22 September 2010

Time, Place & Occassion: Jazz

I was 21 when I was promoted to sergeant in the army. I remember going to the main NCO club on Ft Bragg and celebrating with their Wednesday night special. A NY strip steak, salad, baked potato and a martini for $7.95 or thereabouts. I sipped a Beefeater martini and looked out the window at the PX across the street. I felt pretty damned good.

After the second martini I felt even better and that's when I heard Dave Brubeck's, Take Five. I don't remember hearing anything on the sound system before or after it. I've mentioned before how my father's love of Jazz permeated my soul and lay dormant for years. It was that moment in the Ft Bragg NCO club that Take Five connected to something in me. It could've been the gin but what ever it was, it changed my listening habits forever.

I bought a beautiful reel to reel from an army buddy and hooked it up to my stereo. I bought tape and listened to everything I could borrowing a lot from the old man when I came home on leave. Monk was hard to get but I connected to Ahmad Jamal immediately. I felt grown up listening to Jamal. And he went pretty well with a cigarette and a drink. I'd watch the smoke rise in front of a lamp and looked in my glass where the oil from the olive slid across the gin like heat vapors rising in a desert. I would wonder where I would be in 10, 20 maybe even 30 years.

Never thought I'd still be listening to Jamal 30 years later. I thought the world's advancements would certainly improve music. Right. Up there are some of my favorites. You know about Jamal. Paul Desmond was Brubeck's sax player. When asked how he developed his sound he said, "I had the vague idea I wanted to sound like a dry martini." 'From The Hot Afternoon' is a Brazil inspired collection that seems to fly with the first cut, Outubro (October). I would add that it's a pretty damned good choice for seduction. All you have to do is leave it on and everything else has a good chance of coming off.

'Kind of Blue' by Miles is a major contrast to Desmond. I can't handle Miles before 5PM. I just can't. But I loved listening to him while looking out my window on Lake Shore Drive and watching brake lights as cars enter the turn just north of my apartment window. I recently found where Ivy Style dug into Miles and his love of Ivy apparel here. Great stuff and very enlightening.

Bill Evans sat at the piano for 'Kind of Blue.' Evan's, 'Portrait in Jazz' reminds me of Johnny Walker Red with soda. Smooth, dry and lively. It works well in the background with a party but it's perfect to listen to alone. I love Evans on a long road trip. He makes driving through Darien, GA sophisticated.

Wes Montgomery was a self taught guitarist who, if Evans is dry, Wes is as humid as Panama in November. The Verve CD, Jazz Masters 14, is a good introduction not only to Wes but to Jazz. It's accessible, fun and Goin out of My Head (1965) is magical while sipping a rye Manhattan and flipping through an old Princeton yearbook from the same year.

I remember asking my father about Brubeck's 'Time Out' when I was home on leave. We sat at the kitchen table after dinner and smoked H. Upman coronas. Looking past my father I could see an egret land in the salt marsh behind our house. The old man blew a smoke ring and told me it was nothing more than playing with time - but - what I was hearing wasn't very easy to do.

A lotta years later I'm still hearing it and wearing it.


Anonymous said...

Ahh, Tintin, you're after my heart, once again with these jazz album covers and stories!

I understand your unwillingness to throw on Kind of Blue until after 5PM. I listen to Sketches of Spain only on cold winter days. That's just my thing. In his early days he had a killer ivy thing happening.

As I understand it, 5/4 time might not be easy to do, it's just that Brubeck made it sound that way. And, oh yeah, he also composed fun, lasting songs around it.

Sophisticated driving to Evans through Darien! Love it!


Ben said...

Holy shit, Dads are brilliant aren't they? The old soldier just described - to a T - everything you need to know about Take Five, without listening to it yourself. Are you sure he was sqatting in the bush keeping his steel and powder dry, and not smoking reefer and writing reviews for DownBeat all those years?

Wonderful post. Love jazz. That is all.

Bill Smith said...

Another great post Tintin!

I have most of the titles highlighted here and like you my dad infected me with a love for jazz early on but it stayed dormant until my early thirties.

Do have a suggestion for you consider for your libaray: Something Else by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet.

Anonymous said...

The track "Poinciana" from the Ahmad Jamal Trio LP is so pretty and then folds in on itself to become magic. At about 2 minutes in Ahmad's rhythm steps up and we're off. Brilliant track. Cinematic. Just beautiful.


tintin said...

2:12. This song always turns me into a 12 year old...where nothing can go wrong.

skorpeo said...

two words: eddie harris.

Anonymous said...

I had an employee working part time in my bookshop. She had to leave the floor everytime I played Brubek 'cause the time signatures dove her mad - she was a viola de gambist.

And Dads & Jazz - agreed. Took me 20 years (10 years after his death) to finally see what he was hearing.

M.Lane said...

I have all of those albums too and I love them all. I agree about MD before 5pm. Maybe before 10pm.

Great post. As always.


Main Line Sportsman said...

Jimmy Cobb..Drummer on Kind of Blue, played at my joint(Chris' Jazz cafe) several years back with his band: "Cobb's Mob."
I drank with him long into the night after the show...
Damn the stories those old guys could tell
Some day I'll do a post about my experiences with:James Moody...Sonny Fortune...Lee Konitz(He told us to:"Tune your fuckin' piano") George Coleman and more contemporary Chris Potter ..Eric Alexander(You should be able to see him at Smoke sometime)and Grant Stewart. And that's just the sax players. How about all time guitar great and Philly native Pat Martino..
Thanks Tintin..this post brought back some of the good times of owning a jazz Club.

Sam said...

That Paul Desmond cover...words fail me. Just perfect - perfect.

Sam said...

Btw, this is the best blog by a mile. I love checking in just before bedtime. Thanks.

K said...

Nearly impossible to not be changed by Take Five. Beautiful record.

brohammas said...

Just as I have tried to like plaid jackets, I have tried to like jazz... and failed. I am told I should like it, but I can't fake the funk.

That being said, I love it live. Of course I won't sit down and listen to country western but a cowboy singin in a bar is just fine for hour on end.

Now a crooner I can handle, even enjoy, but if you want that same smooth, jazz vibe, after five, and are under the age of 45; its Erykah Badu all the way. Orange Moon renders the martini redundant as the music will calm you on its own, then carry you away.

Baron said...

All you have to do is leave it on and everything else has a good chance of coming off.

Another brilliant line.

The Sluice Box said...

Last year Ahmad Jamal was in San Francisco to perform. I figured he would be very good but had no idea how amazing it would actually be. It's the only time I've attended both the early and the late performance. It felt like I was experiencing something of historic proportion. That's a night I still look back on and say thank god I did both shows.


Anonymous said...

And when the hour approaches, the one you were thinking about all day, turn to Ben Webster. Wow she got out of that dress quickly!

Main Line Sportsman said...

Broham...You hit it Sir...Jazz is infinitely better live...always. I know many people who feel excatly as you do...love it live....do not listen to it at home or in the car.

Anonymous said...

Your father sounds like a great guy with exceptionally good taste. Is Mr. Jamal still around? He is great.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Bill Evans. I can listen to the whole "Live at the Village Vanguard" sessions and never tire of it. That and "Waltz for Debbie." Or pretty much anything by Evans, brilliant violet hour stuff.