Two Gems from My Record Collection: John Carter and Arthur Blythe

One of the joys of having a large CD and vinyl collection is that it gives me the opportunity to listen to more or less any part of jazz’s history when I wish to.  I can go to early Coltrane, late Coltrane, the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaborations, some of Time Berne’s vast discography, even early Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodd collaborations, and listen and absorb.  I much prefer doing this with Cds and vinyl rather than on sites such as Spotify or YouTube.

john carterI always like it when a name comes up in conversation or in a seminar and that leads to my checking out, or rediscovering a particular artist.  This has happened twice in the last fortnight; the first time was during the brilliant seminar that Nate Wooley gave as part of the Ideas of Noise Festival.  He mentioned that clarinettist John Carter would work on mistakes he made when practising, and when he made a mistake would try to develop that mistake into something he could incorporate into his playing.  That led me to dig out his last album in his Roost and Folklore series, Shadows On A Wall recorded in 1989 and released on Gramavision records.

It is a brilliant album that draws on the various strands of American black music, jazz, both early New Orleans jazz as well later styles, then blues and gospel, and through great compositions and arrangements pays great respect to the traditions of that music in a contemporary way.  Conceptually, it is similar to the recent Coin Coin work of Matana Roberts in drawing on the whole range of black music, but the end product is very different. There is some great soloing from Carter himself and his long associate Bobby Bradford on cornet and a wonderful mix of bluesy vocals, scatting and dramatic declamation of spoken word from Terry Jenoure. 

You can listen to one of the tracks at

arthurblytheThen last week at the excellent gig with Steve Buckley’s Zone B band at Birmingham Jazz’s regular Friday night session at 1000 Trades, the band included a couple of numbers, or maybe three, by the late Arthur Blythe.  Blythe was a prominent figure in the late 20th century and appeared in Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition and later in the World Saxophone Quartet as well as leading his own groups.  His playing was similar conceptually to John Carter’s in that he mixed contemporary elements with a respect for the jazz tradition.  In this case I dug out a vinyl album, Blythe Spirit, an album recorded in 1981.   It is another great album dominated by Blythe’s wonderfully rich tone on the alto saxophone and the interesting blend of sounds from a group that has Abdul Wahid on cello and Bob Stewart on tuba.

You can listen to a track at

It’s great to have rediscovered this great music.

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