Monday, July 27, 2015

Listening to Prestige Part 134: Teddy Charles

This is my first Prestige encounter with an old friend -- J. R. Monterose, who spent many years of his career upstate New York, where he played with the same passion and flair that he brought to his big apple gigs with musicians like Teddy Charles and Charles Mingus. And Teddy Charles could not have chosen a better cat for the saxophone part in this session, which is marked throughout by the closeness of communication between those three principals. So let's talk about the music.

"Violetta" gives good solo space to everyone, and some really interesting duet interplay between Charles and Monterose.

"I Can't Get Started" is taken at a slow tempo, and for about the first half is a meditative solo by Charles. Then Mingus comes in, and stays around for a while -- a longer bass solo than one is used to in recorded jazz, and his musicality never flags--nor does it when he remains prominent, weaving in and out of J. R.'s solo. J. R. would work again with Mingus on his classic Pithecanthropus Erectus album on Atlantic.

"Jay Walkin'" starts with a solo by Mingus, then turns into a three-way conversation between Charles, Mingus and Monterose, sort of like the strands of a lanyard.

"Speak Low," I've just discovered after playing a small role in a production of Much Ado About
Nothing, was actually written by Shakespeare. Well, the first line is. The rest of the song is a collaboration between very European Kurt Weill and very American Ogden Nash. The collaboration was an odd one, but it worked for the musical One Touch of Venus, which produced this song. Actually, the collaboration between the mostly far-out Teddy Charles and the mostly straight ahead J. R. Monterose is an interesting one, too, but Charles often sought out collaborators who kept him grounded. This one starts off with a haunting solo by J. R. on Weill's haunting melody, gives Jerry Segal a chance to show what he can do, and ends with something almost like a restatement of the head.

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