Impressions of the ICP Orchestra, Zürich 2015

Posted in Free Jazz, Han Bennink, jazz, Photographs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by crownpropeller

DSC_4339(Click to enlarge) The ICP Orchestra at Rote Fabrik, Zurich,
Switzerland, October 17, 2015. Mary Oliver, Tristan
Honsinger, Ernst Glerum, Han Beninnk, Michael Moore,
Ab Baars, Wolter Wierbos (hidden), Tobias Delius (hidden) and
Thomas Heberer.  Photo by Armin Büttner

The ICP Orchestra, that famous european jazz institution founded in 1967 by drummer Han Bennink and pianist Misha Mengelberg, played in Zurich yesterday. Since I have a bad cold, I was not in the mood to fumble around with a video cam, but I took quite a few photos which turned out so nice, that I thought I’d present them here.

In it’s current incarnation – Misha Mengelberg is not able to appear on stage anymore – the ICP Orchestra consists of Han Bennink, trumpeter Thomas Heberer, trombonist Wolter Wierbos, Michael Moore (as, cl), Ab Baars (ts, cl), Tobias Delius (ts, cl), Mary Oliver (violin, viola), cellist Tristan Honsinger and bassist Ernst Glerum. The piano chair was manned by Misha Mengelbergs good friend Guss Janssen. They played a lot of  Mengelbergs compositions as well as his arrangements of pieces by Monk, Herbie Nichols and Duke Ellington, as well as pieces by band members. To make it short, it was a great evening and I was glad I went – I even had the feeling my cold had gotten better afterwards.

So here are some photos (you can always click to enlarge, they are quite big!):

DSC_4308Han Bennink at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4321Han Bennink, Michael Moore, Ab Baars, Tobias Delius at
Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4301Mary Oliver, Tristan Honsinger, Ernst Glerum at Rote Fabrik.
Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4324Michael Moore and Ab Baars at Rote Fabrik.
Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4348Mary Oliver at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

After a twenty minute intermission the second part of the evening started with about twenty minutes with a special quartet. ICP-members Bennink, Glerum and Moore were joined by Zurich based pianist Irène Schweizer (they know each other for years and years, swiss label Intakt has just released a new Cd of Schweizer/Bennink duets).

Here are some photos from that part of the evening:

DSC_4373Irène Schweizer, Ernst Glerum, Han Bennink and Michael
Moore at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4386Han Bennink and Michael
Moore at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4384Han Bennink at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4407Irène Schweizer at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

Then it was back to the ICP Orchestra again:

DSC_4428Michael Moore, Ab Baars, Tobias Delius, Wolter Wierbos and
Thomas Heberer at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4430Ernst Glerum, Mary Oliver, Han Bennink and Michael Moore
at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4453“And without further ado I present to you: absolutely nothing!”:
Tristan Honsinger at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4467Going down low: Tristan Honsinger and Wolter Wierbos at
Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4471And up: Tristan Honsinger in the air at Rote Fabrik.
Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4476Guss Janssen and Mary Oliver at Rote Fabrik.
Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4485Han Bennink and Ab Baars at Rote Fabrik.
Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4490Han Bennink, Ab Baars, Michael Moore and Tobias Delius
at Rote Fabrik. Photo by Armin Büttner

DSC_4502A quite hum for Misha Mengelberg: Han Bennink at Rote
Fabrik, Zurich, October 17, 2015.


David Murray Infinity Quartet feat. Saul Williams, Zürich 2015

Posted in clips, David Murray, jazz, Photographs on October 14, 2015 by crownpropeller

DSC_4144(click to enlarge) David Murray, Jaribu Shahid (hidden), Saul
Willliams and Nasheet Waits at Rote Fabrik, Zürich,
October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

Last sunday one of my old favourites was in town. Tenor saxophonist/bass clarinetist David Murray was appearing at the Rote Fabrik with his Infinity Quartet featuring Spoken Word artist Saul Williams.

Since I am not following the HipHop and Spoken Word scene that much, I was not acquainted with Williams’ work at all. Shame on me for it was a great evening.

I made a video featuring two tracks. Unfortunately from where I stood the view was not too good. As I did not want to appear to be filming, I put the camera on the table besides me for most of the time. Not wanting to cut the people’s heads, I had to zoom out quite a bit since the table was too low. But the video gets more interesting after a while when I finally picked the camera up to zoom in a little more. But there are still some bad shakes. Add to that that my camera passed out. So there are three seconds without footage in between – and just some photos with worse sound from another source at the end of “Children Of The Night”.

So this video is just to give you an idea.

The clip starts with the fourth track of the evening, a quartet rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “Wee See”. You won’t recognize it at first, the theme only comes up around 13:13 (It took me hours to find out which Monk tune that is). After that (starting at 16:00) comes “Children Of The Night”, a poem by Saul Williams, with Murray playing bass clarinet.

I also took quite a few photographs, here are some:

DSC_4123(click to enlarge) David Murray at Rote Fabrik, Zürich,
October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

DSC_4162(click to enlarge) David Murray and Saul Willliams at Rote
Fabrik, Zürich, October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

DSC_4173(click to enlarge) Nasheet Waits at Rote Fabrik,
Zürich, October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

DSC_4202(click to enlarge) Jaribu Shahid at Rote Fabrik,
Zürich, October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

DSC_4201(click to enlarge) Saul Williams at Rote Fabrik,
Zürich, October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

DSC_4227(click to enlarge) David Murray and Saul Williams at
Rote Fabrik, Zürich, October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

DSC_4249(click to enlarge) Orrin Evans and David Murray at
Rote Fabrik, Zürich, October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

DSC_4170(click to enlarge) Saul Williams and Jaribu Shahid at
Rote Fabrik, Zürich, October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

DSC_4226(click to enlarge) Saul Williams  at Rote Fabrik,
Zürich, October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

DSC_4258(click to enlarge) David Murray and Saul Williams at
Rote Fabrik, Zürich, October 11, 2015. Photo by Armin Büttner.

If you have a chance to see this band – they are touring through Europe right now – go for it!


Nestor Records (early John Coltrane musical content!)

Posted in 78 rpm, Discography, John Coltrane, R'n'B with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2015 by crownpropeller

nestor6aThis 1953 record from Philadelphia contains solos
by John Coltrane. From the Crown Propeller Collection

The John Coltrane Reference by Lewis Porter, Chris DeVito, David Wild, Yasuhiro Fujioka, Wolf Schmaler – a book you should own if you are a Coltrane fanatic – lists a probably 1953 session by Philadelphia drummer James “Coatesville” Harris that features Coltrane, done for the small Philadelphia label Nestor.

In their notes to that session the authors write: “This 78-rpm record was discovered by Swiss reserachers Otto Flückiger and Armin Büttner. (…) Coltrane is identified by aural evidence only, but we consider the evidence overwhelming. He plays throughout and solos on both tracks.”

What they write is not quite the truth though. It was not Otto Flückiger and me who made this discovery. Instead Otto and his friend the swiss jazz researcher and alto saxophonist Mario Schneeberger had thought that the saxophonist on Nestor 06 sounded very much like John Coltrane back in the 1960s when Otto won this record for a dollar or two in an auction. When Otto played the two tracks for me in the early 1990s, I was convinced that it’s Coltrane playing the tenor here from the first notes emanating from that horn, leading me to inform the Coltrane experts. But the claim for the discovery must go to Otto and Mario.

There is really not much known about the Nestor label which was owned by Herman “Piney” Gillespie, who at different points in time also ran the labels G&M, Piney and Teenage. Gillespie had his home base in Philadelphia, but at least Nestor moved to New York later.

The second Edition of Bob McGrath’s The R&B Indies (2006) lists nine issues on Nestor. And although I have been running a permanent ebay search for “Nestor 78rpm” since 2003, I only ever came up with one Nestor record at all (Nestor 10, incidentally not listed in the The R&B Indies).

In the hope of acquiring more information about the Nestor label (and maybe stumbling over even more Coltrane, not that I do have much hope), I decided to gather all the information that I have here, in the hope of delivering a somewhat complete list of its issues. Many thanks to Bob McGrath whose four volume work The R&B Indies is responsible for about 92 percent of this listing. Some composer credits were taken from 45rpm labels appearing on the internet. There is some music inside of this listing, some youtube clips – yes, and some Coltrane to listen to in an atomic age tenor solo!


Nestor Records – a draft

NESTOR 1 to NESTOR 5: No information

Coatesville Harris (dr, ldr), Rodney Smith (voc), John Coltrane (ts), unidentified p, g, b, d

Philadelphia, probably 1953

JG-06A     Ham Hocks And Hominy (H. Gillespie)
JG-06B     Strange Things All The Range (H. Gillespie)

(Information from Fancourt – McGrath: “The Blues Discography 1943–1970” and a copy of Nestor 6 in the Crown Propeller Collection, this record is not mentioned in the 2006 edition of The R&B Indies). Only 78 rpm copies are known.

And here is Coatesville Harris’ band with singer Rodney Smith doing “Strange Things All The Rage”. Watch out for John Coltrane!

NESTOR 7 to NESTOR 9: No information


JG-10A     The Little Black Sheep (Moore)
JG-10B     My Dream (Moore)

(Not listed in The R&B Indies, information from a 78rpm copy in the Crown Propeller Collection), Here is the music (warning: no jazz or r’n’b content!) I cannot find the 78rpm right now, so I might add a picture later.

The Little Black Sheep:

My Dream

NESTOR 11: No information

MICHELLE & HIS ORGAN (v. Jimmy Milner)

N-12A     Love Is Such A Funny Thing
N-12B     Now That You’re Gone

(Information from “The R&B Indies”)

Mae Parrish with unidentified tp, tb, ts, g, p, b, d, vocal ensemble on “Function …”

Philadelphia, probably late 1955 or early 1956

N-13A     Function On Broadway
N-13B     Let’s Make Love Tonight

Information from The R&B Indies, and Fancourt – McGrath: The Blues Discography 1943–1970. Fancourt/McGrath give 1953/1954 as the recording date, but this was probably later. The  New York Age of  February 11, 1956 noted: “Mae Parrish, sensational blues singer, getting good response from her recent recording of “Function On Broadway” on Nester (sic!) label.”

Here is “Function On Broadway”:

Freddie Clark (voc), unknown tp, as, p, b, d

N-14A     Begging Papa Blues
N-13B     Got The Blues

Information from The R&B Indies and Fancourt – McGrath: The Blues Discography 1943–1970 and a 78rpm copy of Nestor 14 in the Otto Flückiger Collection. When I go down to the archive again, I will take  pictures of the label. There were 45rpm copies as well. Here’s one from Youtube user stompingsevens:

And if you’d like to hear the flip side too, here’s “Got The Blues” from Otto’s collection.

MONTEREYS (Dean Barlow)

N-15A     Someone Like You (White-Epps)
N-15B     Train Whistle Blues

Basic information from The R&B Indies. Composer credits from 45rpm label shots found on the internet. Nestor 15 was also released as Teenage 1001.


N-16A     There Goes That Train (R. McGill)
N-16B     I Gotta (B. Smith)

Basic information from The R&B Indies. Composer credits from 78 and 45rpm label shots  found on the internet.

Ray Edwards (voc), Dicky Howard, rest unknown

N-17A     Rolling Down The Highway
N-17B     Going Down The River (H. Gillespie – R. Jefferson)

Information from The R&B Indies and Classic Urban Harmony website.


N-18X45  119    Rosa Lee (M. Childs)
N-18X45 120   No Love (M. Childs)

Basic information from The R&B Indies. Composer credits from  45rpm label shots  found on the internet. Here is a vid of “Rosa Lee” from youtube user jdkays:

NESTOR 19 to NESTOR 25: No information


N-26A     One More Time (Ollie Blanchard)
N-26B     Sugarfoot Sam

Information from The R&B Indies, composer credit for N-26A from a copy on ebay. This is the first known Nestor with a N.Y.C. adress on the label.



N-27A     Remember (G. Payne)
N-17B     That Kiss You Gave Me (G. Payne)

Information from The R&B Indies and label shots from the internet.

NESTOR (number unknown)


unknown titles

Information about singer Lloyd “Fat Man” Smith recording for Nestor can be found in the Billboard of April 13, 1957 (dates in brackets added by me):

“Lloyd, the ‘Fat Man’, r.&b. singer and ork leader who has recorded on Peacock (1951/52), Gotham (1950), Nestor (??), Checker (??) and Epic (really Okeh, 1956), has been signed as a disk jockey on WHAT, Philadelphia.”

Some information about Lloyd “Fat Man” Smith can be found here.


If you have information about the unlisted Nestor records or can provide label scans or audio files of records from the list, please contact me via a comment.

Marshall Allen Magic Science Quartet : Oedipus/Edipo 2015

Posted in clips, Henry Grimes, jazz, Marshall Allen with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by crownpropeller

allen_grimesHenry Grimes and Marshall Allen at Casa Torre
in Poschiavo, Switzerland on September 19, 2015.
Photo by Armin Büttner

When one of my co-workers told me that Marshall Allen and Henry Grimes along with drummer Avreeyl Ra and Cornelia Müller would be accompagnying a screening of Cornelia Müller’s silent movie “Oedipus/Edipo” at Casa Torre in Poschiavo, Switzerland it was clear I had to go. Poschiavo is a five hour train ride from here – but what a beautiful voyage.

Cornelia “KA” Müller’s movie “Oedipus/Edipo” is a reinterpretation of the ancient greek myth, filmed in the surroundings of colorful Poschiavo Valley featuring Butoh dancer Yoshihiro Shimomura in nearly all roles. You can read all about the movie here. And here is the official trailer:

I really liked the movie, especially when Yoshihiro Shimomura did the Sphinx . But in a way it seemed like drummer Avreeyl Ra  and Cornelia Müller herself playing piano where the only ones reacting to what happened on screen, whereas Marshall Allen and Henry Grimes were faced towards the audience. Somehow this left the music rather directionless. Here is a small excerpt from the Casa Torre screening (which of course does neither the movie or the musicians right):

After the movie was over, people had applauded and the lights had gone up again, the quartet started an encore of which I managed to capture a nice part on video with Marshall playing his EVI with Henry Grimes and Avreeyl Ra swinging behind him:

During the encore Allen also grabbed the alto saxophone to send the room off into space – something he had not done during the screening where he he had played EVI, Casio and Kora exclusively. I did not film his solo but captured the audio. Here it is with some pictures of the concert mixed with some shots of beautiful Poschiavo where the concert took place:


It was good to see that Marshall is still going strong (he’s 91 now!) and to hear that Henry Grimes plays so well. After the concert I bought Henry’s CD “The Tone Of Wonder” recorded in Poschiavo when he was artist in residence there in 2013:

2728821Here’s a nice review of it.

And of course after all was over girlfriend made a “snapshot with your superstar” photo of Marshall and me.

DSC_3502Clearly the taller person here needs a shave.

Two more shots  from the concert:

allen_grimes2 Henry Grimes and Marshall Allen at Casa Torre
in Poschiavo, Switzerland on September 19, 2015.
Photo by Armin Büttner

allen_grimes3 Henry Grimes, Marshall Allen and Avreeyl Ra at Casa Torre
in Poschiavo, Switzerland on September 19, 2015.
Photo by Armin Büttner


P.S.: There are still copies of the LP available, that my friend Hubi and me recorded with Marshall Allen and cellist Kash Killion in 2012 (see here and here).

R.I.P. Harold Ousley

Posted in Harold Ousley, King Kolax, Little Jimmy Scott with tags , , , , on August 16, 2015 by crownpropeller

harold_ousley_1957Harold Ousley in 1957, taken from
Jazz Hot.

Yesterday the jazz world received the sad news of tenor saxophonist Harold Ousley’s passing.

Ousley who was born in Chicago on January 23, 1929, replaced Dick Davis in trumpeter King Kolax‘ band for a while in the mid-fifties after Davis’ passing. That is the reason why on one day in 1999 I went to Bern where Ousley was playing with his group at Marians Jazz Room. I tried to talk to Ousley about his time with Kolax during the break, but only had a minute or two since he was surrounded by people wanting to talk to him. The only thing he told me about Kolax was a “ladies’ men, always full of jokes”. Ousley asked me to talk to him again after the show, but this did not work out since I had to catch the train back to Basel where I was living at the time.

After the show there was just enough time to acquire one of the CDs that Ousley had brought with him and have it signed:


“That’s When We Thought Of Love” was recorded in 1986 (and released only in 1994 on J’s Way Records) with Ousley, pianist James Weidman, bassist Don Gladstone, drummer Curtis Boyd, and guitarist Greg Skaff. It is a nice and relaxed session which strangely is not mentioned in Tom Lord’s Jazz Records. But what really makes it special is the guest apperance of my favourite male jazz singer, Little Jimmy Scott on three tracks, “All Of Me”, Pennies From Heaven” and “Time After Time”.

Of these I especially love “All Of Me” because it is one of the rare opportunities to listen to the great late Jimmy Scott singing above a tempo that is not so morbidly slow as the ones he ususally chose (or was given). Add to that that Ousley plays a very fine solo here:



And here is a rare track from Ousley’s days in King Kolax’s band. “Vivian” which was probably arranged by Sonny Blount later known as the one and only Sun Ra, was recorded on December 22, 1954 by  Kolax [William Little] (tp, ldr, voc); Harold Ousley (ts); Prentice McCarey (p); “Cowboy” Martin (b); Leon Hooper (d, Latin perc):



What you hear here is an alternate take of the version that was originally released on the 78 rpm Vee Jay 136. If you want to hear (and see) the original version, it’s here:


About Ornette Coleman (1930–2015)

Posted in Ornette Coleman, Uncategorized with tags , on July 3, 2015 by crownpropeller
by Armin Büttner

The history of jazz can be read as a story of men who seemingly came from nowhere and made everything that came before  look terribly old. It all began in the twenties with Louis Armstrong who literally invented the jazz solo. In the fourties it was Charlie Parker who made a whole generation lay ever more complex chord structures  over  the good old harmonies. Everyone wanted to be like Bird, including his heroin addiction.

Ornette Coleman who passed on June 11 aged 85  was such a singular figure. Coleman as well as tenor saxist John Coltrane were central to the free jazz revolution of the early 1960s. When Coltrane died in 1967 he left behind an army of epigones trying to get ever closer to the creator by means of exotic scales. Looking back the heritage of Ornette Coleman is much greater: It is not about doing justice to the expectations of the critics, the audience, or to the musical conventions of one’s time. It is about relying on oneself as a thinking, feeling and intuitively creative human being.


Is the future bound to squawk?

«Something Else!!!!», «Tomorrow Is the Question», «The Shape of Jazz to Come», «Change of the Century»: The future is here,  announced the titles of Coleman’s first LPs released between 1958 and 1960. These titles  – invented by the record company – let people expect a poser and pretender.

John Lewis, the Modern Jazz Quartets pianist, had brought Coleman from Los Angeles to New York City in 1959 and introduced him into the important jazz circles. But a lot of the established musicians could not get what Coleman – the shy man with the seemingly wrong notes, the wrong technique and the false sense of harmony – should have to do with the future of jazz. And that squawky plastic saxophone! And why did Don Cherry, Coleman’s partner in crime, play such a funny pocket trumpet?

But many influential critics, fans and musicians heard where Coleman was coming from musically, heard where he wanted to go – and were enthused. Instead of imitating his playing, they let themselves be inspired by his attitude: Do what ever you think is musically right in any moment, throw your creativity in a pot with other people’s creativity – and you will reach an “unison”.


Ways into the wonderful

Ornette Coleman was born into a poor family in 1930. Already as a teenager he tried to earn some money playing r’n’b in the blues bars of his home town Fort Worth. Because of his often strange sounding playing – autodidact Coleman had misunderstood important parts of classic harmony – he was thrown out of several bands. After a gig in a small town somewhere he was battered by a bunch of dissatisfied white people, they also smashed his instrument.

Coleman was not willing to give up, his initial harmonic misunderstanding had opened wonderful worlds for him that he decided to never leave again: dissonances that do not sound ugly but intuitively right. Tone sequences against doctrine that are of a surprisingly forceful logic. Abstractions which are full of – however veiled –the communicative powers of Texas blues.

Ornette Coleman’s music is easily recognizable, no matter if he is composing for an orchestra or a string quartet, grabbing trumpet or violin or if he leads his free funk band Prime Time. «Harmolodics» is  what Coleman called his system with which he tried to give equal importance to the elements harmony, melody, tempo and rhythm.  When Coleman talked about it this concept his speech was filled with metaphors and oscillating terms («unison», «love») that he left the critics more confused than undelighted.

The logic of intuition

When in 1987 a german TV reporter asks Coleman what the term «Harmolodics» means, he replies that it’s an attempt “to transfer human logic into music”. This may sound like a construction plan for a cold and rational music. In reality it’s a fitting description of Coleman’s friendly, universalitic and deeply humanistic music. Because human beings do not think in bits and bytes, but in analogies and associations, mental connections. And they have feelings that tend to dance with their logic, they are intuitive.

For Coleman the latter never meant to just blow as if there is no tomorrow. He did not like the term “Free jazz” – again the invention of some record company’s PR person.  «I am a composer», Coleman says to the TV-Reporter, «everything I do is based on a thought out concept.»

With his concept Coleman revolutionized jazz like Picasso did with painting or James Joyce with literature: Nobody’s  music has ever sounded like Ornette Coleman’s music. But without Coleman countless musicians would not sound the way they do. Coleman had shown them that it’s possible to leave the system.

Ornette Coleman Prime Time Lugano 1991

Posted in clips, jazz, Ornette Coleman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2015 by crownpropeller

ornetteR.I.P., Ornette Coleman (March 9, 1930 – June 11, 2015)

Fight your sadness with music: Ornette Coleman Prime Time 1991 at the Estival Jazz in Lugano, Switzerland, July 4, 1991 (in three parts):


Ornette Coleman: alto; Dave Bryant: keyb, p; Ken Wessel: eg; Chris Rosenberg: eg; Al MacDowell: eb; Badal Roy: tabla, perc; Denardo Coleman: dr.

Rejoice, rejoice!

R.I.P. Ornette Coleman (1930–2015)

Posted in jazz, Ornette Coleman, Peter Brötzmann with tags , , , , on June 11, 2015 by crownpropeller


No words, just music:

Peter Brötzmann playing Ornette Colemans “Lonely Woman” in 1984.






Slim Gaillard in the 1980s

Posted in clips, jazz, Slim Gaillard with tags , , , , , on June 7, 2015 by crownpropeller

slimSlim Gaillard in Burghausen, Germany, 1986

It’s been a while since something happened on this blog. That is because in the last months my regular work was so tiring that I started to lose my interest in music for a while – something you should never let happen. Anyway this blog is back now and offering something special for you: two clips from the 1980s featuring the master of Vout: Slim Gaillard (1916–1991). I found these two clips on VHS cassettes in the collection of my friend, the late jazz researcher Otto Flückiger. The first one was made – I guess – in the mid 1980s, probably either in switzerland or in germany. Apparently this was filmed privately  and I have no information in regard to where it was filmed, when or by whom. It may have been Otto himself or one of his researching friends. If someone knows who filmed this, please let me know. Unfortunately I also do not know who the bassist and the drummer in this clip are:

I know more about the second clip though. This was filmed professionally for the bavarian TV station BR at the Jazz Festival 1986 in Burghausen (does someone know the exact date?). Playing the bass here is versatile swiss bassist/trombonist Isla Eckinger, and the drummer is Michael Carvin.


Don Redman’s side men – a vintage amateur review

Posted in Billy Taylor, Don Byas, Don Redman, jazz with tags , , , , , , , on March 12, 2015 by crownpropeller

pascoli1Page 1 of an unpublished article by french jazz enthusiast
Daniel Pascoli written in 1947 or 1948. (Click to enlarge)

Swiss jazz promoter Georges E. Mathys – who is now 97 years old! – has send me a precious document. A text handwritten in 1947 by one Daniel Pascoli – a friend of Mathys in his younger days – (see above for the first page). Pascoli like Mathys was a jazz enthusiast.

Here is what Mathys tells me about Daniel Pascoli:
Daniel was a friend. I met him in Paris at the Hot Club de France in Rue Chaptal. He was a doctor – or was he studying medicine? He was a very cultured young man.
With his fiancée he came to Yverdon and with my wife Suze we met for some days in Paris. He was constructing a pavillon at La Varenne – St. Hilaire and I also did construction. Under these circumstances it was not easy to meet. Telephone, letters and the exchanging of records – this unfortunately made up the little time we had together. I regret that.
Daniel passed before he turned thirty.

Both Mathys and his friend Pascoli had been electrified when they witnessed the Don Redman orchestra playing in Switzerland in the autumn of 1946. In fact, Mathys helped to organize the Yverdon concert.

(Click to enlarge)
A double page from Georges Mathys’ scrap book with autographs collected in Yverdon.
From the collection of Georges E. Mathys

At that time no black american jazz orchestra had played in Europe for seven years. Seven years, in which the jazz scene in the USA had witnessed the bebop revolution. Expectations had been high, as the Redman band had some young guys in it and there were rumours that some of them they might be boppers (!) playing a music Europe had mostly only known as a rumour.

Don Byas, probably 1946  in Belgium,
photographer unidentified.
From the Otto Flückiger Collection

As you may know a group of researchers including me have gathered a lot of information about this important tour. If you did not know, it is here (wish I had the time to give it an overhaul): Don Redman’s 1946 European Tour.

Starting in the last weeks of that band’s existence, some small european labels took the opportunity to record some small groups featuring the orchestra’s main soloists sometimes with Redman’s rhythm section, sometimes with some added local guys. There were recordings for Swing and Blue Star in France as well as for dutch Decca. Which brings us back to Pascoli’s text.

In 1947 Daniel Pascoli had tried to gather most recordings Redman’s sidemen did on their own in late 1946 and early 1947 (it seems he was not intereted in Redman’s two white musicians who also recorded for french labels after the band broke up). After having done so, he listened to them intensely, taking notes. It all resulted in a little article that Pascoli wrote though he never managed to get it published…

The following is not a word-for-word translation of the handwritten text (page 1 of which is at the top of this posting, the rest of the scanned article is at the bottom).But I think its essentials are intact. For those among you who speak fluent french: I do not. That is why this text was translated into german by my co-worker Camille Roseau (BIG THANKS!) first and then into english by me (and I am not a native english speaker).

It is funny how much Pascoli’s opinions differ from mine. For me the best thing about this sessions has always been Don Byas  – and how about tenor solos being the “most punishable form of musical masturbation”? Daniel Pascoli was a man with strong opinions!

Beware about the discographical information Pascoli gives. If you are looking for discographical information, do not look here, turn to Don Redman’s 1946 European Tour again. (Later Pascoli’s text will possibly added as an appendix to that page, but I think it deserves the spotlight here.)

Some of the titles are linked to music (maybe more added later), so you can make up your own mind about the thoughts of a young french jazz lover around 1947.

The European Recordings by the solists of the Don Redman Orchestra

[by Daniel Pascoli]
When the Don Redman Orchestra came to Europe last year, some record companies took up the opportunity of these black musicians traveling through – the first after eight years – to entrichen their catalogues. Apart from some amateur recordings and – I believe – some recordings done by Swiss Radio on soft wax [acetetates??], the orchestra did not do any recordings. Only the main soloists were asked to record some sides in Holland and in France. There were five sessions all in all. One in Holland for Decca, two in France for the label Swing and again two in France for young company Blue Star. Unfortunately I do not have much information about the dutch session. All I know is that four sides were recorded by the following musicians:
Peanuts Holland (tp), Tyree Glenn (tb), Don Byas (ts), Billy Taylor (p), Buford Oliver (dm), Jean Boucherty (b) JJ. Tilché (g). (The last two were two french musicians hired by Don Redman that were supposed to complete the band after the french Musicians Unions union in an infamous manoeuvre had arranged that the larger part of the orchestra had to go on a ship back again.)
The titles of the four sides recorded were :

Poor Butterfly (AM 1032)     De D 32.178
Melancholy Baby (AM 1033)     –
Only the first two sides have been released – unfortunately they have not been send to me yet [in fact all four tracks were released].
The first session for Swing was recorded directly after the arrival of the orchestra in Paris. That is why we can hear the orchestra’s regular bassist here.

The exact personnel for these four sides:
SW 232 – Tyree Glenn and his orchestra
Working Eyes (OSW 437)
Peanuts Holland (tp) Tyree Glenn (tb) Don Byas (ts) Billy Taylor (p) Ted Sturgis (b) Buford Oliver (dm)
SW 235 – Don Byas and his Orchestra
Gloria (OSW438)
Don Byas (ts solo) acc pars : Billy Taylor (p) Ted Sturgis (b) Buford Oliver (dm)
SW 235 – Peanut Holland and his Orchestra
Peanut Butter Blues (OSW439)
same as for OSW 437 – Peanut Holland (vo)
SW 235 – Don Byas and his orchestra
The Mohawk Special (OSW 440)
same as for OSW 437, add Hubert Rostaing (as)

To these sides one must add two piano solos, recorded by Billy Taylor at the start of the session:
SW 234 – Billy Taylor (piano solo)
The very thought of you (OSW 435)
Striding down Champs Elysée (OSW 436)

On the second song Taylor was accompanied by Ted Sturgis (b), Buford Oliver (dm).

Of the four sides recorded by the band «Peanut Butter Blues»

seems to be the best. There is Holland’s singing:

Yes I love my baby, better than I do myself
Yes I love my baby, better than I do myself
If I can’t have you baby, I don’t want nobody else

which is excellent. One has to think of Hot Lips Page’s way of singing, and I think it would be very interesting to compare these two musicians who have such a lot in common – although on the other hand there are a lot of differences.
But back to «Peanut Butter Blues»: What is so remarkable about this side – apart from Peanuts Holland’s contribution – is without doubt Billy Taylor’s accompaniment. It is easy-going, effective, well placed, and one senses that Taylor is an incomparable supporter for the soloists. But I will have more opportunity to talk about this excellent pianist, who for me has  been the great revelation of the past year.

«Working Eyes»

is also a very good side, allowing one to study Taylor’s way of accompanying. Tyree Gleen, who for me is a musician whose way of entering into a chorus is exemplary, here gives us a perfect example of his specialty. It is a pity that this musician – an excellent technician by the way – rarely ever gives us really satisfying chorusses. There is always an aftertaste of the nebulous and sentimental – sometimes making us forget the most beautiful timbre a trombone is capable of.

«Mohawk Special» – a composition by Buford Oliver and Ted Sturgis – is solid, but nothing more. Hubert Rostaing (who was added to the band for reasons that are hard to understand, it would have been logical to take Redman, giving him an alias) fulfills his role with honor. At the same time he seems he seems to be very tense – certainly overwhelmed by emotions! The half chorusses of solo bass on this side is no marvel. There is a true abyss opening between honorable accompanist Ted Sturgis and soloists like Jimmy Blanton and Oscar Pettiford. Despite his mediocrity this bassist has the nondescript «american taste» that european specialist try to achieve in vain.

And then there is the fourth side, «Gloria»,

a composition by Byas himself. It is a feature for tenor sax in a slow tempo. It is just the sort of performance that lets me fall asleep – I don’t know why but tenor solos always seem to be the nost punishable sort of musical masturbation to me. Add to that that as soon as a tenor sax solo is recorded in Europe it sounds pappy and weepy (another example would be the solos Coleman Hawkins recorded for Decca between 1935 and 1938). Keep in mind that after all I am not really mad for Don Byas anyway (he is a far cry from Hawkins and has neither Ben Webster’s warmth nor Chu Berry’s fiery swing) and you will understand my low enthusiasm for «Gloria». The ending of this side reminds one of Marcel Mule (from the Quatour Saxophone of Paris).

After this [illegible] our heart is warmed by the two piano solos played by Billy Taylor. They are different from each other but still great (sic!).

«The Very Thought of You» is a strongly rhapsodizing theme, and Billy Taylor does not try the change the character of Ray Noble’s composition. That is why we get a piece of music «à la Debussy», colored by sentiment, whose sensibility is typically black. Like «Numb Fumblin’» by Fats [Waller]. And «Numb Fumblin’» is a marvel.

While «The Very Thought Of You» is a side not to everybody’s liking, the flip, «Stridin’ down Champs Elysée», puts itself into the foreground. I do not hesitate to say, that we are lucky to have such a track that is comparable to «Handful of Keys» by Fats [Waller] or «Child of a Disordered Brain» by Earl Hines. A side like this can not be described, it has to be listened to. So listen to it.

The second session for Swing took place when Don Byas left his engagement at the Cabaret Le Beaulieu. The following tunes were recorded:
SW 241. Don Byas Quartet
: Don Byas (ts), Billy Taylor (p), Jean Boucherty (b), Buford Oliver (dm)
I’m beginning to see the light (OSW 444)
, Body and Soul (OSW 447)
SW 247. Don Byas Quartet
: Same personnel as on OSW 444
Ain’t misbehavin (OSW 446)
SW 247. Buford Oliver (Drum-Solo)
: Same personnel as on OSW 444
Rosetta (OSW 445)

Among these four sides only «Rosetta» is stepping out of the ordinary. There Buford Oliver lets us marvel at his technical perfection, his smoothness and – one could say – his musicality. While hearing this side you are not witnessing an eruption (as there is on Lionel Hampton’s «Jack the Bellboy») but a chaining of events that implies the final character of Hampton’s solo, and is of no lesser interest. [This last sentence is also rather strange in the original text].

Add to that that this side never seems to be long-winded (as is the case with three fourth of all drum solos). So the growing interest of the listener brings Buford Oliver’s great worth to the light.

The three sides that were released as by the Don Byas Quartet are not that fabulous. One hears Byas more than enough there and on realizes that – as Teddy Wilson used to – he records to much and repeats himself very often.

For tenor saxophonists «Body and Soul»

is what evening dress is for mundane meetings: a must. In his recording Byas does not escape that challenge. Unfortunately it seems like Hawkins has exhausted that composition so any musician trying it out is bound to follow Hawkins’ tracks. That is also the case with Byas who presents us with a honorable side, one which unfortunately leaves an impression of a déja entendu [I already heard that].

«Ain’t Misbehaving» and «I’m Beginning to See the Light» let us hear – besides Byas – chorusses by Billy Taylor. The one on «Beginning …»– though it starts in an unpleasantly jumping way – is very good.

BSN-26-AabFrom the collection of Armin Büttner

BSN-26-BabFrom the collection of Armin Büttner

The first series of recordings for Blue Star consists of six sides released as by Tyree Glenn and his orchestra. These are:
B.S.24 Billie’s Bounce (M1873_Part 3564)
B.S.24 Mad Monk (M1869_Part 3560)
B.S.25 The Hour of Parting (M1871_Part 3562)
B.S. 26 Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone (M1870_Part 3561)

Recorded by: Peanut Holland (tp), Tyree Glenn (tb), Don Byas (ts), Hubert Rostaing (as), Billy Taylor (p), J.J. Tilché (g)
Jean Boucherty (b) Buford Oliver (dm)

B.S. 26 I can’t get started (M1872_Part 3563)
Recorded by the same musicians, omit Peanut Holland (tp)

B.S. 25_I surrender dear (M 1874 _Part 3563)
Recorded by: Tyree Glenn (tb), Don Byas, Billy Taylor (p), Jean Boucherty (b), J.J. Tilché (g), Buford Oliver (dm)

Of these six sides the first two which were released as Blue Star 24 are probably the best.
«Billie’s Bounce»

is a really good side. Hubert Rostaing is in splendid form. He plays in a style inspired by Benny Carter which pleasantly surprises this musician’s supporters since the latter often is victim of a sterilizing sellout. The trumpet solo delivered by Peanuts Holland is remarkable in relation to its construction and its conciseness. This solo also gives Buford Oliver the opportunity to show how effectively he is following the soloist. After seeing and hearing Oliver play one is by the way not surprised that Lionel Hampton – with whom Oliver played for a year – predicted a bright future for him

«Mad Monk» suffers from lacking unity and cohesion. The distribution of solos is less good than on the flip side. And someone had the bad idea to place a –  badly recorded – bass solo after a very strong solo by Peanuts Holland. Hubert Rostaing shines much less than in the preceding side and Tyree Glenn plays an unoriented chorus leaving the listener with a painful feeling of instability.
«I Surrender Dear»: Here they had the very good idea to use a clearly higher tempo than one is accustomed to. There are also two outstanding solos. One by Byas, full of drive and reminding of Hawkins at his best. (What is so disturbing about Byas is that he can play brilliantly – when he wants to. But he becomes dry, cold and monotonous when things are not to his liking or when he rather would be somewhere else. And then …!!!) The other remarkable solo is Billy Taylor’s, he obviously really never runs out of inspiration. The trumpet’s entry on this side is also very good.
The flip, «The Hour of Parting»

brings us into territory completely covered by a sentimental modernistic crust. This type of performance, an absolute bore, reminds me of marshmallows sold at fairs. You know the kind on which kind you can pull and pull endlessly …

«I Can’t Get Started» and «Please don’t Talk …» are fair sides, consisting of rather good solos by Byas. There is nothing remarkable about them, except maybe that the first title is a little faster than usual and that the second title is framed by a small, very successful arrangement.
Let us remark here that all arrangements framing the Blue Star recordings were made by Don Byas and – as it should be – conceived «just a few minutes before entering the studio».

The second series of recordings for Blue Star consists of these four sides:
B.S.27. Don Byas (Solo de Tenor Sax)

Laura (ST1898_Part 3619)
Don Byas (ts), Billy Taylor (p), J.J. Tilché (g), Jean Bouchety (b), B.Oliver (dm)

B.S.27. Don Byas and his orchestra
Cement Mixer (ST1899_Part3620)
Same as for ST1898. Add Peanuts Holland (tp, voc)

B.S .28. Don Byas’ Ree Boppers
Red Cross (ST1897_Part3618)
Walking Around (ST1895_Part3616)
Same as for ST1898. Add Peanuts Holland (tp)
B.S .29. Don Byas’ Ree Boppers
Dynamo A (ST1900_Part3612)
How High’s the moon (ST1896_Part3617)
Same as for ST1895

«Laura» is for Don Byas what «Body and Soul» is for Hawins. One has to acknowledge that this composition inspires Byas as much as «Body and Soul» inspired Hawkins. Don Byas has spread his inspiration over two chorusses. The first is dedicated to the theme’s exposition, leaving the original notes nearly unchanged but showing a unique sense for nuances and construction. In the second chorus he lets inspiration drive him, giving us a dreamy embroidery that lets me forget the trumpet solo a little. I do not think that this interpretation is really much superior to the one he already had recorded in America (American Record 1.001). – Don Byas himself prefers the Blue Star version. After all one can say that this one is better recorded technically.

«Cement Mixer»: This way of mixing the cement surely does not have the charm of the version done by its creator, Slim Gaillard. It is outstanding nonetheless. Peanuts Holland’s singing is very stimulating and Byas’ solo following it is maybe the best he recorded in Paris. The rhythm section is remarkable in its cohesion in a way reminding one of Lionel Hampton’s – legendary! – rhythm sections with which Hampton recorded for Victor.

«Red Cross» is a «Mop-Mop»-type piece by Charlie Parker, which here shows the musicians at their best. Everybody jumps into his chorus with a fervor and an enthusiasm that are hard to describe. the last chorus of this side is a three-sided conversation between Byas, Holland and Taylor. Note the beginning of a spoken sentence at the very end of this recording: a good sign indicating the heated atmosphere in the studio, as the recording assistants did not think of waiting until the end of recording before loudly expressing their enthusiasm.

«Walking Around» is a composition by Don Byas, allowing us to hear mainly Byas and Billy Taylor

With «How High the Moon»,

the Blue Star company finally makes its promise come true (you know, «Don Byas REE BOPPERS”). This is indeed the only side colored a little bit by the style that people are polemizing so much about. They are speeding through this tune that has been called the bebop musician’s warhorse. (This is not quite fitting for the rhythm section though, which floats along adequately.) Don Byas’ chorus is outstanding, but Billy Taylor’s solo is the great discovery among pianists younger than thirty.
«Dynamo A», the track finishing this series, allows us to hear Don Byas at his best in abundance. Here Peanuts Holland is playing a badly recorded chorus that is lacking in musicality, I’d really rather hear this musician playing open. When he uses a mute his sound gets thin and has a rattling quality. «Dynamo A» is a tune written by Dizzy Gillespie.

At the end of this exercise I would like to draw the conclusions which – as they say – are mandatory. From a purely materialist [sic!, better would have been «technical»] standpoint one can safely say that the Blue Star recordings are better realized than the ones for Swing. The Swing records are a little to «bright» (Dicky Wells’ and Bill Coleman’s session already suffered from the same problem). The Blue Star recordings sound much more «american»– unfortunately that company’s paste [i.e. pressing material] is very, very bad and can not be compared to the near-perfect paste that Swing uses.

Of all the things recorded, Don Byas’ session for Blue Star is the best. You hear Byas in top form and the absence of Tyree Glenn makes the band very homogenous.

As for the musicians they gave me reason for enthusiasm as well as for desillusion.

Enthusiasm for Billy Taylor – one can regret that he did not record five or six piano solos – and for Buford Oliver who is as good as soloist as he is as accompanist and who can play as well in a small abnd as well as in a large one.
Desillusion about the discovery, that Don Byas is not the second Hakins he was announced to be, but a very lunatic musician, who surely has great worth. But – as mentioned before – I prefer Ben Webster and even Chew (sic!) Berry.
Desillusion also in detecting Tyree Glenn’s penchant for exaggerated sentimentality, maybe withouth this mistake he would have been a great trombonist. (I prefer him playing the vibraphone anyway, an instrument he plays remarkably good.)
Finally desillusion to observe that Peanuts Holland – as most young trumpet players are – is a far, far cry from Louis [Armstrong], from Cootie [Williams] and from Rex [Stewart].

One must not disdain the records these musicians made on the european continent amongst which we find pieces like «Peanut Butter Blues”, «Stridin’ down Champs Elysées”, «Billie’s Bounce”, «Laura”, «Red Cross”, «How High the Moon »and «Dynamo A »recorded in the 1946/1947 season.

[signed] Daniel Pascoli


And here for those interested is the rest of Pascoli’s handwritten article. Fluent speakers of french and english, please do not be to harsh about the translation, I think the essence is there. If you think we understood something completely wrong please let me know.

(Click to enlarge)