Saturday, February 11, 2017

Listening to Prestige 243: Prestige All Stars

This is the kind of album that if you're listening to it while doing something else, you keep getting pulled back to it. You keep hearing riffs that have you saying. "Oh, my, yes," or you realize that you're in the middle of a solo that started out good and keeps getting better, and pretty soon whatever else it was that you were doing, you're not doing it any more. You're just listening to jazz.

All the tunes are by Mal Waldron, and each one is different, and each is remarkable in its own way.

"Count One" with some rollicking, stomping Waldron piano, and then allows Frank Wess and Thad Jones to show some of their Basie chops. Wess opens it up with his solo, then Jones tears it up with his, taking Basie to a whole new dimension. His solo is probably the highlight of the number, except that everyone else is pretty near as good. A tight solo by Kenny Burrell, then Waldron again, and maybe he's the highlight. Paul Chambers contributes a lengthy solo, and by this time we've left Basie far behind for some vintage Prestige-style jamming bebop, but then Basie veterans Jones and Wess come back for a swinging solid jazz ensemble that could work in any era.

"Steamin'" lives up to its name, and where'd the name come from? It's the title of one of the albums drawn from the Miles Davis Contractual Marathon, so is this Waldron's tribute to Miles, following his tribute to the Count? Not in a million years. For one thing, the Marathon sessions may have preceded this one, but the Steamin' album would not be titled, or released, for a few years yet, so it's more likely the other way around. Weinstock was looking for another gerund with a dropped "g," and remembered this one. That's a reasonable theory, because how could you forget it? Chambers and Taylor lay down a groove that would turn Lawrence Welk into a bebopper. The head is a maniacally repeated riff, and as with the previous cut, each solo leaves you thinking no one can possibly top it, until the next one comes along. Kenny Burrell picks up Thad
Jones so seamlessly that you almost can't tell where one leaves off and the other begins, which is no mean trick if you're dealing with a trumpet and a guitar. Frank Wess, on flute this time, manages the same feat, and if you had to pick one solo on this cut to give the blue ribbon to, it might be Wess. Mal Waldron had just started working as Billie Holiday's accompanist, and accompanying a singer takes a certain kind of focus, especially a singer as unique as Holiday, especially a singer as unstable as Holiday was by this time in her life. So I guess he had that urge to let loose, and play some of the blindingly fast and endlessly inventive stuff he plays here.

"Empty Street" is a ballad as haunting as its title, and gives Burrell his best solo space. "Blue Jelly" is more than just a late afternoon five o'clock blues. It's another superb Waldron composition, with some extended ensemble play along with the great solos.

The album came out as an All Stars session--that is, no name above the title, which was After Hours.  Thad Jones's name came first, and it's often thought of as a Jones album. Later -- after the Miles Davis release -- it became Steamin', by Frank Wess and Kenny Burrell.

 



 Order Listening to Prestige, Vol. 1 here.

2 comments:

kold_kadavr_ flatliner said...

Just as there's only 2 positions
for a light switch, UP or DOWN,
the on position is pointing skyward...
while the off position is pointing
toward our demise, to the whorizontal.

Many analogies we might surmise
of that proposition... yet,
only 1 belief in the King of Hearts
who gives U.S. His Magnificent Light.

If that's too difficult 4u2c,
here's what I suggest:
I suggest you getta pair of GodlySpex
from the Divine Physician.

God bless your indelible soul.
Yes, earthling, I was an NDE...

kold_kadavr_ flatliner said...

Just as there's only 2 positions
for a light switch, UP or DOWN,
the on position is pointing skyward...
while the off position is pointing
toward our demise, to the whorizontal.

Many analogies we might surmise
of that proposition... yet,
only 1 belief in the King of Hearts
who gives U.S. His Magnificent Light.

If that's too difficult 4u2c,
here's what I suggest:
I suggest you getta pair of GodlySpex
from the Divine Physician.

God bless your indelible soul.
Yes, earthling, I was an NDE...