JAZZ DAY

A Mundane Day In The Life …

Saved by its Jazz Soundtrack

Last night I drank too much red wine. It was the wine’s fault, not mine. Rich and deep, it warmed my veins and got inside my head. This morning its oak and tannins were hanging around my system in a fuzzy sand-papery way as the empty bottle and I shared awkward semi-sideways glances of intimacy regretted. What was I thinking of? What, in fact, was I listening to? Oh, Miles Davis Black Beauty (Live at Fillmore West, 1970). My head aches. It wouldn’t be fair to blame Steve Grossman’s yelping soprano sax or the generally scuzzy funk rhythms that pervade this live Miles outing; must’ve been the sulphites in the red.

Miles Black Beauty

Not feeling entirely robust, I sprinkle a little Paul Desmond on my breakfast cereal. Easy Living (1964) is what I need. Although he does often smooch dangerously close to Easy Listening, Desmond’s playing is dependably tasteful. With swinging contributions from guitarist Jim Hall, he eases pleasantly and skilfully through ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeams’ and other familiar jazz vehicles of the day. I’m gently shaken but not really stirred.

Desmond Easy

Polka Dots reminds me of a fave piano-man. I flip on Moonbeams by the Bill Evans Trio. It’s the one with Nico (of Velvet Underground fame) on the cover, back when she was a model and years before she met Andy Warhol. Moonbeams (1962) is an elegant set of ballads recorded with a new trio after a year’s bereavement leave for Evans following the untimely death of bassist Scott LaFaro. It is easy to hear a thread of melancholy running through the set, yet even without knowing the backstory it remains a superb example of Evans opalescent lyricism. I can feel my mood lightening under Bill’s elegant touch.

Bill Evans Moon

Time for a shower to physically freshen up. Feeling a need for some structure and order, I put on Under the Jasmine Tree by The Modern Jazz Quartet (1968). The fluid vibraphone runs of Milt Jackson and counterpoint harmonies with pianist-composer John Lewis splash around me. Connie Kay’s insistent cymbal in the opening ‘The Blue Necklace’ complements the tinkling water in an almost pleasing way. The chaos is ebbing.

MJQ Under Jasmin

Things to do. Better get a coffee happening. Who better to share caffeine-juice with than Jimmy Smith? The prolific organist – who released over 80 albums under his own name in a career that spanned almost half a century – was the jazz musician primarily responsible for popularising the Hammond B3 organ. Of this instrument novelist Michael Chabon wrote, “Diesel-heavy, coffin-awkward, clock-fragile” which nails the physical attributes but does not convey the versatility of a keyboard that can preach and pout, seduce and sanctify. Though I have only a measly dozen Jimmy Smith titles on the shelf, it’s still too much choice this morning so I close my eyes – not a difficult ask – and grab something at random.

JimmySmith-TheSermon

The Sermon (1958) is a lucky dip indeed and does the wake-up trick with its preaching side-long title track. Lou Donaldson’s husky alto sax arcs in and out of the swinging flow of Jimmy’s Hammond. Kenny Burrell is his politely assertive self on guitar and Art Blakey sits behind the drums, right on the beat, powering the whole thing. Add ‘get up and testify’ trumpet from Lee Morgan and there’s the much-needed lift.

grantgreenliveatthelighthouse1

Heading off to complete a couple of errands, I choose something for the car. Automobile trips – even short ones – always bring out the need to groove. On this particular day I’m going for a guitarist well-known to aficionados of acid jazz: Grant Green. I grab the early 70s album Live At The Lighthouse, a rolling, steaming set featuring Wilton Felder of The Crusaders on bass. It works so well that I see an ominous flash as I groove through an amber traffic signal. Oh dear. This could be an expensive playlist. Luckily, I also brought 1965’s Matador, a quartet album with the outstanding rhythm section of McCoy Tyner (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums). This is one of Grant Green’s best.

The opening title track is a Green original, a jaunty tune that provides a good starting point for solos from guitar and piano. Having a core of Coltrane alumni in your band might have been daunting but Grant steps up with an original interpretation of Coltrane signature tune ‘My Favourite Things’ that has everyone coming out the other end smiling. Tight ensemble playing, brilliant soloing, yet all pretty accessible.

Grant Green Matador

A rumbling that is not Elvin Jones’ drums tells me that it is time for some lunch. There is a new retro-styled café in the neighbourhood where they have 70s pop playing. As long as it isn’t ‘The Best of Barry Manilow’ (surely an oxymoron?) I guess I’ll survive for the duration of a toasted focaccia.

It must be my lucky day. I walk in to the sinuous Jaco Pastorius bass-line of ‘Birdland’. It’s catchy and clever and I hum along, foot-tapping to the joyous jazz-rock bounce. Nice. Probably just that one hit track. But no, it is the album: Weather Report’s ‘Heavy Weather’. A big seller in 1977 and that most unusual jazz beast: popular with fans and critics alike.

WR Heavy Weather

Joe Zawinul’s compositions and arrangements are tailored for everyday wear but manage to transcend the banal muzak of the era’s emerging jazz radio. Wayne Shorter’s sax may be subdued but it is still eloquent. Similarly, ‘Heavy Weather’ may not be as sonically questing as the early Weather Report albums but it has hit the spot today in this suburban café.

There’s still much to do, so perhaps another coffee to charge up for the afternoon. The activities will remain banal but the music promises to get feisty.

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Sources

Jimmy Smith “The Sermon” [Blue Note, 1958]

Bill Evans “Moonbeams” [Riverside,1962]

Paul Desmond “Easy Living” [RCA,1964]

Grant Green “The Matador” [Blue Note 1965]

Modern Jazz Quartet “Under the Jasmine Tree” [Apple, 1968]

Miles Davis “Black Beauty” [Sony, 1970]

Grant Green “Live at the Lighthouse” [Blue Note / EMI, 1972]

Weather Report “Heavy Weather” [Columbia, 1977]

Michael Chabon “Telegraph Avenue” [Harper, 2012]

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If you have just stumbled across Vinyl Connection, feel free to wander back through the previous articles. Comments are always welcome.

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22 comments

  1. I’m not too jazzy myself, more bluesy, and I’m not too winey, more beery/cocktaily, but I still wish I could have joined in the fun. Especially wish I could have witnessed your awkward morning after relationship with the empty bottle. Ha ha!

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    1. Cocktails are very ‘jazz’, aren’t they?

      Makes me wonder about a series of cocktails named after Miles Davis albums. What about…

      “Decoy” (probably has orange juice in it)
      “Bitches Brew” (at least 3 heavy duty spirits, I think)
      “Sorcerer” (a magic drink)

      That’ll do for starters. Get back to me when you’ve fine-tuned the recipes. 🙂

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      1. Let’s just go with David’s recipes. I’ll take a bitches brew, please. Just because I like the name. 🙂

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    2. Imagined Miles’ cocktails for Marie and Bruce (featuring stout):-
      Bitches Brew:
      Open a draught flow can of Guinness; meanwhile add a jigger of vodka and a shake of Tabasco to each of two Highball glasses; stir gently’ then carefully pour the Guinness into each glass
      The Sorcerer:
      Open a draught flow can of Guinness; meanwhile add a jigger of Tequila blended with a handful of mint leaves (strained, if desired) to each of two Highball glasses then carefully pour the Guinness into each glass
      Decoy:
      Stir a tablespoon of Maple syrup into 150 ml of Advocaat anddidvide between two traditional cocktail glasses before topping with Murphy’s (not Guinness) stout

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  2. I did not know that hangovers were allowed to be that good.

    Having really enjoyed Shirley Scott playing on Hustlin’ yesterday, I called-up ‘The Sermon’ on YouTube to help me finish reading ‘Jazz Day’. My fingers are bouncing over and around the key board now. In fact diverse movements of head, body, fingers and accompanying mouse-pointer are interfering with my ability to come up with a new way of saying thanks for another great post.

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    1. Ha! That’s great. Jimmy often does evoke happy movements, doesn’t he?

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  3. Putting on ‘Moon Beams’ (You Tube again) inspired me to devise a recipe for a ginger, molasses, rosewater and six-spice, hazelnut cake, which is now cooking. A peek in the oven’s window lets me a see a flat-top rising. This is, I think, due to the hint in Bills’ playing to pull back 5 degrees C on my typical baking temperature.

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    1. Bill never over-egged the pudding so I guess it’s no surprise that he would have input into other baking projects. But I think you are saying that in this arena, being cool is not necessarily advantageous.

      Sounds delicious, by the way.

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  4. Being cool IS the B E advantage – it contained what I interpolated as a message to pull back from my normally approach, which is to not worry about cracking the top because of a fast rising batter (not dissimilar to A Bad Moon Rising. Sorry about the cakey tech-talk). The cake smells good as it cools on the window sill. Tasting might coincide with MJQ.

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  5. ‘Black beauty” is more in line with the flavour of the ginger molasses cake – it’s dark, rich and just a little mysterious.

    PS: No hangover that I ever had would have been helped by this one by Miles.

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    1. You’re right there. ‘Black Beauty’ is more a causal factor in hangovers, for sure. If you glance above at the cocktail idea, perhaps you’ll come up with a recipe for a killer drink… perhaps involving Guinness?

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  6. Nice.

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  7. So was the Weather Report a bit foggy as they say 🙂

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    1. Beautiful Autumn day – foggy then fine! (Just like Melbourne this morning). 🙂

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  8. The Prudent Groove · · Reply

    Sounds like a groovy day! I’m curious to see if your good friend red wine came back later that day for another visit.

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    1. Mr Red Wine is a regular visitor at Chez Vinyl Connection. Though Ms White drops around quite often too. I always try to be hospitable.

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  9. Overindulgence (food not wine!) called for the BJ/VC cure this morning: ‘Blues and the Abstract Truth’ plus coffee reconstructed the brain enough for it to start Big breakfast preparations. I could not think of anything to surpass Oliver Nelson’s classic, so #1.Son’s birthday brunch was cooked to ABC Classical FM’s ‘worst classics of all time’ feature this morning. (Loved it).

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  10. Have a couple of those lps. Always dig seeing old jazz covers. Always dig listening to old jazz records. Good one Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t know about your, CB, but I listen to a lot more jazz than I blog about. Guess it’s a niche market!

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      1. Yeah, I’ve always listened to a lot of Jazz but even more as i go. Listening to Jim Hall as I do the computer thing right now. Yeah, “niche market”if there is a market. Sometimes I get locked in and it’s all i listen to. Soooo much good stuff and styles. I’ve always been curious about ‘Black Beauty’ by Davis. He did some other live ones at this time. I like that Davis era. How are they? You haven’t steered me wrong yet.

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        1. ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Live at the Fillmore’ are dense, sometimes abrasive, ripped-funk workouts that are much more accessible if the listener has grappled with ‘Bitches Brew’ and ‘Jack Johnson’ (recently reviewed here). They’re great. Like a psychedelic boot-camp work-out for your brain.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I’m in if that’s the case. I’ve heard good things just wanted your take. I really like ‘Get up With It’ a lot, same era. Maybe I’ll break my time warp and jump ahead to the ‘Jack Johnson’ piece. I’m still in 2014 with your stuff. Talk later. CB

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