Duke Ellington Orchestra Big Bands Live
Albert Mangelsdorff Legends Live
ixteen years after picking up the trombone, Albert Mangelsdorff entered the studio and recorded Now Jazz Ramwong for CBS Records Holland. Long out of print, that album became a European free-jazz classic and a sought-after collectors treasure.
This session is a precursor to that album. Recorded live in Freiburg, Germany, on June 22, 1964, shortly after Mangelsdorffs return from his Asian tour, these tracks were ignored for fifty years before being discovered and restored. The albums five songs capture a tight, dynamic piano-less quintet taking the listener on an intense journey from hard bop through avant-garde to free jazz to fusion. The late Albert Mangelsdorff, a superb trombone player and winner of Down Beats International Jazz Critics Poll in 1965, demonstrates his skill on the awkward trombone with little evidence of his mastery of multiphonics, the technique of playing more than one note at a time, which earned him worldwide notoriety.
In addition to Mangelsdorff, the album features the tenor and soprano sax of Heinz Sauer, alto sax of Günter Kronberg, upright bass of Günter Lenz, and Ralf Hübner on drums. The feature song, Mangelsdorffs "Now Jazz Ramwong," is a rollicking, stylishly exotic, up-tempo barn-burner featuring a Rollins-like solo from Sauer and a Dolphy-like one from Kronberg on soprano sax, both propelled by the intense strummed double stops of Lenzs bass and insistent drumming of Hübner. Mangelsdorffs solo here is not timid. He attacks the horn and coaxes delightful sounds from it. Sourced from Thai dance music, this number has a decidedly folksy feel to it. Mangelsdorffs composition Set em Up is another smoker, with a more traditional hard-bop feel. This tune could have come right out of the Art Blakey songbook. Here Kronberg channels Coltrane to good effect with a rousing extended solo fueled by sensitive drumming from Hübner. Lenzs lush tone, especially well captured in this recording, and Hübners dynamic stick work, also well recorded, are featured on the beautiful duo "Raknahs." The Malaysian folk-song-inspired "Burungkaka," another Mangelsdorff composition, serves as a vehicle for the leader to show his chops. He does so and demonstrates what a trombone should sound like. Finally, the Ravi Shankar composition "Theme from Pather Panchali" provides an extended tenor sax solo from Sauer in the Coltrane mode along with some beautiful bass playing by Günter Lenz, who recalls Indian string sonorities in his solo.
Duke Ellington needs no introduction. Over a 49-year recording career he earned iconic status as a truly original American composer and bandleader. This outstanding, clear recording captures the Dukes late-'60s 14-piece band live in performance at Stuttgarts Liederhalle on March 6, 1967 before a very appreciative audience. The music presented that night was adventuresome and not what constitutes your usual concert fare. Many of the songs remain obscure delights in the Ellington oeuvre. The sole nod to the past is an introductory fragment of Billy Strayhorns "Take the 'A' Train." The other numbers, featuring veteran Ellington sidemen Russell Procope, Jimmy Hamilton, Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney and Paul Gonsalves, demonstrate the unpredictability yet familiar soundprint of any composition with Duke Ellingtons signature on it. For example, my favorite track, "Swamp Goo," features a brooding, bluesy Procope exploring the lower register of the clarinet in an arrangement recalling the jungle-music days of Ellington in 1930s Harlem. The Latin-inspired swinger "Knob Hill" finds Gonsalves running the scales in a fashion that brought him fame at Newport in 1956. Trumpeter Cootie Williams brings the house down on "The Shepherd," in which he demonstrates his virtuosic plunger-mute technique. "Johnny Come Lately" is a jaunty swinger featuring typical Ellington piano, a raucous trombone break and boldly plucked upright bass. "La Plus Belle Africaine" is another showstopper with an amazingly dynamic introduction featuring drummer Rufus Jones, the Duke on piano and Cat Anderson reaching for the stratosphere with his trumpet. Captured throughout the fine recording, but especially on this cut, are the audible shouts of encouragement, joy and praise Ellington directs at his sidemen. If youre a Duke Ellington fan, this is an essential purchase. Music-making of this high order is not heard every day.
Both LPs, sourced from digital files, were flat and reassuringly thick with quiet surfaces, and each came with a code for a digital download in MP3 format. The Mangelsdorff recording is decent enough, with nice dynamics and clarity, but it presented a soundstage with the players just right of center with little musical information coming from the left channel. I would have liked Jazzhaus to release this as a two-record set containing the four extra cuts included on their CD. The Ellington recording sounded fine with no issues whatsoever.
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