Chords & Notes
This week at Music World...
Universal Music, CD, Rs. 525
THE VIOLINIST Stéphane Grappelli was half of one of the most famous collaborations in jazz history, certainly the most famous in Europe. With the legendary Belgian gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, he co-led the Quintet of the Hot Club of France (QHCF) till Reinhardt's early death in 1953. He continued working till his own death a few years ago at around 90, more or less maintaining the style that had made him and Reinhardt the standard-bearers of European jazz.
This album, recorded in 1979, is called Young Django because it comes closest to evoking that style, features several of Reinhardt and Grappelli's hit compositions, and stars Philip Catherine, whom Grappelli called Young Django, on guitar. The American guitarist Larry Coryell and the Danish bassist Niels-Henning Orsted-Pederson (aka NHOP) make up a quartet in which all four members play equally prominent roles.
QHCF started life in swing jazz, borrowing heavily from gypsy music and later worked in the revolutionary be-bop idiom of the '40s. This album is anchored in the hard bop idiom that succeeded be-bop in the '50s and maintained the strong emphasis on solo improvisation. Several leisurely tracks in the middle break the fast pace of the opening "Djangology" and closing "Blues for Django and Stéphane".
Despite being shortish, the tracks pack in several solos, particularly delightful when two or more of these maestri improvise simultaneously. Grappelli's violin, outstanding of course, cannot sideline the great performances of the two guitarists and NHOP.
Alice Coltrane: Priceless Jazz Collection
Universal Music, Rs. 300
ALICE COLTRANE was a pianist in her own right before she met and married John Coltrane (aka Trane) in 1965, two years before his death. Like him, she became interested in Eastern religions, her interest showing more in the titles of the tracks and albums she recorded, and perhaps their general mood, than in their musical idiom.
The eight tracks on this collection were recorded between 1968 and 1971. They feature Coltrane on piano, harp or electric organ, all instruments she mastered. One can see the influence of McCoy Tyner, the great pianist whom she replaced in Trane's band, especially in the rich and deep harmonies she strikes with her left hand, but she is obviously no mere Tyner clone.
The music is essentially contemplative, even spiritual, in mood without sounding unapproachable to the mainstream jazz ear. With the dazzling solos from all the musicians, we get plenty of the unbroken waves of sound Trane became famous for, here ably recreated with the help of some of his associates such as Pharoah Sanders on soprano saxophone and flute, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Rashied Ali on drums. A couple of tracks ("Shiva Loka" and "Sita Ram") feature a tambura player, but only the latter, based loosely on Gandhiji's favourite "Ram Dhun", falls outside mainstream jazz. And since towards the end of his life Trane was making some tortured experiments with free jazz, the music here gives a better idea of how he could have sounded if he hadn't gone off the deep end.
Sam and Dave:
BMG, CD, Rs. 475
SAMUEL MOORE (born in October 1935) and David Prater (born in May 1937) were one of the most successful soul acts of the '60s. Both had gospel backgrounds, and after some club work, moved on to the famous Stax label in 1965. There they quickly became the musical vehicle for the production and song writing team of Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter. Many of their famous chartbusters ("You Got Me Humming", "You Don't Know Like I Know", "Soul Man", "I Thank You", and "Hold On, I'm Coming) appear on this collection. In 1967, "Soul Man" topped both the pop and R&B charts. It made a reappearance in 1979, in the hit film Blues Brothers, and rekindled interest in the duo.
Sam and Dave parted ways in 1982 amidst some acrimony, a sad end to nearly two decades of performing some of the most enduring material in the entire soul repertoire.
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