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Posts tagged ‘Bebop’

Fifty Year Friday: Jackie McLean “Demon’s Dance”

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Unlike most rock albums of 1967 and 1968, in which there is a focused effort to release the material fairly soon, perhaps partly due to the quickly changing musical landscape in pop, many jazz recording sessions of 1967, did not get released until some time later, partially due to the lack of commercial interest in jazz music at that time: the six tracks that make up Demon’s Dance was recorded in a single session on Dec. 22, 1967 and not released until October of 1970.

One can readily notice a similarity between the Demon’s Dance album cover and Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew cover.  Bitches Brew was released by Columbia records on March 30, 1970, and reached the number one spot on Billboard’s best selling jazz albums  by July 18, holding that position, on and off, for the rest of 1970.  Blue Note engaged the Bitches Brew album cover artist, Marty Klarwein to provide the artwork for the album cover of Demon’s Dance,  with the eye-catching result as shown above.  (Note that this is just a portion of the original painting — shown fully below at the end of this post.)

The music here is particularly ear-catching, with Jackie Mac taking a step back from his more adventurous free-jazz persona, playing modern, sometimes modal, bebop partnered with a twenty-three year old Woody Shaw providing intense, focused, clear, and often beautifully lyrical trumpet and flugelhorn and a twenty-five year old Jack DeJohnette providing dynamic, propulsive percussion with support from LaMont Johnson on piano and Scott Holt on bass.

The three hard bop uptempo tracks, “Demon’s Dance”, full of energy and intensity and enriched with variety by McLean, Shaw and DeJohnette, “Boo Ann’s Grand”, an excellent composition by Shaw, and “Floogeh” are certainly solid, top-notch performances, but the other three tracks are exceptional.

Woody Shaw provides a cheerfully, affirmative bossa-nova-based composition, “Sweet Love of Mine” that sparkles and includes riveting soloing by McLean and Shaw.  Cal Masey, provides the one ballad of the session, “Toyland” which showcases McLean at his reflective, thoughtful best, providing warmth and tender musicality with an appropriate introspective solo by LaMont Johnson.  The album closes with Cal Masey’s particularly intriguing “Message From Trane”, a modal composition with surface similarities to John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”

Both McLean and Shaw are in top form throughout the album, providing engaging solos that can be enjoyed over and again. Shaw is particularly inventive with his well-controlled, crisp, clear, solid tone that makes him one of the great jazz trumpeters of all time.  This was the last of Jackie’s twenty-one albums for Blue Note (wow!!!) and the second-to-last U.S session prior to McLean’s four year break from recording and his departure to Europe.  As far as I can tell, the next session after this, again pairing Jackie and Woody, has never been released — which, making an evaluation based on the merits of the Demon’s Dance album, is a notable loss to the music world.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Jackie McLean except as indicated
  1. “Demon’s Dance” – 7:09
  2. “Toyland” (Cal Massey) – 5:24
  3. “Boo Ann’s Grand” (Woody Shaw) – 6:57
  4. “Sweet Love of Mine” (Shaw) – 6:04
  5. “Floogeh” – 5:23
  6. “Message From Trane” (Massey) – 5:29

Personnel

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Fifty Year Friday: Dizzy Gillespie in 1967

 

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First and most important: Happy Birthday, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie.  Born one hundred years ago, on October 21, 1917 and blessing us music lovers with his presence until Jan 6, 1993, leaving a catalog of excellent to must-listen-to music for many generations of listeners.

I was lucky enough to see him live in Oslo, Norway in 1978 and hear him and his group play “Night in Tunisia.”  He was personable, relaxed, and loved being in front of a small auditorium of very attentive listeners.  The music was excellent and the time raced by.  At the end, I realized how lucky I was to get a ticket that very evening an hour or two before the performance, and thus be able to witness such amazing music.   I am also thankful that I had a friend, who earlier, in California, had persuaded me to go with him to listen to jazz artists like Sonny Stitt and Milt Jackson, leading my onto the path of developing my love for bebop.

You see, Dizzy was one of the founding fathers of bebop, along with other giants like Charlie ParkerThelonious Monk, and Bud Powell.  The recordings he made in the 1940s with Charlie Parker are essential listening, and are as an important part of musical history as the premiere of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (aka “Le Sacre du printemps”), Alban Berg’s two amazing operas, or the British Invasion and the rise of The Beatles and development of progressive rock.

We are very fortunate that on October 1st, 1967, three sets of music were recorded at the Village Vanguard, the famous jazz New York City jazz club.  The Solid State LP includes three tracks, one from each set, with Dizzy, Pepper Adams on baritone saxophoneRay Nance on violin, Chick Corea on piano, Richard Davis on bass, and, on drums, Elvin Jones on “Dizzy’s Blues”, and  Mel Lewis on the other two tracks.  Later, Solid State releases two more LPs of material, which Blue Note later releases on CD in a 2 CD set.

This music is not to be missed, the musicians are excellent and the playing is riveting. If you want to sample the first LP released by Solid State, you can find it on youtube:

Track listing (all compositions by Dizzy Gillespie)

 

  1. Dizzy’s Blues (aka”Birk’s Works”) – 14:30 (This is edited and the complete, nearly eighteen minute version is available on the Blue Note 2 CD set)
  2. “Blues for Max” – 9:10
  3. “Tour de Force” – 9:45  (This is edited and the complete, nearly twelve minute version is available on the Blue Note 2 CD set)

Personnel[edit]

As great as this music is, I would advise to supplement it with another live album,  “Sweet Low, Sweet Cadillac.” The Impulse record label brings together recordings from three different concerts in May 1967, one in NYC and two in L.A. to provide another glimpse of what a Dizzy-led 1967 live performance was like.  The playfulness and charm of the master is captured as well as some great music. This is the only recording I have where Dizzy sings, and, though not at the level as the 1967 Village Vanguard recordings, this is a treat not to be missed.

Track listing[from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Dizzy Gillespie except as indicated
  1. “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac” – 7:17
  2. Mas que Nada” (Jorge Ben) – 6:15
  3. “Bye” – 1:15
  4. “Something in Your Smile” (Leslie Bricusse) – 2:40
  5. “Kush” – 15:50
  • Recorded at Memory Lane in Los Angeles, California on May 25 & 26, 1967

Personnel

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