Tom Harrell: A Quest. Part 1, Chemistry and Recognition iii (guitar, piano)

<continuation of previous post>

“poetically and with intensity”

Ha as Musical Reactant, cont’d


I am using — and granted, beating to death — a chemistry metaphor as a convenient and I think appropriate way to report on Tom Harrell’s musical activities in his post-Phil-Woods period (~1990-1995). A musical mixture, like a chemical mixture, is when individual elements, in this case musicians and their instruments, combine to create something new but in the process retain their own properties. Using this metaphor, I previously covered Harrell in this period both as a pure musical substance, i.e., as a leader recording for Chesky Records, and as a highly reactive element in mixture with a stylistically wide variety of tenor saxophonists, alto saxophonists, and fellow trumpeters. Now I continue with Ha + G and Ha + Pi (and in subsequent ‘Chemistry’ posts with bass & drums, vibraphonists, vocalists, and miscellaneous ensembles).


In addition to the many chemical equations Ha was an element in, Harrell played in an incredible number of jazz ecosystems. I define a jazz ecosystem as a musical community that consists of certain individuals and entities, or organisms, that frequently interact for a period of time and acquire, if not always a name, at least a recognizable identity. For example, “West Coast jazz.” By “entities” I mean, for example, race, nationality, geography, cultural heritage, age, style, aesthetic, as well as business entities such as label, producer, sponsor, venue, or club. By far the biggest jazz ecosystem in the world is New York City, one Harrell is literally in the middle of. But there are many others. For example, if you know absolutely nothing about jazz but happen for some reason to have read everything I have written so far, you probably can identify an ecosystem I would call “Criss Cross jazz.” As I continue my Trip, I will sometimes point out these ecosystems.

Old Business

Going forward I will also be tending to a certain amount of Old Business. In these ‘Chemistry and Recognition’ posts I set out to cover the immediate post-Woods years of ~1990-1995. However … As I have said, even if you could get your hands on them all, it is virtually impossible in the time allotted to us mortals to listen to every recording Harrell ever made. In covering Harrell’s earliest years as a recording artist through the 80s, I skipped many LPs and CDs that can be found in KG. Sometimes this was benign neglect, a conscious decision to focus on what seemed to me the most important albums. Sometimes it was unintentional negligence. But as I have gotten more and more enmeshed in the chemistries and ecosystems Harrell has participated in and I am able to connect dots I could not before, on more than one occasion I found myself deciding, No, I just have to go back and cover that one!

The first item of old business

In my previous post I said that regrettably there was no example in this period of ~1990-1995 of Harrell mixing with a baritone saxophonist. That is incorrect. He did, and with a very good one, Per Goldschmidt. My bad. This happened simply because, in my sortable spreadsheet version of KG, I had mistakenly classified Goldschmidt as a bassist, getting my Bs and B mixed up, I guess.

This correction also necessitates one change in my Table of Instruments. In my abbreviations for instruments as musical elements, in order to avoid confusion, I have tried not to use the abbreviations for chemical elements in the Periodic Table. Accordingly, for the bass I eschewed B (Boron) and Ba (Barium). That seemed to leave the infelicitous alternative Bs or Cb. In America we typically call the string bass or double bass “bass” rather than “contrebass,” so that rules out Cb. “Bs” on the other hand could be taken to mean “bullshit.” Nevertheless, I reluctantly chose Bs along with an apology I composed to my bass playing friends for the unintended slander. Now, however, I am using Bs for baritone saxophone. This parallels Ts and As and so is hopefully less prone to misinterpretation. But in turn I am back to B or Ba for bass. Ba could certainly be confusing. What if I said “Goldschmidt plays a mean bari?” I apologize for being a bore, but to conclude, bass is now B and I hope will not be mistaken for Boron.

Here then is my revised Table of Instruments.

  • Ts – tenor saxophone; As – alto saxophone; Bs – baritone saxophone; Cl – clarinet
  • Tr – trumpet; Fh – flugelhorn; Fl – flumpet; Tb – trombone
  • G – guitar; Pi – piano; B – bass; Dm – drums; Or – organ; Vi – vibraphone
  • Vo – voice
  • in some cases, larger organic compounds

Ha + Bs

Per Goldschmidt, musiker og skuespiller

The internet does not have much to say about Per Bentzon Goldschmidt, other than a Wikipedia entry in Danish which for the most part I cannot decipher. He was born (1943), he died (2013), and in between he was somewhat unique in that he was both a musician and an actor, and also a musical consultant to the Danish film and television industry. And he liked Frank Sinatra.

The Danish pianist Niels Lan Doky produced this album, and it was probably Lan Doky who arranged to get Harrell to Copenhagen in December 1993 to participate in this tribute to Sinatra. Lan Doky already had a history with Harrell, on a Ray Drummond album (see Ha + B later on), on a couple albums with Finnish drummer Klaus Suonsaari (see Ha + Dm later on), and on Harrell’s Stories in 1988. The other band members included the Danish jazz musician probably best known to Americans, bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (NHØP; NHØP had also recorded with Harrell on one of the aforementioned Klaus Suonsaari albums). The drummer is Bronx-born but by then Swiss resident Alvin Queen, who played on and produced the aforementioned Ray Drummond album and who had also frequently played with NHØP. In short, these guys were no Strangers in the Night.

I am an unabashed lover of Sinatra’s music (and an admirer, despite the cringeworthy moments as viewed in hindsight, of Sinatra the man — read Pete Hamill’s Why Sinatra Matters). I also happen to be particularly fond of the Ha + Bs sound (as experienced earlier on the Trip with Cecil Payne, Pepper Adams, and Gary Smulyan). So from the first notes of You and the Night and the Music, there is nothing not to like here. This is my first experience of Goldschmidt (whose discography includes earlier recordings with American musicians such as Ernie Wilkins, Howard McGhee, Idrees Suleiman, and Horace Parlan), and he does not disappoint. It is a stitch to hear a jazz version of It Happened in Monterey. The Sinatra standards You and the Night and the Music, It Happened in Monterey, Too Marvelous for Words, Fly Me to the Moon, and You Make Me Feel So Young are Goldschmidt and Harrell without piano, supported only by the formidable rhythm team of NHØP and Queen, so they offer an especially rich helping of Ha + Bs. Come Fly with Me adds Lan Doky, as does A Man Alone (the title track from Sinatra’s 1969 album featuring the compositions of Rod McKuen), a beautifully done ballad that proves Goldschmidt’s ballad chops.

In addition to these Sinatra standards, Lan Doky contributes the blowing-vehicle Forever Frank, and Goldschmidt three numbers, Theme for Eve, a ballad performed as a Goldschmidt-NHØP-Queen trio, Frankly Speaking, a mood-changing blues (again without piano), and the album closer, the rollicking Second to None.

Strings, Plucked and Hammered

Ha + G

Some of my favorite Harrell chemistry to date has been with the guitar, going all the way back to the West Coast Chicano rock of Azteca, to Bruce Forman (Play of Light) and Barry Finnerty (Aurora), and on to John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Jim Hall, and Mick Goodrick (Liberation Music Orchestra). Both the acoustic and the electric guitar allow for an endless variety of styles and effects and they have accumulated a huge and abundantly utilized store of overlapping jazz, blues, r&b, rock, and country licks, not to mention Flamenco, “gypsy,” and a multitude of other national and ethnic sounds.

I don’t know anything technical about the guitar. I don’t think I have ever even held one. I cannot discourse on the fingering techniques of Django Reinhardt or Wes Montgomery. But I know I love the following albums.

Philip Catherine (“Young Django”)

An especially impressive player of a wide swath of guitar styles and effects on both the electric and the acoustic is the master Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine. Catherine was born in London — he is three years Harrell’s senior — of an English mother and Belgian father, but he was raised in Brussels. Belgium was the birthplace of Django Reinhardt and the association is inevitable. Though Catherine acquired some guitar training and performing experience as a young man, his intention was to study philosophy and economics and go into business or the bureaucracy. But at age 28 he was asked by Jean-Luc Ponty to join the latter’s fusion band. Catherine played with Ponty for a year and never went into business.

He subsequently spent three months at Berklee College of Music and then returned to Europe to make a slew of albums in the 70s and 80s — fusion, straight-ahead jazz, genre-defying stuff — that gave him star status. One such album was Charles Mingus’s Three or Four Shades of Blues. Catherine, according to a 2010 interview with JazzTimes, wasn’t too pleased to discover that Mingus described him in the liner notes as the “Young Django.” Listen to the four jazz-rock-fusion albums in the map below and you will get a sense why — these are available by the way in a superb box set from Warner Brothers France . Nevertheless a couple years later Catherine gladly played on Stéphane Grappelli’s tribute album Young Django.

In the early 80s, Catherine began touring with Chet Baker and Belgian bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse. This Chet Baker Trio recorded a couple of Baker’s best albums from these final, tumultuous years of Baker’s life (he fell out of a window in Amsterdam and died in May, 1988), as documented in Jeroen de Valk’s Chet Baker: his life and music, a must read which I picked up in the gift shop during my Trip. In particular these included (1) Jean-Louis Rassinfosse/Chet Baker/Philip Catherine (for the Belgian label Igloo), aka Crystal Bells, reissued many years later as Estate, Charlie Mariano’s Crystal Bells and Bruno Martino’s Estate being the album’s opening and closing tracks, and (2) Chet’s Choice, recorded for Gerry Teekens and Criss Cross in 1985. Max Bolleman in Sounds tells the story of this session and a few other “interesting” Baker sessions.

Logic and sentiment dictated that Teekens should produce, Bolleman record, and Philip Catherine perform a tribute to Baker. They did so at Studio 44 Monster in October, 1990. It should be a trio. Logic dictated that Tom Harrell should be the trumpeter (actually, flugelhornist), along with Catherine’s bass player, Hein Van de Geyn (Van de Geyn is the bassist on three of the tracks on Chet’s Choice and also toured with Baker on the latter’s triumphant tour of Japan in his penultimate year). Logic to some degree also dictated the selections.

Certainly you would want some Miles Davis (see de Valk for the history and, by the way, see de Valk p. 231 for an astonishingly prescient appreciation of Harrell on Baker’s part all the way back in 1975). Fittingly, then, the opening track is Miles’s Nardis, and from the first measure of that piece, I Remember You became one of my favorite recordings from this period in my Trip through Harrell-land (as was the Jim Hall-Tom Harrell collaboration These Rooms from the previous decade). The piano-less trio format and chord-limited guitar give ample opportunity to showcase both Baker’s and Harrell’s lyricism. (Not that the piano need be an impediment. On this 1985 stripped-down version of Nardis, Baker is complemented by the sensitive piano of Michel Graillier. Unlike Harrell, though, Baker in de Valk’s account was downright prickly about any excess interference from other instruments.) When I first created my Horn of Pretty playlist, I felt almost obliged to have a Miles Davis composition, and Nardis is certainly one of those I considered, along with the numbers from Kind of Blue, but lovely though it is, Nardis just didn’t seem to fit my brain’s definition of pretty. For the anti-pretty, however, and to highlight Philip Catherine’s rhythm guitar, I can’t resist a detour: Catherine and Dexter swinging Freddie Freeloader.

Twice A Week (make of that title what you will, as Mark Gardner says in his liner notes) is one of Catherine’s two compositions on the album. For his balladic, atmospheric introduction Catherine utilizes a technique Gardner describes as releasing the volume pedal and then hitting it hard to produce an “ethereal” sound. After Harrell’s slow, lengthy statement of the theme (at about 4:15 in), the tempo and rhythm pick up to an understated bossa beat and solos by Harrell, Catherine, and Van de Geyn.

The title track is Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer’s I Remember You. Of course Baker is the remembered one, though despite the solemn occasion I for one have to suppress the thought of Mercer’s rather corny lyrics. Gardner: “A beautifully understated performance with everyone choosing the pretty notes” — with a nice exchange, counterpoint, and chase following the solos between Harrell and Catherine and a nice walking bass from Van de Geyn throughout.

Van de Geyn also contributes a composition, Soul Role, a balletic waltz and not the “grease and grits” theme the title might suggest, as Gardner points out. It definitely got to my soul and has worked its way up my body to manifest itself as an earworm. (I’m patting myself on the back for having managed to use “balladic” and “balletic” back-to-back.)

All the original compositions on the album are in fact lovely, and that certainly goes for Harrell’s From This Time, From That Time and Songflower (the latter from his Stories album, where it is spelled Song Flower). Gardner describes From This Time, From That Time — a rhythmic title I’d love to know more about — as “a chirpy ascending line” and “easy swing from beginning to end.” Maybe. As chirpy, it hovers over the surface emotionally and meets one of my criteria for “pretty” (likewise, it is an easily memorable, hummable melody). Van de Geyn’s bass line at the beginning of Harrell’s solo though introduces an element of mystery for me (with one exception by the way, Harrell takes the first solo on all the tracks). On Songflower Catherine lays out for Harrell’s brief solo and doesn’t solo himself, but he stamps the piece atmospherically using the same pedal technique as on Twice A Week. I had previously rejected Songflower as a candidate for my Horn of Pretty playlist because, despite the innocence of its title, Barbara found it “too mournful” and I found its melody not that easily committed to memory. I am having second thoughts.

In discussing Ralph Lalama’s selection of Hank Mobley’s Third Time Around on his Criss Cross recording with Harrell (Ha + Ts), I said I had come to believe Mobley is underappreciated as a writer. Funk in Deep Freeze is another example. It is simply structured (AABA, with just enough of a rhythmic twist to make it interesting), Blue Note-ish, and funkily performed by Art Farmer and Horace Silver on Mobley’s 1957 Hank Mobley Quintet. The treatment here is cool, laid back, and certainly also funky.

A tribute to Chet Baker also virtually dictated the inclusion of My Funny Valentine. See de Valk for the interesting history of how Baker came to “own” this song. Of course the present team doesn’t disappoint. This is the one track on which Catherine solos first.

I said all the original compositions on the album are lovely. Actually, it would be a mischaracterization of Catherine’s Blues for G.T. (Gerry Teekens) to call it “lovely.” It is actually quite a sophisticated composition. Maybe Catherine just figured in advance that G.T. was going to say, “Hey, how about a blues,” and so he came prepared? Van de Geyn takes one of several nice solos he has on the album. The cats all swing, and as Gardner says, the piece is an excellent way to end the album.

“Catherine says he was happy in the studio at Monster because of Max Bolleman’s feeling for properly recording small group jazz. I think this trust and absence of unnecessary tension [RG: my emphasis] comes across in the music … .”

Mark Gardner, liner notes

In my many years of listening to jazz I had never known much about Chet Baker. Of what I heard on the radio, (1) I especially disliked his singing, and (2) I found his trumpet playing rather anemic. I was vaguely aware that something about Baker had reached mythic proportions and had something to do with heroin, and I did wonder sometimes about what seemed to me such disproportionate attention to a white artist with a drug problem. I knew nothing of Baker the American vs. Baker the European. But because I wasn’t turned on to his music, I didn’t really care. Jeroen has cured me of my evil ways. I have mixed feelings now about Baker, both the man and the music, but at least my feelings are well-informed.

“The thrilling threesome are back!”

Mark Gardner, liner notes for Moods, Volume I

The team knew they had a winner, and they reassembled a year-and-a-half later to record a wealth of new material. The two-day session has a well-planned, well-rehearsed quality: they play mostly original compositions (nine by Catherine, four by Harrell, two by Van de Geyn); the arrangements are more intricate than on I Remember You, and they include some overdubbing and some synth effects (played by the Belgian keyboardist, arranger, and composer Michel Herr — more below).

These qualities — the predominance of original material, the more intricate arranging, the synth effects — are well illustrated by the opening track of Volume I, Catherine’s absorbing, Spanish-tinged waltz, Côté Jardin. The twelve-and-a-half-minute treatment effectively falls into two halves. What I call the second half begins with Harrell’s statement of the composition’s main, haunting, waltz theme two minutes, forty-five seconds in. But the introduction (Catherine’s opening measures echo for me Concierto de Aranjuez) effectively constitutes an independent minor theme. In fact several tracks later it is re-performed by itself as Côté Cours — “côté jardin” and “côté cours” mean “garden side” and “courtyard side” respectively. That the côté cours is incomplete without a côté jardin is perhaps indicated by the way Côté Cours is left suspended in air.

Twenty years later, on Catherine’s 2012 album named Côté Jardin, his daughter Isabelle sings Côté Jardin with French lyrics written by Jacques Duvall, and again in a 2017 live performance celebrating Catherine’s 75th birthday. Duvall divides his lyrics into the côté jardin (Côté jardin, tristes chardons / pauvres ronces de chagrin, / je dois te demander pardon) and the côté cours (Et côté cours, tristes pavés / pauvres pierres au coeur lourd, / crois bien que j’en suis navrés), corresponding musically to two choruses of the main theme. I am extremely grateful to Michel Herr for voluntarily transcribing and translating these beautiful lyrics for me.

I am also grateful to Michel for answering two questions I had about the synth sounds that are used so judiciously and effectively in these sessions. One, what was the electronic instrument or device he used, since the album insert merely says he plays “keyboards.” To summarize Michel’s extremely detailed reply, he had a rack of synth modules loaded with sounds he found, created, and/or mixed, which he played on a Yamaha KX88 midi master keyboard that in turn plugged into Max Bolleman’s soundboard. Second, I wondered whether his part was played “live” or dubbed in. “Everything I played was done live, in real time, with the other musicians. No overdubs.” Listening to Côté Jardin and Côté Cours (for example) with all that in mind, I’d say this was quite an incredible recording session.

Harrell takes the lead on the very slowly played intro to the gorgeous melody that is Gershwin’s The Man I Love before the bass starts walking, the tempo doubles, and Harrell continues with the first solo, followed by Catherine and then a counterpoint between the two that nicely shows off their chemistry.

Catherine’s Moods is a two-minute interlude piece that is introduced as a mysterious sounding progression of arpeggiated chords on the guitar, underscored by Van de Geyn, after which Harrell fills in the melody, but only briefly before an abrupt stop. There follows Catherine’s December 26th Variation I, introduced with similar mystery in a Catherine-Van de Geyn rubato passage before the peppier theme is then played by Tom. Philip solos followed by Tom, and during Tom’s solo the tempo surges and is accompanied by vigorous strumming from Catherine. December 26th Variation II (which sounds to me like simply an equally flawlessly executed take two) appears on Volume II.

Harrell’s Romance again uses Michel’s synth sounds, lending the piece something akin to a string orchestral background. Not unusually, I have had to listen several times to this Harrell melody to fully get its chords and intervals. Van de Geyns’s amusingly titled Fridge Blues is undoubtedly, upon hearing it, a blues, but it is quite imaginatively composed (to be compared to Catherine’s Blues for G.T. on I Remember You and Harrell’s Blues in Six and Viable Blues from earlier LPs).

“And finally to Tom, this wonderful musician and person. What else can one say about Tom? Sometimes I wonder: ‘Does he have Angel Wings?'”

Philip Catherine, liner notes

Angel Wings is special. It is movingly dedicated to Tom, as you can see in the above quote. It is played by Catherine as a duet with himself, overdubbing acoustic guitar on acoustic guitar. It has shifting tempos (Gardner: “He veers between a bossa feel and free tempo with double time comping and rubato playing”). No description can really do it justice.

Volume I ends with Johnny Mandel’s A Time For Love, immortalized for me by Shirley Horn and played here, melody only, as a duet by Tom (with mute) and Philip. (Volume II ends with a second take.) Tom knew this song well. He had a splendid solo on it with Woody Herman back in 1970.

Charles Mingus heard and liked this Django number and invited Philip Catherine and Larry Coryell to play with him on his 1977 Three or Four Shades of Blue session. Mingus died two years later and now, fifteen years after that recording session, Catherine got to pay homage with Volume II‘s solemn opener, Mingus in The Sky, with a nod of course to Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat. Harrell has the first solo, accompanied by bass, guitar, and synth, followed by Catherine.

Again with Harrell’s The Carousel it takes me several hearings before I can perform it magnificently in the shower. Søren Svagin (identified as the Chairman of Radio Jazz, Copenhagen) writes the liner notes for Volume II, and he does so entertainingly and incisively. “The Carousel,” he says, “is full of tonal horsepower and is almost designed to throw off an inexperienced rider” (not a good thing to try in the shower). Svagin (who is also a pianist) also points out the differing dynamics in Harrell’s and Catherine’s solos (for example, Van de Geyn’s two-beat chords on Catherine’s solo). I hear this more than once across the two CDs. Is it arranged this way or spontaneous? (Harrell switches to mute at the very end of the song.)

The liner notes also tell the story of the pair of “des Princes” compositions, the introductory Harrell-Catherine duet Entrance des Princes and then Galerie des Princes. Galerie des Princes is the name of a street in Brussels that had a dance hall above which lived Catherine’s godfather. In that dance hall Catherine would hear performers like Django Reinhardt. Later the hall was turned into a jazz club, The Blue Note, and Catherine developed his skills there. On Entrance Svagin points to the same (I think) Catherine technique (turning up the volume after playing the chords) that Mark Gardner noted on Twice A Week and Songflower on the I Remember You album. Perhaps it is this technique at the beginning of Entrance that made it hard for me to decide whether it was actually the electric guitar or perhaps Michel’s synth sounds, but Michel says the only two Volume II tracks he played on were Mingus in The Sky and, not Entrance des Princes, but Galerie des Princes. (On Entrance note also that Harrell uses the mute.) Of Galerie Svagin says, “[it] has the air of a brisk dance in spite of the advanced chords and structure.” D’accord. Catherine, Harrell, and Van de Geyn, princes all, solo in that order, and the ending has another nice Harrell-Catherine counterpoint.

Harrell gets the first, but Van de Geyn the honorary solo on his Two Faced Lover, in which two waltz tempos compete (Svagin: “The two waltz tempos derive from the same root, so the Two Faced Lover has only one body.”). The pace is brisk, and listeners should be cautioned not to try dancing to this at home. I am really impressed by the writing from these sessions. Harrell, of course. Catherine, of course (“of course” if you are a European and not an ignorant American late to the Catherine party like me). But very much Van de Geyn too.

The next track has no backstory other than Harrell’s self-descriptive title. It is not mysterious or in a contemplative mood, it is just so cool. Hint: It is written in twenty bars, and it is one of my favorite Harrell compositions from his Moon Alley album.

Charlie Mariano (né Carmine Ugo Mariano to Italian parents in Boston), known to many American fans including myself especially for his work with Charles Mingus, was an early faculty member at Berklee College of Music, 1965-1971, and then in 1971 became yet another American jazz musician who moved, permanently, to Europe (Köln). Catherine has played extensively over the years with Mariano (here is a nice clip of the two plus Van de Geyn from 2008). Pink Lady is a Mariano composition and is another Catherine-on-Catherine duet, like Angel Wings.

The session seemed to favor waltzes, and Harrell’s The Waltz is another one. This is obvious from the title, but not necessarily from the piece itself. In tempo and mood it is very different from, for example, Two Faced Lover. Catherine has the opening solo, and the single-string, no-chord start of his solo at the beginning reminds Svagin of another Belgian guitarist, Toots Thielemans (best known to most Americans for his harmonica). The CD insert has a facsimile of a handwritten note from Toots to Philip.

One of the exciting things about my Trip through Harrell-land has been the discovery along the way of some other great artists and music. Philip Catherine is a case in point. I Remember You, Moods Volumes I and II: These are superb and I count them among my favorites from this Trip.

Wolfgang Muthspiel, österreichischer Gitarrist und Komponist

From the CD insert for Black & Blue, from l to r: Alex Deutsch, Larry Grenadier, George Garzone, Tom Harrell, Don Alias, Wolfgang Muthspiel

Wolfgang Muthspiel was born in the spring of 1965, three years behind his trombonist/pianist brother Christian Muthspiel, in the Alpine region of Steiermark (Styria), Austria. The brothers seem to have had an idyllic upbringing (see for yourself). Muthspiel’s listening pleasures, which include traditional and contemporary classical music and of course the Viennese traditions, his guitar playing, his composing, his performance formats, and his non-performance activity have been as eclectic as the guitar itself. Besides playing jazz in many trios, quartets, and quintets over the years — he knows many musicians for having lived in the U.S. for fifteen years, which included study at Berklee and special mentorship from Mick Goodrick –, he has, for example, started a record label (Material Records), started a music immersion educational program (the Focusyear project in Basel), and recently scored and performed music for the German director F. W. Murnau’s 1931 silent film Tabu. He has kept up with the times and has a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, and a website. I find the typical interview with jazz musicians a bit ho-hum. The questions in this one with Pablo Held include the predictable ones, but Muthspiel puts himself into it as if he were playing his axe, and the dialog is especially amusing and informative.

In the late 1980s Muthspiel and bassist Larry Grenadier (one year younger than Muthspiel) were both playing with Boston-based Gary Burton. They also both knew Tom Harrell, Muthspiel from seeing Harrell play in New York and Grenadier, who grew up in California, from having been recruited occasionally as a very young man to play bass when Harrell was touring the West Coast (Grenadier, like Harrell, graduated from Stanford University). In these Gary Burton years Grenadier and Harrell also played together as sidemen for Larry Vuckovich’s Tres Palabras album, recorded in San Francisco in 1989, as previously covered. Muthspiel and Grenadier left Burton and joined with Harrell to begin touring extensively in Austria and Germany. In 1992 this led to a recording session at the Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg, Germany for what was Muthspiel’s third album for the appropriately named Austrian record label Amadeo. Besides Harrell and Grenadier, Black & Blue uses Muthspiel’s fellow countryman from Steiermark Alex Deutsch on drums, Boston acquaintance George Garzone on saxophones, and long-time friend and mentor Don Alias on percussion. Alias didn’t tour with the group, but he flew from New York and arrived on the day of the recording. If he was suffering from jet lag you would never know it listening to the album!. (I want to thank both Muthspiel and Grenadier for sharing their reminiscences. One anecdote they both independently recalled: At one backstage in Europe there was a piano, and a very tired sound engineer rested his arms and head on the keyboard, inadvertently creating “a big and complex chord.” Tom got up, walked to the piano, and played that exact chord.)

All the compositions on Black & Blue are Muthspiel’s. The beat’s the thing on Dance (4 Prince). The drums and then percussion kick it off, and Alias’s percussion is a major piece of the chemistry on the majority of tracks. Garzone and Muthspiel play the theme cum riff (Harrell is not on this track), Muthspiel demonstrates his rock cred, and Garzone also erupts with a solo at the last minute. (Live, minus Harrell and Alias.) An unaccompanied Muthspiel plays North Shore‘s modulating theme; Grenadier, accompanied by a rattle repeats; and so then do the horns. Muthspiel solos and then Harrell’s long lines. Harrell’s solo is backed up by Muthspiel — love that Ha + G chemistry — and a vigorous rhythm section, Deutsch’s drums kicking. Garzone comes on and leads the ensemble in taking it out. Swords Crossing is, the title notwithstanding, a non-violent and playful six-player choreography. It is played in sort of a whisper, with occasional crescendos, which is part of the fun. Alias again is a major factor.

Duett is a duet for guitar and percussion. It is spelled thus on the CD’s insert, though Duet on my digital metadata and elsewhere. Following the philologists’ principle of textual reconstruction known as lectio difficilior, and following the jazz composers’ principle of hippior melior (the hipper the title the better), I go for Duett. You can hear at the end of the track that the other guys in the studio liked it!

Miles Davis and Prince famously had a mutual admiration society, and electric Miles hovers over Dance (4 Prince). Muthspiel’s what’s-your-hurry Miles, which clocks at fourteen-and-a-half minutes as the longest track from the Ludwigsburg session, invokes for me Mademoiselle Mabry (from the In A Silent Way sessions) and other tracks from Miles’s famously long studio-cum-jam sessions with Columbia. In a word, Miles is sexy (it has a pretty melody, too). (One of my favorite anecdotes that Muthspiel tells Pablo Held in the interview I linked to above is about the impact on the audience of a single warmup note from Miles backstage at a festival in Austria.)

That takes us back to Square 1 and more of a rock beat. (As I listen to it I am wondering if I can identify square #1 on Wolfgang’s shirt!). The Rules of The Game — I am guessing the title and Jean Renoir’s La règle du jeu is not a coincidence? — is the second longest track (12:43) and is an entrancing ballad featuring Garzone’s soprano sax. The dramatic, Spanish-flavored Visiones is nice work by the quartet minus horns, and Bliss and Other Short Stories nice work by the guitar-bass-drums trio. Grenadier’s bass gets good play on these last two numbers. He gets the album’s final notes, and he plays with Muthspiel for many years to come. Harrell is not on any of these final four tracks.

The following summer (1993) the Wolfgang Muthspiel Group was again on tour. The Group was Muthspiel, Grenadier, Harrell, and now Chris Cheek on the saxophones and Jeff Ballard the drums (and no Alias). Selections from the tour resulted in Muthspiel’s next album on Amadeo, in & out. These were seven numbers from an appearance at Sweet Basil in New York and one from the Montreux Jazz Festival. If you are listening to Black & Blue and in & out back to back, as I have been, the see-saw Two Fives immediately has a more straight-ahead jazz feel than Black & Blue, and it’s always good to hear the cheers of a live audience. Solos by Cheek, Harrell, and Muthspiel, followed by some collective improvisation.

I would gladly have paid Basil’s cover and drink charges just to hear the Muthspiel-Harrell duet performance of Kurt Weill’s Liebeslied (Die Liebe dauert oder dauert nicht / An dem oder jenem Ort)! Next, in track order, Ballard, underscored by a neat bass riff from Grenadier, propels Take It & Run. Harrell and Cheek add punctuation in the theme statement, but then it’s all guitar and rhythm until Harrell finally joins for a solo following Muthspiel’s.

The emotional register changes dramatically with Harrell’s beautiful but mournful Autumn Picture (other than Liebeslied and Autumn Picture, the compositions on the album are again Muthspiel’s). On this Trip we first heard Autumn Picture on Harrell’s Visions album (from the Form session). There Joe Lovano played soprano sax, Cheek does here. There Charlie Haden’s bass part was written out, it is here except that Grenadier also solos. There we had Danilo Perez’s piano, here Muthspiel’s guitar, and it is a good illustration of why I find the chemistry of Ha + G so fascinating.

Muthspiel’s The Winds of Time features Jeff Ballard’s drums, but it is a full-blown polyphonic composition in the “modern” vein, one of whose parts is Muthspiel on violin. Quite interesting, and far different from the straight-ahead jazz vein I thought we were in store for at the beginning of the album. The songs from these two albums taken together illustrate the impressive breadth of Muthspiel’s inspirations and compositional imagination.

The title track was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival. I would characterize it as Europeanized r&b, and it gives Muthspiel a chance to stretch out and Cheek a chance to wail. The audience loved it, and so did I.

“De Lucía [Paco de Lucia, 1947-2014] was widely considered to be the world’s premier flamenco guitarist and by many to be Spain’s greatest musical export.”

Wikipedia article on Paco de Lucia

The album closes with what is essentially a two-piece medley featuring Muthspiel’s acoustic guitar. A Paco is solo Muthspiel and will be his meditative tribute to the Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. He continues with MuPeMo, where he is joined by Grenadier and Ballard. I have seen this piece, simple in the best sense and reprised by Muthspiel several times over the years, described as “Pat Metheney-esque,” and I think that is fair. The name is correctly written as “MuPeMo” and stands for Muthspiel/Peacock/Motian. Muthspiel had written it for another album of his in this same year with Gary Peacock, Paul Motian, and brother Christian Muthspiel (Muthspiel/Peacock/Muthspiel/Motian).

I said that one of the great things about my Trip through Harrell-land has been the discovery along the way of some other great artists and music, Philip Catherine being a case in point. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my memory I recall the names of Wolfgang and Christian Muthspiel, so I don’t know whether this is a discovery or a re-discovery, but either way it is another delightful one.

Shinobu Itoh, the Japan-in-New York ecosystem

In strict chronological order, the next guitar album Harrell did after I Remember You with Philip Catherine was Sailing Rolling with the Japanese guitarist Shinobu Itoh, recorded in September 1991. Itoh lived in New York from 1977 to 2006.

This album was produced by Itoh’s mentor and “collaborator in crime,” as Itoh calls him, bassist and pianist Yoshio “Chin” Suzuki. Just a month earlier Harrell had recorded with Suzuki, and that is an album we will visit when we get to Ha + B.

I happened to notice after uploading this CD into my Apple music library that its genre is given not as Jazz but as Easy Listening. That is true, as far as classification goes, though it is not easy listening for me. Just not my cup of tea. For the record, Tom is just fine on the two tracks he plays on, Minutos and In Love For Keeps (both written by Itoh).

Christian Escoudé (le gitan)

Philip Catherine grew up hearing Django Reinhardt on the rue Galerie des Princes in Brussels. He imbibed Reinhardt’s “gypsy” music, loved it, and played it over the years, even if he wasn’t too pleased to be pigeonholed as the “young Django.” Christian Escoudé on the other hand is a gypsy, specifically as I understand it of the Manouche category of Romani in France. Escoudé’s father was a Django-worshiping guitarist from southwestern France (Angoulême in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region), and Christian took up the mantle (to get a flavor, try Just One of Those Things played at a Django Reinhardt festival by a trio that includes Django’s grandson David Reinhardt). Catherine and Escoudé played together for a while, as on their 1983 album Catherine Escoudé Lockwood with electric violinist Didier Lockwood.

“Among other recordings I did over the years, I made one record based on gypsy waltzes, another one which explored the repertoire of a giant of jazz guitar, Django Reinhardt, and then a series of records where I played standards… So it was logical that I move on to an album of my own compositions next. That album is now finished, and it’s called Cookin’ in Hell’s Kitchen. Except for one composition by Tom Harrell and another one I wrote together with Rodney Kendrick, this is the first time in my career that I’ve written all the tunes especially for one of my albums.”

Christian Escoudé, liner notes (translated by Martin Davies)
from CD insert, photo by Cheung Ching Ming

Escoudé came to New York City, specifically to the Clinton Recording Studios in the Clinton, aka Hell’s Kitchen, area of Midtown Manhattan’s West Side, to record this album of his compositions for Gitanes Jazz (“Gypsy Jazz”), a French subsidiary of Verve. Clinton Studios was very familiar territory to Tom Harrell (I count thirteen sessions there in KG). In fact it is only a pleasant walk in New York from Tom’s apartment.

Escoudé goes on to explain the sound he was looking for:

“Il fait entendre la musique issue du hard bop mais qui n’oublie pas de formes plus ‘modernes’ de jazz, ni do bossa nova, ni même les expériences que j’ai pu avoir avec ce qu’on appelle le ‘jazz concernant’. Pourtant, de par la composition instrumental du quintette qui l’interprète, la musique jouée dans Cookin’ in Hell’s Kitchen, plonge, à mon sens, ses racines dans l’authenticité du jazz.”

Escoudé, liner notes continued

“But I also think that if you look at the instrumental composition of the quintet interpreting it, the music in Cookin’ in Hell’s Kitchen sinks its roots in my opinion into the very authenticity of jazz.” That “authentic jazz” instrumental composition he refers to consists of himself and Tom Harrell plus Rodney Kendrick on piano and Kendrick’s regular companions at the time, Michael Bowie on bass, Alvester Garnett on drums and, on certain tracks, Chi Sharpe on percussion. With a piano in the mix, Escoudé’s guitar has a simpler role here. The music is unpretentious. I think the choppy Three Images is AABA (8-8-8-8), but I am a bit challenged to count it out. For the soloing in any case (Escoudé, Kendrick, and Harrell) they break into conventional swing. The CD insert credits Chi Sharpe as being on tracks 1 and 2, 6 and 7. I’m not hearing it on Three Images, but his bird sounds, Brazilian cuica, whistles, and other effects are an immediate fun presence on Catalogne. Harrell, Escoudé, and Sharpe solo. “Fun” is a word I would choose to describe the album as a whole.

I’m sure I have heard hundreds of them, but I don’t think there has ever been a 12-bar, I-IV-V blues I didn’t like. Blues at Cavalotti is no exception, Bowie and Garnett getting everyone into the groove. For some reason — and I think I have said this before — Tom’s playing the blues, which he does very well, always brings a smile to my face. Maybe it is because I don’t associate the son of a Stanford professor with the blues. But then again the appeal of the blues is universal. Otherwise you wouldn’t have a French Manouche composing one or the son of a Midwestern middle class white businessman (i.e., me) so moved by them.

Respecting Tom’s style, I do not think of it as constantly pensive, something I often read. For example, Francis Couvreux, a writer for the Etudes Tsiganes in Paris, in his liner notes for the 2006 reissue of Cookin’, says Tom’s playing on the album “was perhaps in a less-meditative vein than usual, for he showed drive and power” (an imperfect and misleading translation of “peut-être moins méditatif qu’à l’accoutumée, plus ‘rentre-dedans’, plus puissant”). Wolfgang Muthspiel says his memory of Tom’s playing was that he could and would go anywhere stylistically, and that certainly has been my experience on this Trip.

Nevertheless, speaking of meditative, the New Yorkers get to shine on Escoudé’s slow-to-medium tempo waltz Le Pont des Rêves (Couvreux: “a ballad stamped with nostalgia”). Kendrick gets the opening solo followed by Escoudé, Harrell’s bugle, Bowie’s bass, and a flourish from Escoudé at the end that sounds to me as if he is saying a thank you to the New Yorkers. Harrell of course is playing the flugelhorn, not the bugle. “Flugelhorn” is “bugle” in French, and “bugle” in French is “Flugelhorn” in English, not “bugle,” as in an amusing mistranslation in the notes.)

Kendrick co-wrote Everybody Over Here. Is “over here” adverbial or imperative? As they do throughout the album but in an especially pronounced way here, Kendrick’s mates Bowie and Garnett create a distinctive pulse that suggests they’re played a lot together. Harrell and Escoudé play the theme in unison, then Tom, Christian, Rodney, and Alvester solo.

I’ll also agree with Couvreux’s characterization of Swing and Concerto as “nervous,” in a positive sense. Harrell has the lead part in the intricate theme (Concerto), lightly accompanied by guitar, bass, drum and percussion (with one embedded ascending scale played in unison by trumpet, guitar, and bass). Escoudé then plays a transition passage before Garnett kicks off the Swing portion, Escoudé soloing followed by Harrell, Kendrick, and Bowie.

Chi Sharpe’s percussion returns more audibly to the forefront in the bossa Fly Us to the Sky. Harrell and Escoudé harmonize nicely on the theme, and in general Harrell + Escoudé turns out to be another very attractive example of Ha + G. Next to last is Harrell’s pretty From This Time, From That Time, which we heard on Catherine’s I Remember You album (the element of mystery I was hearing in Van de Geyn’s bass line on that album is absent here). Last is a slowly cooked Escoudé-Harrell duet appropriately titled A Walk in New York to end this tasty session in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen.

Jim Hall

Hall recorded Dialogues, his second album for Telarc, in February 1995 as five pairs of duets with the musicians shown (Gil Goldstein playing accordion, by the way), albeit with some tactical support from Scott Colley’s base and Andy Watson’s drums.

“Jim Hall” and “duets” in the same sentence invokes for me the awesome recordings he did with Sonny Rollins and with Bill Evans that were very formative in my jazz education. Here these are all, with one significant exception, Hall compositions, including Dream Steps, the nimble, conversational piece played with Tom, with ever so light but important accompaniment from Watson’s cymbals. The significant exception is the album’s closer, Hoagy Carmichael’s Skylark. “Angel Wings,” to borrow that expression from Philip Catherine, may have been put on this earth to play this perennially lovely number with Hall.

The Guitar Masters wanted Tom Harrell

Ha + Pi

While I don’t think I have ever held a guitar, I have held the piano, so to speak. My mother was a trained classical pianist (Northwestern University) and she had my twin brother and me playing duets when we were in kindergarten. I stopped playing at an early age (I think I was frightened by the stern and humorless old German teacher my mother had hired), but the 88 keys have a special place in my heart and ears.

Larry Vuckovich: Montenegro ➜ San Francisco ➜ New York ➜ San Francisco

Recorded as an LP December 1981 at Coast Recorders in San Francisco for Palo Alto Records
Recorded as a CD August 1989 at Coast Recorders in San Francisco for Concord Records

Larry Vuckovich is another amazing example of the influence of jazz on the post-WW II world, in particular in Vuckovich’s case, by his own account, of jazz’s essence as free expression. Vuckovich was born in Montenegro, which became part of Tito’s Communist Yugoslavia after the war. His family was granted political asylum and settled in San Francisco when Larry, who was born in 1936, was fourteen. His subsequent long and still active career as a jazz pianist of international renown is too extensive to recap here. He bookended the 80s with two albums with Harrell. The second, Tres Palabras, I already described as an example of Harrell’s activity as he transitioned out of the Phil Woods Quintet. The first, City Sounds, Village Voices, was about two years before Harrell joined Phil Woods. It was Vuckovich’s second LP as leader, following Blue Balkan the year prior. File it here under Old Business.

Besides Harrell, City Sounds, Village Voices has two woodwind players, both graduates of the School of Charles Mingus, Jerome Richardson on tenor and soprano sax and flute and Charles McPherson on alto (we’ve already reported on Charles’s First Flight Out album with Harrell). The rhythm section is Ray Drummond on bass and San Francisco-based drummer Eddie Marshall. Vuckovich dedicated the first track on Side 1, his bebop blues number Dr. Herb’s Herbs, to Herb Wong, who produced the album and co-wrote the liner notes. (Wong was to produce Harrell’s second LP as leader, Play of Light, a year later.) The number is in McPherson’s wheelhouse and he solos first, followed by Vuckovich and Harrell and some exchanges between Vuckovich and Marshall.

Besame Macho is not a typo. It is Vuckovich’s twist on Besame Mucho (“I tried imagining Bird and Bud playing ‘Besame Mucho’ so some melodic elements on the head are authentic bebop lines”). The composition has an interlude which is used to introduce the solos (McPherson and Vuckovich) and which indeed sounds very Moorish.

Tadd Dameron dedicated his Soultrane to John Coltrane, and Vuckovich in turn uses it to feature McPherson (Vuckovich solos too, Harrell is out on this one). Bud Powell’s bebop standard Bouncing With Bud is a blowing vehicle for Richardson on tenor, Harrell, Vuckovich, and McPherson.

On side 2 we get to those city sounds and village voices adumbrated by the album title. (Perhaps these are the same village voices from around the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas that inspired Joe Lovano’s Village Rhythm seven years later?) But before I get to the music I have to resolve some confusion about the city sounds. On the vinyl, Side 2 has four tracks, Village Voices followed by three standards, Serenade in Blue, Kiss and Run, and You’ve Changed. Contrary to thematic expectations, there is no matching City Sounds, which I find odd. If it was a matter of the spatial limitations of a 33 rpm, why not exclude one of the standards instead? That there was a City Sounds, however, is confirmed by the CD reissue. Its “Side 2” has in fact five tracks, Village Voices, City Sounds, plus the three standards. I know this by listening to it, of course, but also by the metadata passed from the CD to my Apple music library (you can see the same thing here). But I wouldn’t know it from the CD’s printed information (the tracklist on the back cover and the liner notes in the insert), since these were blindly reproduced from the vinyl. Sloppy. Second, while the CD’s metadata lists Village Voices and City Sounds in that order, it is actually, when you listen to it, clearly the other way around. Sloppy.

Now that that is out of the way … A sort of chirpy dialog between Vuckovich’s piano and Richardson’s flute commences the introduction to City Sounds, Drummond and Marshall making staggered entrances. Vuckovich and Richardson then play the theme proper. For the repeat, Harrell and McPherson join. To me at least it has a Latin sound and rhythm, especially in the solo section (Richardson first on flute, then Vuckovich, Harrell, and McPherson, then exchanges between Vuckovich and Marshall).

According to Herb Wong’s liner notes, Vuckovich grounded Village Voices in the folk music of Southern Serbia and Macedonia. The opening interlude and theme (with Richardson on flute) are based on F Lydian mode, Wong informs us, and the rest of it, he continues, has Turkish/Arabic scales and flavor. Part of that flavor comes from a violinist (Eric Golub, who also played on Blue Balkan) who was added to this track. Vuckovich solos first, appropriately. Then Harrell (“Tom expresses his personal sound and feeling and adds Eastern feeling. I’ve heard Balkan trumpet players and Tom’s feeling is genuine”). And a great one from Golub. Then Vuckovich again, ending in a fade out. Exciting.

After Vuckovich’s rhapsodic intro to Serenade in Blue, Tom ruminates and plays the kind of solo that was getting him a lot of attention. Vuckovich also has a brief solo, but this one, by design, is all Tom. The piano trio of Vuckovich, Drummond, and Marshall swing Sam Coslow’s Kiss and Run (a song that, as Wong points out, entered the jazz library via the awesome Sonny Rollins-Clifford Brown-Max Roach version from the 50s on Prestige). The ballad You’ve Changed evolved somewhat spontaneously in the studio as a duet between Vuckovich and Richardson on soprano (it too has a fine pedigree — I’m thinking of Dexter Gordon’s version on his Doin’ Allright album on Blue Note).

Like scotch and soda

As noted in my earlier account, Harrell’s main role on Tres Palabras was to supply the all-important brass element for the Spanish numbers on that album, namely, Serbo-Afro, Historia De Un Amor, Ah Se Eu Pudesse, Blues in the Night, Tres Palabras, and Rio. I’ll repeat this quote from Neil Tesser:

“I’d guess it must be quite a treat for you to work with Tom Harrell again. He was also on that City Sounds, Village Voices recording of yours, right? But that was still a few years before he turned himself into one of the three or four most dynamic and accomplished trumpet men in the business. Dynamic and demanded, I should say. I mean, this guy shines in contexts ranging from Phil Woods’ quintet to Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. The two of you sound great together. Like scotch and soda.”

Neil Tesser, in the liner notes to Tres Palabras, written in the form of a “Dear Larry” letter

Harold Danko: PA/OH ➜ New York ➜ Rochester

Recorded as an LP for Dreamstreet Records April 1979 in New York (LaBarbera’s name is misspelled. Oops.)
Recorded as an LP and CD for the German Jazz City label March 1988 in New York

Harold Danko was born in 1947 in the Mahoning Valley, the border region between Pennsylvania and Ohio. His father was a coal miner and steel worker, and Harold attended Youngstown State University. He is one month younger than Harrell, and five months older than me. After Youngstown and a stint in the army band (stationed in Staten Island), he, like Harrell, launched his career playing with Woody Herman and later with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (besides the Orchestra, he was the pianist, along with Rufus Reid on bass, on the terrific The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Quartet album). Danko and Harrell first recorded together on a 1977 record with drummer Jimmy Madison and, in April 1979, on Lee Konitz’s Yes, Yes Nonet album. Danko continued to perform and record, but he also devoted much of his time to teaching, first in New York City (primarily at the Manhattan School of Music) and then for nineteen years at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. With that solid Midwestern practicality I know so well, he says he preferred the steady income of teaching over waiting till 4:00 am to see if the club owner was going to pay you!.

Danko’s parents were from Slovakia, so I know it’s a stretch, but you might call Danko and the Montenegrin Larry Vuckovich the East European jazz ecosystem. In fact we could add Jelena Ana Milcetic (the name her Croatian immigrant parents gave to Helen Merrill). If we make it the former Austro-Hungarian Empire jazz ecosystem, we could even add Steve Kuhn (see below) and Wolfgang Muthspiel (though, while the Marschallin may have had the blues, I doubt she ever listened to anything remotely like jazz). Anyway, setting that fanciful notion aside, like Vuckovich, Danko bookended Harrell’s Phil Woods years with two albums, Coincidence, recorded in April 1979 (the same month as Konitz’s Yes, Yes Nonet, which I think followed Coincidence), and The First Love Song, recorded in March, 1988. On the former Harrell and Woody Herman’s veteran woodwindist Frank Tiberi are the front line. On the latter Harrell is the sole horn player.

Danko selected the musicians on Coincidence, his second outing as leader, as his “dream group.” Frank Tiberi was in something like his tenth straight year with Woody Herman, and the others were all Herd alumni, namely, Danko and Harrell, Rufus Reid on bass, and Joe Labarbera on drums. What makes this otherwise instrumentally conventional aggregation a little unusual is that Tiberi, besides the tenor sax, also plays bassoon on a couple tracks (something he sometimes did for Herman, as on their arrangement of Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane). Tiberi is on tenor though on the opening track, his own simple 12-bar riff Extractions of Frank Tiberi. He naturally gets the first solo and is followed by Harrell and Danko. Tidal Breeze was a Danko composition of about twelve years earlier, which he had previously recorded with Chet Baker. It has a gentle, lilting quality, as its name suggests. Harrell , wearing his lyrical hat, solos first, then Tiberi, followed by Danko and some Danko-Labarbera exchanges. Harrell is out on the venerable Stardust, but its interest anyway is that Tiberi plays the verse on bassoon before switching to tenor for the rest. Side A’s closer is a burner version of Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, with Harrell wearing his “he can play the s*** out of the trumpet” hat — his trumpet here is, to borrow Herb Wong’s word in the liner notes, “sizzling.”

I actually have a personal association with the bassoon and jazz. During my years at the University of Illinois I had a music-major friend who taught me a lot, Charles “Chuck” Lipp. Chuck started out in the music school as a Paul Desmond-emulating alto saxophonist, but he switched to and proceeded to make a career of playing and writing contemporary classical music for the bassoon. It was interesting to observe the mental and physical process of going from a jazz to a classical mindset.

Side B opens with a somewhat obscure Hugh Masekela composition called Coincidence (Hugh Masekela Is Alive and Well at the Whisky, 1967). I can’t say I care at all for Masekela’s own singing performance of it, but the beauty of the composition is revealed to me by Tiberi’s bassoon. Danko has a section in his solo where he bypasses the keys and directly plucks the piano’s strings. Danko, lest I forget to say it, is superb throughout the album. While Danko in general, and this album in particular, are generally and rightfully considered traditional, he is fully capable of experimentation — see this interview. Harrell is out on this one too. Maybe that’s a good thing, because if I had to discuss Ha + Bassoon chemistry, I don’t know how I would abbreviate bassoon.

Harrell though is featured on Dave Brubeck’s lovely standard In Your Own Sweet Way. We also get a solo from Reid on this one. Horace Silver’s Cape Verdean Blues is played as a piano trio. I’m a little surprised they don’t use recent Silver veteran Harrell, but in any case it is nice Dankoniana. It’s back to the full quintet to finish the album: Harrell and Tiberi alternate on the statement of the theme, then Danko kicks off the soloing on Rodgers & Hart’s Have You Met Miss Jones. Solos follow from Tiberi, Harrell, and Reid on bow, before the horns trade exchanges with Labarbera.

Here is a bit of trivia you can stump your dinner guests with: The co-producer of Danko’s next album with Harrell, The First Love Song, for the (German) Jazz City label, was Yoshiaki Masuo, the guitarist on Yoshio “Chin” Suzuki’s 1978 Manhattan Focus album (see Ha + B later on). Masuo was also a recording artist for the Jazz City label. Bill Milkowski in his liner notes for The First Love Song calls this album Danko’s debut for the Japanese music conglomerate Pony Tail. German/Jazz City, Japanese/Pony Tail? I’ll leave that riddle for my discographer friends to solve. (Beginning in 1994 Danko found label stability, when he recorded the first of a whopping twenty three CDs for the Danish SteepleChase label.)

The First Love Song was supposed to be a trio album with Danko’s Thad Jones/Mel Lewis rhythm mates Rufus Reid and Mel Lewis, but …

“My original idea was to do a trio album but then Tom came over to my house to work on a few things. I had him look at the charts to see which tunes he would be comfortable on, and he sounded great on everything … It was hard not to make it a Tom Harrell record.”

Harold Danko, as told to Bill Milkowski in the liner notes

Appropriately for an album with this Thad Jones/Mel Lewis lineage, the title track is a ballad from Bob Brookmeyer. It is short and sweet. Tom plays the theme on mute, Reid and Danko solo briefly, Reid using the bow. I think it was with Diana Krall’s version that I really plugged into the true devil-may-care feel of Devil May Care. The playing here captures that. Lewis’s cymbals, Reid’s walking bass, Tom’s statement of the theme, and the launch of Danko’s swinging solo have me smiling big time (great solos from Tom, Mel, and Rufus too). Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most is another favorite song of mine. I didn’t realize until putting together a playlist for my mother a few years ago that its opening line is a hipster’s take on T. S. Elliot’s “April is the cruelest month.” For that playlist I used three drop dead gorgeous versions of this song, two from Betty Carter (Inside Betty Carter and The Audience With ) and one from the Bill Charlap Trio (Uptown Downtown), that bring literal tears to my eyes. This Danko trio version is right up there, with Reid bowing again in the intro but Lewis’s drum pattern making it a little more upbeat than Charlap’s treatment. European Passion by Tom Boras is also a trio number — Danko did manage to make it not an all Tom Harrell album! It is a lovely bluesy melody with a very forceful treatment and an effective fade out.

Cliches is an infectious, bluesy, 3/4 time (I think!) Danko original. And this one really does make you think it’s a Tom Harrell album, with guest star Harold Danko! The first four measures actually sound to me like Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most. The structure, as I count it, is A (8-8-8), a bridge B (8-8), and A again. Tom plays the theme (on flugelhorn), and he an Danko and Reid each solo for one chorus. Tom restates the theme, then there is a coda and fade out.

The next track, Eleanor Rigby, is also a Danko original. OK, just testing to see if you are paying attention. The “impressionistic” trio version of this “chamber-like Beatles staple” (Milkowski), especially Reid’s extended bowed solo, is a treat. Swift-Shifting actually is another Danko original, from the late 1960s. It is another trio number, and it features a Reid solo on acoustic followed by Lewis.

After an extended intro from Danko, at first unaccompanied and then joined by the rhythm section, Tom returns to mute to play the melody of Danko’s ballad To Start Again, switching to trumpet for his solo (following Danko and preceding Reid). I guess it’s a cliché to constantly call ballads lovely, but this one is.

Michael Leonard and Herbert Martin’s Why Did I Choose You is also a ballad and another trio number. Some will know Herbert Martin’s somewhat saccharine lyrics — there, I didn’t say “lovely” — from Barbra Streisand’s My Name Is Barbra album. I like Streisand, but I much prefer it here as an instrumental number. Danko stacks up the quiet numbers to close the album with the standard, Sinatra-associated Young At Heart. Tom returns to the flugelhorn for his theme statement and opening solo. He and Danko are fine in this medium tempo take. That was The First Love Song from 1988. Tom, Harold, and I are all the same age, and I salute the three of us for trying to stay young at heart.

Prior to Coincidence and The First Love Song, Danko and Harrell were actually on another album together in 1977, drummer Jimmy Madison’s Bumps On A Smooth Surface. For an interesting reason Danko has no solos on this album, though he plays dynamite electric as well as acoustic piano on it. I’ll tell the story when I get to Ha + Dm.

Allen Farnham: Boston/New York

Born in Boston (1961), graduated from Oberlin College of Music in Ohio, and transplanted to New York City in 1984, Farnham is closely associated both as a performer and as a producer for Concord Records. In 1988-2000, Farnham recorded frequently for Concord as sideman and as leader, including two albums accompanying Mel Tormé, followed by 5th House (1989) with Harrell, followed by four records with a singer I liked, Susannah McCorkle.

5th House is with Farnham’s quartet at that time, consisting of Joe Lovano, Drew Gress on bass, and Jamey Haddad on drums. Harrell is added as featured guest on four tracks. (In Ha + Ts, I gave a heads-up about this album in the context of summarizing the history of Harrell’s recordings with Lovano. There I also reported on a 1995 Concord album Ken Peplowski did with Harrell and Farnham.)

Two percussive, sustained, octave chords from Farnham, followed by a measure of triplet figures from Gress’s bass, followed by Haddad’s cymbals, kick off the title track, John Coltrane’s minor mode Fifth House (Coltrane Jazz on Atlantic). Harrell’s burnished trumpet plays the lead solo. Once again so much for Harrell as the always meditative, always-tinged-with-sadness improviser.

Farnham’s gently loping It’s Not Where You Always Think It Is — which, according to the liner notes from San Francisco WJAZ’s Stan Dunn, refers to the rhythmic placement of the main melodic line — has solos by Lovano, Harrell, and Farnham. In these Quintet numbers I am hearing a Coltrane Quartet-ish sound, and the richly chordal style of Farnham’s piano in particular reminds me of McCoy Tyner.

Farnham’s Quartet plays Duke Pearson’s ballad You Know I Care, Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil (introduced by Haddad’s percussion), Chick Corea’s classic Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (with Lovano on soprano sax), and Farnham’s pulsating, funky Hadd-Bone, which of course features Haddad’s drumming. The Trio without horns plays a Latin treatment of You Stepped Out of a Dream and Farnham’s Colin.

Harrell is back for two more Farnham originals, Despair and Pine Hollow Road. Lovano’s bells (yes) and a few bass notes from Farnham eerily introduce the eerily sounding and eerily titled Despair. Lovano and Harrell state the theme in unison. At three minutes in Gress repeats the theme with bow and is joined by Farnham in a slight improvisation before the horns rejoin. It’s quite lovely. “The warm, happy mood conveyed [by Pine Hollow Road]” describes, according to Dunn, “a special place Allen visits regularly.” Harrell Lovano, Farnham, some exchanges with Haddad. A fine ending to a fine album.

Donald Brown: Tennessee (Memphis) ➜ Boston ➜ New York ➜ Tennessee (Knoxville)

Harrell recorded 5th House with Farnham for Concord Records at A & R Recording Studios in Manhattan. Several months later Harrell was back in the same studio to record Donald Brown’s People Music for Joe Fields’s Muse Records. (Harrell was to have a great deal to do with Fields starting later in the decade.)

from the People Music CD insert; l to r: Samarai Celestial (b. Eric Walker), Tom, Steve Nelson, Brown, Vincent Herring, Robert Hurst; not pictured: Daniel G. Sadownick, Lenora Helm.

Let’s call it the Memphis ecosystem. Donald Brown was born in Mississippi in 1954 but raised in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis had a rich piano tradition. From an earlier generation there was Phineas Newborn Jr. (b. 1931) and Harold Mabern (b. 1936). Brown and his Memphis contemporaries James Williams (b. 1951) and Mulgrew Miller (b. 1955) all met at Memphis State University and maintained a close relationship over the years. Williams played for example with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers for four years and was succeeded by Brown (Brown dedicates People Music to Art Blakey, who passed away between the recording and the release of the album.) Both also taught as very young men at Berklee. This is the same James Williams who played so strikingly in Harrell’s Sail Away sessions in March, 1989 (in that year Brown made his first recording with Muse, Sources of Inspiration). Exactly a year after the Sail Away sessions, Williams wrote the liner notes for People Music: “Donald said he wanted the music for this record to reflect the many styles and faces of black music, from blues to Latin to jazz, etc. Donald also explained, ‘As a young musician growing up in Memphis, whenever we heard music with a lot of heart that made you want to dance we would call it “people music.” ‘ ”

The music delivers as promised. That is, it makes me want to dance, which is a dangerous thing. It is fine, straight-ahead jazz. In the spirit of “people music,” I won’t analyze each number but just make a few observations. Brown wrote all the compositions but two. The arrangements for the sextet are straightforward: theme, solos, theme. Some tracks are cooking, burning, roll out the usual suspect adjectives, all propelled by drummer Samarai Celestial and bassist Robert Hurst: the album opener The Biscuit Man, dedicated to bassist Charles Fambrough, whom Brown must have known from the Jazz Messengers; Over At Herbie’s Juke Joint, dedicated to Herbie Hancock and a hypothetical 21st century black nightclub; and the album closer, Williams’s Intensive Care Unit (I.C.U.).

Graylon though is a pensive piece dedicated to Brown’s youngest brother who is a bassist and so features a solo from Hurst. Prism is dedicated to Woody Shaw, who passed away in May, 1989. I Love It When You Dance That Way is, according to Brown, set in a Brazilian discotheque (“I’m watching this beautiful lady doing this hypnotic dance who turns out to be my wife”). It is pure fun. It is sung by professional singer Lenora Helm and exuberant, fun-loving-guy Samarai Celestial. Samarai, in case you are wondering, as I was, was born in Savannah, Georgia as Eric Walker. He took on the name Samarai Celestial, along with accoutrements and philosophy, during his dozen years with Sun Ra. He was a good friend of Brown’s and died way too soon, back in Savannah. See the whole story here.

For some mysterious reason Williams never mentions it in his liner notes, but the sextet is supplemented on I Love It When You Dance That Way and Returns From the Sixties by some very fine percussion playing by New Yorker Daniel Sadownick. Booker T is of course for Memphis’s own Booker T. & the M.G.’s. It is six marvelous blues choruses from an unaccompanied Brown. It would probably be my take-it-with-me-to-the-desert-island pick from the album. But the horns on the album are great. Tom of course, but Vincent Herring too, splitting his time between the alto saxophone and soprano (Biscuit Man and Over At Herbie’s Juke Joint). Last but not least, Steve Nelson’s vibraphone is an important part of the chemistry (on Duke Pearson’s Gaslight, for example). I particularly liked the use of vibes on Furio Romano’s Inside Out, and we noted the very similar sound there to the Grachan Moncur III and Jackie McLean LPs with Bobby Hutcherson and to the Dave Holland Quintet CDs with this same Steve Nelson.

Brown eventually returned to Tennessee to teach piano at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. To my knowledge, People Music is the last and only Brown and Harrell on wax, but on YouTube there is a clip just of the Harrell solo from a 2013 live performance in Knoxville.

Ivan Paduart: Belgium

From the Memphis ecosystem of Donald Brown back to the (French) Belgian ecosystem. I say “back to” because we have already been here with Philip Catherine and Michel Herr. In the late 80s pianist Ivan Paduart decided to go into jazz after taking a masterclass with Herr (then pianist with another member of that ecosystem, Toots Thielemans). For the ecosystem, hear Paduart and Philip Catherine play Herr’s Beauty where it is from the album HERRitage.

At the start of his career, Paduart made a couple albums for the Belgian label B.Sharp (Aftertouch, 1990 & Turquoise, 1993), a trio album (plus guests) for the Belgian label Igloo (Illusions Sensorielles), and in December of 1993 Time Gone By for the Belgian label AMC, recorded at the studios of Radio-télévision belge de la Communauté française (RTBF; RTBF has a Flemish and a German counterpart).

Time Gone By was the third and as it turned out last album Belgian producer Philippe Baron made in conjunction with RTBF and AMC for a series whose purpose was to team up a Belgian jazz artist with a well-known American soloist. (Baron is currently a jazz DJ for RTBF.) The first album in the series, Discoveries, was Belgian pianist Nathalie Loriers and her Cool Trance quartet teamed up with Lee Konitz. The second, Beauty and the Prince, was Belgian guitarist Jeanfrançois Prins plus vocalist Judy Niemack teamed up with Fred Hersch (Californian Judy Niemack counts as Belgian because at that time she had moved to Brussels and she, the Beauty, later married Prins the Prince). Time Gone By ended up being the last of the series (ten were planned), because funding from a Belgian bank dried up. Thank you Michel Herr, Ivan Paduart, and Philippe Baron for supplying me with some of these details.

The Belgian ecosystem was instrumental, by the way and so to speak, in the launching of Joe Lovano’s career. Solid Steps was Lovano’s debut album as leader. It was with Michel Herr, Hein Van de Geyn, Bert Joris on trumpet, and Dré Pallemaerts on drums for the Belgian label Jazz Club, and was engineered by Max Bolleman at Studio 44. The fourth album in the Baron/RTBF/AMC series was already on the drawing boards when the series funding was pulled. It was the Belgian pianist Eric Legnini and his trio with featured soloist Joe Lovano. Baron was able to get the Belgian label Igloo to pick up the project, and the result was the album Rhythm Sphere. You may recall that Igloo was the label for Jean-Louis Rassinfosse/Chet Baker/Philip Catherine.

Paduart made Time Gone By with his Illusions Sensorielles trio of Philippe Aerts on bass (Baron: “easily the best Belgian bass player of his generation”) and Bruno Castellucci on drums. French guitarist Jean-Marie Ecay is added on three tracks (Ecay was a member of French violinist Didier Lockwood’s group and a member also at that time along with Paduart of French singer Claude Nougaro’s band).

“When asked what featured soloist he would ideally have for the date, Ivan immediately thought of Tom Harrell. There was no mention of another name!”

Philippe Baron, liner notes

(Time Gone By streams on Apple, but I could not find the CD available anywhere for purchase. I want to thank Swiss trumpeter and fellow Harrell enthusiast Stani Elmer for scanning the liner notes for me.)

Paduart/Baron: “The material was especially composed with Tom in mind.”

liner notes

And what was Paduart’s conception of Harrell’s playing? On his website Paduart describes Harrell’s trumpet & flugelhorn as “plangent.” “Plangent” is in fact a fair adjective to characterize the music overall on Time Gone By.

As for Harrell,

“[Ivan’s compositions] gave me an opportunity to play poetically and with intensity, and that combination is what I always aim at.”

Harrell, cited in the liner notes

All but two compositions on the album are Paduart’s. Contre-jour sets the tone. “Contre-jour” means “backlight” in French, and the backlight shines on Harrell, who plays the pretty theme and solos first. During his solo the rhythm switches to a walking-bass and never looks back — Aerts and Castellucci are perfectly complementary throughout the album, effective but unobtrusive. Paduart is a very expressive soloist. There is a delicate swing to it all, characteristic of a typical Bill Evans album.

The ballad Cécile is a trio track (with nice brush work from Castellucci) and is lovely, as I’m sure Cécile is in real life (she gets thanked by Ivan in the liner notes). Later the equally lovely Egoisme (though she perhaps is not as lovely in real life) is played by Paduart as a duet with Aert’s bass.

Had To Go is by a Canadian bass player named Alain Caron, one of the two non-Paduart pieces on the album (played here by Caron). (In 1992 Caron had recorded for a French label with Jean-Marie Ecay and Didier Lockwood.) The track continues the pretty trend (again with brush work as well as a solo from Aerts). Harrell again plays the theme and solos first, followed by an equally lyrical Paduart, then Aerts. Paduart dedicates the album to Michel Herr, and the next track is Herr’s interestingly-titled and exquisite Song From Your Father. It fulfills one of the other rules for this Baron-RTBF series, that one piece be by a Belgian composer chosen by the leader. What can I say? It too is lovely. After an introductory measure from Paduart, Harrell states the theme, Paduart and Harrell play three choruses apiece, a briefer solo from Aerts, and then a circling back to Harrell. The “lovely” chemistry continues with Paduart’s also interestingly-titled Don’t Worry, which Paduart dedicates to Harrell. Harrell plays the theme, but the first solo goes to Aerts, followed by Tom, then Ivan.

The 7th through 9th tracks are those with Ecay added, so the mood and chemistry change somewhat. Stand By injects some jaunty. Solos by Harrell and Ecay on this one, but not Paduart. Harrell is out on the 8th track, Balivernes. I would call it a ballad, and it has nice unison playing by Ecay and Paduart. I assumed Balivernes was a place name, and I googled it out of curiosity. To my surprise, I saw that in French it means “nonsense.” I found this hard to believe, so I asked Ivan. Yep, he says, it means “poppycock.” “Sometimes,” he adds, “music produces untranslatable states of mind!” Plangent, but with some poppycock — I like that!. Ecay kicks off the straight-ahead Because the Blues.

The album returns to the quartet format and closes with its title track. According to the liner notes, everyone including Paduart was moved to tears by Harrell’s performance on it. That is not hard to believe. “Poetically with intensity.”

Steve Kuhn: Brooklyn ➜ MA ➜ …

For this post-Woods period of his career, I have heard Harrell play with a multitude of up-and-comers as well as a handful of established veterans (for example, Charles McPherson and Art Farmer). Steve Kuhn is eight years Tom’s senior, and his amazing credentials were long ago established by the time of this recording.

Kuhn was born in Brooklyn (his parents and grandparents emigrated to America from Budapest, Hungary, and Kuhn in interviews expresses gratitude that he was raised in a society where he was free to do what he wanted to do). His formative musical education though happened in Massachusetts. As a teenager he studied piano in Boston with the formidable Madame Margaret Chaloff (see here) and gigged with Dame Chaloff’s son, the baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff. He studied music theory and graduated from Harvard in ’59, and he attended John Lewis’s short-lived but legendary Lenox Academy in western Massachusetts on scholarship, which became the source of many subsequent musical associations. (Here Kuhn tell his story.) After a period (1967-1971) of living in Stockholm and touring extensively in Europe, he came full circle and moved back to New York City. New York City ⬌ Boston ⬌ New York City : This corridor is the northernmost segment of the “Northeast megalopolis” that extends down to Washington D.C. It has its own subculture (think Red Sox vs Yankees), including a rich jazz history — think of the many NYC-based jazz musicians who have attended Berklee College of Music, or think of George Wein, who also studied with Madame Chaloff, and of Wein’s Storyville (the Boston nightclub, that is) and Newport Jazz Festival.

There is a leap of time between Ivan Paduart’s “plangent” Time Gone By, recorded in December, 1993, and Steve Kuhn’s Seasons of Romance, recorded in New York in April of 1995. But they are similar in emotional register. Jazz critic Howard Mandel, in his liner notes, attributes to Romance (the song and the album) “what the Brazilians call saudade — a sweet sadness, a wistful blues.”

Saudade notwithstanding, any premonition that an album called “Seasons of Romance” might be a bit maudlin was immediately dispelled by Bob Mintzer’s straight-ahead, swinging Six Gun. It is supported by the formidable rhythm team of George Mraz (bass) and Al Foster (drums). The second track, Romance, is a trio number. By the end of these first two tracks I felt something was missing, and on brief reflection I realized it was the audience applause. I really felt like I should be hearing this in a club. One other initial observation: On these first two tracks, no Harrell! (My first listening was before reading the liner notes.)

In fact now that I have listened to it multiple times, I conceive of Romance as substantially a trio album, with either Harrell or Mintzer added on a few tracks (Mintzer on his own Six Gun, Quincy Jones’s theme to The Pawnbroker, and Kuhn’s Clotilde, and Harrell on his own Visions of Gaudi, Steve Swallow’s Remember, and Kuhn’s Looking Back). I am pleased at the selection (and the playing of course) of Visions of Gaudi, one of my favorite Harrell compositions thus far.

Re Swallow’s Remember, the two Steves, pianist Kuhn and bassist Swallow, played together frequently in the 60s. Swallow’s Remember is not to be confused with Irving Berlin’s Remember, which has been recorded by, for example, Thelonius Monk and Hank Mobley. Here Kuhn fulfills the intro called for on the lead sheet for Swallow’s 3/4-time, medium-tempo piece with an All Blues-type tremolo before playing the theme, which Harrell then repeats. Harrell, with Kuhn comping, and then Kuhn take two choruses each. At the end of his second chorus Kuhn reverts to his introductory tremolo which in turn becomes comping to a mini solo by Foster. Kuhn then restates the first sixteen bars of the theme which Harrell completes, before a minute-long collective improv from Kuhn and Harrell at the end. This Remember by the way has an impressive history on disc (remember Remember?). It was first recorded by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White in 1982 , again in 1988 by Swallow and Carla Bley, an album by the way worth it for its cover alone , and years later by Swallow, Dave Liebman, and Adam Nussbaum … and probably others.

Kuhn’s Looking Back closes the album. It is a standard AAB(with walking bass)A+4 number. Harrell plays the theme and two choruses, followed by two from Kuhn and exchanges by Harrell and Kuhn with Foster.

A record, an album, an LP, a CD is a finished product. When Harrell is involved, I try to appreciate the entire finished product to which he contributed. So from time to time I don’t hesitate to make a few observations about the non-Harrell tracks. In the liner notes to Romance Howard Mandel quotes Kuhn as saying that The Pawnbroker is exquisite and needs only be played as it’s written. That is how they do it, and Bob Mintzer is especially moving on this one. The trio ballads Good Morning, Heartache and Romance are excellent Kuhn vehicles, again making me somehow feel like I should be hearing these in a club setting. I have especially fallen in love with Romance, which is new to me (the song, not the experience) and which is not to be confused with Harrell’s own composition Romance, which we heard on Philip Catherine’s Moods, Vol. I. The Romance played here by Kuhn was written by “Dori” Caymmi, the middle-born of the three musically accomplished children of the incredibly accomplished Brazilian composer Dorival Caymmi. It was sung by Sarah Vaughan with English lyrics by I don’t know who on her very fine 1987 Brazilian Romance album, as it turned out her last. Thanks to the internet for the following: It was recorded with the original Portuguese lyrics of Paulo César Pinheiro by an obscure (to me at least) singer named Ney Mesquita on an obscure but lovely album — Canções de Dorival e Dori Caymmi — that you can hear on Spotify — my copy of the CD has arrived from a seller in Italy ! For as long as the link survives, you can see Pinheiro’s Portuguese lyrics here. Thanks to Tom for these rewarding excursions.

Jacky Terrasson: Paris ➜ New York

Paris ➜ New York: Jacky Terrasson

Jacky Terrasson was born in Berlin (1965) to an African-American woman from the state of Georgia and a Frenchman from Paris. He took to the piano and to jazz at an early age, and he had a bit role in Bertrand Tavernier’s 1986 film ‘Round Midnight. He did a stint at Berklee College of Music and moved to New York in 1990, but not before recording Moon and Sand with Tom Harrell on French soil. In the words of a review of this album in Le Monde, “Jacky Terrasson n’est pas encore Jacky Terrasson.”

Le Monde is referring to a string of successful albums a New York-based Terrasson was to make for Blue Note shortly after this duo session with Harrell. There was and is a French jazz ecosystem, more particularly a Parisian one, and Jacky Terrasson was a part of it, but he was restless and ambitious. He didn’t want to be confined by it. “Paris had a jazz scene, and I played quite a bit in the local clubs,” Terrasson told an interviewer in JazzTimes, “but in my mind it was never enough. I felt if I stayed in Paris, I’d be doing the same thing 15 years later and that seemed terrible.” With A Paris … in 2000, though, and with subsequent recordings, he returned to the popular French songs of his youth.

With Herbie Hancock and Dexter Gordon on the set of ‘Round Midnight
Working some things out in the recording studio with Tom on the piano

To the best of my recollection, I first became aware of Terrasson on one of those Blue Note albums, an album I was obsessed with, his and vibraphonist Stefon Harris’s 2001 collaboration Kindred (I still believe Harris’s descending major third at the start of the Titi Boom theme is the heads-up New York City subway doors make when they close!) I think of Kindred as a duo album, but actually Tarus Mateen’s bass and Terreon Gully’s drums are a major element in that album’s chemistry. By contrast, Moon and Sand from ten years earlier is a pure duet. And, it was an accident.

“Le hasard fait bien les choses!”

Dominique Burucoa, liner notes to Pierre Boussaguet 5tet, Special Guest Tom Harrell, recorded December 1,2, and 3, 1991 in Capbreton, France

Moon and sand ou la rencontre de Jacky et de Tom est le fruit d’un beau hasard”

Dominique Burucoa, liner notes to Moon and Sand, recorded December 5 and 6, 1991 in Capbreton

In France not only is there a Parisian jazz scene, there is a southwestern France jazz scene. There local promoter Dominique Burucoa, working with the Scène Nationale de Bayonne et du Sud-Aquitain and its label Jazz aux Remparts, inaugurated a festival in Bayonne in the summer of 1990 (it was held at the foot of Bayonne’s ancient fortifications or remparts). The festival and an associated series of recordings planned for Jazz aux Remparts were aimed at boosting the careers of local jazz musicians, occasionally by bringing in American stars (not unlike the Philippe Baron/RTBF/AMC project in Belgium — see above). One such local musician, bassist Pierre Boussaguet, was already known to the world primarily through his association with Ray Brown — more on Boussaguet when we get to Ha + B. For the 1991 festival Boussaguet formed a quintet consisting of himself, Terrasson, who was the third leg in Ray Brown and Boussaguet’s ‘Two Bass Hits” trio that performed at the inaugural festival of 1990, drummer Jean-Pierre Arnaud, and the brothers Stéphane Belmondo on trumpet & flugelhorn and Lionel Belmondo on tenor sax. The quintet was a success, and in December the five were to reconvene to record for Jazz aux Remparts. They had a studio in Capbreton booked for three days. Unfortunately, forty eight hours before the first day, Lionel had to bail out. Boussaguet decided on the spur of the moment to replace him with an American musician. He sent two faxes to America. Harrell was the first to respond. He landed at the Anglet-Bayonne-Biarritz airport the next day!

When the session wrapped up (we will visit this Boussaguet album when we get to Ha + B), producer Burucoa learned that Harrell’s return flight was not for another four days and that the Capbreton studio was available again in two days, so he conceived the idea of recording Harrell and Terrasson as a duo (Terrasson’s debut album for Jazz aux Remparts, What’s New, had already been released). The night before the session, Terrasson had to be in Brittany for a previously booked gig, but he arrived back in Bayonne by train the midday following, exhausted but ready.

There wasn’t much time except to agree on some standards and go over some charts or chords or whatever (see the picture above) — except for Harrell’s Twenty Bar Tune, all the numbers are standards, beginning with the title track, Alec Wilder’s Moon and Sand (“sweet are your lips to me / soft as the moon and sand”). In interviews Terrasson pays special homage to Keith Jarrett, so it’s a good guess he was familiar with the Keith Jarrett-Gary Peacock-Jack DeJohnette (i.e., The Standards Trio) 1985 version of this song (Standards, Vol. 2). On Tune Up Harrell breezes through Miles’s early classic with the familiarity you would expect (some by the way insist this song was actually written by Eddie Cleanhead Vinson). Beautiful Love from Victor Young, Wayne King, and Egbert van Alstyne in 1931 is the dictionary definition of “standard.” More in the jazz vein, Tadd Dameron wrote If You Could See Me Now in 1941 especially for Sarah Vaughan. Harrell and Terrasson take it very slow. It would be interesting to know whether Terrasson was familiar with Twenty Bar Tune before the session, but he sure has Monkish fun with it. From the 1961 musical Stop The World – I Want To Get Off comes What Kind Of Fool Am I? by Leslie Briscusse and Anthony Newley. Any urge I have to mock this song — and believe me, I have the urge — is rendered mute by Tom’s muted and respectful treatment here.

The album ends with six standards by jazz composers familiar to everyone (the songs and the composers). Was Bud’s Parisian Thoroughfare inevitable?! Duke Pearson’s Jeannine is ingrained in my every fiber for life by Cannonball. And Thelonius’s ‘Round Midnight has always been one of my favorite jazz compositions. It certainly will have had special meaning for Terrasson the movie star! Thelonius debuted his exercise in “Rhythm changes,” Rhythm-a-Ning, on his 1957 album with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The last track is a medley of Dizzy’s Con Alma, with Harrell on mute, and Thelonius’s Well You Needn’t. By the way, going back to my Horn of Pretty playlist — “pretty” songs written by trumpet players — I don’t know why it never occurred to me to include Con Alma.

As Burucoa says in the liner notes, in a duo of this caliber the music blossoms like ideas in a conversation. Yet the album has a bit of cautious formality to it. On the majority of numbers it is Harrell who states the melody and plays the first solo, though there are exceptions. Sometimes, for example, they play the theme in unison, as on Parisian Thoroughfare, or with harmonizing that is close to unison playing. I believe the only number where Terrasson solos first is If You Could See Me Now. The chemistry lacks the riotous spontaneity of Terrasson and Harris’s Kindred ten years later, but the circumstances were quite different then. Terrasson had ten years more of playing under his belt, including as a leader; Terrasson and Harris had played together in clubs before making the record; and presumably there was more time to prep and to get a good night’s sleep ahead of time. But it is wonderful to hear Tom in the uncluttered setting of a duet, just as it was with the Jim Hall-Tom Harrell duets, and without qualification I thoroughly enjoy this album.

<The ‘Chemistry’ continues with bass, drums, and vibes in the next post.>

Published by Randy Gibbons

I am retired. I have several strong interests, in particular classical studies (Greek and Latin); a lifelong passion for music, especially jazz; and more recently, dabbling in philosophy. For more information about me, click on About Me.

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