Thursday, July 17, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records project - Part 7

We're still early in 1949, but at least we're in Paris in the Spring. Well, almost. There have always been expatriate jazz musicians. One of the first was Sidney Bechet, who originally came over to France as part of a revue with Josephine Baker. Baker stayed on to become one of France's mist celebrated entertainers, while Bechet went back and forth, and did not permanently settle in France until 1951. By that time, a postwar community of jazz expatriates was developing, and a French jazz label, Vogue, was formed.

Jazz musicians went to Europe for a variety of reasons. Jazz was waning as a popular music in the USA in the 1940s and 50s, while not yet being accepted as a serious art form. Europe offered both popular and artistic recognition. Stan Getz moved to Denmark to try to kick a drug habit. But a lot of black musicians chose Europe to get away from the racism which had not ameliorated after World War II.

James Moody was one of those. He lived in Europe for three years, and recorded there. His two
sessions in the spring of 1949 were April 30 in Lausanne, Switzerland, with a group of expatriates, and two weeks later on May 15 in Paris with an all-star group of beboppers led by Max Roach.

I can't find any tunes from the Roach session, either on YouTube or Spotify. Amazon has an album called Pleyel Jazz Concert 1948/Quintet 1949, the second part of which is the Roach session, but the tracks on it aren't available for download. The group, in addition to Roach and Moody, was Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Al Haig (piano), Tommy Potter (bass). Recorded for French Vogue, various cuts of it made their way to both Blue Note and Prestige. Prestige included one number on one of their first LPs,  PRLP 113, under Kenny Dorham's name.

The Lausanne session is easier to find, on Spotify as part of a collection called "James Moody 1948-49," and I found one cut on YouTub, but when I came back to link to it, couldn't find it again. His all-expatriate combo consisted of Art Simmons (piano) Alvin "Buddy" Banks (bass) Clarence Terry (drums) Al Edwards (vocals). None of them familiar names to me, probably because their careers were almost entirely expatriate. Art Simmons (who contributes some superb piano here, solo and comp), however, belongs to yet another thread on this blog. A few years ago Peter Jones and I decided to try to make a list of every living musician who had played with Charlie Parker. Many of them are gone now, of course, but here are the names we came up with.

One we missed was Art Simmons. Here, from Wikipedia:
Simmons played in a band while serving in the U.S. military in 1946. He remained in Germany after the war, studying music, and moved to Paris in 1949. There he studied at the Paris Conservatory and the Ecole Normale de Musique, playing with Charlie Parker and Kenny Clarke at the Paris Jazz Festival; he also played with Aaron Bridgers, Don Byas, Robert Mavounzy, and Nelson Williams. He led his own group at the Ringside Club in 1951. In the early 1950s he played with Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, and toured London with singers such as Bertice Reading. As resident pianist at the Mars Club, he worked with Michel Gaudry, Pierre Cullaz, and Elek Bacsik, and accompanied touring singers such as Carmen McRae and Billie Holiday (1958). In the early 1960s he played in a duo with Art Taylor.

Simmons also did arranging work for Barclay Records. In 1971 he played in Spain; following this he returned to the United States and retired.
So unless someone has newer information, Art Simmons is still alive. Is no one interviewing him, getting his life story?


Moody is solid on the session, and the trio of expatriates (Banks played regularly with Smmons; I couldn't find anything on Terry) provide solid backup, with Simmons (and Banks to a lesser extent) taking some nice solos. Moody does that bebopper's trick of interpolating well-known phrases ("Yankee Doodle") into the middle of a solo, and he plays a couple of figures that suggest ideas he'll develop later in the year, in "Moody's Mood."

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