How time passes...
Like Alistair, I went to a gig the other night, and nobody danced at this one either, although they could have done, possibly, when the drummer rolled out some big dance beat patterns in the mode of Art Blakey. You don't dance at gigs, you stand around getting sore feet, sipping beer and wondering when they're going to finish, don't you? I do anyway, which is why I rarely venture out to watch a live act. Having danced to Kool & The Gang at a ballroom in Dunstable circa...'75?...and pogoed (probably) to The Ramones, my live music/bodily movement interactive days are over.
I only went to this gig the other night because an old friend who I hadn't seen for ages was going to be there, but as it turned out, the Chicago Underground Duo were alright. Ray Mazurek's chops were in good shape on the trumpet, and Chad Taylor knew his way around his kit sure enough; he even managed to hit a simple melody on the vibes whilst still playing the drums - no mean feat, I'm sure you'll agree. The Kids approved. As I watched, I wondered if any of them had seen the purveyors of the great tradition from which the Duo came, like the Art Ensemble. Ah, Lester...no longer with us, sadly, and therefore, no more shows like the ones I've seen over the last ten years. No more chances to experience the full force of great black music, ancient to the future, in all it's trad Afro radical glory.
How time passes...(to use the title of that Don Ellis album from 1960)...it sees us all off in the end. The drummer Billy Higgins died recently, and apart from contributing to the great works of Ornette Coleman, he also provided Jane and I with a thrilling live experience at the Brighton jazz festival in the late-80s. I've never seen a drummer so at ease with what he was doing, so effortless when executing such complex patterns with two sticks and a set of skins. I've watched Blakey pound them with all his might, and seen Don Moye display such expertise on his array of 'Sun Percussion', but the impression of Higgins at work lingers more strongly than either.
Noting the life span of a Lees snowball in our kitchen the other day (Best Before Nov 9th, 2001), subliminally encouraged me to pull the Don Ellis CD from the rack and give it a spin, I suppose. Don's time obsession began when he read an article by Stockhausen called, coincidentally, 'How Time Passes'. His dedication to playing with time signatures since then earned him to title 'Father of the Time Revolution'. An album from '67 is called Live In 3-2-3-4 Time (Pacific Jazz), and if your collection is Ellis-free, it's a good place to start since it proves the pyrotechnic possibilities of a big band lead by one of the smartest arrangers around. He was also no slouch on the trumpet. Electric Bath, probably his best-known album, will do you some good too. Both are available on CD. To my knowledge, Shock Treatment, from '68, is not so easy to find, but it's worth looking out for second-hand on vinyl, as is the epic double Don Ellis At Fillmore. The latter includes a truly cosmic dismantling of 'Hey Jude', and is the last word on longhair-meets-jazz-crossover in a big band festival for freaks. Two track titles are worth mentioning: 'The Magic Bus Ate My Doughnut' (they just don't name 'em like that anymore), and 'Rock Odyssey'. Far out.
© Robin Tomens