Saturday, February 9, 2008

Riffs: Tempus, Fug It!

In the wake of my earlier reflections on the passing of the two great jazzmen, Frank Morgan and Oscar Peterson, I have been spending more time in the enjoyment of my collection of recorded jazz. This collection consists of about a hundred vinyl albums, several dozen commercial cassettes, maybe a hundred CDs, and a couple hundred mixes that I put together on 90-minute cassettes, back in the day before computers began to come equipped with CD burners. This old computer doesn’t have one, but even if it did it wouldn’t help me with combining tracks from vinyl, tape, and CD in a program on a single medium; only my ever-so-pre-9/11 stereo is up to that task. (MS, I’m not investing in the gadgets that will do it. I’m good with what I’ve got.)

I’m listening to a newly-acquired retrospective CD covering the career of Oscar Peterson as I type. But mostly I’ve been listening to my long-neglected collection of vinyl albums. This current kick of mine can be referred to as: Jazz at 4 AM.

One thought that has hit home as I’ve made my way through my collection is that in several instances I’ve been listening to albums that I last put on the turntable twenty years or more ago. At that rate, I realized, it wouldn’t be difficult to find an actuarial table somewhere to predict that I am now listening to most of these records for the last time. Ever.

Sic transit gloria mundi…

Of the albums I’ve listened to during this binge, let me mention a couple in a little detail:

The first is a CD that I gave a listen to because one of the primary artists on it, George Shearing, was mentioned in On the Road: the Original Scroll, which I am still reading. In addition to Shearing, the album also features a female vocalist about whom not enough is heard, imo—Dakota Staton. The title of the album is In the Night: the George Shearing Quintet with Dakota Staton. In addition to the title tune, a few of the outstanding tracks include: Confessin’ the Blues; The Thrill is Gone; and The Late, Late Show. Highly recommended. Goes well with Jack Daniels.

But the brightest gem that has turned up during this jazz kick has to be a double vinyl album featuring sax man, Oliver Nelson. Released in 1978 on the Impulse! label, as Volume II of The Dedication Series and titled Three Dimensions (MCA Impulse 2-4148), my copy has a notch cut in the cover, indicating that I pulled it out of a discount bin, probably at the Tower Records on either upper or lower Broadway, in Manhattan. (I also have volume VIII in the series, waiting on deck).

The tracks on sides A and B of the double album were recorded on February 23, 1961, in New Jersey, and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder. The band on these sides is: Oliver Nelson, tenor and alto sax; Eric Dolphy, alto sax and flute; Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; George Barrow, baritone sax; Bill Evans, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; and Roy Haynes, drums. It would be difficult to come up with a better band than that. I have been sent into special paroxysms by Dolphy’s flute and Evan’s keyboard work on these sides.

The band on sides C and D is: Oliver Nelson, soprano sax; Steve Kuhn, piano; Ron Carter, bass; and Grady Tate, drums. (Why is the drummer always listed last, Ringo?) These tracks were laid down at Capitol Studios in New York City in 1966, engineered by Bob Simpson. Again outstanding. Nelson wrote all the tunes on sides A, B, and C. Side D features Thelonius Monk’s classic, Straight, No Chaser, and the tune The Shadow of Your Smile (J. Mandel & P. F. Webster) from the movie The Sandpiper.

If you’re not an audiophile collecting old vinyl, I’m sure that this music is available on CD somewhere. Find it. Buy it. Dig it. Tempus fugit. Or as Norman Mailer might have put it: Tempus, fug it!