Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Grupo De Cantares De Manhouce ‎– Cantares da Beira (1982)

Style: Folk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Edições Valentim de Carvalho, Som Livre

01.   Ó Andorinha Ligeira
02.   A Folha Do Castanheiro
03.   Vira Da Aldeia
04.   Sr. S.Macairinho
05.   Don Solidon
06.   Carinhosa
07.   A Rabela
08.   Ó Zé
09.   Ó Meu Amor Quando Fores
10.   O Tareio
11.   Senhora Da Pedra
12.   Lá Vem O Vento Da Noite

Credits: Producer – Mário Martins

Pillowtalk ‎– Je Ne Sais Quoi (2014)

Style: House
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Wolf + Lamb Records

01.   Our Story
02.   We All Have Rhythm
03.   Devil's Run
04.   Slim's Night Out
05.   Lullaby
06.   Meet Me In The Dark
07.   The Night I Met Luther
08.   If I Try
09.   Home Sick
10.   Naive
11.   Walls
12.   La To The Bay
13.   The Outcast (Acoustic Version)

PillowTalk seem to have been making interesting, eclectic and experimental records for an age, so it is interesting to hear how their sound has matured and is sustained across this, their debut album. 
Ever difficult to pigeon-hole PillowTalk are San Francisco three-piece Sammy D, Ryan Williams and Mikey Tello. They all bring an important element to the mix, with Sammy providing distinctive, soulful vocals, Williams guitars and keys, and Tello all that spacey synth work. The result is distinctive and yet incredibly versatile - at times cosmic and beautiful, at others gritty and soulful.

Je Ne Sais Quoi wears its heart on its sleeve and there are a slew of influences, whether subtle, painstakingly obvious or, as on The Night I Met Luther, deliberately called out. What is surprising is how well these various sounds work - an early high point is Devil's Run, a pure-Springsteen moment that is clearly influenced by the trio's final recording session in Portland, Oregon. Similarly, Slim's Night Out is a grimey take on vintage-Prince. 
Yet there are also more original and innovative moments, like 4 Walls, a collaboration with DOP and Navid Izadi that focused on trying to create a track at 144 beats per minute that retains a soulful feel... And they effortlessly achieve it within a single 90-minute recording session. 
With their focus on live instrumentation and experimentation in combination with soul PillowTalk operate in a fairly under-populated genre. At times Je Ne Sais Quoi feels like it takes a little too much time to reveal its charms - this is an album that is perhaps too varied, making the first few listens feel disjointed and confused... And yet most of the tracks here come into their own with a little space and time, whether they are the dreamy balladry of the extended Lullaby or the moody 80s electro-pop of Home Sick. 
The sunny California closer The Outcast feels like an appropriate call to action - vocals asserting "You can't stop us now" just as the band are playing furthest from their home territory... And we wouldn't dream of proving them wrong. 

Joe Harriott & Amancio D'Silva Quartet ‎– Hum Dono (1969)

Style: Fusion, Post Bop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Columbia

1.   Stephano's Dance
2.   Spring Low, Sweet Harriott
3.   Ballad For Goa
4.   N.N.N.T.
5.   Hum Dono
6.   Jaipur

Alto Saxophone – Joe Harriott
Bass – Dave Green
Drums – Bryan Spring
Flugelhorn – Ian Carr
Guitar – Amancio D'Silva
Vocals – Norma Winstone
Producer – Denis Preston

All credit to Dutton Vocalion for making Hum Dono available again. It's open to question, of course, whether the record should be seen as a Harriott date at all. The Goan guitarist, Amancio D'Silva, is certainly more than a junior partner here and provides five of the record's six tunes, as well as shaping its whole vibe. The only track credited to Harriott is the short improvised duet with drummer Bryan Spring, "Sping Low, Sweet Harriott." Perhaps Hum Dono is better seen as a partner to D'Silva's own, and truly lovely, Integration, which features members of the Rendell-Carr Quintet.  
D'Silva had a unique style. Imagine if Wes Montgomery, or maybe Tal Farlow, had played sitar rather than guitar and you may have some idea of his sound. He died in 1996 and it seems tragic that he left so little recorded music behind. It is that, as much as Harriott's superlative playing, that makes Hum Dono so very special.  
"Stephano's Dance," written for the guitarist's son -also a guitarist, who provides some highly informative sleeve notes—opens with an underlying 4/4 pulse but with a counter rhythm in 6/8 on top. The flavour is immediately that of the sub-continent, its sense of exoticism amplified by Norma Winstone's wordless vocals. Spring and bassist Dave Green provide a rapid, propulsive beat before Harriott enters with a solo that tugs away at the melody relentlessly. Ian Carr's trumpet seems more in line with the raga-like melody but the contrast between his playing and Harriott's provides the tune with its dynamic force. The tune is three-quarters over before D'Silva takes his solo. His presence has been evident throughout comping in the background but now he spins out long, twisting melodies rich in invention and eastern swing.

The guitarist starts "Ballad For Goa" with a brief cadenza before stating the melancholy rhythm with gently stroked chords. Then it shifts pace, as it opens out with a blues-tinged contribution from Harriott. Winstone picks up beautifully from Harriott's final notes, as her voice seems to span both the occident and orient, one moment bluesy and jazzy, the next something more folk-like. D'Silva's solo is almost a duet with Dave Green, with intriguing out of time passages before the group returns to the opening theme. "N.N.N.T." is quite different and were it not for the uniqueness of D'Silva's east-meets-west stylistic approach would count as pure bebop. It's the least Indian-influenced piece here, delivered at a fast pace and with a different intensity compared to the other tracks. 
Both "N.N.N.T." and the title track features the quartet on its own. "Hum Dono" itself makes you wish that Harriott and D'Silva had had more opportunities to record together, as the saxophonist achieves a level of empathy with the music that he never quite achieved with John Mayer and Indo-Jazz Fusions. It's best described as a wild, swirling dance with Harriott and the guitarist circling each other against a background that seems to include hand drums from Bryan Spring. D'Silva's own solo builds on both the tune's raga scale and on a repeated motif. Simply, it's a tour de force and exemplifies an approach to the instrument that fuses both the Indian and jazz influences perfectly.  
And finally, there is the much-sampled "Jaipur" with both Winstone and Carr added and in great voice. I can never listen to this track without imagining the scene in the recording studio. First, D'Silva's spidery lines spun from his guitar, then the sheer delight that must have resulted from Carr and Winstone's bravura duet over the bouncing, pulsating rhythms of Green and Spring and then Harriott playing not just for himself but for the band and, as always, for the music. "Jaipur" is one for that "desert island" list and as the theme returns just imagine these six musicians knowing instinctively that this was a genuinely special date. Five stars? I'll give it six! 
Duncan Heining / All About Jazz

The Joe Harriott Quintet ‎– Abstract (1962)

Style: Free Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Capitol Records, Columbia, EmArcy, Doxy

1.   Subject
2.   Shadows
3.   Oleo
4.   Modal
5.   Tonal
6.   Pictures
7.   Idioms
8.   Compound

Alto Saxophone, Leader – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Bongos – Frank Holder
Drums – Bobby Orr, Phil Seamen
Piano – Pat Smythe
Trumpet – Shake Keane

This album is famous for having received the first ever five-star review for a jazz album  from Harvey Pekar in Down Beat. Harriott was always keen to communicate his ideas, be it on stage, in interviews or album liner notes. In 1962, he wrote in the liner notes for his Abstract album, “of the various components comprising jazz today – constant time signatures, a steady four-four tempo, themes and predictable harmonic variations, fixed division of the chorus by bar lines and so on, we aim to retain at least one in each piece. But we may well, if the mood seems to us to demand it, dispense with all the others”. 
It’s worth remembering. Retaining at least 1 of the basic elements of jazz means this album never strays far from its roots. For lovers of trad, who don’t really care for all that Sun Ra ra ra ra – this is a perfect accompaniment to the segue between work and home. It’s a little more Mingus or Coleman. 
The first three tracks are up beat free flow jazz wit enough be-bop still left over to keep conservatives happy. By the time we hit ‘Modal’, that sultry sexy jazz that we all know and love is there to lull us into relaxed mode. ‘Pictures’ takes us back to haunting and slow, and with ‘Idioms’ we’re back to the bee-bop beat with some late time salsa style drumming bringing up the rear in ‘Compound’.  While this is an excellent example of early free jazz style, don’t expect high level experimentation. This is a perfectly knit unit playing jazz in a comfortable style with a little bit of first time radical thrown in for excitement.  For the most part this beautiful album is all about jazz. The jazz we know, love and trust. 
Harriott blows it all away in Oleo, though he is always focussed, always one with the music. More consistently lyrical is Shake Keane, whose trumpet playing can move from nervous mobility to a kind of cirro-cumulus softness. The best of the L.P. is side two where the ambiguities are tied together tightly and the drums are strongly in control. 
A certain view of jazz history has us believe that responsibility for the evolution of the music lies exclusively in American hands. This is both too deterministic and a slight upon the music’s power to move and to influence. As early as the late 1930s European players were making innovations of their own at the same time as some Europeans were regarding jazz as akin to the spawn of Satan; the guitarist Django Reinhardt for example was contributing greatly to the jazz vocabulary of his chosen instrument. The same is true of bop, hard bop and the ‘cool school’, all of which had their fluent and capable European acolytes in the 1950s; the Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin made a name for himself in the last of these. 
The West Indian-born alto saxophonist Joe Harriott was one of the most convincing boppers outside of the USA at a time when the music was still fresh, though by the end of the 1950s he was exploring freer musical pastures, and the quintet with which he undertook the exploration was an outgrowth of the hard bop band with which he’d made a name on the British scene. As the 1960s progressed, Harriott also proved himself to be something of a pioneer in the fusion field, in the way he fused jazz and classical Indian music in collaboration with the violinist John Mayer.

Often in the past the group’s music, in which trumpet and flugelhorn player Shake Keane figured alongside Harriott in the front line, has been compared with that of the early Ornette Coleman quartets. Such labelling does justice to neither group’s work, and also overlooks the fact that Harriott’s band included a pianist, Pat Smythe, who proved himself highly conversant with Harriott’s different methodology. 
Coleridge Goode, the bassist in Harriott’s band, has written of how much headway the band made with the new music once drummer Phil Seaman arrived on the scene(1) The music the group produced on both the Free Form and Abstract albums has little in common with Coleman’s. Here it’s far more interactive, a fact borne out most obviously by the lack of soloists. This makes for a far more organic music than anything Coleman’s group was putting out at the time. This is most pronounced on Calypso from the Free Form album, where the rhythm of that indigenously West Indian form is extraordinarily maintained in the midst of characteristic group exchanges. 
I found it difficult to get some sound bites of this album for some reason. I’ve added two tracks from Free Form, the album Harriott made just before Abstract that has a similar sound. 
Lisa Thatcher

Joe Harriott Quintet ‎– Free Form (1961)

Style: Free Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: JAZZLAND, Doxy, EmArcy

1.   Formation
2.   Coda
3.   Abstract
4.   Impression
5.   Parallel
6.   Straight Lines
7    Calypso Sketches
8.   Tempo

Alto Saxophone, Composed By – Joe Harriott
Bass – Coleridge Goode
Drums – Phil Seamen
Piano – Pat Smythe
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Shake Keane
Mastered By – Erhard Melda

One of the great jazz albums of the last five decades also has one of the great sleeves. On the front there is an idiosyncratic construct of tree trunk, open shelf and figurines of various sizes and colours while the back sports an ink motif of riotous invention. The images are meaningful. They stand as a metaphor for the constant union of seemingly disparate creative elements that nonetheless cohere. In fact, the stylistic ground covered in the piece ‘Coda’ alone stands as an ambitious integration of idioms from outside as well as within jazz; fleeting classical motifs; a snatch of Caribbean folk melody; an understated bop progression; a modal ostinato. All of which is presented in a tempo that stretches like the elastic in a young rascal’s catapult. This extreme flexibility with the speed and weight of the music is another enormous part of its appeal. The band sound gets thinner and fatter from one chapter of a composition to the next, the breathing and heartbeat of the score increasing and decreasing as the thin man-fat man ensemble negotiates a harmonic spiral staircase. Although the frontline of Harriott, Keane and Smythe is mesmerising in its rhythmic-melodic gymnastics, the multiplicity of accent and attack provided by drums and bassmeisters Seamen and Goode is no less important. The former’s use of mid-range toms to create an almost rock ’n’ roll effect on some pieces is yet another sound of surprise, an astutely “exotic” ingredient thrown into the bouillabaisse. Then again Free Form is quintessentially about a musical dish in which the large number of spices is somehow calibrated so as to not overwhelm the palette. Harriott conceived this music as polyphony and metamorphosis yet it is also precise structure and tightly gripped manipulation of idea. One can theorise limitlessly about parallels between Harriott and Ornette Coleman but at the end of the day it is the presence of both Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman that frames this work. It’s all in the title; it’s not free music but free form music that has evolutionary, liberating DNA, a score that unfetters improvisation without losing its galloping shape. Look at the sleeve again, the construct is multi-faceted but it’s standing straight. 
Kevin Le Gendre / Jazzwise Magazine