It’s easy to talk Jazz. That free flow of emotion dancing across the keys, the particular notes struck with quiet intensity by the bass player, the timely accentuating shuffle of drums speak of life in times past and present like no other language. As you listen to Bill Evans play the piano time flies like the sound of yesterday. Like tomorrow is yet to happen. Committing some of the finest music (and that’s period) to vinyl the Trio’s output is neatly captured here on this latest release from the excellent él Records.
You can hear the echo of Bill Evans all over Miles Davis, Kind of Blue as his signature motif embarked on the journey that led to this unparalleled collection of five albums including, for me, the masterful Sunday Night At The Village Vanguard recorded in 1961. Featuring the exquisite bass playing of Scott LaFaro alongside drummer Paul Motion there is both an intensity and lyricism in the playing that is unparalleled to some degree. You can feel minds ticking anticipating the next notes to be executed but always in tight synchronicity as sounds collide elevating rhythm, mood and the expression of what it is to be human. It’s a brilliant live recording that captures every brush, pulse and run on the strings as if, only you had been there. When you think of what was happening elsewhere in popular music Jazz then seems all the more rebellious like the untold story. No wonder the Beats where inspired by the very sound of it all.
Where to begin. Like forever calling this collection of exemplarily works celebrates all that was worthwhile of the twentieth century, denoting times, evoking memory, lives lived and lost. Spanning four discs of undeniable pleasure living in the moment is cast aside as history is rewound spelling out the story of humanities rites of passage tuning into a panoramic view of Art, sound and all that that was radically exciting in its wake. If the needle got stuck on Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) from 1894 who would complain. Breathing life. Igor Stravinsky’s challenging intensity follows suite featuring a collections of bombastic light and shade making you feel lost in a Hitchcock or expressionistic drama of dark celluloid. Contrasts are always informative and no less so than the sonic collages from Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer who proceed to delve into unimaginable depths of the soul pulling out incendiary fragments. Then complimented by John Coltrane’s superlative live version of My Favourite Things performed in 1961.
Listening to Edgard Varèse’s incredible 1954 World Premiere of Déserts must have seemed like aliens landing less than a mere ten years after the Second World War. However, music of a different passion is also featured providing that all important light relief in the shape of Vicente Alvarez and his Tropical Orchestra – Tango Argentino. A number of these lighter, seemingly more conventional tracks intersperse the playlist working well as distractions that make the impact of the revolutionary all the more potent. Compositions and interpretations by Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman are also present, while mere words can’t really do justice to hearing Allen Ginsburg recite Howl in all its brutal, shining glory. The wonderful Daphne Oram is here too.
The third disc is primarily given over to the poems by Edith Sitwell accompanied by the music of William Walton, a step too far perhaps but then again. Or the delicate sound of melting hearts care of Bill Evans, My Foolish Heart featuring the eloquent bass playing of Scott LaFaro sounding just like the cinema of life never changes. By the fourth CD energetic heartstrings are played Gustav Mahler’s incredibility poignant Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor IV. Adagietto, getting lost in a please don’t ever end moment this must be one of the finest ever compositions. Then, John Cage happens. From 1951. And you think radical music just happened. Out of nowhere. On the music travels.
There are a whole host of other artists not mentioned so far but isn’t that the pleasure of discovery. If you find music a serious exploit then do try this for yourself. You might get a little shocked or even surprised in the process but not dulled by disappointment. Music of genius can be said to be timeless and with release the point is correct.
There aren’t enough words to fill the page to describe just how exhilarating, revolutionary (there’s that thought again), amid the sheer utter brilliance of artists from all disciplines and certainly in some cases undisciplined, step forward The Goons – I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas, which are yours to experience here. From moments capturing the clear moonlight, haunting beauty of Richard Burton’s telling of To Begin at the Beginning, from Under Milk Wood – A Play for Voices to John Cage’s twisted treatments to Sun Ra’s Advice To Medics there might indeed be something for everyone.
It’s that canny collaboration of spoken words i.e. poetry plus the mind-expanding Classics of Debussy, Delia Derbyshire along with Pierre Schaeffer and Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, Purcell, Strauss and Elgar that truly capture the exceptional nature of this series. Genre free because this is all about music in and of itself reading the nature of things while spinning it back to you in ever evolving ways. Suitably said to be: Classical and Avant-Garde Music that inspired the Sixties Counter Culture this is quintessentially nostalgic yet at the same time sounding timeless like way beyond the future. The flight continues on from Jack Kerouac to Oscar Peterson Trio’s autumnal version of Jet Song to Gustav Mahler’s heady rush of orchestration – Symphony No.9 in D major: First Movement producing the effect that what is discovered within these four CD’s tests the boundaries of all Art with a capitol A. It’s that simple.