Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Postcards From Obscurity

One of the half-forgotten surprises that turned up during my research into Andrew Hill’s career was the terrific 1994 session led by bassist Reggie Workman, Summit Conference, on the short-lived Postcards label.

Aside from Hill (this was his first significant recorded appearance after returning to New York City from the West Coast) the disc also features Sam Rivers and Julian Priester -- equally lost from active recording at the time -- as well as drummer Pheeroan akLaff. Great blowing by all involved, and includes Hill's "Gone," which he was no longer.

By the way, the Hill piece will appear in the August issue of DownBeat, out July 15.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

One In 365

You could be philosophical about it and say "It never rains but it pours," or simply scratch your head at the absurdity of some conflicting bookings.

The source of this head scratching is the simultaneous occurrence of the all-star tribute to Kenny Wheeler and a Cecil Taylor solo performance in Toronto next Friday evening.

Toronto – big as it is – is not New York City, so it's not like there are scores of jazz events happening every night.

What are the odds of having to choose between Dave Holland, Bob Brookmeyer, Lee Konitz and Wheeler, and Taylor?

Well, yeah, they're one in 365, but what are the odds?

Since I have an assignment to review the Wheeler tribute I'll have to placate myself with Live At Willisau, my favourite Taylor solo CD. That's the one with the amazing Bosendorfer sound and with Cecil so jacked to play that he kicks off before the audience is even seated.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Out On Highway 61

Although I've been aware of the '33-1/3' series since it started, I'd never picked any editions up until I spotted a bunch of them at a Chapters store the other day. Faced with a dozen or so choices I gravitated to the album I probably know better than any other: Highway 61 Revisited. While it wasn't the first record I bought for myself in the mid-'60s, it was the first to truly capture my imagination. Everything from the cover of Dylan in the garish silk shirt and Triumph motorcycle T-shirt to the surrealistic liner notes fascinated me, and the music still thrills. Author Mark Polizzotti's attraction to the album runs parallel, so I'm digging his detailed analysis and background.

Coincidentally, my local library just delivered a mint copy of Gary Marmorstein's new book, The Label: The Story of Columbia Records (Avalon), of which Dylan plays a small part. The book got a middling review in The New York Times, and I'm already wary because the jacket copy misspells Janis Joplin's name. Not a good sign, but the subject matter is fascinating, if only from the perspective of the calibre of artists – spanning the full range of music – who once worked for the label.

I skipped the Victoriaville festival last weekend, so my festival season doesn't start in earnest until next Friday when I head west to Toronto for Jane Bunnett's Art Of Jazz festival. Needless to say, there will be live reports. Stay tuned. We'll be back to more frequent postings.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Back Catalogue Prices

This probably doesn't apply to consumers outside Canada -- if it does, let me know -- but I've been surprised to find back catalogue CDs of Andrew Hill's listed for $25 and $26 (plus shipping and taxes). That's when you can find them.

Knowing the economics of back catalogue material, this seems like a ripoff of huge proportions on the part of EMI (the Blue Notes are those that seem priced the highest).

Of course, you can download most of these for less than $12 on iTunes, and find some of the more popular CDs on Amazon, but for those looking at expanding their collections to include some of the most exciting and -- my key finding over the past weeks of deep listening -- timeless recordings of the 1960s, it's bad news.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Appreciating Andrew Hill

Somewhat ironic given the nature of my previous post, I’ve been engaged over the past week in researching a fairly major tribute to Andrew Hill.

It has been awhile since I listened closely to his early landmarks like Judgment! and Point Of Departure, and of course you hear different things when you listen with the benefit of time and a different context.

Apart from the confidence that one hears in Hill’s early work, it’s impossible not to notice how his early signatures – particularly the episodic nature of many of his compositions and the angularity of his notated phrasing – have become lingua franca for many contemporary composers. It is, of course, impossible to isolate the influence of one particular musician without considering the achievements of his or her predecessors – possible influences – but from the vantage point of 2007 one might actually speculate that Hill’s influence is more broadly felt than Monk’s.

Sacrilege? Perhaps, but as widespread as Monk’s tunes have become, it is his quirky performance techniques – and the freedom his approach granted to all – that dominate his memory. With Hill, the influence seems more universal, beyond simply compositional or technical characteristics to something more pervasive.

All that being stated, I’d still like to plumb the depths of those knotty late-career solo outings in 1996-98 beyond what my own memory provides, which is always shaky at best.