Development of the British Blues ---- show 6 ----
4-23-2014 Brit Jazz
(KKUP's Jazz marathon starts Friday)
Graham Bond 1963
Chris Barber 1993
Dick Heckstall-Smith 1991-2002
Shadows early 60s
John Mayall 1969-1972
Jack Bruce 1978
With our annual Jazz marathon coming up this weekend, I welcome the opportunity to present to you a side of some of our players that might otherwise be left out. Add to that the fact that the British version of the Blues (as you might remember if you have been following us from the beginning of the year) was born from the support of the already popular Trad Jazz bands, so many of the players have roots in both genres. I have always tried to put together a decent Jazz show leading into each year’s marathon, even though I realize my knowledge is limited, in part because ever since my shows inception back in 1990 we have preceded a Jazz show, beginning with my old friend Bill Hazzard (may he rest in peace) and now the Razzberry who is following in Bill’s footsteps not only in musical choice but also in his dedication to better all things KKUP.
I have to admit that while I have always considered Jack Bruce to be the premier British bass player (even though he hails from Wales), that opinion was based entirely on his time with Cream and the Graham Bond Organization and those two groups only span the six-plus years between 1963 and 1969. In between those groups he also spent some time with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Manfred Mann and he played with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated until Bond took the rhythm section of Bruce and Ginger Baker with him to form the Graham Bond Trio. Of those three affiliations there is, I believe, only Stormy Monday available from his time with Mayall (and Eric Clapton) and none with Korner, but there are over a dozen tracks with the Manfreds which we will explore three shows from now. But until this year, I never took the time to seek out his post-Cream material, although I did go see him at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz back in the late 70s.
We open and close today’s show with almost half hour sets of Bruce in a more jazzy setting than I had been used to in spite of my knowledge that his roots were much more in Jazz than Blues or Rock. The opening set is from 1963, very early in the Bond group when they became a quartet with the addition of guitarist John McLaughlin. I find it interesting partially because I don’t hear Bond on keyboards but only alto sax in this three song live portion from the album Solid Bond. By the time they went into the recording studio probably a year later, with tenor saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith replacing McLaughlin, Bond switched his emphasis to the Hammond organ, which was very helpful in their transition to a more R&B based band.
No matter the genre he plays, Bruce’s bass (string bass on this set) ties everything together, especially needed in all the free-form Jazz we hear today. Bruce maintained his composition Ho Ho Country Kicking Blues in his musical arsenal as it appears a few times in his recordings. The Grass is Greener, a McLaughlin / Bond number, and Doxy, credited to (presumably Sonny) Stitt, wind up today’s opening set.
We spoke on our first couple of shows about the importance of Chris Barber on the burgeoning Blues scene and even though the recordings we play here are from 1993 they do provide a little glimpse into what Trad Jazz was: apparently pretty much based on Dixieland as opposed to Modern Jazz. How much more traditional can you get than our set’s opener, Stephen Foster’s Swannee River? We turn it up a little with Dippermouth Blues and Blue Lady Blaze, all from the album Copulatin’ Jazz.
Dick Heckstall-Smith is likely the most significant of British saxmen, although that is something I never really thought much about in the guitar dominated Blues scene. But DHS, as his lengthy name is often abbreviated, was an established working player in both the Trad Jazz and Modern Jazz fields before he joined Alexis Korner’s original formation of Blues Incorporated. When invited to defect with Bond, Baker and Bruce, he opted rather to stay a while longer absorbing a working knowledge of the Blues via Korner’s repertoire. After Bond’s group, he was recruited by John Mayall as his first fulltime sax player and stayed long enough to record the albums Crusade and Bare Wires, both with guitarist Mick Taylor, and only left when Mayall made the decision to go with a basic backing of drums, bass and guitar for his next iteration of his ever-changing personnel. It was then that the rhythm section from the Bare Wires session, drummer Jon Hiseman and bassist Tony Reeves, founded the band Colosseum along with Heckstall-Smith.
I bought a used copy online of DHS’s recollections, Blowin’ the Blues, and was surprised to find it still included the accompanying CD which is the source for our two sets. At some point, DHS began recording almost all of his appearances and, while they give a disclaimer regarding the sound quality, they all sound pretty clear to me. Aquamarine is one of those otherwise unreleased live recordings from Newcastle in 1991 by DHS$, a band Heckstall-Smith performed with extensively. Try was released by Jon T-Bone Taylor’s Bop Brothers on their … and Sisters 2000 album so it is like ly a studio recording since there is no location given.
They’re not Jazz, but the Shadows are included here in their instrumental form (they also were the backing band to the highly popular Cliff Richard and did sessions for some of the other better known vocalists in the UK) because particularly their guitarist Hank Marvin was cited as a major influence so often and by such a high caliber of guitarists that they cannot be ignored. As we mentioned in our very first show, Marvin, bass player Jet Harris and drummer Tony Meehan got together initially in the highly successful Skiffle group the Vipers. Between July 1960 and September 1961, the Shadows issued 5 singles which charted 1-5-6-3-1 in the UK and a #1 album just to ice the cake. Meehan left late in 1961 and Harris a few months later and, while the band was still successful with its replacements, it charted nowhere near as strongly as the original.
The choices here begin with five songs by the original lineup, listed with their chart ratings: Apache (#1), Man of Mystery (#5), Riders on the Storm (album track?), F.B.I. (#6), The Frightened City (#3) and 36-24-36 (B-side of a #1 single). We follow that up with The Savage (#10), Perfidia (album track), Dance On (#1), The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt (#5), Guitar Boogie, Mustang, and Thunderbird Theme (no chart listings available for the last three).
It strikes me that a lot of times John Mayall seems to get away from the Blues, but as I was specifically looking for that trend I was hard pressed to find things that strayed far enough to truly consider them Jazz. The closest was California, when he tried an experiment without a drummer for the album Turning Point. Johnny Almond dominates with his tenor sax, making this a very different Mayall experience and one of his best releases. Steve Thompson’s bass is ever-present and Jon Mark throws in some tasty acoustic guitar licks. Our next two selections include my very favorite bass player, Larry Taylor. Still active on the California Blues scene, Larry provided the bottom for Canned Heat and served off and on with Mayall. Guitarist Harvey Mandel was also in Canned Heat for a while, but holding center stage on Crying is violinist Don “Sugarcane” Harris on this number which is still a slow Blues tune from the album USA Union. With the inclusion of a few players with legitimate Jazz credentials in trumpeter Blue Mitchell, saxman Clifford Solomon and guitarist Freddie Robinson, backed by the rhythm section of Taylor and percussionist Ron Selico, Jazz Blues Fusion is my favorite Mayall album. Maybe it’s because Mayall gives his players a lot of room to move and doesn’t actually sing as much, but his vocal is there on Change Yours Ways.
We come back around to some more of Dick Heckstall-Smith beginning with Heatwave, which appears on the Deluxe Blues Band’s double CD Blues Amongst Friends, again no recording date or location so presumed to be a studio recording. Woza Nazu is one of DHS’s often played tunes and here the Hamburg Blues Band does it justice in this 15 minute version dating back to 2002 in Flensburg, Germany. I first heard Looking Back on John Mayall’s album of the same name and, while they don’t have Peter Green on guitar, the Wentus Blues Band puts in more than a passable performance. Recorded in Helsinki, Finland, like its predecessor this is another previously unreleased live recording from 2002. Each of the selections we included in the DHS sets have a different feel, but he always shows his stuff admirably in any groove.
When I decided to delve into more recent Jack Bruce material, I figured a good start would be through the 3CD album Spirit, featuring five live concerts broadcast over the BBC. Graham Bond and saxophonist Art Themen were included on one show and Mick Taylor on another, but I opted for the most recent (recorded June 26th 1978 and broadcast September 4th) to wind up today’s show. Joined on drums and percussion by Jon Hiseman and on saxophones by John Surman, Bruce plays both standup and electric bass. This is the same cast that also did the earliest show in the collection, recorded August 10th 1971. It strikes me they might have been paying attention to the clock since the three tunes are named Fifteen Minutes Past Three, Ten to Four and Twenty Past Four, but that didn’t seem to take any attention away from the music. I would think Bruce had something in mind to start things off, since the first track is credited to him, and then followed up with some improvisation (in Jazz? Imagine that!) while the other two list the full trio for authorship.
There are also a couple of photos of him playing the cherry red Gibson EB3 bass that I saw him use with Cream, inspiring me to get one back around 1968. I wish I still had it but someone thought they deserved it more than me ………
I said in the beginning that I always considered Bruce the premier bass player on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean but that does not mean he is my favorite. He can bring nuances to any R&B group he joins but is too often more free form than I would try to emulate. Now, Larry Taylor … that’s another story. If there is anyone I would like to sound like, it is he. Bass players like these can at the same time be inspiring and frustrating. It was guys such as these that made me realize I was only playing AT bass.
You might have noticed this show’s accompanying article is a little different from those previous. I did not have desire nor time to do the research in putting together biographical sketches of the artists so I just sat down and wrote my feelings brought about as I listened to the music. I probably throw in more opinions than usual but I hope you don’t find it lacking in substance. Oh yeah, it’s also a lot shorter.