Valuable Jazz Anthologies

During the 2020 pandemic, I had time to revisit my stash. Reviewed below:

I Remember Bebop Al Haig, Duke Jordan, John Lewis, Sadik Hakim, Walter Bishop, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Rowles
Cafe Society J.C. Heard, Mary Lou Williams, Edmond Hall, Maxine Sullivan
Chicago’s Boss Tenors Gene Ammons, Tom Archia, Claude McLin, Johnny Griffin
Jazz Women: A Feminist Retrospective
The New Breed Cecil Taylor, Charles Tolliver, Grachan Moncur, Archie Shepp

Jazz Greats: Art Tatum: The Shout (curated by Brian Priestley)
Jazz Greats: Boogie Woogie: Roll ‘Em (curated by Brian Priestley and Tony Russell)

I Remember Bebop: Al Haig, Duke Jordan, John Lewis, Sadik Hakim, Walter Bishop, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Rowles

In 1978, French critic, promoter and enthusiast Henri Renuad assembled eight bebop pianists (all of whom played with Bird or Diz) tethered to seven bebop composers for a 2-LP survey. The set perhaps promises more than it delivers, for almost all these artists can be heard better elsewhere, and the whole production is rather dull sounding (despite Stan Tonkel and CBS Record studios.) Renuad’s notes are enthusiastic and detailed. As seen above, the cover art is unforgivable.

— Al Haig plays Dizzy Gillespie. I’ve heard a lot of Haig over the years. He’s always solid but his work hasn’t stayed in my mind; offhand I’d say the early trio set with Bill Crow and Lee Abrams might be his best record. Gillespie’s music for a solo pianist is monumental task and Haig does a fine job. He’s late in career but his chops are up; he also plays intros, interludes and endings, just like Dizzy would have wanted. “A Night In Tunisia” has some fire and “Con Alma” breaks into gentle stride and ends on a surprising minor chord. Despite all those gigs with Bird, there remains something rather foursquare about Haig’s phrasing, he navigates the “Con Alma” changes in dismayingly literal fashion. “Bebop” is given a bit of Tchaikovsky’s “Arab Dance” and Haig’s fingers are commendably fleet. “Salt Peanuts” is in E-flat; might be the only time that happened (instead of the normal key of F). A kind of uncharismatic blockiness dogs Haig’s blowing, but, still, a historically valuable set.

— Duke Jordan plays Tadd Dameron. Like Haig, Jordan is not really a major stylist, although his fabulous tune “Jordu” is certainly immortal. This short set brings out the Teddy Wilson side of his pianism. There’s something about Jordan’s eighth note that feels a bit herky-jerky. “Lady Bird” is fine, but the slightly slower tempo of “Casbah” suits Jordan even better.

— John Lewis plays John Lewis. Another level of piano artistry is apparent with Mr. Lewis, it’s immediately more swinging and bluesy. Lewis was fascinated with counterpoint, Bach fugues and so on, and his solo piano playing is decorated with little borrowings of baroque. “Afternoon in Paris” is great, right in the swing and boasting some Dameron-esqe harmonies. “Django” is Lewis’s most famous composition, but this version is hampered by a grab bag of styles. “Sacha’s March” is for his young son and begins with an ironic attitude like Prokofiev before going into a vamping bluesy bag. Good blindfold test. “Mirjana of My Heart” is for his wife (a professional harpsichordist) and recalls a Spanish fantasy of someone like Granados. Lewis has a lovely touch at the piano and the “classical” ornaments are executed perfectly.

— Sadik Hakim plays Charlie Parker with Errol Waters and Al Foster. Hakim is rather rambunctious on the records with Bird and he retains something unexpected in phrasing after all the time gone by since. “Yardbird Suite” doubles the melody with bass and has some truly great drumming from Foster. “My Little Suede Shoes” is less confident, Hakim lurches in the time a bit. “Now’s the Time” is the best, a perfect tempo and some good diatonic blues lines.

Haig, Jordan, Lewis and Hakim share total authenticity and offer few cliches. There’s a way that they play that is closer to pre-Bird than Bird — certainly there’s not much of a reference to Bud Powell — and this keeps their concept relatively fresh; it’s one reason to listen to them again today.

— Walter Bishop plays Charlie Parker with Bob Cranshaw and Al Foster. Now this is more like real bebop pianist, someone who transcribed and studied Bud Powell, with cascades of discontinuous lines coming out of every corner. However, Bishop is a bit disorganized in his sound overall. The best Bishop I know is the nice trio date with Jimmy Garrison and G.T. Hogan, Speak Low. From the session under consideration here, “Star Eyes” is fine, the changes roll though, but “Au Privave” is pretty unsettled, with extensive quotes from Diz and Monk along with ludicrous two-handed quartal excursions. “Ornithology” is taken at smart pace, and Bishop’s lines occasionally have real flair.

— Barry Harris plays Thelonious Monk with Bill Lee and Leroy Williams. As with the John Lewis set, it’s immediately apparent that a real artist is seated at the Steinway. If I had to pick one from this set I’d pick Barry. His snaky lines on the parallel changes of “Epistrophy” are really beautiful. Leroy Williams is perfect as always, Bill Lee is surprisingly busy but it’s got a nice grungy ’70s vibe overall. You can hear a taste of Teddy Wilson in Barry’s “all over the keyboard” approach when blowing on “In Walked Bud.” The piano lines on an uptempo “52nd Theme” are the real deal, frankly demolishing the competition. “Ruby, My Dear” is solo and soulful. In 1978 Monk was still alive and living with Barry at Nica’s.

— Tommy Flanagan plays Bud Powell duo with Keter Betts. Betts confidently pushes the beat, allowing Tommy to relax and lay back against the bass. “Strictly Confidential” gains some steam as it goes along, better is a rollicking “Dance of the Infidels” where the lines in the piano solo come out of every corner. A+ bop. The straight triad at the end of “Infidels” is utterly bizarre, a truly “Infidel” moment perhaps? Tommy doesn’t play the full melody of “Bouncing with Bud” on the way out, an obvious tribute to the abbreviated Blue Note 78 that Tommy studied as an eager student of the new music in 1948. The solo “I’ll Keep Loving You” burbles along, it would have been interesting to hear Tommy take a little more time on this darkest of Powell ballads.

— Jimmy Rowles, “Impressions of the Miles Davis Nonet.” Rufus Reid and Mickey Roker accompany Rowles in Birth of the Cool material, “Jeru,” “Venus De Milo,” and “Godchild.” I love Rowles dearly, especially unaccompanied, but his trio playing can be a bit hit and miss. Not sure if this lush and fancy repertoire suits this unit, Rowles is playing lean and light, poking at the phrases like he does sometimes, while Reid’s amplified ’70s sonority is quite hot in the mix. The dark unison of George Wallington’s “Godchild” is successful; this the best track overall, with basic chord changes unifying the band into some real swing.

Cafe Society: J.C. Heard, Mary Lou Williams, Edmond Hall, Maxine Sullivan

This lovely Onyx LP collects four unrelated sessions from the mid-1940s. All the bands would have played for promoter Barney Josephson at Cafe Society. The disc is from the 70s, when Josephson was running the Cookery. Dan Morgenstern interviews Josephson for the extensive notes.

— J.C. Heard with George Treadwell, Dickie Harris, Budd Johnson, Jimmy Jones, and Al McKibbon, four tunes, March 20 1946. This music helps explain the transition of swing to bop. Everyone is great. I mean really, really great. These names aren’t famous, but everyone’s stylish and personal. Overall these four tracks are good reminder of how fertile the scene was in those days. Treadwell’s trumpet is fleet and dirty in turns, Johnson’s tenor is big and bad, Harris “talks” through the trombone. Jimmy Jones has a wild, sort of “operatic” harmonic imagination. “Azure” is a glorious “real-time” assessment of Ellington. The other numbers “The Walk,” “Heard But Not Seen,” and “Bouncing for Barney” are essentially swing-to-bop riff pieces with nice little arrangements driven by McKibbon and Heard’s flawless beat.

— Mary Lou Williams with Mary Osborne, Marjorie Hyams, Bea Taylor, and Bridget O’Flynn, four tunes, 1945. Mary Osborne plays guitar (and sings “He’s Funny that Way”) and Hyams is on vibes, giving the group a proto-George Shearing cast. It’s more bop than swing overall, Mary Lou takes a killing chorus on “Rhumba Re-bop.” When listening to these fresh sounds it is easy to understand how Mary Lou was an important mentor to Bud and Monk; indeed, her “Rhumba” solo is a bit Thelonious in affect. Osborne and Hyams have interesting styles, the group overall is very distinctive, but it’s Mary Lou’s show, her features on the smoky “Blues at Mary Lou’s” and the uptempo jump “D.D.T.” are definitive. Taylor sounds good but O’Flynn is barely in the mix.

The music was generally popular in the 40s, so an all-woman band was not all that uncommon. At the time of the LP’s release in the 70s, jazz was in a relatively moribund state (at least with the general public), and Mary Lou was a regular at the Cookery.

— Edmond Hall with Mouse Randolph, Henderson Chambers, Ellis Larkins, Johnny Williams, Jimmy Crawford, 1945. Wow, listen to Hall squawk and holler on the clarinet. Those that didn’t like bebop would declare that the new music was simply less expressive, and Hall shows us what they mean. This is another band of worthy talents somewhat lost to history: trumpeter Randolph, trombonist Chambers, pianist Larkins. Paul Motian said that Jimmy Crawford was his first inspiration. “Face” is angular and be-boppy, while “Continental Blues” is all jump and jive. Hall gets a cadenza and Crawford some breaks on the mysterious “Lonely Moments” while it’s all aboard for the rather Ellington-hued swinger “Ellis Island.”

Some of the harmonic tricks from all three instrumental sessions here were brand new, and the bands sound just delighted to get their hands on the very latest chords and melodies. Great music.

— Maxine Sullivan with Samuel Persoff, Samuel Rand, Joseph N. Breen, Kenneth Billings, Everett Barksdale, and Cedric Wallace, 1944. Maxine Sullivan was fabulous. Her voice was clear, she told a story, and the swing came through with proper body and projection. Morgenstern is critical of the four (justifiably?) obscure standards, but the context with three violins and Barksdale on colorful guitar obbligato is novel.

Chicago’s Boss Tenors: Gene Ammons, Tom Archia, Claude McLin, and Johnny Griffin

This Chess LP collects 1948-1956 performances from a vibrant Chicago scene. The notes are by another Windy City legend, promoter Joe Segal (who coincidentally passed away at 94 while I was working on this post); three rare photos document the time and the place. The music is essentially modern jazz, usually with R&B flavoring, although there is one Shorty Rogers big band track with a much different feel, a complex bop line on “How High the Moon” called “More Moon,” featuring some rip-roaring tenor from Ammons.

The notes are enjoyable but discographical information is slight. Most of the sidemen aren’t listed and even the basic track information is confusing.

Serious jazz listeners are familiar with Gene Ammons and Johnny Griffin, but Tom Archia and Claude McLin are probably only known to tenor saxophone specialists. In the notes Segal says he loved seeing Archia and McLin play the South Side in the early ’50s but that they both disappeared from view. Segal even asks them to get in touch and start playing again. (The implication is that Segal is willing to give them a gig.)

Archia and McLin are both masters of the black post-Lester Young school. There was the white school, which took the Youngian improvised line further into bop, Stan Getz, Warne Marsh, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, and others, and then there was the black R&B school, those that took Pres for the one note rides, the gentle preaching, and the bluesiest way to articulate a pentatonic scale. While Ammons, Archia, McLin turn the harmonic corners of bebop, they all have that “make the joint jump” thing that the pure R&B cats got from Pres.

The local rhythm sections are not listed and some of the participants aren’t that proficient. However, legendary drummer Ike Day is present on a quartet “Stuffy” with Ammons. There’s sadly little Day on record but he sounds swinging and creative here. The great Wilbur Ware gets compositional credit and a notable solo on “Riff Raff” with Griffin.

Ammons and Griffin have extensive discographies. While these cuts help fill out their early careers, the LP is notable for Archia and McLin. Archia’s opening chorus on “Whiskey” is restrained and truly beautiful. McLin chews the scenery a bit more and might be be heard to best advantage on a soulful “Bennie’s Bounce.”

Jazz Women: A Feminist Retrospective

This Stash 2-LP set from 1977 was ahead of its time. As far as I know, the set didn’t make much of an impression at first release over forty years ago, but now the topic is in the forefront of the jazz discourse. Bernard Brightman produced this wonderful project, while legendary jazz researcher Frank Driggs contributed a pamphlet included with the LPs, “Women in Jazz: A Survey.” Three more individual LPs were also part of this Stash initiative; the whole 5-LP collection was reviewed by a young Terry Teachout for the Kansas City Star around the time of the second year of the pioneering KC Women’s Jazz Festival, a festival that apparently gave Melba Liston a real boost stateside.

The liner notes to Jazz Women: A Feminist Retrospective are by Mary Lou Williams, a document of unusual importance:

I’m no Mary Lou, but these are my own quick listening notes…

— Lovie Austin & Her Serenaders “Frog Tongue Stomp”
Clarinet – Johnny Dodds
Cornet – Natty Dominique
Drums – W.E. Burton
Piano – Lovie Austin
Trombone – Kid Ory

The set gets off to a very strong start with some really beautiful 1926 music composed by two-fisted pianist Lovie Austin. These are all-stars, and this bluesy “rag” idiom is always attractive.

— Ida Cox “Blue Monday Blues”
Piano – Lovie Austin
Vocals – Ida Cox

More strong piano from Austin, in down-home conversation with the soulful Ida Cox.

— Albert Wynn’s Gutbucket Five “That Creole Band”
Banjo – Rip Bassett
Clarinet – Barney Bigard
Cornet – Dotty Jones
Piano – Jimmy Flowers
Trombone – Albert Wynn

Dotty Jones leads this cheerful 1926 ensemble and is perhaps the most stylish soloist; she’s next door to King Oliver and Louis Armstrong.

New Orleans Wanderers “Perdido Street Blues”
Banjo – Johnny St. Cyr
Clarinet – Johnny Dodds
Cornet – George Mitchell
Piano – Lil Armstrong
Trombone – Kid Ory

Lil Hardin was not just a great pianist but also a great composer. “Perdido Street Blues” rolls gracefully along with what is essentially the Hot Five with George Mitchell standing in for Pops. Worthy piano break. Nobody can play a single note like Kid Ory!

New Orleans Wanderers “Gatemouth”
Banjo – Johnny St. Cyr
Clarinet – Johnny Dodds
Alto Sax — Joe Clark
Cornet – George Mitchell
Piano – Lil Armstrong
Trombone – Kid Ory

Another Lil Hardin tune with a similar cast, this one is a bit brighter but still soulful. Johnny St. Cyr gets a break or two; there’s quite a lot of interviews with St. Cyr, that would be a good project to research. 1926.

Ma Rainey “Trust No Man”
Piano – Lil Henderson
Vocals – Ma Rainey

Ma Rainey was a big star, someone who is a basic architect of this music. “Trust No Man” is her own composition, accompanied by the wonderful Lil Henderson. Like all the blues greats, Rainey merely speaks the truth.

Memphis Minnie “When The Levee Breaks”
Guitar – Memphis Minnie
Guitar, Vocals – Kansas Joe McCoy

This is great! Two guitarists dig into a locomotive rhythm under a plaintive vocal. 1929

Andy Kirk And His Twelve Clouds Of Joy “Sophomore”
Piano – Mary Lou Williams

Andy Kirk was very important. While “Sophomore” has an insane Mary Lou piano break, overall the band is a bit “ricky-ticky” for my taste. This 1930 track seems more dated than anything else so far.

Mary Lou Williams “Nightlife”

Should need no introduction as one of the greatest jazz piano solos of all time.

Ina Ray Hutton And Her Melodears “Wild Party”
Bass – Marie Lebz
Drums – Lil Singer
Guitar – Helen Baker
Leader – Ina Ray Hutton
Piano – Jerrine Hyde, Mirriam Greenfield
Reeds – Audrey Hall, Betty Sticht, Helen Ruth, Ruth Bradley
Trombone – Althea Heuman, Ruth McMurray
Trumpet – Elvira Rohl, Estella Slavin, Kay Walsh

There are two 1934 tracks representing Ina Ray Hutton And Her Melodears, a group comprised of women playing repertoire by Hutton. “Wild Party” burns at a fierce clip. Somewhat “novelty” in impact, with rising key changes to make the song “wilder and wilder.”

Ina Ray Hutton And Her Melodears “Witch Doctor”
(same personnel as above)

Another “novelty” number, in this case of a piece with the “jungle music” of Duke Ellington.

Valaida Snow acc. By Billy Mason And His Orchestra “You Bring Out The Savage In Me”
Trumpet, Vocals – Valaida Snow

Valadida Snow is a good singer, but her soulful and powerful trumpet makes one sit up and take notice. The 1934 track is a bit dated overall.

Lil Armstrong And Her Swing Band “It’s Murder”
Bass – John Frazier
Clarinet – Buster Bailey
Guitar – Huey Long
Piano – Teddy Cole
Tenor Saxophone – Chu Berry
Trumpet – Joe Thomas
Vocals – Lil Armstrong

However, Lil Armstrong’s aesthetic is comparative timeless, and two 1936 tracks swing hard. It’s safe to say that Lil Hardin is one of the most underrated musicians, and to this day there are those that say she couldn’t play, a terribly sexist accusation. In this post-Pops incarnation, she sings her own pieces and turns the piano chair over to Teddy Cole. Her concluding scat on “It’s Murder” is shockingly great.

Lil Armstrong And Her Swing Band “Doing The Suzie Q”
(same personnel as above)

On both of these Lil tracks Chu Berry gets a taste. Teddy Cole is a new name to me but he sounds good.

Joe Brown And His Band “Beaumont Street Blues”
Piano, Vocals – Jewel Paige

Many of the pioneering women were singer/pianists. Jewel Paige hasn’t left much of a footprint but her somewhat Basie-esque stylings in 1940 are enjoyable.

Una Mae Carlisle And Her Jam Band “I Met You Then – I Know You Now”
Bass – Slam Stewart
Drums – Zutty Singleton
Guitar – Everett Barksdale
Piano, Vocals – Una Mae Carlisle
Trumpet – Benny Carter

More familiar is Una Mae Carlisle, who co-wrote this lovely torch song performed with sultry grace with all-stars. Her piano break is very strong.

Six Men And A Girl “Scratching The Gravel”
Bass – Booker Collins
Clarinet, Alto Saxophone – Earl “Buddy” Miller
Drums – Ben Thigpen
Guitar – Floyd Smith
Piano – Mary Lou Williams
Tenor Saxophone – Dick Wilson
Trumpet – Earl Thompson

And, here’s more top-shelf Mary Lou. I guess the band name “Six Men and a Girl” wouldn’t pass muster today. See her own notes on this excellent session, although it’s also confusing that she mentions her husband Shorty Baker, who isn’t listed in the personnel.

Six Men And A Girl “Zonky”
(same personnel as above)

This is a somewhat obscure Fats Waller number with a burning piano break and very good bass from Booker Collins. However virtuoso trumpeter Earl Thompson is the real surprise. Could this actually be Shorty Baker? A question for the specialists…

Woody Herman Orchestra “Three Ways To Smoke A Pipe”
Trumpet – Billie Rogers

According to Wikipedia, trumpeter Billie Rogers is “credited as the first woman to hold a horn position in a major jazz orchestra.” This is a nice and complex chart that flows right along, 1941-style. In her notes, Mary Lou doesn’t discuss every track, and truthfully there could be a bit more meat from the package in terms of guidance. Presumably Rogers is the solo trumpet; if so, she’s an expressive player and makes the most of the first melodic statement.

Jack Teagarden Band “Memories Of You”
Piano – Norma Teagarden
Trombone – Jack Teagarden

Jack is one of the greatest jazz trombonists, of course. Less familiar is his sister on piano. She sounds excellent here as an accompanist, lots of Tatum-esque flourishes.

Dardanelle Trio “After You Get It”
Piano, Vocals –Dardanelle Breckenridge

A charming novelty number.

The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm “Tuxedo Junction”
Baritone Saxophone – Willie Mae Wong
Drums – Pauline Braddy
Leader – Anna Mae Winburn
Piano – Jackie King
Tenor Saxophone – Viola Burnside
Trumpet – Johnnie Mae Stansbury

Yet another all-women band. This is fabulous, very swinging and with one of the more revelatory solos on the set from tenor saxophonist Viola Burnside.

The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm “Sweet Georgia Brown”
(Personnel as above)

Burnside tears it up even more on the second track. Great 1945 music!

Dorothy Donegan “Dorothy’s Boogie Woogie”

A short but satisfying boogie from Donegan, really upstairs in tempo. Talk about chops. A big quote from “C Jam Blues’ sidles up next to some impressionistic harmonies.

Fletcher Henderson And His Orchestra “St. Louis Blues”
Trumpet — Valaida Snow

Not sure if I’ve heard a Fletcher Henderson band from as late as 1945 before. The trumpet from Valaida Snow is outrageous.

Jimmy McPartland And His Dixieland Band “In A Mist”
Bass – Ben Carlton
Clarinet, Alto Saxophone – Jack O’Connell
Cornet – Jimmy McPartland
Drums – Mousie Alexander
Piano – Marian McPartland
Trombone – Harry Lepp

Mary Lou mentions that she loves this Beiderbecke staple, just like everyone else. From 1949, this must be one of Marian McPartland’s earliest recordings. Fabulous “concerto” for the pianist.

Mary Osborne “Rose Room”
Guitar – Mary Osborne

From 1945, Osborne in very much in a Charlie Christian bag, swinging and lyrical. “Rose Room” isn’t really in the repertoire anymore, we play Ellington’s “In a Mellow Tone” instead.

Mary Lou Williams Girl Stars “Conversation”
Bass – June Rotenberg
Drums – Rose Gottesman
Guitar – Mary Osborne
Piano – Mary Lou Williams
Vibraphone – Margie Hyams

A different Mary Lou all-woman band than above on Cafe Society. Nice bebop blues with a brilliant piano solo. Whole band is solid.

Terry Pollard Septet “Mamblues” and with Clark Terry, “Anything You Can Do”

The sparse Stash LP notes don’t clarify the personnel of these two 1955 tracks, which apparently has a double rhythm section including big names like Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke and the lesser-known Bonnie Wetsel and Elaine Leighton. The internet informs me these were from a 10-inch LP that was half Clark Terry and half Terry Pollard: Cats vs. Chicks (A Jazz Battle Of The Sexes). The female and male soloists are in joshing and friendly competition, for example Osborne and Tal Farlow trading choruses. Not sure of any of this really helps the music, which is excellent modern jazz suitable for any turntable. On “Anything” Horace Silver plays rhythm changes first, he is obvious, and then Pollard cleans up. Pollard was a pianist and vibraphonist of rare talent, someone to learn more about. (There are astonishing videos of Pollard on YouTube.)

Sarah McLawler “Red Light”
Drums – Specs Powell
Guitar – Mundell Lowe
Organ, Vocals – Sarah McLawler
Tenor Saxophone – Georgie Auld

Sarah McLawer is a totally new name to me, but this 1953 blues is very fun, with sustained “one note organ rides” that are strikingly effective, in a style closer to Bach than Jimmy Smith. Her blues shouting vocals are great too. Great Auld tenor solo and an avant-garde ending.

Joe Marsala And His Orchestra “Zero Hour”

This nice swinger must be included for the unexpected opening harp flourishes by Adele Girard. She also gets an 8-bar break. However, guitarist Chuck Wayne gets solo honors overall.

Dizzy Gillespie and his Orchestra “My Reverie”
Trombone and arranger — Melba Liston

Melba Liston carries the melody in her arrangement of the pop song inspired by Debussy. Liston’s solo is also virtuosic and sincere. Rhythm section with Charlie Persip, Nelson Boyd, and Walter Davis swings out. A highlight of this set.

Humphrey Lyttelton Band “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You”
Tenor Saxophone – Kathleen Stobart

To finish up, we go to England and a beautiful 1957 feature for the soulful big-toned tenor saxophonist Kathleen Stobart. I’ve noticed that a lot of the best recent tenors have been women, Nicole Glover, Melissa Aldana, Ingrid Laubrock among them. With Stobart and Viola Burnside above, this valuable anthology proves that such matters have been going on as long as there’s been jazz music.

The New Breed: Cecil Taylor. Charles Tolliver, Grachan Moncur, Archie Shepp

This 1978 two-LP set collects two important dates united by record label and aesthetic. Three 1961 studio tunes of Cecil Taylor were originally released under Gil Evans’s imprimatur (the LP Into the Hot also featured wonderful John Carisi music), while the balance is from a long concert at the Village Gate in 1965.

This Cecil Taylor date is so inspired and beautiful. It’s the most Ellingtonian Taylor on record and even has some “swing.” The fact that it is issued “as Gil Evans” is confusing, but…it’s also the most involved, longest, sectional, conventionally-notated Cecil Taylor music that I know of. Perhaps Cecil was working to get up to Gil Evans’s level? (On that notated tip?)

For “Bulbs” and “Pots,” the quintet includes Jimmy Lyons, Archie Shepp, Henry Grimes, and Sunny Murray. There’s a lot of blues; it’s all kind of a gorgeous swirl, including Grimes doubling some of the melodies on arco. The horn solos are fine, but both Lyons and Shepp would play better later. More important are the compositions, which remain engaging and shockingly provocative after all these years. Ted Curson and Roswell Rudd join the band for “Mixed,” a masterpiece. Murray even swings out a bit on “Mixed,” and this texture works well. The constant piano stabs have a somewhat Afro-Cuban effect.

One wonders about an alternate timeline where Cecil Taylor kept this amount of swing and blues in the mix throughout his career…

While these three Taylor pieces are fairly well known and widely available, the music from the Black Arts Repertory Theatre benefit is comparatively less familiar. It was a historic occasion, a unique opportunity to assess diverse aspects of “the new thing” as it was happening live for a major concert produced by Amiri Baraka.

Not present on this particular LP set are performances by Albert Ayler or John Coltrane, although some of their music from this day does appear on other Impulse! releases. The Sun Ra/Betty Carter set was apparently not recorded, and while Cecil Taylor is on the above poster, I don’t think he actually appeared at the Gate that day.

It is particularly helpful to have live 1965 sides from the Charles Tolliver quintet and the Grachan Moncur quartet, offering a kind of brainy and muscular abstraction that was frequently documented on Blue Note in those halcyon years. One wonders how many gigs these musicians were actually playing; all those Blue Note dates have gone into the history books, familiar to any serious fan, but how much was, say, Bobby Hutcherson working in 1965?

At any rate, Hutcherson sounds amazing with both Tolliver and Moncur at the Gate that afternoon. Fans of this vibraphonist need these sets.

Two beautiful tunes from Charles Tolliver are his first recorded tracks as a leader. “The Plight” is a minor waltz, alternating a modal vamp (foreshadowing Joe Henderson’s “Black Narcissus”) with a bit of II/Vs; perfect for this band with James Spaulding, Hutcherson, Cecil McBee, and Billy Higgins. Rudy Van Gelder’s recorded sound is excellent, the image is quite similar to a contemporaneous session out at Englewood Cliffs. Tolliver’s sound is right in there with Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. James Spaulding is always a fresh voice, somewhere between Jackie McLean and Eric Dolphy. However, Hutcherson steals the show.

Even better is a smooth performance of Thelonious Monk’s “Brilliant Corners,” which must be one of the first recordings of this famously difficult piece after Monk’s premiere version a decade earlier. The form has unusual phrase lengths and alternates tempo every chorus, but the band gets it “right” without forgetting to keep it “raw.” A great reminder of how important Monk was to the emerging 60s avant-garde. McBee was just arriving on the scene but jumps right in, commenting up and down the bass, while of course Billy Higgins is never less than perfect.

Grachan Moncur keeps Hutcherson and McBee but brings in Beaver Harris for two tunes. “The Intellect” is a 24-minute sprawl that begins with a diatonic meditation in G-Flat. Hutcherson imitates windchimes, McBee groans in arco, and the leader’s beautiful slow gutbucket trombone is next door to Roswell Rudd. There’s a palpable Charles Ives influence, yet it is also something that could be for a 70’s ECM record. Once the collective improvising starts, “The Intellect” is melodic, atmospheric, and somewhat directionless. Live it would be more engaging. (At home, perhaps a hit of ganja would pull the listeners into unity with the musicians and the universe.) They finally build into a few bars of backbeat but not sure if there’s really a payoff; however Hutcherson does hell of a job sounding like the score to a scary science fiction movie.

More to my taste is the comparatively short and sweet “Blue Free,” which boasts one of the greatest Hutcherson wails I’ve heard over insane McBee. The whole track is exceptional: Moncur channels Monk for this riff piece and Harris swings out. The mid-60s was just such an unbelievably fertile time for experimentation in this music, with — like the title says — true “Blue” and true “Free” as close to each other as they’ve ever gotten.

Archie Shepp wraps things up with “Hambone,” a complex piece familiar from Fire Music, offering bluesy and atonal tropes side by side. Charles Mingus is an obvious influence. When the tenor solo starts, drummer Roger Blank and bassist Reggie Johnson (who, like Joe Segal above, passed away while I was working on this post) go into a long uptempo burn. Fortunately the more idiosyncratic and groovy gestures heard at the beginning of the composition (which must literally relate to the dance called Hambone or Juba) also return. Shepp roils and roars throughout; it’s a shame the great Marion Brown doesn’t get a moment to shine. Baritone saxist Fred Birtle noodles quite a lot in the background and has a short squeaky feature; the band is completed by trumpeter Virgil Jones and trombonist Ashley Fennell.

While on tour with the Martin Speake quartet in England this past February, I bought a pair of CD anthologies at one of the venues. Usually I don’t bother with stuff that seems packaged for a novice, but I noticed that these two volumes of Jazz Greats on the Marshall Cavendish label were overseen by an expert curator, legendary English jazz scribe (and professional-level pianist) Brian Priestley.

In the car, Calum Gourlay, Jorge Rossy, and I listened to the discs with real pleasure and amazement. There’s so much from the first few decades of jazz that deserves the deepest respect and attention. Certainly there’s never been another group of greater pianists working with such unbridled genius and creativity. At this point we can safely say that Art Tatum and the boogie woogie masters left us truly timeless music.

Art Tatum: The Shout contains solos, trios, a few obscure band things, and even a track each from Fats Waller and Oscar Peterson to contextualize Tatum further. I’ve heard a lot of Tatum, but many of these delightful cuts were new to me (especially the trio and band numbers), and each selection is simply astounding in its own way. Priestley seemed to want to emphasize Tatum’s superb blues playing, a smart choice.

Boogie Woogie: Roll ‘Em. Tony Russell and Priestley worked together for a playlist that includes two or three tunes each from acknowledged masters Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson, and Jimmy Yancey alongside selections from names usually known only to the connoisseur: Pinetop Smith, Montana Taylor, Cripple Clarence Lofton, Romeo Nelson, Big Maceo Merriweather, Little Brother Montgomery, Joe Turner, and others. A pair of band tracks from Benny Goodman and Louis Jordan contextualize the music further. I’ve owned a lot of boogie anthologies over the years and this is definitely one of the best.