A Trio Attuned to the Timbres of Tony

tonywilliams.jpg

I spent part of the weekend making decent headway on reviews, but I’ve still yet to type commentary on a set that’s been taking up a big chunk of my listening time. Saddled with the somewhat trite sobriquet of Trio Beyond, the ensemble of John Scofield, Larry Goldings and Jack DeJohnette have dropped a fusion warhead-fitted bomb in the form of Saudades. The two disc ECM of package documents a live date taped at Queen Elizabeth Hall winter of 2004. Back then, the trio’s main purpose was according musical tribute to Tony Williams and more specifically his celebrated Lifetime band with Larry Young and John McLaughlin. Over the intervening year and half their repertoire and scope have purportedly expanded and a string of new concert dates are currently in the works. But this snapshot of their nascency is one revalatory listen on its own.

Sco’s playing is a bit too flashy and precious for me in places, but his detours in effects-riddled funk and playful grandstanding fit well within super-group format. Goldings can’t compete with the full girth of Young’s earthy eccentricities and his occasional tendency toward dapper technical polish is another minor quibble. Again, when it counts he meshes well with his partners and his use of electric piano and sampler further vary the playing field. For my money, and fittingly enough considering the identity of the concert’s dedicatee, it’s DeJohnette who lights the most consistent and calefactory fires. He’s a monster on the versions of Joe Henderson’s “If” and Lifetime’s signature jam “Emergency” that bookend the concert and his work on the funk and dub-blasted title cut suggests a 21st century update on the protean syncopated style that powered last year’s Cellar Door Sessions set. Thirty-six years dissipate under the stamp of a declamatory snare shot and the London crowd must’ve loved it. No ECM austerity and elegance here, just blowtorch jamming that could school younger, if more popular, bands like the Bad Plus and Medeski, Martin & Wood. There are also a handful of detours into schmaltz, Goldings’ flowery “As One” in particular, but this also aligns with source of inspiration. Lifetime certainly had its share of cornball tunes. The recording is so brash and crisp that along with Charles Lloyd’s recent Sangam it solidifies my position that the label should divert its attentions away from trafficking in the tried and true studio sheen of most of their releases and instead funnel production funds into capturing its roster in front of keyed up crowds, vérité-style.

Anyway, this hardly anything approximating a formal or faultfinding review. I’m just curious to glean other folks’ opinions of the set. The four (& counting) reviews over at AAJ are all laudatory and when I get around to composing my own it will probably echo like sentiments. But on the flip, I’m fully willing to accept culpability if it turns out my tin ear is acting up again. So what say you? Is this set one of the Best of 2006 as John Kelman boldly claims? Or is it case of wankery dressed up with the respectable face of an undeniable drum doyen as colophon?

Posted by derek on June 11, 2006 8:46 PM
Comments

ECM have currently taken 13 days to get this CD to me. Never mind, the original Lifetime (yes, I saw them live in 1969) burned the paint off the walls of my brain with such panache, such total abandon, adn such passion that I am confident I am probably not missing much, however marvellous JDeJ is always.

Posted by: Graham L. Rogers at June 14, 2006 1:09 PM

Since you mentioned them here, The Bad Plus have recognized bagatellen and added it to their "blogroll." Also they don't jam, they play arrangements.

http://thebadplus.typepad.com/dothemath/2006/06/relevant_weblog.html

Posted by: Dolph1 at June 14, 2006 6:07 PM

Thanks for the clarification & news, Dolph1. Seems I was under the mistaken impression that they were up for an good ol’ improvisatory jam every now & then. I can appreciate Iverson and Anderson, but being a Minneapolitan, Dave King has rubbed me wrong on several occasions as a victim of self-perceived Big Fish Small Pond Syndrome. One of his other bands, Happy Apple, had an unfortunate hand in mucking up plans for a improv music festival about five years back. The crux of the quandary was their insistence that musicians like Fred Anderson and William Parker open for them, rather than vice versa. Back to the BP, I’m not much of a fan of their Nirvana and Sabbath arrangements. But their Blog is pretty cool & a good read.

Anyone else heard the Trio Beyond disc in question? So far we’ve had one reader dismiss it outright without a listen (though I’m certainly not one to argue against Lifetime’s primacy) and another ignore it completely. I’m itching for other opinions so as to find out if my tin foil ears have finally crumpled.

Posted by: derek at June 14, 2006 6:56 PM

Nope, haven't heard it (not on ECM's mailing list, though I get the odd one--most recently, a set of updated renaissance music). But I thought I'd mention another recent organ-oriented disc, Cecil Brooks/Gene Ludwig's Double Exposure, the title a deliberate homage to the Larry Young/Joe Chambers set on Muse (which I've never heard & wish would get reissued....). It's pretty nice stuff.

Posted by: N.D. at June 14, 2006 9:06 PM

For N.D.

If you would like a CDR copy of the Larry Young / Joe Chambers "Double Exposure" LP, let me know. I'll be happy to oblige.

Posted by: Graham L. Rogers at June 15, 2006 4:12 AM

I’d not heard of that Chambers/Young date, sounds intriguing. Scott Yanow’s AMG review is brief, but enticing, mentioning that Chambers plays piano for part of the session. Odds are with Joel Dorn’s 32 Jazz now defunct that it won’t receive the reissue treatment anytime soon. But then again maybe Water will take an interest?

I’m still flummoxed by how few of the higher profile organists have adopted Young as a primary influence. There was local guy here in St. Paul, Billy Holloman, whose sound occasionally favored a strong Young vibe. He had a regular Tuesday night trio gig for the better part of 10 years before hanging it up & heading out for points unknown.

Posted by: derek at June 15, 2006 6:50 AM

I haven't heard this album, but a comment on organ more generally:

A few weeks ago, I saw a bit of a Joey DeFrancesco concert (with guitar and drums) on TV. I'd never heard him before, but understand that he is one of the bigger/important organists today? After about five minutes, I was bored out of my mind. Rarely have I heard anything so devoid of life.

The only interesting moment came when, transitioning between songs, he held a note while changing the stops. The sound started getting weird, my boredom-dulled brain was stirred and I thought "Hey, this is interesting," but it turned out he was simply going from one clichéd organ sound to another.

It was one of those depressing "jazz is dead" moments.

Posted by: mwanji at July 4, 2006 5:20 AM

I saw DeFrancesco live a few weeks ago, and it was one of the most thrilling things I've ever witnessed. One may wish he were more experimental or whatever (though what I've heard from his recent album with Bobby Hutcherson and George Coleman sounded pretty hip), but he's an superb improvisor and swings unbelievably hard, which is good enough for me.

Sorry nothing about the trio.

Posted by: godoggo at July 5, 2006 8:07 PM

I was pretty impressed with Joey when I saw him here a few years ago (can't remember who with.. McLaughlin and Dennis Chambers I think). I certainly enjoyed his playing more than John Medeski's. "One clichéd organ sound to another".. but isn't that what the Hammond has always been about, Mwanji? No matter what registration you use it's always going to sound like a Hammond. As soon as you play any dominant seventh you're going to sound just like all the rest of 'em. The only organist who tried to break away from the blues-based harmony and use some piled up fourths a la McCoy Tyner was Larry Young. But Joey can do the Moontrane stuff pretty well too.

Posted by: Dan Warburton at July 5, 2006 10:45 PM

It was probably just a bad night at a festival. No-one on the bandstand looked particularly interested.

"but isn't that what the Hammond has always been about, Mwanji? No matter what registration you use it's always going to sound like a Hammond"

Well, the transition from one sound the other produced surprising interstitial sounds, so I don't think it has to be cliché. Why is it that people have used synthesizers in myriad ways, but the Hammond in only a few?

I saw Dr. Lonnie Smith with Lou Donaldson 4-5 years ago. It was more fun (the concert was in a bar), but equally rote. If you read Derek's Gary Versace review, he tellingly feels the need to point out Versace's non-clichéd playing. That's a line I've heard often though, so I'm not quite ready to believe it.

Posted by: mwanji at July 6, 2006 12:01 AM

Scout’s honor, Mwanji, you can trust me ;) If you dig the Hammond, Versace is one to check out. He’s pretty talented on piano too.

As far as DeFrancesco, I don’t get the feeling that he’s all that interested in “innovating” on the instrument. He strikes me as someone sincere & secure in his very audible influences, & he’s certainly carved a niche for himself. Actually, same goes for Goldings. For a good example of “rote” playing, the recent Deep Blue Organ Trio’s latest definitely fits the bill. Clichés abound.

I haven’t heard Jim Alfredson’s Organissimo yet, but have been curious about them. Looks like they have a slot on this year’s Chicago Jazz Fest docket.

Posted by: derek at July 6, 2006 5:50 AM

Incidentally, 4 more things about Joey: 1)I recently saw a comment by him somewhere along the lines that Young isn't really all that unique because Jimmy Smith encompasses everything, and goes on to say that the latter has some live recordings with some very far outside playing (which I've never heard, so can't comment), 2) I'll admit that I did find his playing too conservative for the setting on that Coltrane tribute he did with McLaughlin and Elvin, 3) There was a compilation called, I think "Tribute to the Hammond B3, on which, to my ears, he pretty much played all the other contributers under the table, 4) Many years ago, I saw a Downbeat blindfold test he did, in which, to my recollection, he was able to identify every organist almost every sideman, including some pretty obscure ones.

Posted by: godoggo at July 6, 2006 2:05 PM

All of this thread is fine BUT it has strayed away from its main point. That the original Tony Williams Lifetime was (to those who heard it) simply the most astonishingly intense, passionate, imaginative, creative trio ever to have tackled "jazz" and "rock" simultaneously, with results never since matched.

Posted by: Graham L. Rogers at July 7, 2006 2:10 PM

Um, I think that was YOUR main point, Graham & duly noted. :)

Posted by: derek at July 7, 2006 2:34 PM

FWIW, I like the sound of a Hammond. For me, they're too big and ungainly to actually own, but I toyed with getting one of those digital Hammond simulacra at one time. I like all kinds of organs (no silly puns here, please)--electric, church, Hammond, etc.,--both to listen to and to play. But as I've mentioned to Derek in the past, I don't care for too many jazz practitioners. For me, there's Waller and Young--then, IMHO, you have to start thinking about arguably non-jazz improvisers, like the Parkins cousins and even people like Charlemagne Palestine. When you think of all the great stuff done with organ in the classical world--by Vierne, Tournemire, Ligeti, Messiean, even the stuff in Britten's chamber operas, the jazz guys seem awfully pale to me.

Posted by: walto at July 8, 2006 5:45 AM

As you probably know Walt I like the pipe organ about as much as I do late Schoenberg. Apart from the Ligeti pieces (which don't sound like organs anyway), Palestine's Schingen Blangen and one or two of Jean Luc Guionnet's things I could quite happily live without ever hearing another note of pipe organ in my life. But I'm a huge fan of the Hammond - and Larry Young is a major hero.

Posted by: Dan Warburton at July 8, 2006 7:55 AM

Freddy Van Hove's pipe organ recordings are pretty unbelievable.
There is a duo lp with Gunter Wauer and Baby Sommer on fmp that is amazing.
I will admit I only liked Anthony Williams.
When "Tony" came along the bashing started.
9 times out of 10 when a drummer is playing like an asshole they will mumble something about Tony Williams at some point.

Posted by: Damon smith at July 8, 2006 9:55 AM

I forgot to mention Eddy Louiss. At least I like his work on that Getz recording.

Posted by: walto at July 8, 2006 2:50 PM

"Freddy Van Hove's pipe organ recordings are pretty unbelievable."
Unbelievably horrible, if you ask me.. since when was he Freddy? A Nightmare on FMP Street?
"I will admit I only liked Anthony Williams.
When 'Tony' came along the bashing started."
So you're trashing all the Miles Davis quintet albums too? Man, we'll have to agree to differ. You stick to Fab Five Freddy and I'll stick to Arcana!

Posted by: Dan Warburton at July 9, 2006 1:03 AM

Who is "Young?"

Posted by: godoggo at July 9, 2006 8:04 AM

Tony was great with Miles, of course, and I do love the Lifetime, and I'm sure they were incredible live, but, at the same time, his drumming sounds funny in that context; it seems like when he tried to play loud enough to compete electric instruments cranked up to 11, his time suffered somewhat. I think a lot of the "implied time" guys from the '60s had trouble just holding down a good beat.

Posted by: godoggo at July 9, 2006 8:16 AM

Oh, nevermind. That "Young." Duh.

Posted by: godoggo at July 9, 2006 8:46 AM

gotta go with warburton this time damon. and it's not because dan needs to fuckin' interview me for paristransatlantic already . . .

that van hove organ stuff ain't all that. i was psyched about the concept, but it's highly lackluster, particularly if you compare it to messiaen's far more effective and dramatic oeuvre.

also, did i ever say something to you about tony williams? ha ha ha. bash away!!!

ww

Posted by: weasel walter at July 9, 2006 7:59 PM

Derek, my good man: Indeed that was my main point, but it must also have also been Jack DeJohnette's main point too. Otherwise, we would have no "Saudades" and certainly no Trio Beyond. No?

Posted by: Graham L. Rogers at July 10, 2006 4:33 AM

It’s certainly possible & even probable, but from what I gather, Trio Beyond has moved well beyond their initial Lifetime focus is now broader in scope in terms of what they choose to play. Either way, I’d say Lifetime’s stature in the “jazz-rock” canon is secure.

Posted by: derek at July 10, 2006 8:43 PM

I’m an inveterate jazz organ junkie with tastes that intersect Walt’s but also encompass a gluttonous share of others: Shirley Scott, John Patton, Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith, Sun Ra, Groove Holmes, Trudy Pitts, Rhoda Scott, Don Patterson, Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Milt Buckner, Charles Earland, Don Pullen, Lonnie Smith… I’d probably lose feeling in my fingers before I’d finished typing all my faves.

Q: How many albums did Anthony cut as opposed to Tony (I can only think of about a dozen off the top of my head)?

Posted by: derek at July 10, 2006 8:56 PM

..and they're all on Blue Note, from what I can recall..

Posted by: Dan Warburton at July 11, 2006 6:13 AM

Derek: Organists. If perhaps you've not read the recent Jack Bruce biography, you might be interested in the following quote (p.297). "The one man he would describe as a genius though is Larry Young. Jack says of him, 'It's hard to describe his genius, I once saw him bring a Glasgow audience to tears by playing the Hammond organ. It was so moving. I still get shivers thinking about it. ... Coltrane has this very deep thing going on that transcended music. So deep. So emotional. The only other person who could get that depth from his music was Larry YOung. ... He made sounds you just couldn't believe'. "

Posted by: Graham L. Rogers at July 11, 2006 1:45 PM

Young's absence from my litany was conspicuous, but not indicative of any ill opinion. I hold most of his work in high esteem (the sludgy Spaceball on Arista excepted ;). His early Prestige sides don't get a lot of ink, but they're a great appetizer to what came later on Blue Note IMO & feature some killer Thornel Schwartz outside the Jimmy Smith orbit to boot.

Posted by: derek at July 11, 2006 3:07 PM

"So you're trashing all the Miles Davis quintet albums too? Man, we'll have to agree to differ."
- You mean that Wayne Shorter band Miles played in? Yeah I guess I do like that stuff too. Maybe "Tony" had more going on that I thought...

Posted by: Damon Smith at July 11, 2006 4:50 PM

Anyone know what became of the man he studied with? Alan Dawson. He was (is?) amazing.

Posted by: Dan Warburton at July 12, 2006 4:51 AM

AMG dates his passing as 2/23/96 in Boston & only a single date as leader, Waltzin’ With Flo from ’92 (released 2002).

There’s a decent bio at Drummerworld:
http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/Alan_Dawson.html

Posted by: derek at July 12, 2006 6:03 AM

Dawson has a huge reputation not only as a player but as an instructor around Boston. FWIW, he was a highly regarded teacher of my frequent collaborator, Gary Kendig.

Posted by: walto at July 12, 2006 11:35 AM

Dawson was insanely good. Those records with Jaki Byard and/or Booker Ervin are ridiculous.

Posted by: Jason at July 12, 2006 1:50 PM

"Ridiculous"? See Oxford Dictionary. I thought they were first-class jazz from that era.

Posted by: Graham L. Rogers at July 13, 2006 3:54 AM

No, they were bad.

Posted by: N.D. at July 13, 2006 5:48 AM

Oh, I see. It is perhaps required to speak Gibberish on Bagatellen. I speak English (amongst other things). And I find it an obscene insult to the memory of two dedicated, dignified jazz musicians of the order of Alan Dawson and Booker Ervin that their music is described, 40 years on, as "ridiculous" and "bad" by persons who, (I'll wager), never saw them play together live. Sadly, they are both long dead and thus cannot defend themselves, so I suppose that makes them easy targets to the average coward.

Posted by: Graham L. Rogers at July 13, 2006 7:39 AM

Or . . . you could just read my first sentence, you pedantic moron. Note the difference between slang you don't understand (ridiculous = ridiculously good) and "gibberish" (forkette).

Posted by: Jason at July 13, 2006 8:27 AM

Good lord, jazz musicians have been using words like "ridiculous" & "bad" to mean "truly superb" for decades. The OED is not going to help you.

Posted by: N.D. at July 13, 2006 9:03 AM

???HuH? I never saw them play live. Could not get to Lennys Turnpike when I was 8 years old. So What? I never saw trio beyond play live, I would have liked to but, So What?
At any rate I thought that was a top shelf underated rhythm section. Alan Dawson, Richard Davis and Jaki Byard. ABout as ridiculously good as it gets if the recordings tell part of the story.
Richard Davis is still around. He might defend and dignify if pressed. I don't know.

Posted by: Alden at July 13, 2006 9:15 AM

Yo Graham mah man you gots to start digging the jazzspeak - where you been hidin homey? Whatdat L stand fo in yo name? Langwidge? Mah man, JB released Super Bad more than thirty years ago.. Awfully sorry these yankee chappies haven't quite mastered the nuances of the mother tongue, but you'll have to excuse them, old bean. Pip pip.
Yeah, Alan Dawson was baaaad. Or, as they say in France, TERRIBLE

Posted by: Dan Warburton at July 13, 2006 9:43 AM

Okay pardners, time to holster them thar pistols and share in a few friendly shots of sarsaparilla, I’m buyin’.

Posted by: derek at July 13, 2006 11:06 AM

Please stop trying to talk like Negro "hepsters," you fellowes. It comes off poorly.

Apologies to any members of the Dusky races out there in the aether.

Posted by: djll at July 13, 2006 11:07 AM

It seems to me we find ourselves swimming in a sea of Jive and Illiteracy. (And, courtesy of Mr. Jason, personalized abuse).

Posted by: Graham L. Rogers at July 13, 2006 11:27 AM

It was horribly abusive, yes, and I will engage in a round of self-flagellation.

Clearly we deserved to be called "cowards" for having the temerity to heap praise upon Alan Dawson in a way that wasn't transparently obvious to you! I guess this is what you mean by "jive"?

Posted by: Jason at July 13, 2006 12:42 PM

Tom--I think Dan was just exaggerating wildly to make a point. The initial post was perfectly clear... at least I thought so, anyway.

Posted by: N.D. at July 13, 2006 1:07 PM


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