Bill Cunliffe, Trio, Le Coq

Weekend listening was spent, while not otherwise productively hypnotised by the superb MLK/FBI, rationing my listening to Trio. Why rationing? Well, two reasons, the first was that I wanted to hear the detail of little bits over and over again …

Published: 25 Jan 2021. Updated: 42 days.

Weekend listening was spent, while not otherwise productively hypnotised by the superb MLK/FBI, rationing my listening to Trio. Why rationing? Well, two reasons, the first was that I wanted to hear the detail of little bits over and over again having trousered a copy last week to get in the zone ahead of release; and two, I hadn't quite made up my mind about it having dipped my toes in the waters earlier and yet sensed a biggie.

Observations now that I've thought about it? Well firstly this is a superstar trio and you may well come to it for different reasons. I'm not a huge Bill Cunliffe fan but very much enjoyed his recent record especially the first Le Coq reviewed here. To be honest I wasn't expecting that much of it but it is really excellent. You never know until you listen, eh?

On this Trio record the star primus inter pares is John Patitucci. Perhaps that is for a couple of reasons: no. 1 the sound guys have really caught the warmth of the double bass most. But then again they capture a pin drop and everything here to make it zing. The double bass don however adds a whole lot of mobility to these mainly super-familiar standards. Vinnie Colaiuta is very bright and engaged and brings as always a lot of passion to his contributions. He allows so much space for piano and bass to swim in. Cunliffe is a little more introverted but manages to come through brightly and leads in agile fashion.

It's not a reinventing the wheel sort of record nor is it snoozy or ever indulgent. It certainly has glamour that you just can't bottle. I guess mainstreamers will like it most, mainstream in the sense of a jazz fan who likes standards done in a very faithful yet not uptight way. But hey anyone into good jazz no matter unless overly-narrow the style penchant will be made up on some level. It is not however super-poetic and certainly follows a different approach to the typical, often stern sounding, European jazz trio if that is your real bag.

There is a lot of life to Trio and Vinnie does lethargic ache beautifully on 'Laura'. Best track, but maybe it's because I am a sucker for George Shearing, is 'Conception' right at the beginning. That's a classy way to begin any record.

Be good to yourselves in all sincerity and make this study of touch a superspreading listening event when it comes out on 19 February. A case of le coq of the walk once again as this new label continues to deliver. SG

Tags:

Riff: the Shake Keane Story, Philip Nanton, Papillote Press

Written by the author of Island Voices from St Christopher and the Barracudas, Canouan Suite and Other Pieces and Frontiers of the Caribbean this biography of the dazzling Joe Harriott trumpeter, flugelhornist and poet Ellsworth McGranahan "Shake" …

Published: 25 Jan 2021. Updated: 42 days.

Next post

Written by the author of Island Voices from St Christopher and the Barracudas, Canouan Suite and Other Pieces and Frontiers of the Caribbean this biography of the dazzling Joe Harriott trumpeter, flugelhornist and poet Ellsworth McGranahan "Shake" Keane has many factors to recommend it.

Firstly, even at this distance whole aspects of the life of Shake Keane are underknown. Because he was a literary as well as a musical figure readers might arrive at his work through one or other but not necessarily both directions. The biography manages to examine both disciplines carefully.

The erudite St Vincent-born artistic ''chameleon'' widely referred to as ''Shake'' after, as Nanton describes, in one theory, the Bard himself, was meaningful at the advanced and historically significant end of the 1960s UK jazz scene because he was in the frontline of Joe Harriott's ''free form'' innovations.

Shake was a leader in his own right playing often in viscerally satisfying buccaneering hard bop and alternately reggae-influenced settings. He appeared, sealing his significance especially, on classic Harriott albums Free Form and Abstract. The book provides an extensive discography.

Opening stylishly with the chapter 'Vee’s Snackette,' the author is a fellow Vincentian and you feel guided eloquently in the early chapters on Keane and Nanton's St Vincent. Throughout, the Caribbean detail does not feel forced or sketchy.

A globe-trotting book that reflects the course of Keane's life, the London chapters probably are of most interest to jazz fans especially the great detail about the Joe Harriott years.

Nanton paints a picture of Keane the man, warts and all, and describes his personal life in clear detail not really being judgemental but charting a life most happily experienced early on in St Vincent, in London, working in Germany as a successful musician in big bands and less happily back in St Vincent when he was offered a job as a director of culture by the government but then suffered when the prestigious post proved short term because of politics. Later in New York his life was lonelier before Keane then experienced support and friendship in Norway in his latter years and where Keane passed away in 1997.

vol

Riff also is invaluable for the descriptions and literary analysis of Keane's poetry, some of which draws on hitherto unpublished material. It is pretty clear that his poetry needs much more exposure given its luminous quality and the book starts the ball rolling again. Keane was unusual in that he was a top class jazz player and much more than a minor poet (although that is how he described himself). Nanton glosses the work interestingly and explains his influences and there is a logic to his analysis. Like Keane's music his poetry was advanced and modernistic. He probably suffered from racism in England, it went with the territory. In St Vincent however he suffered in different ways as Nanton explains. It is very sad how difficult Keane's life was in New York and the book underlines overall just how hard a life, however acclaimed for the music, a jazz musician's career impacting on family life can be. A study in thwarted ambition perhaps but Keane's music and writings stand the test of time. This fine biography certainly begins a new process towards that unfolding realisation. Stephen Graham

pn

A launch event featuring Philip Nanton, above, St Lucian poet John Robert Lee, Shake's son the trumpeter Roland Ramanan, writer Kevin Le Gendre, Lafleur Cockburn, and the sound of Shake all over, is online on Thursday.