Saturday Night Listening: Alex Hawkins with Joe McPhee, Johnny Dodds and Don Byron with Aruan Ortiz

I thought I would share a few thoughts about the music I listened to last night.

Decoy and Joe McPhee (Weavil42Cd)

joe mcphee
Joe McPhee

Prompted by an excellent article about Joe McPhee in the latest issue of The Wire magazine, I dugout this Cd, recorded live at Café Oto in 2009.  Decoy is Alex Hawkins, on this occasion playing Hammond Organ, John Edwards on bass and Steve Noble on drums. Joe McPhee joins them on tenor and soprano saxophones.  It is fascinating to hear Alex Hawkins on a full Hammond B3 Organ with the Leslie speaker; as Richard Williams states in the liner notes , his playing on the organ reminds one of that of Larry Young on the Tony Williams’ Lifetime recordings.  There are three improvisations, two quite long and one very short.  The interaction between Joe McPhee and Alex Hawkins is magnificent throughout with some very beautiful gentler passages as the more intense climaxes.  The contributions of  John Edwards and Steve Noble underpin it all with great rhythmic drive.  I’d love to hear Alex Hawkins on Hammond Organ again!

The Johnny Dodds Story 1923/1929  (The Jazz Archives Collection Vol 3) 

johnny dodds
Johnny Dodds

Looking for the Decoy/Joe McPhee Cd I came across this album.  I always loved Dodds’ bluesy playing and the way his clarinet weaves lines round the statements from the cornet or trumpet and trombone in the traditional New Orleans frontline; there are good examples of this here in Canal Street Blues by the King Oliver Creole Jazz Band and in My Baby by The Chicago Footwarmers.  There is also a fine solo by Dodds on the latter.  I probably agree with Andre Hodeir quoted on the sleeve notes  when he says that Dodds is not at his best on the Hot Five and Hot Seven tracks where he is outshone by Louis Armstrong.  But there are some interesting small group tracks with Jimmy Bertrand’s Washboard Wizards and the Jelly Roll Morton Trio where Dodds seems at his most relaxed and fluent.

Random Dances and (A)tonalities  Don Byron and Aruán Ortiz   (IntaktCD Ortiz   (Intakt CD 309) 

don byron
Don Byron

Thinking about the clarinet in jazz took me back to Don Byron, always my favourite contemporary clarinettist.   He seems to have been quiet recently, but this recently released album on the Swiss Intakt label is a delight and well worth waiting for.  It is a duet album with pianist Aruán Ortiz which focusses on material by the two members of the duo, plus two tracks by classical composers, Federico Mompou and J.S. Bach, and two tracks by other jazz artists, one by Geri Allen and one based on Benny Golson’s Along Came Betty.  The interaction between Byron and Ortiz is exquisite throughout.  Interestingly, Byron plays tenor sax on three tracks with a tone reminiscent of the tenor sax sound of the 1930s.

Key Words: jazz, New Orleans Jazz, contemporary jazz, clarinet in jazz, the Hammond B3 Organ, Alex Hawkins, Joe McPhee, John Edwards, Steve Noble, Johnny Dodds, Aruan Ortiz, Don Byron


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