Back in 2015 it was a new day and certainly a new, unforgettable, name as Jazzmeia Horn first surfaced, you know as you do stepping up to the mic, singing a ditty or two, and winning the top prize at the world’s most prestigious jazz competition, the Thelonious Monk Institute competition which happened to feature vocals that year.
Hailing from Dallas, Texas soon to be NYC bound this former student of the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music itself in the Big Apple whose playing credits to date have included such eminence grises as Junior Mance and Ellis Marsalis landed a coveted recording contract thanks to her success. And the story since has got deeper in terms of what happened to her work in the studio. Fast forward to not even May yet when the album titled A Social Call is released let us leave the build up now to none other than Kind of Blue and Impulse label biographer Ashley Kahn, the global scene’s Leonard Feather in terms of authority nowadays as many of us think of him, who has written the press release for that now imminent Concord debut actually branded and this is some honour as Prestige, because the suits have decided to revive Bob Weinstock’s famed label that the firm now owns, following a trend and even more legendary OKeh’s return from the tomb announced back in 2012. What next: will Bluebird fully flutter back to life again? Founded in 1949 a belated effort maybe to rival what Alfred Lion was doing at Blue Note, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Monk, and Sonny Rollins recorded for Prestige and many recordings were engineered like Blue Note by the late Rudy Van Gelder. I, personally, revere the label for a whole load of reasons, lots of Miles and above all the 1957 album Coltrane [not the Impulse record of the same name but his actual debut] and almost alone the sumptuous version below of the Matt Dennis poignant Manhattan weather ballad ‘Violets for your Furs.’
No pressure then! Kahn describes what the Betty Carteresque diva in the making has delivered as “an album that satisfyingly combines jazz of the classic, small-group variety — when singers had to step up and carry the same musical weight as any other band member — with more modern flavours of gospel and neo-soul.” And he further zones in to assert: “If there is one track on A Social Call that best captures Horn’s expressive range and her signature sound — the song that is most her, exposed and unadorned — it is arguably her rubato rendition of Jimmy Rowles’ ‘The Peacocks’.”
Listen to Jazzmeia Horn sing ‘The Peacocks’ top in a live version
Since Don Was took on the reins of Blue Note records from Bruce Lundvall, one trend he has spearheaded has been a recruitment of veteran players. Already Wayne Shorter, the late Bobby Hutcherson and Charles Lloyd have served up new records on the greatest label – fact – in jazz.
Now it is the turn of Louis Hayes whose Blue Note leader label debut Serenade will be released in May when the drummer turns 80.
A frequent visitor to London jazz club Ronnie Scott’s, Hayes is known in many people’s eyes still all these years on, after all it is timeless music, for his work with Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver.
The Detroit native’s Serenade is fittingly a tribute to Silver, one of the godfathers with Art Blakey of hard bop and the player who introduced that unique Cape Verdean tinge to the lexicon of the music fused as it with the blues, a touch of gospel and many more magical hooks than might be affixed to your average coat stand.
Hayes was on 6 Pieces of Silver, Further Explorations, The Stylings of Silver, Blowin’ the Blues Away (‘Sister Sadie’ from the Blues, top) and Finger Poppin’’ with Ecaroh his tenure in the band spanning three years in the late-1950s later enjoying a longer spell powering Cannonball that ran to the mid-1960s before he joined the Oscar Peterson organisation and since leading his own groups successfully for many years.
Among the dozens of records Hayes has appeared on with some of the giants of jazz he happens to be the drummer on Cannonball’s cornet-playing brother Nat’s famous record Work Song (above) the title track of which was covered in recent years by The Blessed Gregory also incidentally a fellow Blue Note artist from a much newer generation.
Hayes has also appeared on records by John Coltrane including the Prestige period Lush Life. As a leader Hayes’ own records have been issued on such labels as Vee-Jay, a label synonymous with the early work of Wayne Shorter, and more recently this gem:
On Return of the Jazz Communicators Hayes conjured up the original Jazz Communicators, a now scarcely recalled band he had played in alongside Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Kenny Barron, and Herbie Lewis initially in 1967 in New York. And communication was and is still the name of the game where the swinging Hayes is concerned on this set of a dozen tunes recorded at Smoke in New York city.
Two words. One man. Immediately it is impossible not to think of Don Cherry hearing this quartet. OK there is the cornet. But there is also the atmosphere. It is so rare now to hear music of this fine transparency and that brave daring so gently expressed that points you Cherrywards, back to the birth of free jazz even though by no means is this a tribute band, and more importantly forward to unnavigated jazz futures that Cherry ever the pioneer was always about.
Drummer Jeff Williams plays more openly somehow than he usually does and I suppose it is the free form side of Paul Motian that I am making a stab at looking for his point of departure. The way Alex Bonney and James Allsopp play in all their hastily convened section tumble of togetherness, more the pair splashing paint for rough apron texture than preferring an intricate embroidery of lapel and cloth, Allsopp factoring in a squeezy tube of Eric Dolphy somehow. The musical canvas in terms of people as sounds that may be. As for sounds as emotions: I’d go for the free-jazz blues via plangent tonalities achieved via an exploration of loose collective interplay and undoctrinaire improvisation releasing a corkscrew peel of bits of notes where the drums do not just fall back on a settled beat or rhythmic routine to catch them all.
The horn players find ways of shaping the skewed clashing harmonies and tart clusters that make this music more salt than sweet and certainly not at all sentimental although there is a tenderness to Bonney’s writing process. Olie Brice on double bass plays quite conventionally at least compared to some of his other recent records and provides much mobility when Williams swings say on ‘Pangolin Husbandry’ at the beginning.
Recorded live in Huddersfield just under two years ago and released only this week, Bonney is fast becoming one of the more involving avant trumpeters of his generation and has come in from the edge just far enough now to be properly appreciated especially as this is music where the electronic wrapping does not distract as much as it has done on some of his other projects.
‘Tri-X Dreams’ has a few Stanko-like flourishes and it is encouraging to hear the more swaggering side of Bonney as he is not by nature an extrovert. ‘New Horizons’ has a buzzy flaring insistency to it, the stark atmosphere of the tune eased into beautifully by Allsopp. That last tune oddly makes a sudden switch away from the melancholy drummed up by Williams and he may well be the all empowering amulet that makes the album succeed as well as it does. But now is the time for Bonney, clearly if we could all rouse from our philistine slumbers enough to credit what he has been up to for oh ages we would easily see. SG.
Hear Bonney also on Human’s latest. Halda Ema is streaming.