GLASGOW JAZZ FESTIVAL PREVIEW
_ Living the tradition
Jackie McLean Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean's career is probably about as close as it is possible to get in tracking the main developments of post-warjazz through a single individual. Hooked initially by Lester Young and Ben Webster. he quickly became a devotee and acolyte of Charlie Parker. switched to both alto and bop, and established himself as a leading light in that ﬁeld.
In the 60s. he moved increasingly into freerjazz. including playing with Omette Coleman on trumpet on the controversial Blue Note album New and 01d Gospel in I967. a bold stroke which brought him ‘a lot of ﬁghts with trumpet players'. and exploring free music with his own band. In the end. though. it brought him to an impasse (‘we always entered through a different door and came to the same room‘); he had a brief digression intojazz-funk. and as jazz education began to grow in the US. became a professor at Hartford. Connecticut. and returned to a kind of bop orthodoxy in his own music.
McLean says of himself that. ‘l have never been in the forefront of any new style. but I have been able to align myself with a number of different styles. and maybe add something to them.‘ and that seems an astute. if self- effacing.judgement. At 62. he is beginning to nudge toward veteran status. but recent albums like the Dynasty set on Triloka from 1990. and the just-released The Jar/tie Mae Altai-k Live (Birdology). recorded in Holland in 1991. reveal no loss of powers.
The Sextet which he will bring to Glasgow features his tenor and soprano-playing son Rene. who has picked up quite a lot of Jackie‘s feisty. querulous tone and harmonic fluidity along the way. and this concert has to go down as an essential for anyone into bop-based jazz. With ex-Miles saxrnan Steve Grossman. Ronnie Scott and Tommy Smith also on the bill. it should certainly work out as value for money. (Kenny Mathieson)
The Jackie McLean Sextet. Steve Grossman Quartet. Ronnie St'ott Group and Tomm y Smith '3 Forward Motion play at the Fruitmarket on Sun II at 7pm.
16 The List 2—15 July—i993
_ Oopicus cat
Kenny Mathieson gets excited about the mercurial saxophone giant David Murray.
The Californian born saxophonist David Murray would be many people's choice as the most exciting single player on the current jazz scene. Murray has all the ingredients: a huge. immensely powerful saxophone sound. a ﬁrm grip ofjazz styles from traditional through to the radical fringe. and an apparently inexhaustible fund of harmonic strategies which make every solo a new adventure.
For Murray himself. though. this kind of speculation is pointless. or rather. beside the point. World domination is not on his agenda: instead. he just wants. ‘to be one of the cats who can play'. He is a busy. busy musician. and likes it that way. but is never content simply to rest on his laurels and play the stuff which brought him a good reaction last time around.
‘I will keep trying to be creative. There are a lot of people out there who like to play the same things over and over. but I am constantly trying to make myself change and do something different. It took me a long time to develop my own concept and my own sound in the music. but that is what you have to do in any of the arts. You study others. because you're not gonna come on it all by yourself. but you have to keep working at getting that sound of your own.‘
When Murray arrived in New York in the mid-70s. his own early role models
David Murray: cat who can play
ranged from Ben Webster and Charlie Parker through to Albert Ayler. although he later grew impatient with critics and listeners who would. ‘yell Ayler! Ayler! every time you played a honk on the horn'. His apprentice stage is long since past. however. and the mature style of his late-thirties is broad. expansive. electrifying. and still openly experimental when the occasion demands.
The trio he will bring to Glasgow features two of the greatest rhythm
players to have come out of the freer. more experimental end of American jazz. with the great Fred Hopkins on bass. and drummer Andrew Cyrille. The threesome push each other to some amazing places in a band which seems linked by both a telepathic single consciousness. and a deep-rooted need to keep pushing back the boundaries of what they can achieve.
It is only one facet of Murray‘s prodigious output. however. and much of that fecund productivity ﬁnds its way onto a barrage of recordings. The copious Murray discography which someone will doubtless produce one day will list solo discs. duos. trios. quartets. quintets. and on through his octet to big band. chamber ensembles. the World Saxophone Quartet (he remains a member of that stellar outﬁt). and who knows what else in due course.
‘l would like to be able to play with everyone who plays jazz. in fact. with everyone who plays any kind of music.‘ Murray says. drawing parallels in the latter context with Duke Ellington's assimilation of world musical voices. He ﬁnds the neglect ofcreative musicians by the recording industry a constant frustration. and is proud to be associated with projects like trumpeter Bobby Bradford's tribute to the late. great jazz composer John Carter. Death ofa Sideman. or his own forthcoming Baltic Suite. made with an ensemble of German and Scandinavian musicians.
There is no better way to hear Murray. though. than in the kind of mutually creative. close-contact. improvised give-and-take which we can conﬁdently expect to hear in Glasgow. The saxophonist in full flight is an awesome experience. and all the more so in the kind of company he will be keeping. Then again. the best does tend to gravitate to the best.
The David Murray Trio play at the Fruitmarket on Sat 3 at 7pm.
_ Space explorer
‘A great piano player who never got the recognition he deserved.’ That was Miles Davis’s now much-cited summing-up of the position of Ahmad Jamal in the modern jazz spectrun. Ills greatest period of public success came in the late 50s and 60s, when he led a successful trio in a style which built on the verifies of swing and mainstream harmonic developments, and hit big with his famous (but currently unavailable) ‘At The Pershing’ album in 1958.
It is easy to hear why his spacious, understated, tightly controlled conception appealed to Miles, who thought along very similar lines in his own albums of the period. In the 60s, Ahmad Jamal (born Fritz Jones in Pittsburgh, he adopted the Muslim name in the early 503) experimented with a more unbridled approach, documented on albums like ‘The Awakening’ (Impulse) and the hard-to- find ‘Extensions’, but that stylistic extension has now been re-absorbed within his distinctive take on mainstream jazz. Ills Glasgow date will
feature his current trio, a format particularly associated with him.
‘The trio is maybe the Rolls Royce among my vehicles. I’ve had many vehicles - quartets, quintets, big bands, orchestras, but the trio is the one I use most frequently, and I think I am identified with it most often. Also, my trios have been greatly emulated over the years. I have had a lot of wonderful musicians In them, and we have set a model in the way that Nat King Cole’s trio set a model for me.’
In the 70s and 803, Jamal used orchestral settings (‘I conceive all my music orchestrally’) and electric and electronic keyboards to experiment with colour and textures, a further broadening of his stylistic palette
which is captured in one of the most consistent of his later recordings, ‘Digital Works’ (Atlantic, 1985).
Despite that broadening out, he remains essentially and uncompromisineg an acoustic jazz player, and he has refused to tailor his music to the ebb and flow of fashion, but has pursued his chosen course with admirable tenacity and, in his own word, discipline. This long overdue first Scottish concert will be a chance to take stock of precisely where that determination has led him in his exploration of the ‘mysterles of this strange art of music’. (Joe Alexander)
The Ahmad Jamal Trio plays at the Fruitmarket on Tue 6 at 7pm.