Voltarol - related music

Friday, 23 January 2009

'S Wonderful...part two

For those of you that are new to this blog I suggest that you start with 'S Wonderful...part one

The sleeve notes for this compilation are by the late Benny Green, whose observations were to grace hundreds of albums over the next thirty years or so, particularly those on the Pablo label. He was a very knowledgeable - if opinionated (aren't we all) writer but was inclined to air his knowledge a little gratuitously sometimes. I recall one Pablo release of the seventies - a Count Basie album - where his sleeve notes started somewhat bizarrely with a quote from Proust. However, he made an observation in these particular notes that has informed my approach to music ever since, even if I didn't realise it at the time. In his opening paragraph he said "...one of the wonderful things about jazz is its great breadth of style and temperament...An album like this is therefore an excellent gauge of one's perception and an invaluable weapon in the campaign to teach us all the lesson of tolerance in our jazz appreciations." If you substitute the word 'music' for the word 'jazz', you get a good idea of where I'm coming from in these postings.

Meanwhile, back at the album, the next track is 'Buddy Bolden Stomp' by The Sydney Bechet Quartet. I was much taken with Bechet's distinctive tone and relentless energy. Here he plays clarinet but, as I was subsequently to discover, he was equally at home and distinctive on soprano saxophone. He favoured the straight -as opposed to the curved - version of this instrument. It's interesting to note that this track, which was recorded in 1948, sounded as fresh and exciting as the then-emergent bebop music. I couldn't find a clip of this track but here is a version of 'China Boy' that he recorded in 1940 with the trumpeter/cornetist Muggsy Spanier. Bechet's solo here is a joy.

The next track - coincidentally also a version of 'China Boy'- is by Eddie Condon and his All Stars., and was recorded in 1957. Condon was a banjo player who had switched to guitar but, unusually in jazz, to the four string version. He was notable mainly as a band leader, and also as the author of We Called It Music, a highly entertaining and somewhat colourful autobiography which is well worth a read. Once again, I could not find the exact track, but here is a good example of a Condon line up at work which, I suspect, dates from around 1960. Here, the All stars play 'Big Ben Blues' and 'Stealin' Apples'.

It took me a while to get the hang of Billie Holiday, and this next track - 'Tell Me More' by Billie Holiday and her Orchestra , recorded in 1940 -was probably my least favourite when I first heard it, but within a couple of years I had come to realise just how great she was ( see Little Jazz Birds and other related species). Never the less, I did register the quality of her band from the off - who could fail to appreciate a group that included Lester Young, Roy Eldridge and Teddy Wilson? Here she is with Teddy Wilson's Orchestra in 1937. This line up also included Lester Young.

Side one of the album concludes with a classic track - 'Air Mail Special' by The Benny Goodman Septet, recorded in 1941. This was my introduction to the legendary guitarist Charlie Christian, whose flowing lines were like nothing I'd yet heard. Christian was only twenty five when he recorded this, a year before his tragically early death. The other thing that intrigued me about this performance was the way the accenting of the beat made the time signature seem very ambiguous.

This thing will run and run...I got so carried away with Benny Green that I suspect that this will run to a fourth posting to cover all of side two.