Jazz and Folk Recordings

The Art Farmer Quartet: Interaction

Art Farmer, fluegelhorn; Jim Hall, guitar; Steve Swallow, bass; Walter Perkins, drums; Atlantic SD-1412 (stereo) and 1412

Formed in the summer of 1962, the Art Farmer quartet has become the most lyrical unit in modern jazz. Farmer, who has turned from the trumpet to the fluegelhorn because of the latter’s mellower sound, has long been noted for his economical and exceptionally judicious choice of notes and his strongly personal melodic imagination. His primary colleague in the quartet, guitarist Jim Hall, possesses the same qualities. They also share an unhurried, deeply flowing rhythmic sense. Buttressing them are Walter Perkins, an attentive, unobtrusive drummer, and Steve Swallow, one of the most brilliantly resourceful of the younger bassists. The fusion of these four has resulted in as glowing an illustration of chamber jazz as has been recorded in several years.

Eric Dolphy: At the Five Spot

Eric Dolphy, flute and bass clarinet; Booker Little, trumpet; Mal Waldron, piano; Richard Davis, bass; Eddie Blackwell, drums; Prestige S-7294 (stereo) and 7294

In addition to its intrinsic musical merits, this recording of an evening at New York’s Five Spot is an instructive introduction to several of the various directions being taken in advanced modern jazz. Dolphy displays, particularly on bass clarinet, the preoccupation of some avant-gardists with extracting a wider range of colors from their horns than has ever been achieved before in jazz. In the process, the instrument sometimes sounds as if its capacities were being stretched to the breaking point, but Dolphy’s overall texture in each piece makes considerable, if turbulent, musical sense. Mal Waldron, on the other hand, is a tautly disciplined, unusually cohesive pianist who indicates the increased complexity of modern jazz while also playing with crackling emotion. The late Booker Little was especially interested in achieving greater melodic freedom in his improvising and this, one of his last recording’s, reveals how distinctive a conception he had already achieved.

Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington: The Great Reunion

Louis Armstrong, trumpet; Duke Ellington, piano; Trummy Young, trombone; Barney Bigard, clarinet; Mort Herbert, bass; Danny Barcelona, drums; Roulette SR-52103 (stereo) and 52103 This meeting between two of the patriarchs of jazz is most interesting for the effect it has on Armstrong’s singing. His own rather narrow repertory has seldom changed in recent years, so that in his performances with only his regular group behind him, Armstrong’s vocals have become entertainment devices more than strongly felt expressions of emotion. Here, stimulated by a program of relatively unfamiliar (to him) songs by Ellington, Armstrong concentrates on the music rather than on his usual jocular rhetoric. The consequence is the most consistently appealing set of Armstrong vocals since Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy (Columbia CL-591) in the mid-1950s. There are too few solos by Ellington, but he is an incisively enlivening accompanist to Armstrong.

The Claney Brothers and Tommy Makem: In Person at Carnegie Hall

Tom, Liam, and Pat Clancy, and Tommy Makem, vocals; Columbia CS8740 (stereo) and CL-1950 The Clancy brothers and their equally irrepressible colleague, Tommy Makem, are attracting a continually expanding audience without diluting their style or material. In this recording of a November, 1962, concert, for example, the quartet relies entirely on bristlingly authentic Irish songs with no concessions to the bland commercialism which has increasingly infused the folk renaissance. The major subjects of their repertory are pride in the Irish rebellion, along with a dark minor theme concerning the psycopathology of war; the pleasures of drink and brisk amatory pursuit; and memories of childhood. It is the last category which provides one of the most vivid performances yet recorded by the Glancys—an extensive medley of children’s tunes which becomes a distillation of the wistfulness. persistent sense of wonder, occasional cruelty, pungent wit, and boisterous energy which are endemic to the private worlds of children.

Jack Elliott Sings the Songs of Woody Guthrie

Jack Elliott, vocals, guitar, and harmonica; Prestige—Folklore 14011 One of the more remarkable odysseys in recent American folk singing was the transformation of Elliott Charles Adnopoz, born in the ranchless wilds of Brooklyn, into Jack Elliott, expert interpreter of cowboy and Woody Guthrie compositions. It was Elliott’s fixation on Guthrie, the most original writer of American folk songs this country has ever known, which most influenced him musically. For a time, Elliott even walked, talked, and looked somewhat like Guthrie. Increasingly, Elliott has become an impressive stylist on his own, but he remains by far the most authentic interpreter of Guthrie’s songs now that Guthrie himself has been silenced by a progressive disease of the nervous system. Elliott is at total idiomatic case here in the considerable scope of Guthrie material.

Mississippi John Hurt: Folk Songs and Blues

John Hurt, vocals and guitar; Piedmont PLP-13157, Music Research, Inc., 2023 N. Woodstock St., Arlington 7, Virginia At seventy, John Hurt, a Mississippi cotton picker and a grandfather of seventeen, has suddenly been propelled, by renewed interest in the blues among urban singers and record collectors, into appearances at Northern folk festivals and nightclubs. Unlike that of other recently rediscovered Mississippi blues singers, Hurt’s music is neither harsh nor anguished. His gentle, pliable voice focuses on the poignancy, irony, playfulness, and sweet sexuality which the blues can also communicate. (Bitterness and frustration have never monopolized the blues.) Hurt accompanies himself with agile grace on the guitar. Until this recording, Hurt had not been in a recording studio since 1928.