Rare Records

Bobby Hutcherson ‘Dialogue’

Ethereal vibes are challenged by deep bass clarinet growls, as angular piano fills offset sinewy bass lines. Rapid-fire trumpet riffs buffet intricate drum work as a mournful soprano sax line spirals skywards into the night. ‘Dialogue’ is vibraphone master Bobby Hutcherson’s first release as a leader, and it’s quite a statement. ‘Dialogue’ was a bold step forward into the “new thing,” and shares quite a bit of musical DNA with several other projects Hutch had been a participant in, including Andrew Hill’s ‘Point of Departure,’ Jackie McLean’s ‘One Step Beyond’ and Eric Dolphy’s ‘Out to Lunch.’ While not quite as edgy as the latter, enjoyment of ‘Dialogue’ requires an advanced sense of adventure and an appreciation for coloring outside the lines. Hutch pulled together compatriots from some of those aforementioned outside/inside records including Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Andrew Hill (piano), Richard Davis (bass), Sam Rivers (tenor/soprano sax, bass clarinet, flute) and a key musical partner who’d remain in his orbit for many future albums, Joe Chambers (drums). While Hutch is credited as the leader, all of the writing is done by either Hill (four tracks) or Chambers (two tracks), and in a sense, it’s probably Hill who deserves co-leader billing here. That said, it’s tough to call out any specific player as the brilliance here is the conversation between them, and the insanely creative use of instrumentation to invoke moods. This is a challenging, cerebral record that moves from beautiful (“Idle While”) to unsettling (“Dialogue”); and from the zany, Avant-leaning “Les Noirs Marchant” (which could be the soundtrack to the Ents marching on Orthanc) to the demented blues of “Ghetto Lights.” So…chamber hard-bop? Avant modal blues? I can’t say this record “defies categorization,” but it does cover a LOT of ground. Everyone should hear it, but it’s not *FOR* everyone. Why it’s so difficult to find on vinyl is a real head-scratcher…here’s hoping someone @bluenoterecords gets the memo on this classic and puts it back in print soon

Graham Collier ‘Songs For My Father’

Graham Collier’s ‘Songs For My Father’ is a mind-blowing, progressive jazz album of incredible depth. The simplicity of each song title belies its underlying complexity. Each tune is named only for its order on the album, with a subtitle that indicates its structure and time signature. Whether this is unimaginative or genius isn’t for me to judge. Regardless, this nomenclature provides some useful context around the chaos that occurs when the lines between improv and composition get blurry. You guessed it: this isn’t casual background music, and probably not an album for “lean back” listeners. There’s a very British sensibility that gives the record a very different quality than the American jazz of the time. I dig “Song One (Seven-Four)” and “Song Three (Nine-Eight Blues),” both teeming with surprises that lurk around every corner. A couple of the band members here would later branch off into the 70s Canterbury scene, joining forces with Gilgamesh and Soft Machine. Early echoes of that sound are in nascent stages of guitarist Phil Lee’s playing, as well as Alan Wakeman’s soprano solo on the opening track. Today’s post is in memory of my father, who was taken from this world on this day many, many years ago. Graham Collier–bass; Harry Beckett–trumpet, flugelhorn; Phil Lee–guitar; John Taylor–piano; Alan Skidmore & Tony Roberts–tenor sax; Bob Sydor–tenor/alto sax; Alan Wakeman–tenor/soprano sax; Derek Wadsworth–trombone; John Webb–drums. This one is scarce on vinyl (this is a first pressing on Fontana 6309 006, stereo) but available digitally everywhere

Eastern Rebellion

‘Eastern Rebellion’ is an extraordinary, modal/advanced hard bop session from 1975 when it wasn’t particularly fashionable to make records like this. The five long-ish tunes are expertly played by the quartet of George Coleman (tenor sax), Cedar Walton (piano), Sam Jones (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums). This mix on this record is FANTASTIC—there’s a power in this session that the recording engineers captured perfectly, and it leaps from the speakers like the grooves in the vinyl remain charged with energy. Cedar Walton is the de facto leader of the group, kicking things off with his infectious original “Bolivia”—that bassline is quite an earworm, and Sam Jones is mixed nice n’ loud. Walton also kills it on “Mode for Joe,” which he wrote for Joe Henderson. The quartet’s take on “Naima” is TERRIFIC, and a highlight of the record. George Coleman also turns in a superb performance throughout, and the overall chemistry of the quartet results in a killer album that does not AT ALL sound like a child of the 1970s. ‘Eastern Rebellion’ was the first record to be released on the Dutch label Timeless (SJP 101), and it was also issued in the US on the Muse label (TI 306). It’s widely available across the digital spectrum too! This record doesn’t get talked about enough, and at a time when I see an influx of DMs with requests for records that are a bit off the beaten path, this seems like a good choice for a spin

Horace Tapscott ‘The Giant is Awakened’

The title is apt—the musical, political, and social repercussions that contextualize Horace Tapscott’s debut album continue to resonate today. The LA collective, which gave birth to the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (P.A.P.A.) which evolved into the Union of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension (UGMAA)—both a precursor to Kamasi Washington’s current collective. The spiritual and modal frameworks that channeled a motley collection of feelings—anger, hope, frustration, love, sadness, faith, and acceptance—into a narrative were powerful. Often profound. This LP covers a lot of ground, as freer waypoints appear along the spiritual pathways, making for a fascinating set of journeys. The nearly sidelong title track is quite a trip. The quintet has an interesting lineup with Tapscott on piano, Arthur Blythe KILLING IT on alto sax, Walter Savage Jr. *AND* David Bryant on bass, and drummer Everett Brown Jr. Originally released on Flying Dutchman in 1969, this is a 2020 reissue on Real Gone Music, limited to 1,000 copies. Loving this record

Grant Green ‘Feelin’ the Spirit’

Recorded 21 Dec 1962, ‘Feelin’ the Spirit’ was the last of the “theme” records Green would explore that year. Having previously gone west and then south of the border in previous sessions, Green recruited pianist Herbie Hancock and the ace rhythm duo of bassist Butch Warren and drummer Billy Higgins to take us all to church. The material is a collection of familiar spirituals like “Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”, transmogrified into modern, soulful hard bop. The approach here ranges from reflective to celebratory, with the blues running deeply throughout. The interplay between Green and Hancock is marvelous, and while the tempos never really swing hard, the intensity is palpable. This is 1979 Japanese King pressing GXK 8117, stereo, a reissue of BST 84132. Preach

Stan Tracey Quartet ‘Under Milk Wood: Jazz Suite’

Imagine Thelonious Monk’s 60s quartet attempting a mellow, modal, ‘Kind of Blue’-esque album, occasionally infused with a quirky, British sense of humor. Now imagine something even better than that. Go right to the standout track “Starless and Bible Black,” which has been called one of the greatest British jazz tracks ever (for good reason). This is a truly unforgettable performance, seductive and evocative. It sets quite a a mood—the night is shrouded in mystery, and one can choose to embrace the darkness with all its uncertainties, or close the shutters to its risks and remain in the safe, warm light of home. Compositional credit goes to pianist and leader Stan Tracey, but the hero of this particular track is tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins, whose solo could go toe-to-toe with any of the great tenorists from the US jazz scene in that stellar year of 1965. Spectacular. The rest of the album is of uniformly high quality, though it’s tough to compete with “Starless and Bible Black,” which is just one of those rare jazz tracks that transcend the top shelf. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention stellar bass performances by Jeff Clyne and excellent drumming by Jack Dougan. Overall, there’s a relaxed vibe to many of the tracks here, but don’t confuse that with laziness. This quartet is in it to win it, even if they choose not to drive in the fast lane often. There are several different vinyl pressings, ranging from “semi-affordable, and findable if you’re willing to put in the effort” to “if I find a M- copy, I’ll have to re-mortgage the house and sell the children for scientific experiments” *BUT* happy news! It is readily available digitally. You can listen RIGHT NOW! This copy is a 1969 pressing of the 1965 Landsdowne session Columbia/EMI SCX 3589, stereo. PS—This “Starless and Bible Black” has nothing to do with King Crimson AT ALL…sorry to disappoint you, my fellow prog rockers

Henry Franklin ‘The Skipper’

High energy modal/spiritual grooves driven by the formidable bass playing of Henry Franklin and electric piano of Bill Henderson. I dig the frequent nods to early electric Miles and Return to Forever, though I wouldn’t classify this as a fusion record. I’m reminded in places of Eddie Henderson’s sides for Capricorn and Joe Farrell’s CTI records as there’s a similar vibe. The brass frontline—Oscar Brashear on trumpet/flugelhorn & Charles Owens on tenor/soprano sax—wails, swings, duels and soars as Franklin and Henderson scurry busily in, under and around them. There’s some heavy duty yet intricate three-headed beats from drummer Mike Carvin who’s flanked by percussionists Fred Lido and Tip Jones, while guitarist Kenny Climax rears his head only occasionally, but when he does he makes he presence known. “Beauty and the Electric Tub” lays down a groove so deep you wonder how they’re ever gonna find their way out. They do, but they take the scenic route. Tough to find on vinyl, available if you look on CD, but seemingly absent from the usual streaming services other than YouTube. Obscure but worth searching for, as are most of the albums on the Black Jazz label. Franklin recorded a follow-up, the equally scarce ‘The Skipper at Home’, a favorite, particularly after a couple of tracks were sampled by A Tribe Called Quest. Franklin has an extensive discography with more than a dozen sessions as a leader, and sideman credits on over 100 records ranging from Stevie Wonder to Ornette Coleman. He’s still out there playing and recording…more power to you Mr. Franklin

Wayne Shorter ‘The Soothsayer’

The creative vortex that Wayne Shorter created in the mid-60s was more powerful than gravity. Already a legend on tenor sax, he was also the compositional linchpin in @milesdavis Second Great Quintet. In that role, he was co-piloting Miles’ unique brand of “freebop” that was a nod to less structured playing around a specified time signature or tonal center, without the anti-melodic dissonance that drove Miles batshit. Yet so deep was Shorter’s wellspring of creativity that he continued moonlighting as sideman and leader, delivering tons of compositions across eight albums for @bluenoterecords as a leader while working with Miles, *PLUS* sessions with Lee Morgan, Art Blakey, @mccoytyner and Tony Williams. This album ’The Soothsayer’ has an interesting history as it was—like the equally excellent ‘Etcetera’—shelved shortly after recording and didn’t see the light of day until 1979. That’s not reflective of quality—this is right up there with @wayne.shorter mid-60s, post-bop best. Recorded only a few weeks after the classic Second Great Quintet’s maiden voyage ‘E.S.P.’, this was Shorter’s first sextet date since his Jazz Messengers years but sounding NOTHING like those older hard bop dates. With his Miles cohorts Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums) on board and brimming with enthusiasm and ideas, they inspire James Spaulding (alto sax), McCoy Tyner (piano) & Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) to step out of the hard bop box, toying with time, tempo and harmony—sometimes all at once. It’s not noisy, or difficult to follow though there’s often a LOT going on here. To my amazement, there’s an elegance to how marvelously this swings despite the apparent complexity of the underlying structure (or lack of it when they cut loose). This record is THE CRUSH. This is the now scarce/rare @musicmattersjazz 2XLP 45RPM pressing. I’m also appealing to the powers that be— @donwas @jazzsaraswati @musicmattersjazz—please do a proper vinyl release. SRX, Tone Poet or Kevin Grey cut BN. The CD and digital versions are kinda meh sounding and this absolutely FANTASTIC music deserves better. Please?

Prince Lasha Ensemble ‘Insight’

Farewell London! It was a VERY memorable 36 hours. Feels appropriate to leave with another memorable UK session—a rare “in the box” session from Prince Lasha (alto sax/flute) who was living in Kensington in 1966 mixing it up with a British jazz cast including Stan Tracey & Mike Carr (piano); Rick Laird, Jeff Clyne, Bruce Cale & Dave Willis (bass); John Mumford (trombone), Joe Oliver (drums) and Chris Bateson (trumpet). However the SECRET SAUCE of the session is Dave Snell on harp which elevates this collection of standards and two Lasha originals into something truly special. It’s wild how the harp sounds so unexpected yet it fits perfectly. This is an amazing record, and for those who’ve struggled a bit with Lasha’s more challenging, edgy work (like the masterful follow-up ‘Firebirds’ with Sonny Simmons) this is something you could easily play without clearing the room. Much to my surprise, this session was for a big player—CBS Records UK (CBS-BPG 62409, stereo, issued 1966) though it never saw US release. The vinyl is elusive, the 2009 Dusty Groove CD reissue is around and a reasonable alternative. The two Lasha originals are the standout tracks but everything is really well played. Recommended

Makoto Terashita Meets Harold Land ‘Topology’

Worth the wait! West meets Far East as @bbemusic @the_jazz_dad and @bacoso unleash the latest in their BBE Masterclass Series. This is an album *SO* rare most jazz fans (myself included) weren’t aware of its existence. As we all know, sometimes rare, buried treasures are notable simply due to rarity, and the substance is underwhelming. None of that here—the curators of this series have added another title to the top shelf of J-Jazz reissues. ’Topology’ was recorded in a single session on 11 June 1984 and released on the Aketa’s Disk label in Japan. The history of the session and the players is beautifully detailed by Tony Higgins in the liner notes which grace the gatefold of this double LP, which has issued at 45RPM for optimal sound quality (and I must say the sonics on this record are STELLAR). The opening track “Dragon Dance” (which also opens BBE’s fantastic J-Jazz Vol 2 compilation) is a modal monster. Beginning with a gorgeous solo piano workout from Makoto Terashita that becomes a full band exploration of ideas, themes and modes unfolding with perfection over twelve glorious minutes, this track is EXTRAORDINARY. It sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the record. Great news—while not everything hits the lofty heights of “Dragon Dance”, most of the tracks come damn close. All were written by Terashita save one which is contributed by Harold Land, whose tenor sax work throughout retains the strength of prior decades—tone, speed and versatility are on point.
Bassist Yasushi Yoneki, percussionist Takayuki Koizumi and drummer Mike Reznikoff complete the quintet and are all great players, but this is very much the Land/Terashita show. So again, kudos to the J-Jazz team for spelunking this one out from the depths of obscurity to the world of reasonably-priced-reissues, and going the extra mile in sound quality, packaging (the obi is a nice touch) and liner notes that provide the additional context. Combined, it creates a completely great listening experience. Oh, it’s also available across digital platforms! One of the best jazz releases of 2019 thanks to all involved…don’t miss it