Charlie Parker/James Carter Organ Trio
Virtuosi Get Down
Charlie Parker: In a Soulful Mood (Music Club '96)
Compiled by UK music journo Roy Carr, this budget take on Parker's Dial sessions is findable cheap used and has become a favorite of mine by the odd strategy of skipping his twistiest heads. Although the two-disc Legendary Dial Masters is now collector-priced, longer Dial collections designated 1 and 2 are buyable as separate items, and the first consists almost entirely of originals that include the omitted "Dexterity," "Bongo Bop," and "Dewey Square" although not "Scrapple From the Apple." Worth owning. But in keeping with a generic title the label employed for many lesser jazz comps, what happens here is different. Midway through, originals give way to standards that begin with an "All the Things You Are" that's as inspired as Parker ever got and damn right soulful. If he'd had the strength of mind, he could have broken pop as the king of the intelligent makeout instrumental without getting near a violin. A
James Carter Organ Trio: At the Crossroads (EmArcy)
This occasional unit's live 2005 Out of Nowhere was a honking session, beefing up the young world-champeen multisaxer with Hamiet Bluiett's bari master class and Blood Ulmer's harmolodic Son House shtick. The most luscious beef on this more contained studio job is provided by guest singer Miche Braden sinking her chops into Fluffy Hunter's playfully filthy "Walking Blues" and a lounge through Muddy Waters's "Ramblin' Blues." The lounge feel is shored up by sometime guitarist Bruce Edwards, who if he ain't Ulmer at least ain't Jim Hall. Gotta admit it's a relief, though, when sometime guitarist Brandon Ross disrupts the long Julius Hemphill-penned closer. Even the organist, who does his job manfully throughout and whose name is Gerard Gibbs, avants around on that one. B PLUS
Oddly enough, Coltrane and Hendrix have never seemed much alike to me, except that they were arch-'60s performers (Hendrix: no boundaries, anything was possible and might happen, the unexpected never ends; Coltrane: the quest for higher spiritual realms trumps all other striving, he who is not changing is dying).
Thing is, however, I would take a world without Coltrane two or three times before one without Hendrix (and am profoundly grateful such a choice does not have to be made), not least because I enjoy more music influenced by Hendrix than the other guy.
And maybe it's temperament, too.
Coltrane: gospel (ecstasy instead of sex).
And to me, Coltrane just sounds more like he's calling out to the spirits rather than channeling them. Albert Ayler, now, there's a guy who's possessed.
And I find Hendrix more of a joker, even a prankster. Coltrane can grow a bit humorless after a while. Both have enjoyable romantic sides, though.
Milo: Very interesting question. I always heard Coltrane as Calculus times a spectacular sunrise. Which to me is just as much a "channel for the spirits" as Hendrix. Great similarities there. Add 13 years to Jimi's life (meaning he would have lived till, gasp, 1983) and . . .
Mingus is clearly in the latter category, given the political context and humorous meanings he added to his compositions. After a full day today of gorgeous Mingus immersion, my humble opinion is that he wrote big band arrangements like John Hancock signed important documents -- bold and dramatic. Larger than real life.
the racist pig had a good set of ears.Exactly right. If black people didn't forcefully express themselves as what they were in society he had a sharp set of ears for the alternative.
he talks about 'the artist-audience nexus', which he argues was undermined when jazz 'moved, ominously, into the culture belt'.I just finished Lawrence Levine's Highbrow/Lowbrow, which is about how art and entertainment in America went from what people liked, to what people think that they should like, c. 1850. Sad :( The book's a great read though.
Thanks for the Larkin tip! I'm excited to read his criticism.
I've always loved Philip Larkin on jazz - well, that's not true, I used to think he was a stupid old fart.He is a stupid old fart. But he's the smartest stupid old fart out there.
There is a way to resolve the Larkin-American tension about jazz, a little bit anyway.
Hunt up the grand Skip Williamson cartoon where a stereotype darkie is whispering to a white girl: "Watty Melon"
Way more than it should have been, this is what Philip Larkin thought latter-day jazz was about. Them damn colonials.
B: I have never consciously referred to John Coltrane's In a Soulful Mood and wouldn't know whether such exists without research I have no intention of doing.
(Thinking more about Bird than tainted Rose helps in the sport metaphor, I think.)
There's two types of masterful performers (I know, there's dozens, but for the sake of this discussion, we're centered on two types): those for whom the ball, the horn, the steps, the presence on screen is the essence of their lives (does Larry Bird even exist after he steps off the basketball court?); and those for whom it is the ultimate expression of their lives, but clearly part of a larger whole (which applies to Sonny Rollins and Dizzy Gillespie, and in their own gnarled and tormented way, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker).
Coltrane has always seemed to me to belong to the first category -- whole story of him falling asleep on the couch with his horn in his lips etc. -- which has made his plainly heroic quest for the ultimate in improvisation more than a bit driven, compulsive, pinched even. Kinda like Pete Rose sometimes.
Jason - I'm down with the idea of a JC care package. Coral some Expert Witnesses to chip in a few bucks and we could purchase a few Coltrane CDs (cheap, too, I bet) that we feel are "best bets" that our host would dig, and then mail them out to him. If he likes them, we feel good that we've turned him on to some great music - someone who has turned us on to a lot more. And if he feels compels to write a review of any of them, that's just a bonus. I'd suggest the following:
1. John Coltrane: Live at the Village Vanguard (the Master Takes) (Impulse 1998)
(includes all of the classic 1961 album plus other tracks recorded at same venue)
2. John Coltrane: The Gentle Side of John Coltrane (Impulse 1991)
(based on your tip - sounds thematically great - quiet ballads - a side of JC we might not expect)
3. John Coltrane: A John Coltrane Retrospective: The Impulse Years (Impulse 1992) 3-CD best-of
4. John Coltrane: The Very Best of John Coltrane (Uni 2001) single CD best-of
'Trane's sound was definitely mind-blowing the first time I heard it. His "sheets of sound" was one of those classic one-of-a-kind sounds to sooth a sonic youth. My Favorite Things was my first, and, being a piano player, it made me almost as much a fan of McCoy Tyner as it did of the man with the horn. But as much as I loved the Atlantics, the Impulse albums (Crescent, Vanguard, A Love Supreme) were the ones that really knocked me out. Between Trane's ever-expanding vocabulary and the greatest-drummer-of-all-time Elvin Jones doing his thing, I couldn't get enough of the Impulse LPs I heard.
Xgau - As far as what you "have to add to the discussion" of the Coltrane Impulses, it's your words. I'm not the only one here who thinks that hearing a piece of music after reading of one your reviews opens up that piece of music so it's heard in a different way. Plus Coltrane's gotta make for great writing. I cherish that "bash and blow" description of Jones and Trane together in your Live at the Half Note review. I really believe John Coltrane (especially on Impulse) is one of the major gaps in the writing of our greatest music critic (you!) who's reviewed practically every worthwhile artist ever. Blow us some 'Trane, bro'!
JeffC77, you are a legend among men! *Bowing* Edit: For some reason, it's not working, Jeff. Fix teh internets!!
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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