The World According to Keitho

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Hank Mobley’

Audrey

Posted by keithosaunders on October 28, 2016

Lately I’ve been fascinated with how Bud Powell deals with the 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th, 11th, & 12th bar of the blues. He goes out of his way to find the major 7th. It’s almost like a giant ‘fuck you’ to the blues but it works, and some levels it’s bluesier than what we’re used to hearing. It’s a personal and striking statement.

I believe that generation – Bird, Monk, Dizzy et al – thought of those bars more as major chords (or 6th chords) than dominant 7ths. The next generation – Horace, Wynton Kelly, Mobley, D Byrd – played over dominant changes, but not the be boppers. (at least to my ears) The exception would be the slow blues, which Bird was a master at. I don’t know how much the Kansas City influence v Bud’s New York upbringing plays into that.

I recently transcribed this solo — it’s amazing as all of Bud’s solos were, but this one I found to be unusually quirky and great. After all these years of listening to him I still can’t believe how effortlessly he stays in the center of the beat even with all of that double time.

 

Advertisements

Posted in jazz, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Baptist Beat

Posted by keithosaunders on August 15, 2015

I found a video of me playing with bassist, Dylan Johnson, at a house concert in San Luis Obispo.  I had forgotten that this was up there when I happened to stumble across it tonight.  Not too shabby if I do say so myself.  I’m playing a tune by one of the great unsung saxophone heroes of jazz — Hank Mobley!  It’s called A Baptist Beat. (don’t tell anybody I’m Jewish)

Hey!  Are you looking at my bald spot?!  What do you want from me I’m almost 55!

Posted in jazz, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The jazz nexus

Posted by keithosaunders on March 9, 2012

Get ready for a post that is so deranged it could be harmful to your health.  Don’t blame me if you come away from it insisting that America go on the gold standard.

In 1994 Paramount released the first Next Generation Star Trek film, entitled, appropriately enough, Generations.  It was a good film, not a great film, but one that I enjoyed when I saw it in its original release, as well in subsequent viewings on cable.  It featured the epic meeting between Captains Kirk and Picard, as well as the destruction of the original Enterprise.  What’s not to like?

For this post, however, I’m going to focus on a small portion of the film — a five-minute sequence in which Kirk and Picard find themselves marooned in the Nexus; an extra-dimensional realm in which ones thoughts and desires shape reality.

For Picard this meant re-discovering a love interest from his youth whom he had abandoned for the sake of his career.  For Kirk it basically boiled down to going horseback riding.

No matter, though, they were happy, at least for five minutes.  Once they realized that they had to get back to saving the universe they left the Nexus and  returned to reality, or at least what passed for it in the Star Trek universe.

Which brings me to the jazz portion of this post.  It is my belief that there exists a jazz nexus.  That is to say that there is a zone that can be entered in which the beat becomes wide enough so that the musician possesses unlimited powers.  While in the jazz nexus he can do no wrong and so is capable of executing an unlimited amount of ideas with effortless fluidity.

It’s not an easy place to get to.  It takes a symbiotic and cohesive unit, as well as a nurturing performance space with a sympathetic audience.  It’s not somewhere you can get to on your own.  I believe that’s why musicians have chosen this life, which at best is a non-lucrative existence that comes with years of dues paying and struggle.

As for me, I believe that at some point in my youth — I can almost remember the exact night  — I stumbled into the nexus and was given a brief glimpse of what it had to offer.  Once I had the bug I dedicated my life to trying to get back there.

Musicians such as Wynton Kelley and Hank Mobley lived in the nexus.  Mortals such as I are allowed in for a brief taste every so often —  long enough to keep me going playing $50.00 gigs secure in the knowledge that I will return.

Giddyup

Posted in jazz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Three-ring records

Posted by keithosaunders on December 28, 2010

Younger readers of this blog have not had the experience of playing a record so many times that the cover develops concentric indented circles.  My favorite records had three-rings, which was a sign of dozens, if not hundreds of playings.

Today while listening to my Pandora station, McCoy Tyner’s Four by Five came on.  Hearing it reminded me that the album that it comes from, The Real McCoy, is one of my favorite records of all time.  Recorded in April of 1967, it was McCoy’s first album for the Blue Note label — he had recorded several as a leader for Impulse — and it featured Joe Henderson on tenor, Ron Carter on bass, and the great drummer, Elvin Jones.

Henderson is simply amazing.  His time is impeccable and he effortlessly glides over the changes while meshing perfectly with the explosive rhythm section.  The album contains five striking originals by Tyner and is one of the great records of the post-Coltrane era. 

Listening to Henderson play on the Tyner composition got me thinking about the first Joe Henderson record I ever heard, Inner Urge.  The personnel is nearly identical to that of The Real McCoy; only the bass player, Bob Cranshaw, is different.  I had borrowed the record from my cousin and I was fairly sceptical as to whether I would like Henderson’s playing.  At that time, still in my late teens, I was certain that Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, and Hank Mobley had said all there was to say on the tenor.  By the second jaw-dropping chorus of Inner Urge I realized how wrong I was. 

This record was probably responsible for opening my ears to more music than any other.  Not only was I hearing Henderson for the first time, but (incredibly) McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones as well. 

I had no idea…

Once I accepted and embraced the fact that there was great music created after the be-bop era it opened up an entire new world for me.  Inner Urge was my gateway drug.  I had listened to Coltrane before, but now I felt brave enough to venture into the classic quartet material.  It would take me five or six more years to get to his later works, but I had enough to chew on for the time being. 

I also began listening to Wayne Shorter’s records as a leader, as well as his work with the Miles Davis quintet of the early to mid-60s.  Wayne is an acquired taste.  He’s like the oyster of jazz — you rarely like him the first time.  Once I got used to his thinner tone and his quirky time feeling, which is not so much in the pocket, but floating in and around the beat, he became one of my favorites.  Not to mention the fact that he is a masterful composer.  The three-ring record I own of Wayne’s is a 1964 work entitled JuJu. 

 I suppose it is no coincidence that all three of these dates featured Tyner and Jones.  They had such an empathy for each other that to my ears there is no finer rhythm section.  They are in complete agreement as to where the quarter note is and they compliment each other — McCoys pounding left hand fifths and Elvin’s fiery polyrhythms.  For this reason I have always felt a greater connection to the Coltrane quarter of the 60s over Miles more ethereal (but no less brilliant) quintet of the same era. 

I don’t know what the digital equivalent of a three-ring album is.  I suppose we have the ability to star our ipod tracks, but that idea never appealed to me.  I’m not ready for the American Idolization of my record collection.

Posted in jazz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Two giants: Someday My Prince Will Come

Posted by keithosaunders on April 20, 2010

Jon Wertheim, over at Rehearsing the Blues there is a post up about the Disney song, Someday My Prince Will Come.  The song, which is from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,  has been recorded by a bevy of jazz musicians, most notably Miles Davis.  While the post at Rehearsing the Blues focuses on a version by Bill Frisell and Fred Hersch, it has inspired some thoughts of my own about Mile’s version.

One of the things I love most about Someday My Prince (other than every note and chord Wynton Kelly plays) is the contrasting tenor solos.  Hank Mobley’s solo is characteristically sparse and filled with melody and humor.  He cuts through these unconventional changes like butter and his tone is sweet and silky.

After Mobley’s solo Miles has the band break down to the rhythm section playing an F pedal interlude.  It serves as a sorbet between solos and it has the effect of building tension.  All of a sudden, *bang,* there’s Coltrane at the peak of his sheets of sound phase.  His solo is remarkable, not just for its sheer virtuosity, but how it stands in stark contrast to Mobley’s melodic gem.  Trane’s solo  is shorn of all romanticism, yet embedded in its barrage of notes is lyricism and wit.  As always his intensity and focus are in evidence, but they are tempered somewhat by the the gloss and the sheen of Miles’ arrangement.  This is the same Coltrane who later that year [1961] will record a 15 minute sax solo on the blues — Chasin’ the Trane —  without running out of ideas.  With Miles, however, he was able to distill this energy into a two-minute solo.

Mobley, to his credit, does not try to match Trane note for note.  His ideas are so personal and so confident that he  is very much at home on this track.  It amazes me that he could deliver this sublime solo while standing next to one of the greatest saxophonists of his, or any era.  In this sense he was like a basketball player calmly burying free throws in the final minute of a playoff game.   

Posted in jazz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Prescription for aggravation: One chord a beat.

Posted by keithosaunders on March 25, 2010

I like chord changes as much as the next guy.  In fact, I probably like them more than the next guy, hard-bopster that I am.  Give me a song such as the original Milestones or All Gods Children Got Rhythm and I am right at home and in my element.  

There is one thing, however, that I have never been comfortable with — playing one chord change per beat.  Fortunately we musicians don’t encounter this potentially thorny situation that often.  The song that immediately comes to mind is Randy Weston’s Hi-Fly, whose 4th bar consists of E7+9 Eb7+9 D7+9 G7.  Up until then you have been in ii-V heaven, effortlessly churning out your hippest D minor licks.  All of a sudden – BAM – you have to think.  GOD DAMNIT. 

What to do?  Do you double up and run 16th notes?  You can do that at a medium tempo, but any faster, unless your name happens to be Sonny Rollins, things are going to get dicey.  So you try to run an eight-note line but you soon discover that negotiating those chromatic changes is about as fun as cleaning behind the refrigerator.   OK, so you think about framing the chord and cycling on down but how many times can you get away with this? 

The song that has sparked my one chord a beat rumination is Phineas Newborn Jr’s Sneakin’ Around.  It’s a medium tempo groover with an incredible melody mostly centered around, you guessed it, D minor.  Trouble ensues in the 7th and 8th bar:

G7   F#7 F7| E7 A7 D-   |

/  /    /   /         /   /      /  /

Now that’s a thorny two bars.  You’ve got chromatic dominant 7th moving down one chord a beat starting in the middle of one bar and ending in the middle of the next.  Come on! 

Sneakin' around is on this great record!

I have to admit, though, Phineas plays the hell out of it, seemingly without breaking a sweat.  You hear it time and again with the musicians of that era.  There was a caliber that existed that was off the charts.  Not only could they play the hell out of the blues and I Got Rhythm, but they could negotiate the trickiest of harmony. 

Clifford Brown had some of the most difficult songs.  Brownie Speaks is altered rhythm changes played at break-neck speed.  A jagged, boppish melody and extremely difficult changes.  Don’t you know he cuts through them like butter.  The Jazz Messenger’s albums are full of songs that are hummable and melodic, but many of them are awkward to play over.  You would never know it by listening to Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, and Hank Mobley.

Posted in jazz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »