Friday, November 21, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 52: Teddy Charles

Perhaps he went into the studio a Teddy Cohen and came out as Teddy Charles? Anyway, this is how jazzdisco credits the album, although certainly all later issues have him as Teddy Charles, and 1951 was the year that the gentleman changed his name.

I wasn't familiar with Teddy Charles's music -- I may have heard it, but never really sat down and listened to it, so this was an opportunity to get acquainted with someone I'd overlooked, and the acquaintanceship proves to be well worth it. 
He's working here with a trio, featuring two other unfamiliar names. I can't find any information on Don Roberts, and the only other credit I've found for Kenny O'Brien is a Jackie and Roy album. But with only three instruments, and none of them a piano, they're all able to get close to the mike, so although O'Brien may not have been one of the biggest names in modern jazz, he becomes the first bassist to take extended solos on a Prestige album. The album is fascinating. Charles shows his avant garde credentials on "This is New," but then he plays an odd selection of material for an avant-gardist -- mostly standards. And while some of them, like "the Lady is a Tramp" and "I'll Remember April" are the kind of tunes one would expect to hear a bebopper improvising on, others, like "Old Man River" and especially "Basin Street Blues" seem to belong to a whole different musical sensibility. And Charles, while he always moves toward the inventive and experimental, is very respectful of all these melodies.

Teddy Charles left music in the 1960s to become a charter boat captain in the Caribbean, and according to one source Charles observed that there was plenty in common between the uncompromising demands of seafaring and the spontaneous challenges of jazz." He came back to music late in life, and continued playing and recording until his death in 2012, at age 84.

 A couple of tunes from this session -- "I Got it Bad" and "Liza" -- were never released. The rest came out on a 10-inch LP, and two sides -- "I'll Remember April" and "The Lady is a Tramp," which are, as it happens, the ones I picked out as most bebop-friendly -- were released on a New Jazz 78, with the leader being identified as Teddy Cohen, though he's Teddy Charles on the LP. All the selections are short enough to fit on 78, but at this point Weinstock appears to be edging away from that format. There's a good representation of Teddy Charles on YouTube, but nothing from this album. Spotify has the whole thing,

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