The musical intelligence of youthful saxophonist Brad Linde continues to impress me. Brad also has good taste in friends: Lee Konitz and Ted Brown.
One of the high points of seeing Ted Brown and friends live at Sofia’s in January 2011 was the impromptu pairing of Ted and Brad, eminence and youthful star, musing over the chord changes, having a lovely empathic dialogue. Affectionate, thoughtful collaboration, not competition.
So when Brad told me that he and Ted would be leading a quartet (with Joe Solomon, bass, and Taro Okamoto, drums) at Tomi Jazz on East 53rd Street in New York City, I was there . . . quite early, as always, to document the good sounds I knew would be created.
Tomi Jazz is very cozy (you could pass right by it on the street) and for much of the evening the audience was made up of intent listeners.
Here are some of the songs that Brad, Ted, Joe, and Taro (with surprise guests) reinvented that night. Obviously they are honoring their own creative impulses and going their own way, but they also do honor to the Masters: Pres and Bird, Lee and Lennie. And the contrasts of pure sound are so revealing here: Ted often has a particularly focused, intense sound on his tenor that suggests a double-reed instrument (an English horn, perhaps?) while Brad’s sound is more orthodox, more furry, broader. (Not meaning to be taken seriously, I told Brad that at points they reminded me of Herschel and Pres in the Basie band . . . and we both laughed.) Joe Solomon’s bass sonority is big and warm, and Taro Okamoto knows just what to play, when, and when not to! I’ll let you discover Jim, Sarah, and Lena as we go along . . .
From the first set, here’s Ted’s improvisation on the changes of THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU — celebrating perhaps more than a little ruefully what it was like in Los Angeles — SMOG EYES:
Here’s the tender, winding SWEET AND LOVELY. I always wonder where the more “modern” musicians picked this one up from. Bing? Ed Hall? Hawkins? Whatever the source, it is a song that lives up to its title:
Not too fast, but truly exuberant — one for Lester Willis Young from Woodville, Mississippi — LESTER LEAPS IN (I believe a title created by John Hammond, someone Lester came to abhor):
Still on a 1939-40 Basie kick — always a good idea! Here’s BROADWAY:
Since Lester’s spirit was at Tomi Jazz and is always in the room — delicately but tangibly — I should point out that the eminent Chris Albertson has just posted on his STOMP OFF IN C site a recording of the 1958 interview he did with Lester: click here to hear it: http://stomp-off.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-interview-with-lester-young.html
Joined by trumpeter Jim Ketch, the band launches into a song honoring that Parker fellow and his early creation. Jim Ketch, by the way, is Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here’s his website: http://www.jimketch.com/index.html. And here’s YARDBIRD SUITE:
Another song with unusual chord changes was the Ned Washington – Victor Young I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU, which Tommy Dorsey took as his theme song:
Two songs about memory and memories:
I REMEMBER YOU:
and I’LL REMEMBER APRIL:
The young, gifted altoist Sarah Hughes joined the quartet for a romp on Lee Konitz’s SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE, based on WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE? changes:
Another song with subtle, unusual harmonies is YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM:
The very fine player Lena Bloch came on board, tenor at the ready, for Harold Arlen’s exhortation GET HAPPY. (The ding-dong at the start is Tomi Jazz’s doorbell rather than an aesthetic comment from extraterrestrials.):
A very rewarding evening — even for a man standing up through three sets with a video camera.
For those who, like me, enjoy reading what the musicians have to say, there’s a wonderful interview with Ted done by Clifford Allen: read it here:
REMEMBER THE MUSICIANS! ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM, SO CLICK HERE (EVERY NICKEL HELPS A LOT):
And a possibly superfluous postscript. I celebrate what some listeners call “OKOM” (Our Kind Of Music) although I also love other styles — with melodies and swing. I hope that listeners with more firmly defined preferences don’t reject performances such as the ones above because they don’t fit expected formulas: I bow low before the Blue Note Jazzmen of 1943-44, say, but there are worlds and worlds of creativity. Stretching isn’t just confined to yoga! End of sermon.