VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Wise One Mixtape”
The word is that Trane wrote this one for Naima, his first wife, the one who helped him defeat his drug habit. Writing a beautiful song in tribute to a wonderful woman is certainly a wise move. So, though the composition is ostensibly a tribute to a wise woman, the meditative melody is also an astonishing offering indicating the deep wisdom of its author.
“Wise One” is from Crescent, Trane’s most lyrical album of original material. The collaboration with Johnny Hartman is the most endearingly lyrical of Trane's album of standards. In addition to being hauntingly lyrical, Crescent is also one of the most modern blues albums ever recorded by Trane or by anyone else for that matter.
What majestic music this is from Trane and what majestic music Trane inspires others to create when they perform Trane’s compositions. For this Mixtape we start with the father and end with the son (Ravi Coltrane), and in between we cover a lot of ground.
01 The John Coltrane Quartet - Crescent
Of course the original is a classic, after all we are listening to the classic John Coltrane Quartet: Trane on tenor, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and the mighty, mighty Elvin Jones on drums. This formation was the epitome of sixties jazz—no other group left so many important statements, no other ensemble so thoroughly influenced the directions that jazz would take. Over-estimating the impact and influence of this quartet on post-bop jazz is almost impossible.
I call special attention to the construction of John Coltrane’s solo, the way he alternates between long tones and fast flurries of notes, between relaxation and tension, between smooth floating rhythms and jagged sonic constructions as if he wanted to stand still and fly at the same time.
02 Dwight Tribble – Living Water
This is a west coast vocalist who is both under-recorded and relatively unknown to a general audience but the man is a monster singer of the new music. His throat is a horn. The way he emotes is totally free, totally unrestricted by the lyrics, many of which he writes himself. By now he should have at least ten or twelve recordings and be feted at musical festivals on every continent. But alas, we live in the era of global capitalism and the bean counters have audited the books; the accountants say not much money can be made off of a singer who doesn’t sound like he can be packaged to teenagers or romantics. Which is our lost because the paucity of recordings means that most of us are unaware of the breadth and depth of Dwight Tribble.
03 Archie Shepp – Ballads For Trane
I passed over a Pharoah Sanders version to include this stunning presentation by Archie Shepp whose hurly burly, thicket of a tenor saxophone sound is totally distinctive. Once you’ve heard him, you can immediately tell him. Although he is not known for his lyricism, as is clear on this austere interpretation his gruff tenderness can be quite affecting. The sound has all the beauty of a blow torch’s cobalt blue flame, you almost need a weldor’s visor to listen to the caustic beauty of Shepp’s blowing. Some even assess this sound as ugly but as Monk prophesized there is even a beatification accurately called ugly beauty. The way Shepp handles the notes, he’s making a world: carving out mountains, digging out craters which will become oceans. This is no mere contemplation of creation, this is the act of fashioning a world.
04 Conrad Herwig & Brian Lynch – Que Viva Coltrane
Trombonist, arranger and band leader Conrad Herwig has two albums interpreting Trane material and one interpreting Miles, all three with a Latin flavor. Track them down, you won’t regret making the effort. I like this arrangement, especially the counterpoint lines. Brian Lynch is the trumpeter. Mucho interesting note is that both men are featured on brass horns and a baritone sax makes the opening statement of the theme. Although Trane cut beaucoup tracks with trumpeter Donald Byrd (note: more than with Miles), once the Trane got really rolling he seldom used brass horns. I mean if you had Eric Dolphy and Pharoah Sanders as second horn there was absolutely no need for a trumpet. Within that context the Herwig/Lynch combination does a very good job.
05 Bobby Hutcherson – Wise One
This is from Bobby’s latest album. As they play you can hear verbal expressions of enjoyment in the background. I ditto those vocal interjections. Bobby Hutcherson is currently the last word in vibes. I don’t think this is his best recorded work but it is top draw (at a later date BoL will explore the recordings of Bobby Hutcherson). With Mr. Hutcherson it’s not about flash (how fast he can play), rather Bobby’s strength is in his phrasing and the rightness of his note placement in terms of both melody and rhythm. Bobby and crew (that’s big band maestro Gerald Wilson’s son, Anthony, on guitar) strike a fine balance between relaxed, seemingly effortless swing and sophisticated exploration. Listen to the crystal clarity of Bobby’s solo. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
06 Ravi Coltrane – Live At Joe’s Pub broadcast on WBGO
This is from a celebrated radio broadcast that included guests appearances by Alice Coltrane and Ravi’s brother, Oran Coltrane. I can’t praise too much Ravi’s both resplendent and reverent take on this majestic composition. Pianist Luis Perdomo spins out an incredibly rich solo before Ravi follows blowing with sophisticated passion—he resists the temptation to play loud and fast to indicate deep emotions. Instead of over-blowing, Ravi under-blows and we feel and know that there’s a whole world of feelings and experiences behind each note. This is filial respect of the most sensitive kind. Obviously Ravi has developed his own share of wisdom. The family really ought to officially release this widely circulated broadcast.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
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