reaching out to an even wider audience.

Among the most celebrated musicians involved were alto saxophonist Joe Harriott, tenor sax player Don Rendell, trumpeter Ian Carr and pianist, composer, arranger and big band leader Mike Gibbs. The good news is thanks to diligent work by researchers and the backing of specialist record label Jazz In Britain no less than three superb CDs are now available featuring rare live recordings of their work.

BLOWING WITH JOE

One of the most intriguing is Joe Harriott: Chronology Live 1968-6. Having seen Joe playing with such drummers at Phil Seamen and Bobby Orr in the early 1960s it is especially interesting to hear him backed by Bill Eyden, well known for his work with the Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes led Jazz Couriers and who also played with Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames.

As a result we hear him lending a funky beat to a version of the Horace Silver tune Psychedelic Sally’ by the Joe Harriott Quintet that also features Kenny Wheeler (trumpet and flugelhorn), Pat Smythe (piano) and Ron Mathewson (bass). One of five tracks recorded in London in September 1968 it was rescued from Ron’s own tape archive.

The group are tight, well rehearsed and soulful, as opposed to the many club groups of the era prone to jamming on standards. As well as Joe’s own speedy alto sax among the delights is Kenny Wheeler’s imaginative mellifluous solos notably on another Silver tune ‘Down & Out’ greeted with applause by the live audience. Ron Matthewson’s big toned bass solo is also a revelation, full of finger bustin’ agility.. Ornette Coleman’s ‘Chronology ‘gives the band a chance to swing at a furious tempo, all sparked by Bill’s superb drumming.

Both Joe and Kenny tear into exhilarating choruses, their adrenalin flowing thanks to that appreciative audience. Harriott was famous for introducing the concept of Free Jazz to the UK. His own composition ‘Shadows’ is a perfect example of the possibilities unleashed by simply walking away from standard tunes and blowing in a conversational exchange of ideas.

Final Quintet track ‘W.S.I.M.C’ by Kenny Wheeler has nicely arranged unison passages featuring the twin horns locked together on a pleasant mellow theme. Pianist Pat Smythe also sounds at home on the Latin infused rhythm.

Thanks to Spike Wells, the drumming protégé of Tubby Hayes we can hear one of the finest British bands of the era blowing up a storm. The final two tracks showcase the Harry South Big band were recorded live in London in July 1969 and preserved on tape by Mr. Wells.

Harry conducts while Joe leaps into ‘Themeology’ a complex but richly satisfying arrangement. Clustered around Joe are the sidemen, notably fellow alto sax and flute man Ray Warleigh, Alan Skidmore and Tubby Hayes on tenor saxes. There is also a battery of no less than six top name trumpet players and four trombonists. This very BIG band is rounded out by Louis Stewart (guitar), Phil Bates (bass) and Spike on those driving drums.

Gershwin’s ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ is given a suitable moody, s treatment with Joe’s alto at its most emotional. Just wish I’d been in the studios when this was recorded. But now we can all be there thanks to this magnificent album.

SHADES OF BLUE

Blue Beginnings: the Don Rendell Ian Carr Quintet is the second Jazz In Britain album that also deserves our immediate attention. Biographer, critic and tenor saxophonist Simon Spillett has written the highly informative booklet accompanying a CD that unveils the legendary group co-led by tenor and soprano saxophonist Don Rendell and trumpeter Ian Carr.

Recorded in 1964 the quintet has Colin Purbrook (piano), Dave Green (bass) and Trevor Tomkins on drums. That same year the band had recorded an album called Shades Of Blue that was highly rated and now also highly collectable. In November 1964 the band made an appearance on the BBC Light Programme’s It’s Jazz show and a surviving tape of the show provides the CD’s source material.

It kicks off with the speedy ‘Blue Doom’ followed by a swinging treatment of ‘Autumn Leaves’ with fine trumpet work from Ian matched by Don Rendell consistently splendid mastery of the saxophones in his employ. No wonder Don was once recruited by Stan Kenton’s Orchestra. It was composer Neil Ardley whose tape archive yielded these lost treasures such as a delicate version of his own composition ‘Shades Of Blues’ and funky ‘Garrison ‘64’ . The latter is set up by Trevor’s drums that support an intriguing trumpet and soprano duet, followed by one of Colin Purbook’s finer piano solos.

Other highlights are the carefree Carr tune in 3/4 ‘Sailin’’, Don’s ‘Latin Blue’, ‘You’ll Never Know’ and the joyful ‘Big City Strut.’ Dave Green responds to Simon Spillett’s question how did he think these recordings sounded 55 years after they were taped? “Oh, I think it all sounds great, especially Colin who was a fantastic musician in any jazz style. I really think the band with Colin sounds good. It always did!”

TANGLEWOOD TALES

Mike Gibbs: Revisiting Tanglewood 63: The Early Tapes is also another revelation and delight as we hear the highly innovative band led by the composer, arranger and trombonist Mike Gibbs in recordings from his own archive made live-in studio in May and November 1970. Once again the line up is a fascinating mixture of young and seasoned musicians like Henry Lowther, Nigel Carter and Harry Beckett on trumpets. Listen out too for Chris Pyne and Mike Gibbs (trombones), Dick Hart (tuba), and saxophonists Alan Skidmore, Tony Roberts, and Stan Sulzmann.

The band is completed by Chris Spedding (guitar) together with Mick Pyne (keys), Roy Babbington (bass guitar), Jeff Clyne (bass), drummers John Marshal and Clive Thacker and percussionist Frank Ricotti.

The title track ‘Tanglewood’ 63’ was adopted by Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum and became a regular number in their rock-jazz fusion sets, with the theme sung scat style by Chris Farlowe, Clem Clempson and Mark Clarke. This is the original conception however, played as the composer first imagined it and none the less ear catching.

Other tracks like ‘Five For England’ are rather more chaotic while ‘Fanfare’ is explosive in a Free Jazz sort of way. Aspirins all round in the studio afterwards! Nice snare drum rolls though and Frank Ricotti’s vibraphone provides a swinging interlude on ‘June the 15th 1967’ where Chris Spedding grabs a nifty guitar solo. ‘Sojourn’ and ‘Canticle’ are both experimental pieces and the finale ‘Country Roads’ isn’t the hit tune made famous by John Denver and also released in 1970, but this one hits the right jazz track.

So, next time you are in HMV pound your fist on the desk and demand to know if they have these three CDs in stock. Buy them and you’ll be in for some great surprises and hours of listening pleasure.