Monday, August 18, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records, Part 22: Al Haig

Next up on the Jazz Discography Project is a Charlie Parker session, and that got my juices flowing, because there's still no more magical name in jazz than Charlie Parker. But I can't include it. Jazzdisco lists every session that eventually got released by Prestige, so this one is included, but it was only a rerelease package put out in 1973, by which time there was really no more Prestige. In 1971 it had been sold to Fantasy, a West Coast label, and it was essentially just a reissue house.

I don't know yet how long I'll keep this blog going. Maybe 1971 is a good year to stop. I'd been thinking 1969, which would give me a twenty year run. I'll have to see how thin the pickings get as we get farther into the 60s -- I'm making a point of not looking ahead, but letting things unfold to me as they unfolded in those years. And remember, to me this is still history. I was ten years old in 1950, and had never heard of jazz.

So anyway, the Charlie Parker set is a live recording from St. Nicholas Arena, mostly known for boxing, so fight fan Miles Davis would have felt right at home had he still been with the group, but he wasn't. Red Rodney was the trumpeter, and the rhythm section was Al Haig, Tommy Potter, and Roy Haynes.

Stick around with that rhythm section, however, because they're next on deck. There are two more European recordings (the Jacques Dieval Quintet with Peck and Moody again, this time Annie Ross one song, but it can't be found at any of my sources; a Swedish group led by Arne Domnerus), and on February 27, the Al Haig Trio.

They recorded four songs -- "Liza," "Stars Fell on Alabama," "Stairway to the Stars," and "Opus Caprice" -- the last an Al Haig composition, and all of them, for whatever reason, songs he had also recorded with Stan Getz.

Of them, none can be found on YouTube, and only "Liza" on Spotify. If you want to share this listening experience with me, and you're a Spotify subscriber, you can follow me, or connect with me through Facebook, and I'll share my "Prestige" playlist with you -- whatever Prestige recording session I'm listening to on that day. Or you can just find the songs yourself. If you have a really great vinyl collection, of course, you can just go straight to the source -- like this 45 RPM EP.

Today, my playlist only has one song on it -- "Liza." So plenty of leisure to give it several listens, and really appreciate how good Al Haig -- not just as an accompanist, but as a soloist. Influenced as much by Monk as by Bud Powell, but very much his own man. I'm guessing he wasn't in that much demand as a leader, but if this is any guide, he should have been.

Tommy Potter steps out in front too, and acquits himself wonderfully. I'm trying to think if there were any superstars of the bass during this period, other than Charles Mingus. People like Paul Chambers came later. Ray Brown was around, but I don't think he was out front much in those years. Oscar Pettiford, probably. Jimmy Blanton, certainly, but he died so young. Slam Stewart, but in a different context. Tommy Potter and Curly Russell were the backbone of so much of bebop, and you read so little about them, but they were so important.

I can't hear Roy Haynes's name in my head without hearing Sarah Vaughan, on "Shulie a Bop" (on Mercury), introducing "Roy...(drumroll)...Haynes (drumroll)!" Haynes is still alive, still performing, still great.

And me...listening to "Liza" one more time. and wishing I had the rest of the session.

No comments: