Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Bud POWELL and Don BYAS - A Tribute To Cannonball 1961
1979 Issue. JC 35755
When he left for Europe in the fall of 1946 with the Don Red man band, Don Byas' reputation was at its peak. Admired by the modernists at Minton's no less than by the swing-styled players of his own generation on 52nd Street, he was celebrated as a tireless, original and influential saxophonist. His solo on Basie's "Harvard Blues" had created a stir in 1941 and he followed it with a remarkable series of recordings for small labels. In his romantic approach to "Laura," he had something of a hit. He stayed in Europe, becoming the first in a continuously expanding family of expatriate jazzmen, and although the great Don Byas was much in demand by the jazz-appreciative Europeans, he was largely forgoffen back home. Few of his records were available here and without personal appearances it is difficult, if not impossible, to sustain a following. He returned to the U.S. once, in the summer of 1970, received little of the money or adulation he might have expected, and returned to Holland where he died in August 1972 of lung cancer. He was 59.
Don Byas was a seminal figure in the development of the tenor saxophone and a transitional one twixt the schools of swing and bop. Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 1912, he played alto as a teenager, subbing in territorial bands like Bennie Moten's and Walter Page's Blue Devils. As a student at Langston College, he led his own band, Don Byas and the Collegiate Ramblers. Between 1933, when he switched to tenor, and 1941, he worked with a variety of bands, first in California and then New York -among them: Buck Clayton, Lionel Hampton, Eddie Barefield, Eddie Mallory, Lucky Millinde, Andy Kirk and Redman. In January '41, he became Lester Young's successor in the Count Basie band and quickly established his abilities, cementing his reputation.
Byas' style evolved in the lush, rococo, full-bodied tenor tradition of Coleman Hawkins, but his sound was unmistakably his own, immediately recognizable. A master of technique, he accomplished both the tenderest warmth and the most strident sting. His sense of drama coupled with a brilliant use of dynamics and timbre, a deeply-felt romanticism-which on occasion dripped into sentimentality, his worst piffall-and an unsurpassable sense of swing made his improvisations unique.
When these sides were made in Paris in late 1961- and they are a treasure now exposed to light for the first time-Byas found himself the unofficial patriarch of an expatriate jazz community boasting some of the major figures in the new music. Kenny "Klook" Clarke, virtually the father of modern drumming and a co-founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet, arrived in 1956. Three years later, pianist Bud Powell, the unpredictable genius who could count even Art Tatum among his admirers, arrived and with Clarke and the much-admired French bassist Pierre Michelot formed The Three Bosses. Idrees Sulieman, one of the most astute disciples of Dizzy Gillespie, made the leap shortly after, settled in Stockholm, became an expert saxophonist, and eventually a member of the extraordinary big band Kenny Clarke co-leads with Francy Boland.
This session is significant-well, "significant" is so coldly academic, perhaps I should say "wonderful" instead-for a number of reasons. Chiefly, it captures great players playing great music. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the music we call jazz-at least to a Western mind-is the way in which undiluted individuality is magically meshed with supplication [surely this last word is an editor or typesetter's mangling ofthe writer's intended "subordination"-O.K.] to the group. Byas and Powell, although they played together on numberless occasions going back to the mid-'40s, represent two approaches to the music reflecting two eras: Before (Charlie) Parker and After Parker. Byas was a masterful swing player with his own style, and advanced sense of harmony and a confidence and adventurousness that found him hanging around the beboppers and asking to play. He held his own and did so while insistently remaining himself: he never picked up the rhythmic phrases, the lightning triplets, that are indigenous to bop. Yet Parker said of him that Byas was playing everything there was to play.
Powell and Clarke are the quintessential beboppers. Listen-and consider all the revolutionary chaos bebop was supposed to have inflicted on jazz-to how lovingly they communicate with Byas. Listen to how the saxophone and piano solos complement and enhance each other though the syntax is different. And listen to the way Clarke of Pittsburgh and Michelot, once of the Paris Opera, cook together.
The three standards represented are given exceptional performances. "Cherokee" features particularly vigorous work from Byas, including a stunning coda. Bud is in rare form, ripping through the changes, creating his own cosmos. "All The Things You Are" is introduced by Michelot playing the familiar bop rift, but the theme isn't stated until the out chords. Sulieman has a solid spot and Byas follows with an explosive chorus that is a tale unto itself. The rhythm section is boiling on "Just One Of Those Things." Byas authoritatively takes charge, his passion nicely contrastpd by Powell's exquisite and deliberate exploration.
"Good Bait" is one of the best known compositions by Tadd Dameron, whose largely unheralded work in a too- brief and tortured career has since provided nice incomes for dozens of TV composers and Hollywood hacks. This is a special performance: Byas, obviously in a good mood, toys with strict bop phraseology, showing that he could do pretty much whatever he chose.
Sulieman is in excellent form. Benny Golson's haunting "I Remember Clifford" was a favorite with both Byas and Powell. It is a beautiful but mournful tune that each was to record again at later times. For Bud, there must have been a special meaning: his younger brother, Richie, was killed in the same accident that took Clifford Brown's life. Byas is featured movingly and Powell has a brief but impeccably lush passage.
"Jeannine" is a 16-bar line with an eight bar release. [It had been recorded the previous year by Cannonball's own quinteL -O.K.] Clarke opens and closes it with everyone getting one relaxed chorus. "Myth" is a 16-bar blues. On the ballad "Jackie My Little Cat," Byas is featured for two choruses except for an eight bar piano interlude. He sticks close to the melody, demonstrating how much a great player can say with sonority and graceful embellishment.
Bud Powell preceded Byas in returning to his homeland. He came back in 1964 and spenttwo years in a state of despondency and frustration, playing hardly at all. He died in July 1966, the most brilliant pianist of his time, at the age of 41. Byas' playing was also to suffer in his last few years; he seemed tired, he was losing a battle with alcohol. The music they fashioned continues, however, outside of time and the inequities of life. It sings with vitality of love and sorrow, transforms the moment with grand sunsets and pathetic drizzles, defies indifference with the preachment of hope.
By D. Orlando .
Idrees Sulieman- Trumpet
Bud Powell- Piano
Pierre Michelot- Bass
Kenny Clarke- Drums
Cannonball Adderley- Alto Sax
A1. Good Bait (Count Basie) 6:31
A2. Jeannine 5:59
A3. All the Things You Are 7:24
A4. Myth 5:30
B1. Just One of Those Things (Cole) Porter 5:08
B2. Jackie My Little Cat 4:48
B3. Cherokee 6:19
B4. I Remember Clifford 6:15
B5. Jackie My Little Cat 4:48