Before returning to the unpleasantness which is contemporary Israel, a musical interlude prompted by a track by James Booker which I heard for the first time the other night, and who was clearly one of the giants of the New Orleans piano tradition.
Listening also invited the question as to whether the piano is a percussion or a stringed instrument.
Back to James Booker who clearly led a troubled life on many fronts, and that is not to be celebrated at the expense of his mind-bending keyboard technique.
So lets do a quick tour of some piano greats, all of whom recorded in glorious analogue with one exception. Somehow digital technologies destroy some of the defining qualities of the saxophone and piano. We also often ignore the fact that listening is a active and rather than a passive activity, involving a productive or labouring subject to employ some basic Marxist concepts.
Perhaps the Reader will recall a very well played LP that looms large in their pantheon of favourite sounds: the ear works to filter our many of the bumps and hisses resulting from stylus-vinyl collisions and general wear and tare. In addition, there are those rudimentary recording techniques made worse by many plays over the years. Yet, by virtue of the filtering process performed by our ears, we can capture the original sound which enraptured listeners then and now.
Where to begin?
Lennie Tristano, who was a pall bearer at Charlie Parker’s funeral, produced a body of work which is not exactly easy listening, and I am only familiar with three of his LPs.
Very early Tristano.
Not being any jazz expert, I take for granted the line wicki draws from Tristano to Cecil Taylor, who I had the great fortune to see live. Great shards of percussive sound with the sound board protesting under the strain. An extended version of Jitney which virtually left his piano in a heap of thousands of pieces. The perfect adjective would be coruscating in the strong shimmering, glittery sense.
Silent Tongues – Live at Montreux is a killer intro to a pianist who wrings you dry and leaves you in an exhausted heap.
Randy Weston is recommended if you are undertaking a deep exploration of jazz piano, and this clip has the added attraction of some tremendous abstract imagery.
It is impossible to ignore Keith Jarrett who has produced a massive body of work, much of which leaves me cold, but his solo works are just brilliant.
Live at La Scala is probably his final statement as a solo performer before he reduced his tour schedule, and it is a tour de force of the first order.
If that captured your imagination, go back to his 1973 three LP box set of solos concerts performed in Bremen and Lausanne. I think I paid $8 for mine in a second record shop in Sydney.
Trust me. He is in there in what was probably the most famous photo ever taken in old Harlem. Rumour has it that he deliberately arrived late for the group photo, so as not to be outdone in the sartorial stakes.
01 – Hilton Jefferson, 02 – Benny Golson, 03 – Art Farmer, 04 – Wilbur Ware, 05 – Art Blakey, 06 – Chubby Jackson, 07 – Johnny Griffin, 08 – Dickie Wells, 09 – Buck Clayton, 10 – Taft Jordan, 11 – Zutty Singleton, 12 – Red Allen, 13 – Tyree Glenn, 14 – Miff Molo, 15 – Sonny Greer, 16 – Jay C. Higginbotham, 17 – Jimmy Jones, 18 – Charles Mingus, 19 – Jo Jones, 20 – Gene Krupa, 21 – Max Kaminsky, 22 – George Wettling, 23 – Bud Freeman, 24 – Pee Wee Russell, 25 – Ernie Wilkins, 26 – Buster Bailey, 27 – Osie Johnson, 28 – Gigi Gryce, 29 – Hank Jones, 30 – Eddie Locke, 31 – Horace Silver, 32 – Luckey Roberts, 33 – Maxine Sullivan, 34 – Jimmy Rushing, 35 – Joe Thomas, 36 – Scoville Browne, 37 – Stuff Smith, 38 – Bill Crump, 39 – Coleman Hawkins, 40 – Rudy Powell, 41 – Oscar Pettiford, 42 – Sahib Shihab, 43 – Marian McPartland, 44 – Sonny Rollins, 45 – Lawrence Brown, 46 – Mary Lou Williams, 47 – Emmett Berry, 48 – Thelonius Monk, 49 – Vic Dickenson, 50 – Milt Hinton, 51 – Lester Young, 52 – Rex Stewart, 53 – J.C. Heard, 54 – Gerry Mulligan, 55 – Roy Eldgridge, 56 – Dizzy Gillespie, 57 – Count Basie. [Source: DannyChestnut.com]
And since Miles Davis missed the photo shoot, some serious trumpet within an almost funk setting.
Turn up the volume, Brothers and Sisters.