Friday, June 30, 2017

Mulgrew Miller: “Living in the Shadows of Giants”


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Don’t cross a bridge to get home or to work:” I guess the expression contains more than a hint of caution and admonition, especially if you’ve lived some time in the San Francisco Bay area and seen the nightmarish traffic back-ups a closed bridge can cause on the local, television news.

Thankfully, I never experienced such a delay in all the years I lived and worked in San Francisco,

But I sure caught a taste of what such an experience would be like as I was headed north back to the Oakland, CA airport to catch a return flight to my relocated home in southern California following some business appointments in the Silicon Valley.

A major accident on the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland had caused a traffic back-up so serious that it extended south on US 880 to about 10 miles below the airport.

The was no alternative and plenty of later flights so I just relaxed and turned on the FM-Jazz station while I waited things out in the rental car that was crawling along at death-defying speed of 3 MPH.

The radio broadcast that I tuned into was an interview with pianist Mulgrew Miller who was appearing through the upcoming weekend with his trio at Yoshi’s Jazz Club located on a portion of the waterfront which the City of Oakland had reclaimed from surplus shipping docks and refurbished into a lovely commercial-cum-residential area.

I knew of Mulgrew’s work through recordings he had made during his long association with drummer Tony Williams’ quintet in the 1980s and 1990s, but I had never heard him play in person.

He sounded very warm and cordial during the radio interview and I thought, “Well, at the rate things are going with the crawling traffic, maybe I’ll just book into a local hotel and catch one of Mulgrew’s sets at Yoshi’s.”

Of all the remarks Mulgrew made during the exchange with the interviewer, one stayed with me: “It’s tough to get any recognition as a Jazz musician today because we are living in the shadow of Giants.”

This is not verbatim, but earlier in his talk, Mulgrew had said that many of the pianists  during the bebop era, for example Al Haig, Joe Albany, Dodo Marmarosa, John Lewis, and even some pianists during the later hard bop era like Sonny Clark, Horace Silver and Walter Bishop, Jr., were not original stylists.

They basically played in the manner of Bud Powell and gained a certain measure of recognition and approval for being able to do so.

But musicians like himself, who continue in this bebop piano tradition and perhaps add some of the newer influences like Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner or Keith Jarrett to their approach get little respect because we are not “… the next Bud Powell or Art Tatum or Bill Evans.”

“Why? Not all of us can be giants like Bud and Art or Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. We are doing our part to keep the Jazz tradition alive and even move it forward a little, but we get little respect for what we do accomplish and put down for what we don’t.”


None of this was conveyed with animosity by Mulgrew, but you could certainly sense his disappointment and his displeasure.

The interview then trailed off and was replaced by the playing of one of Mulgrew’s recordings in its entirety.

By some miracle I was just pulling into the hired car parking lot when the interviewer returned so I did not get to hear the rest of Mulgrew’s talk.

The following year The Mulgrew Miller Trio Live at Yoshi’s was issued as a double CD on MaxJazz [[MXJ 212/208] and I picked up a copy along with the March 1, 2005 edition of Downbeat in which the following article about Mulgrew by Ted Panken appeared.

Mulgrew passed away on May 28, 2013 and the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be nice to remember him on these pages with a reprint of his Downbeat interview and the Nat Chinen obituary that was published in The New York Times.  

Copyright © Downbeat/Ted Panken/2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Mulgrew Miller: No Apologies 

“Ironies abound in the world of Mulgrew Miller. On the one hand, the 49-year-old pianist is, as Eric Reed pointed out, "the most imitated pianist of the last 25 years." On the other, he finds it difficult to translate his exalted status into full-blown acceptance from the jazz business.

"It's a funny thing about my career," Miller said. "Promoters won't hire my band, but they'll book me as a sideman and make that the selling point of the gig. That boggles my mind."

Miller would seem to possess unsurpassed qualifications for leadership. As the 2004 trio release Live At Yoshi's (MaxJazz) makes evident, no pianist of Miller's generation brings such a wide stylistic palette to the table. A resolute modernist with an old-school attitude, he's assimilated the pentagonal contemporary canon of Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, as well as Woody Shaw's harmonic innovations, and created a fluid personal argot.

His concept draws on such piano-as-orchestra signposts as Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal and Erroll Garner, the "blowing piano" of Bud Powell, the disjunctive syncopations and voicings of Thelonious Monk, and the melodic ingenuity of gums like Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan and Cedar Walton. With technique to burn, he finds ways to conjure beauty from pentatonics and odd intervals, infusing his lines with church and blues strains and propelling them with a joyous, incessant beat.


"I played with some of the greatest swinging people who ever played jazz, and I want to get the quality of feeling I heard with them," Miller said. "It's a sublime way to play music, and the most creative way to express myself. You can be both as intellectual and as soulful as you want, and the swing beat is powerful but subtle. I think you have to devote yourself to it exclusively to do it at that level."

Consequential apprenticeships with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra, Betty Carter, Johnny Griffin and Shaw launched Miller's career. A 1983-'86 stint with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers put his name on the map, and he cemented his reputation during a long association with Tony Williams' great cuspof-the-'90s band, a sink-or-swim environment in which Miller thrived, playing, as pianist Anthony Wonsey recalls, "with fire but also the maturity of not rushing."

By the mid '80s, Miller was a fixture on
New York's saloon scene. Later, he sidemanned extensively with Bobby Hutcherson, Benny Golson, James Moody and Joe Lovano, and from 1987 to 1996 he recorded nine trio and ensemble albums for Landmark and RCANovus.

Not long after his 40th birthday, Miller resolved to eschew club dates and one-offs, and to focus on his own original music. There followed a six-year recording hiatus, as companies snapped up young artists with tenuous ties to the legacy of hardcore jazz.

"I won't call any names," Miller says, "but a lot of people do what a friend of mine calls 'interview music.' You do something that's obviously different, and you get the interviews and a certain amount of attention. Jazz is part progressive art and part folk art, and I've observed it to be heavily critiqued by people who attribute progressivity to music that lacks a folk element. When Charlie Parker developed his great conception, the folk element was the same as Lester Young and the blues shouters before him. Even when Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane played their conceptions, the folk element was intact. But now, people almost get applauded if they don't include that in their expression. If I reflected a heavy involvement in Arnold Schoenberg or some other ultra-modern composers, then I would be viewed differently than I am. Guys who do what I am doing are viewed as passé.

"A lot of today's musicians learn the rudiments of playing straight-ahead, think they've got it covered, become bored, and say, 'Let me try something else,'" Miller continued. "They develop a vision of expanding through different areas - reggae here, hip-hop there, blues here, soul there, classical music over here and being able to function at a certain level within all those styles. Rather than try to do a lot of things pretty good, I have a vision more of spiraling down to a core understanding of the essence of what music is."

This being said, Miller-who once wrote a lovely tune called "Farewell To Dogma" -continues to adhere to the principle that "there is no one way to play jazz piano and no one way that jazz is supposed to sound." He is not to be confused with the jazz police. His drummer, Karriem Riggins, has a second career as a hip-hop producer, and has at his fingertips a lexicon of up-to-the-second beats. When the urge strikes, bassist Derrick Hodge might deviate from a walking bass line to slap the bass Larry Graham style. It's an approach familiar to Miller, who grew up in
Greenwood, Miss., playing the music of James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Al Green in various Upper Delta cover bands.

"It still hits me where I live," he says. "It's Black music. That's my roots. When I go home, they all know me as the church organist from years ago, so it's nothing for me to walk up to the organ and fit right in. I once discussed my early involvement in music with Abdullah Ibrahim, and he described what I went through as a community-based experience. Before I became or wanted to become a jazz player, I played in church, in school plays, for dances and for cocktail parties. I was already improvising, and always on some level it was emotional or soul or whatever you want to call it. I was finding out how to connect with people through music.

"By now, I have played jazz twice as long as I played popular music, and although that style of playing is part of my basic musical being, I don't particularly feel that I need to express myself through it," he continued. "It's all blues. The folk element of the music doesn't change. The blues in 1995 and in 1925 is the same thing. The technology is different. But the chords are the same, the phrasing is the same, the language is the same-exact same. I grew up on that. It's a folk music. Folk music is not concerned with evolving."

For all his devotion to roots, Miller is adamant that expansion and evolution are key imperatives that drive his tonal personality. "I left my hometown to grow, and early on I intended to embrace as many styles and conceptions as I could," he said. "When I came to
New York I had my favorites, but there was a less celebrated, also brilliant tier of pianists who played the duo rooms, and I tried to hear all of those guys and learn from them. The sound of my bands changes as the musicians expand in their own right. I'm open, and all things are open to interpretation. I trust my musicians-their musicianship, insights, judgments and taste-and they tend to bring things off in whatever direction they want to go. In the best groups I played with, spontaneity certainly was a strong element."

Quiet and laid-back, determined to follow his muse, Miller may never attain mass consumption. But he remains sanguine.

"I have moments, but I don't allow myself to stay discouraged for long," he said. "I worked hard to maintain a certain mental and emotional equilibrium. It's mostly due to my faith. I don't put all my eggs in that basket of being a rich and famous jazz guy. That allows me a certain amount of freedom, because I don't have to play music for money. I play music because I love it. I play the music I love with people I want to play with. I have a long career behind me. I don't have to apologize to anybody for any decisions I make." -Ted Panken” 

Mulgrew Miller, Dynamic Jazz Pianist, Dies at 57

Copyright © The New York Times/Nate Chinen/May 29, 2013.

“Mulgrew Miller, a jazz pianist whose soulful erudition, clarity of touch and rhythmic aplomb made him a fixture in the postbop mainstream for more than 30 years, died on Wednesday in Allentown, Pa. He was 57.

The cause was a stroke, said his longtime manager, Mark Gurley. Mr. Miller had been hospitalized since Friday.

Mr. Miller developed his voice in the 1970s, combining the bright precision of bebop, as exemplified by Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson, with the clattering intrigue of modal jazz, especially as defined by McCoy Tyner. His balanced but assertive style was a model of fluency, lucidity and bounce, and it influenced more than a generation of younger pianists.

He was a widely respected bandleader, working either with a trio or with the group he called Wingspan, after the title of his second album. The blend of alto saxophone and vibraphone on that album, released on Landmark Records in 1987, appealed enough to Mr. Miller that he revived it in 2002 on “The Sequel” (MaxJazz), working in both cases with the vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Among Mr. Miller’s releases in the last decade were an impeccable solo piano album and four live albums featuring his dynamic trio.


Mr. Miller could seem physically imposing on the bandstand — he stood taller than six feet, with a sturdy build — but his temperament was warm and gentlemanly. He was a dedicated mentor: his bands over the last decade included musicians in their 20s, and since 2005 he had been the director of jazz studies at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

If his sideman credentials overshadowed his solo career, it wasn’t hard to see why: he played on hundreds of albums and worked in a series of celebrated bands. His most visible recent work had been with the bassist Ron Carter, whose chamberlike Golden Striker Trio featured Mr. Miller and the guitarist Russell Malone on equal footing; the group released a live album, “San Sebastian” (In+Out), this year.

Born in Greenwood, Miss., on Aug. 13, 1955, Mr. Miller grew up immersed in Delta blues and gospel music. After picking out hymns by ear at the family piano, he began taking lessons at age 8. He played the organ in church and worked in soul cover bands, but devoted himself to jazz after seeing Mr. Peterson on television, a moment he later described as pivotal.

At Memphis State University, he befriended two pianists, James Williams and Donald Brown, both of whom later preceded him in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Mr. Miller spent several years with that band, just as he did with the trumpeter Woody Shaw, the singer Betty Carter and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by Ellington’s son, Mercer. Mr. Miller worked in an acclaimed quintet led by the drummer Tony Williams from the mid-1980s until shortly before Williams died in 1997.

Mr. Miller’s survivors include his wife, Tanya; his son, Darnell; his daughter, Leilani; and a grandson. He lived in Easton, Pa.

Though he harbored few resentments, Mr. Miller was clear about the limitations imposed on his career. “Jazz is part progressive art and part folk art,” he said in a 2005 interview with DownBeat magazine, differentiating his own unassuming style from the concept-laden, critically acclaimed fare that he described as “interview music.” He added, “Guys who do what I am doing are viewed as passé.”


But Mr. Miller worked with so many celebrated peers, like the alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett and the tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, that his reputation among musicians was ironclad. And his legacy includes a formative imprint on some leading players of the next wave, including the drummer Karriem Riggins and the bassist Derrick Hodge, who were in one of his trios. The pianist Robert Glasper once recorded an original ballad called “One for ’Grew,” paying homage to a primary influence. On Monday, another prominent pianist, Geoffrey Keezer, attested on Twitter that seeing Mr. Miller one evening in 1986 was “what made me want to be a piano player professionally.”

In the performance from the At Yoshi’s 2004 double CD that forms the sound track for this video tribute to him, Mulgrew has cleverly adopted Comes Love to the arrangement Ahmad Jamal used on Poinciana from his At The Pershing Room Argo LP, one of the most successful Jazz recordings ever issued.

The insistent rhythm is formed by Karriem Riggins use of mallets on the drum set’s tom toms and the insistent accent played by the high hat on the 2nd and 4th beat of each measure.

On the original version, instead of the usual “clicking” sound made by stepping on the high hat’s cymbals to close them, Ahmad’s drummer, Vernel Fournier, played the high hat cymbals open [barely touching them together] creating more of a “chinging” sound to simulate finger cymbals.

You can hear this effect in a more pronounced manner as played by Karriem at 4:21 minutes of Mulgrew’s version.




Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pops and O.P. - "You Go To My Head"

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Louis Armstrong  was the father of “vernacular music,” which was made possible by the microphone.  Anyone with any kind of contemporary rhythmic concept —be they singer, instrumentalist, or composer-arranger— owes a debt to Armstrong.  By the way, my favorite Armstrong performance, both playing and singing, is his 1957 recording of “You Go To My Head” with Oscar Peterson. If you want to understand where Miles Davis came from, and why Armstrong is still relevant today, listen to this.  I often play it for students, and many of them find it a life-changing record.”
- Bill Kirchner, Jazz musician


Returning to the subject of favorite recordings, Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson [825 713-2] has been included in that group since Verve released it in 1957.


Louis’ meeting with Oscar Peterson's trio, is as Richard Cook and Brian Morton in The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed “perhaps a mixed success, but nevertheless an intriguing disc.”


Peterson can't altogether avoid his besetting pushiness, yet he's just as often sotto voce [a quiet or understated voice; literally “under the voice”] in accompaniment, and on the slower tunes especially - Sweet Lorraine and Lets Fall In Love and You Go To My Head.”


But the important point here is that “the chemistry works, and Louis is certainly never intimidated.”


I also agree with them when they assert: “It’s good to hear [Pops] on material more obviously 'modern' than he normally tackled and, although he sometimes gets the feel of a song wrong, he finds a surprising spin tor several of the lyrics.”


But I think, the most important point to be made in its favor is that, thanks again to the intercession of impresario Norman Granz in, that the album exists!


How many times have you heard friends’ remarks about Wish List recordings - “Gee, I wonder what it would have sounded like to have so-and-so performing with such-and-such - while knowing that the reality is that’s never going to happen because those artists are no longer with us?


I’ve often longed for a Louis Armstrong-Art Tatum recording, but that never happened, either. Thankfully, this one did, especially since Oscar Peterson gets a close to Tatum as anyone ever did.


Put another way, although a modern stylist and very much his own man, Peterson’s homage to Tatum is very much apparent in his playing and is what I think that Cook-Morton are referring to when they mention Oscar’s “besettling pushiness.” But that’s not the way I hear it. What’s on display here is a great accompanist offering his talents to a great soloist, one very much deserving of his respect.


More about the special nature of Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson [Verve 825 713-2] is revealed in Leonard Feather's liner notes from the original LP release of this material:


"When I was a kid," Louis Armstrong says, "I used to go singing around in churches or choirs or on street corners. You'd get four hustlers on a corner who could make a sharp quartet. 1 was about seven years old when I started singing. We'd pass the hat and sometimes we'd make as much as $1.50 a night. That was like $150 a night now"


This recollection places Satchmo's vocal career ahead of his horn-blowing life by several years and means that he has been singing, for pleasure and money, over half a century. Since today his popularity with the general public can be credited even more to his singing than to the trumpet that originally made him a globally known figure, and since the present album is basically a set of vocal performances, it is interesting to note that this thorny, rock-bottomed approach to the use of the human voice predated (and in a sense predicted) similar melodic and rhythmic nuances on the cornet and trumpet.


As George Avakian pointed out in The Jazz Makers (Grove Press), Louis "developed a whole school of jazz singing, based on a literal interpretation of the folk and blues singers' approach to the voice as an instrument. Louis showed that the emotional meaning of o lyric can be expressed through vocal inflections and improvisations of a purely instrumental quality just as effectively — more so, in fact — as through words. This line of development paralleled the growth of his instrumental influence. It still embraces every jazz and popular singer today"


All this can be applied at full strength to the dozen interpretations on these sides of material that generally falls in the popular song category. What Louis may lack in clear understanding of the lyrics' meaning in occasional lines is more than compensated by his overall feeling for the mood of both lyrics and melody. And there are, of course, additional virtues in the presence of his companions. The Oscar Peterson Trio Plus One (Louis Bellson again rounds out the rhythm section as he did on previous albums in which Oscar's trio played for Louis, Ella Fitzgerald and others) is perhaps the most perfectly integrated rhythmic unit of its kind in contemporary jazz.

Peterson's background is about as different from Louis' as Admiral Byrd's from Dr. Livingstone's; yet it is this very contrast, and the eclectic quality in his work, that makes him the ideal accompanist, for any singer or instrumentalist of any jazz school. What Louis learned on the streets and in the Waifs' Home in New Orleans has its best possible complement in what Oscar learned during rigorous classical studies north of the border. Neither had to bend a millimeter in musical concession to the other; the blend of spontaneous musicianship and academic knowledge was natural and immediate.


All the songs in this are from 15 to 30 years old; all have been used extensively by jazzmen, though in several instances Louis had never before recorded them. ...


You Go To My Head is, unless memory fails, Louis' first recorded performance of a number he could and should have introduced as soon as it was published, over 20 years ago. Perhaps in an effort to compensate for keeping us waiting so long, he plays an entire chorus and sings another. Not since Billie Holiday has there been a comparable sympathetic treatment….


Hearing Louis in the un-frilled, ungimmicked setting of the Oscar Peterson rhythm section will be a treat for those who have often seen him in person and wished for fewer encumbrances. Basically Louis needs nobody but Louis — he could stand all alone in the middle of the Sahara, singing selected excerpts from the Tunis telephone directory, and we suspect he could make it for a week without food and water. But if there must be someone else, let it be the man whose team made this
session such a happy occasion for all concerned. The meeting of Armstrong and Peterson marked one of the most catalytic moments since the day when Peterson met Norman Granz.”


Of You Go To My Head, Ted Gioia has written in The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire [Oxford]


You Go to My Head
Composed by J. Fred Coots, with lyrics by Haven Gillespie


“In 1934, this same songwriting duo collaborated on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," which endeared itself to Mom and Dad by getting countless youngsters to move from the naughty to nice cohort group. Four years later, some of those nice kids had grown up, but I'm confident few parents encouraged their headstrong teens to follow the lead of the new Gillespie-Coots hit "You Go to My Head." This song was a paean to romantic infatuation, packed with similes relating love to booze; in the course of a few bars — musical ones, that is, not those called "Dew Drop Inn" — we get references to champagne, burgundy, and a kicker of julep. Indeed, this song comes closer than any tune I know to capturing in musical form the feeling of losing control.


If the words were a bit too sophisticated for the kids, so was the music. "You Go to My Head" is an intricately constructed affair with plenty of harmonic movement. The song starts in a major key, but from the second bar onward, Mr. Coots seems intent on creating a feverish dream quality tending more to the minor mode. The release builds on the drama, and the final restatement holds some surprises as well. The piece would be noteworthy even if it lacked such an exquisite coda, but those last eight bars convey a sense of resigned closure to the song that fittingly matches the resolution of the lyrics.


Four artists had hit records with this song during the summer 051938. Larry Clinton's version was the biggest success, reaching as high as #3, but Teddy Wilson, Billie Holiday, and Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra each enjoyed placement in the top 20 with their releases. The song fell out of circulation during the early 19403, but was widely covered during the second half of the decade, with artists from a range of stylistic camps — including Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Lena Home, Coleman Hawkins, Dave Brubeck, Artie Shaw, and Lennie Tristano — bringing their individual talents to bear on it.


Vocalists tend to take this song at a "deep ballad" tempo, sometimes so extremely slow that they test the competence of the rhythm section to maintain a sense of swing while moving along at less than 40 beats per minute. Check out the recordings by Betty Carter and Shirley Horn for examples of how this can work when the instrumentalists on hand match the skill of the singer. In contrast, Bill Evans — whom one might expect to linger over the chart — delivers a simmering hard bop treatment on his 1962 Interplay album, helped along by Jim Hall and Freddie Hubbard.


Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond take a different approach in their 1952 duet performance from Storyville, mixing romanticism and cerebral deconstruction in equal doses. Desmond had such fondness for this recording that when he and Brubeck reunited for a duet project in 1975, he wanted to showcase "You Go to My Head" again, and the song served as the emotional centerpiece of the resulting album. Both versions are worth hearing, but the earlier track is especially revealing of the simpatico relationship between these two artists, and is my favorite performance from their work for the Fantasy label.”


Here’s a video of Pops and OP performing You Go to My Head.



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Clarke Boland Big Band is "All Smiles"

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Georges Paczynski, the author of the immensely important, Une Histoire de la Batterie de Jazz, which won the “Prix Charles Delauney 2000,” offered this succinct, background information about the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band:

“The C.B.B.B. - The Clarke Boland Big Band - was formed in 1962 through the efforts of Francy Boland and Kenny Clarke. The pianist and the drummer wanted lo form a European orchestra whose sound would be instantly recognizable.

After recording in Cologne on May 18 and 19, 1961. with a smaller group - Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland (The Golden Eight) - the two leaders decided to put together a bigger band, and on December 13. 1961, the recording of Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland ("Jazz is Universal") took place. Among the thirteen musicians were the future mainstays of the band: the American trumpeter Benny Bailey, the English alto sax player Derek Humble, and the trombone player from Sweden, Aake Persson. After the success of this disc, the decision was made to increase the band even further; on January 25. 26 and 27. 1963 the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band recorded in Cologne with 21 musicians. Throughout its career, the band never included less than 12 nationalities.

The personalities of the two leaders. Kenny and Francy. were directly opposite of those of the legendary big band leaders, iron-fisted megalomaniacs like Buddy Rich or Benny Goodman. Not only did Francy write the arrangements for a given instrument, but in thinking of a particular musician in the band, and composed according to the sound, phrasing and style of the individual. Team spirit reigned in the C.B.B.B. Each musician was aware of his importance in creating a good ensemble sound.

The name of Kenny Clarke is definitively associated with the birth of bop drumming. Following in the footsteps of Jo Jones and Sidney Catlett. it is to him that we owe the fact that still today the rhythm is played on the ride cymbal, with snare drum/bass drum punctuations. Jazz lovers see Kenny primarily as a small group drummer, forgetting that he was also a great big band drummer [check out Kenny’s playing in Dizzy Gillespie’s first big band in the 1940’s].

Drummer/leaders have existed from the earliest times in jazz. After "Papa Jack" Laine. there were Ben Pollack. Chick Webb, Gene Krupa. Buddy Rich, Don Lamond. Mel Lewis... the list (and the beat) goes on. The C.B.B.B. is situated in the grand traditions of the big bands. The basic musical concept was of a rhythmic foundation on which the entire orchestra reposed. Here the role of the drummer is clearly vital; along with the bassist, he plays throughout the piece, and is both accompanist and soloist.

But this key role is not without its disadvantages; the drummer has incomparably less freedom than in a small group. He has to memorize the arrangement, playing strictly what has already been laid down, while still leaving room for improvised fills. Some famous drummers have never succeeded in imposing such discipline on themselves. Others have adapted magnificently to it. Such was the case with Kenny, who was able to play with what I will call "controlled madness". In the big band, he played with a big band drummer's phrasing - unlike, for example. Mel Lewis, who in a big band setting performed with exactly the same vocabulary as in a quartet. ...

Running a big band poses all kinds of difficulties, financial and organizational among others. The C.B.B.B. lasted 11 years, and broke up in 1973. It was in no sense a revolutionary band, but there was within it a fundamental and precious element: an intense love of playing. Francy Boland and Kenny Clarke had the great merit of believing that the formation of a European jazz orchestra was possible, despite the supposedly insurmountable obstacles. They believed... and they were right... and we now reap the benefit.”

Georges overview of the Clarke Boland Big Band - known to its many fans as the CBBB - assumes a new relevance with the CD reissue with enhanced audio quality of one of its later recordings on MPS - The Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band - “ALL SMILES."


Mike Bloom Media Relations PROMOTION SHEET offers the following details:


RELEASE DATE: June 23rd 2017

Artist: The Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band
Title: ALL SMILES
Artists: Trumpets: B. Bailey, I. Sulieman, J. Deuchar, S.
Gray Trombones: A. Persson, N. Peck, E. v. Lier
Saxophones: D. Humble, J. Griffin, R. Scott, T. Coe, S.
Shihab Piano: F. Boland Bass: J. Woode Drums: K. Clarke
Vibes: D. Pike

Format: 1CD- Digipac
Cat. No.: 0211956MSW
PPD:7,49EUR~PC:ACR
Barcode: 4029759119562

TRACKLIST
1. Let's Face The Music And Dance - 3:23
2. I'm All Smiles-3:25
3. You Stepped Out Of A Dream - 3:03
4. I'm Glad There Is You-3:29
5. Get Out Of Town-4:47
6. By Strauss-3:35
7. When Your Lover Has Gone - 4:16
8. GLoria-4:21
9. Sweet And Lovely - 3:36
10. High School Cadets - 2:05


ABOUT THIS RECORD - by Stefan Franzen [translated by Martin Cook]

“Without ever making concessions to the trend of the moment, the Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band was the embodiment of the timeless art of the jazz orchestra. Its play was proof positive that a jazz big band compiled of top-flite musicians from both sides of the Atlantic could take off and soar. Regarded as the most important big band outside of the US, this bi-continental orchestra recorded over two dozen albums, close to a third of these under the SABA and MRS labels. Recorded in May, 1968, All Smiles was one of the Bands highpoints. The album exhibits a style that became synonymous with this US-European enterprise: it not only swung it was the perfect vehicle for Bolands sophisticated modern arrangements. Trumpeters Benny Bailey and Idrees Sulieman, saxophonists Johnny Griffin and Ronnie Scott, as well as special guest vibraphonist Dave Pike are some of the jazz giants among the soloists in this 17-man combo who turn out some masterly short portraits. From the fleet-footed waltz I’m All Smiles to the bluesy party piece, By Strauss and the sensuous theme from Gloria, the journey continues on through to the furious John Phillip Sousa finale, High School Cadets. Preferring varicolored intricacy over massive walls of sound, The Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band stood up against the constant flow of momentary fads, remaining true to the inventive tradition of the great big bands.”

Original Liner Notes - by Manfred Miller

[Warning these have some syntactical and grammatical challenges for native speakers of English. I decided to represent them in their original translation as I do not speak enough German to attempt my own.]

The one window is open. Hubbub comes up from the street and into the room that is in Cologne's elegant Hohe Strasse/High Street (no thoroughfare!) on the first floor above the branch of some bank. The large, plain writing-table hides itself under paper. Telegrams, notes, contracts, excerpts pile up to several layers. Two of the three phones at least are constantly in operation. On the second table, in a corner, there, too, is scarcely a spot left for an ash-tray. Sheets of notes, a bunch of newspapers, at least ten tape boxes. If a film chose to feature a manager's office like that everybody would laugh at the cliche of overburdening.

The man who hired this room does work hard. It is not that sort of work, however, which the German treasury of proverbs has always rated higher than fun. The man offers his latest product music. Powerfully swinging, precise, intelligent music, music that interests head and feet and everything in between. “All Smiles" is going to be the title of the new Clarke-Boland Big Band album. The man has to shout to make that understood. The two loudspeakers are turned on to the limits of their capacity. The one window is still open...

Gigi Campi never listens to his tapes quietly. An American trombonist, who for some time belonged to the CBBB, once complained. "Funny band. No dynamics", to the protest of his colleague Nat Peck "Yes there are! One is loud, the other is louder..." An exaggerated sentence, no doubt. Yet like every good exaggeration it catches some truth. The CBBB does not play for self-forgetting, absorbed listeners. If it provokes self-forgetfulness, it is that of rhythmical ecstasy. The CBBB does not know the charms of the morbid. This is hopelessly sound and optimistic music. All Smiles.

The Clarke-Boland guys stand for Ellington's fundamental truth: "It don't mean a thing..." It is not by chance that this band plays with two drummers - as if Klook Clarke alone were not a deuce of a swinger. Once his near namemate Kenny Clare acted as a substitute for Clarke who was prevented from making a date. The Clarke indemnification thrilled the band, he was invited to the next session. Klook personally persuaded the English studio musician to become a constant member with the CBBB - as a percussionist.

"Then there was one number", Clare reports, "a Turkish march thing on which I played snare drum. On the playback it sounded pretty good together, just like one drummer. There were some talks. The next time would I bring my drums along, too? Let's see, if it works with both of us playing together. It worked."

Indeed, Clarke and Clare together play like one musician; only that one musician alone could never realise all they play together. Clare: "There are many who would like to get that springy kind of beat Klook gets. I would, too. When I'm with him I can play that way without even thinking about it. As soon as I'm away from him I can't do it anymore. Strange. I have yet to figure it out." Whatsoever may be the key to this secret - the result is a fabulous co-ordination of the two drummers. The first piece - LET'S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE - is an example of this. The fills Klook on the snare drum (for stereo listeners left channel) and Clare on the bass drum do in concert seem as if sprung up from one and the same feeling; and a swinging feeling into the bargain.

It would be wrong, however, to list the CBBB simply under the rubric "powerhouse.” The co-leader, arranger, and pianist Francy Boland has too many ideas for that. You will never catch upon Boland copying simple riffs nor - as the legend goes - exercising. SWEET AND LOVELY forces out of the standard melody continually fresh versions, new harmonic nuances and shades of sound, variations in a strict sense (into which Johnny Griffin excellently joins with a concentrated solo citing motives from the theme once and again): that is - also - an intellectual delight. As the British musical journalist Kenny Graham noted, Francy Boland does not care for trends. Harmonically scored choruses for the reed section have become rare in jazz. Yet Francy dedicates an entire number to the saxophones and with numbers such as YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM, GET OUT OF TOWN and WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE shows what other arrangers do not care to miss.

Certainly who besides Boland disposes of such a reed section? The musicians of the CBBB do not know a comparison to Derek Humble's lead alto that is relaxed and vigorous at once, and ever riding the tip of the beat wave - they give a tired shrug even to the most renowned names. Each of the three tenor saxophonists takes a fine solo - "Li'l Giant" Griffin justifies his nickname time and again. Ronnie Scott blows a virile and straight solo in Gershwin's homage to the king of waltz BY STRAUSS. Tony Coe tells of Dame GLORIA'S merits with rhapsodic vehemence (,,a masterpiece", says Gigi Campi): and Sahib Shihab, who in the Barbara-Streisand-title I'M ALL SMILES solos on flute, is “the outstanding baritone saxophonist of modern jazz" according to Joachim Ernst Berendt. Each of the five reed men is himself a star with a distinguished style of his own, and yet jointly they make up a homogenous and disciplined section. Whosoever generated the rumour that precision and musical temperament were exclusive to one another; he has to be refuted by these five musicians.

And the same applies to the other sections. Benny Bailey, the brilliant, willful lead trumpeter, blows the delicately musical flugelhorn solo in I'M GLAD THERE IS YOU. Cole Porter's GET OUT OF TOWN is meant for Jimmy Deuchar's elegant trumpet and for Ake Persson's powerful trombone-Idrees Sulieman, who in the Clarke-Boland combos mostly comes out with untamed attacca and splendid bop phrases, shows off a different side now: a simple melodic lead and a warm tone in LET'S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE and in the standard ballad of WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE, from which he chooses the first few bars to set out a well-controlled improvisation that does not waste a note.

To those who are still in the dark the Sousa-march HIGH SCHOOL CADETS tells what is the matter with the CBBB. That drives on straight away like - well, no: a steam roller is not likely to go so easily at 250 km/h. You had better not try to sit still to these pieces: Let's face the music and dance. Still one thing to tell you: perhaps you really ought to shut that window now.”

TO EVERY AGE ITS SOUND by Dirk Sommer, reissue producer [Translated by Martin Cook]

Yes, we have worked on the sound of the music that was stored on tapes, some of which are over 40 years old, before they were transferred to the lacquers that are used for the vinyl record production. In the music business this is commonly known as remastering. However, it says nothing about how intensively and with what a sense of purpose mastering engineer Christoph Stickel and I have worked on modifying and improving the sound of the original tapes. Of course as with any LP that appears in the triple-a-series, all the procedures took place using only the finest analogue equipment. As the headline - modeled after the Vienna Secession movement's motto: 'to every age its art' - already indicates, every period has its own typical sound esthetic. We felt that fitting the MPS records to the way recordings sound today would be a sort of sacrilege. As a result, we have simply redressed a couple of traces of aging as well as small inconsistencies in the sound that, because of the technological limitations of that time, were not optimally dealt with on the original recordings. So enjoy some of the most exciting jazz albums of the 1970's and 80's the way they originally sounded - despite or because of our remasterings!”

The following video features the CBBB on Get Out of Town: