Saturday, August 02, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records - Part 14: Kai Winding

Some jazz musicians object to the word "jazz" as a name for their music, arguing that its origins as a slang word for sex trivialize the music it's attached to.  But that same delicate sensibility doesn't seem to have extended to beboppers, if their propensity for making "bop" puns is any indication. 
Take this Kai Winding session, for example, and "A Night on Bop Mountain." I'm not complaining, you understand. I love all these bad bop puns, and the bad puns on the names of the performers. And I love this boppified version of "A Night on Bald Mountain."

File this under Stuff I've never heard before. I really only knew Kai Winding from the J.J. and Kai recordings, so this is a chance to catch up on him earlier in his career. And file this under I Thought I Was Getting Away From Scandinavians For a While: Winding was Danish. Family emigrated to America when he was 12.

As noted before, this is a music lover blog, not a music critic blog and certainly not a music educator blog, but I'm always willing to learn something new, so here, from Barbara (BJBear) Major's Kai Winding site, a little music education:

Kai was an "upstream" player and a form of Type IV in the Pivot System (mouthpiece low on the embouchure and airstream directed upwards into the mouthpiece). This produces a totally different tonal quality on the instrument than someone who is a "downstream" player.

 The group here is the Kai Winding Sextette, featuring Brew Moore (ts), Gerry Mulligan (bs), George Wallington (p),Curly Russell (b), Max Roach (d), and the recording date is August 23, 1949. They may not have made a lot of waves - most Winding bios seem to skip over this part of his career, mentioning his work with big bands and then jumping to the J.J. and Kai group, but they made some impressive music.
In 1949, Gerry Mulligan had yet to lead his own group, and he was better known as an arranger, but this session doesn't sound Mulligan-arranged. It's a little harsher than I'd expect from Mulligan arrangements.
And this is interesting: a Gerry Mulligan discography  lists a few 1949 sessions led by. Kai Winding and featuring Mulligan. One in April, which featured the same front line of Winding, Moore and Mulligan, and two thirds of the same rhythm section* -- Wallington and Russell, but with Kenny Clarke on drums, lists Mulligan as both baritone sax and arranger.The April recordings included "Godchild," later to be a part of the iconic Miles Davis Birth of the Cool sessions, also featuring Winding on trombone and Mulligan's arrangements.

However, the August recording lists him only as baritone sax player. His playing has a little harsher tone than the mellow sound he developed -- almost Lester Young on the baritone sax, which sounds pretty close to impossible when you say it, but because of Mulligan we take it for granted that a baritone sax can do that. On this set, in some places, his sax sounds more like the rhythm instrument that a baritone sax had mostly been -- and brilliant even at that -- but in a few solos he really stretches out.

Mulligan is certainly in the Jazz Hall of Fame. Kai Winding is probably in the fall of Jazz Lovers Know Who He Is, and Brew Moore in the hall of Really Serious Jazz Lovers Know Who He Is, but they all complement each other on these recordings.

"Sid's Bounce" and "A Night on Bop Mountain" were one New Jazz 78; "Broadway" and "Waterworks" were the other. Alternate takes of  Broadway" and "Waterworks" made it onto the 45 RPM EP of the session, and onto PRLP 109, which brought Winding and J. J. Johnson together but separate.

* These guys seem to have played together a lot in 1949. Essentially  the same group also recorded as the George Wallington Septet and the Brew Moore Septet.

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