In my last post (so to speak) about days-of-the-week songs, I mentioned how much trouble I had thinking of a tune for Tuesday and that Bill Kirchner came to the rescue. I also predicted that if I’d gone ahead using “Ruby Tuesday” as originally planned, various record-collector savant types would have come out of the woodwork and pointed out all sorts of jazz Tuesday tracks I should have thought of. I would have needed a big spatula to scrape the egg off my face, but oddly enough, I always have one handy.
Even though I used Bill’s suggestion of Chico Hamilton’s “Tuesday at Two”, this happened ayway, and it didn’t take long. A few minutes after I hit “publish”, my friend Don Brown offered two Tuesday tracks I might have used, both from 1941 – Count Basie’s “Tuesday at Ten” and Teddy Wilson’s “Tuesday Blues”. The Basie track rang a bell because I eventually realized I have it on a CD and have heard it before. The Wilson track was news to me, because it was recorded as a Keynote Transcription. But it turns out I have that one too, on a cleverly disguised CD that doesn’t even mention Keynote. Don also mentioned that Benny Goodman did a cover of “Tuesday at Ten” after Base’s Columbia record became popular.
Don is exactly the kind of guy I had in mind when I made my prediction about experts coming out of the woodwork. He has a huge record collection and has been going to hear live jazz since the late ’40s when he was in his late teens. He kept a log book of everyone he went to hear, complete with dates, personnel and maybe even the tunes they played. It is this kind of fastidious commitment that has led Don’s friends to call him “the human discography”. I’m proud to say I’m one of those friends and when I come up against a jazz mystery or an elusive bit of trivia, Don is one of the first people I think of asking. The Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson tracks are not on YouTube, but here’s Count Basie’s “Tuesday at Ten”. The soloists are Buck Clayton (trumpet), Earle Warren (alto saxophone) and Don Byas (tenor saxophone).
Shortly after Don, Andy Meyers left a first-time comment with a YouTube link to a Paul Motian track, wondering if it would meet my criteria – yes, absolutely Andy, and thanks. I really enjoyed this – Motian’s composition “Tuesday Ends Saturday”, from his 1974 ECM release, TRIBUTE, with Sam Brown and Paul Metzke on guitars and Charlie Haden playing bass. Once again I’d forgotten I have this record. This is my own version of the old Zen wheeze about a tree falling in the forest – “if you have a CD but forget that you have it and haven’t listened to it in ages, do you actually have it?”
Next, my old friend Ted O’Reilly chimed in with a couple of suggestions – Gordon Brisker’s “Tuesday’s Tune” from a CD on Naxos, and Joe Harriott’s “Tuesday Morning Swing” from his 1960 album SOUTHERN HORIZONS. I’ve mentioned Ted before in several pieces, he’s part of a circle of retired jazz fanatics that also includes Don Brown, they call themselves “The Old Farts”. They meet every Friday afternoon at a downtown pub and I join them whenever I can, which is not often enough. They’re all long-time record collectors with great general knowledge and several of them have specialty areas of expertise – Woody Herman, the history of record labels, etc. I think if you added together everything they know about jazz it would pretty much cover it all.
Anyway, I couldn’t find the Gordon Brisker track on YouTube, though there is some other material by him posted there. He was a very good, under-appreciated tenor saxophonist and composer/arranger who worked with Woody Herman, Anita O’Day and Bobby Shew, among many others. He died far too young at 67, in 2004.
However, I was pleasantly surprised that the Joe Harriott track was available. Harriott was a Jamaican-born alto saxophonist who became an important contributor to the British jazz scene from the mid-’50s up until his death in 1973. He began as a very convincing bebop stylist, firmly in the Charlie Parker mold but with his own Caribbean sensibilities mixed in. By 1960 he’d begun experimenting with what he called “abstract” or “free-form” jazz, in fact his best-known record is entitled FREE FORM and made him a pioneer in UK avant-garde jazz circles. He’d long been interested in Indian music and later in the decade he released several albums – THE INDO JAZZ SUITE and INDO JAZZ FUSION (I & II) – which combined Indian classical music with jazz and had considerable impact.
Harriott’s “Tuesday Morning Swing” is below as the third track in a nine-minute clip, it begins at about the 6:17 mark. This album shows more of Harriott’s bebop persona, though it was done the same year and with much the same group that appeared on FREE FORM. If Harriott had settled in America rather than England, he would have been much better-known. With very few exceptions, British jazz musicians from that era were (and are) all under-recognized outside of the UK.
Shortly after this post was published, another of “The Old Farts”, Ron Gaskin, left a comment with another Tuesday track – Lucky Thompson’s “Beautiful Tuesday”, so I’ve added this commentary and clip after the fact. Thank you Ron, this really caused the other shoe to drop, this was the track that had been vaguely rolling around in the cobwebs of my memory, just out of reach. I definitely should have thought of it for several reasons: I’m a huge Lucky Thompson fan and the album that it’s from – LORD, LORD, AM I EVER GONNA KNOW? is one of my very favourites by him, it stands as a testament to his art as much as any other record he made.
It was done in Paris during the spring of 1961 and eventually issued on Candid. By that point, Thompson had been living in France since 1956 and would return stateside shortly after recording this. He had used his time in Paris to great effect: mastering the soprano saxophone to add to his already formidable tenor and writing dozens of highly original compositions, it was an extremely productive period for him. Given this, I’ve never quite understood his decision to return to America, particularly the timing of it, which would eventually prove disastrous for him. Thompson had developed an outspoken and cynical distrust of the commercially motivated and graft-ridden practices inherent in the American music workplace – pirated publishing rights and royalties, sleazy agents and vulturous promoters, abusive clubs, fickle, trend-obsessed critics, a corrupt media, racism. These problems and conditions were not as bad in Europe, and Thompson had found very good and sympathetic musicians to play with there, including the men on this record. It may have simply been the powerful pull of homesickness, but it’s surpassingly strange that Thompson would choose to return to America at that time, when all the things that bothered him there were not improving, but rather worsening.
And he couldn’t have foreseen it, but in the years immediately following his return the jazz business would fall into a general slump, which exacerbated everything further. In retrospect, he would have been much better off staying in Paris, at a time when European interest in jazz was growing, and when many American musicians were leaving home for the better life there. Thompson made some very good records and had some good years back in the States at first, but eventually he would succumb to despair, entering a downward spiral which would see him marginalized and homeless, literally drifting in the wilderness, musically inactive for the last 30 years of his life. It’s possible this could have happened to him in Europe, but I seriously doubt it.
Because it was the last record Thompson made in Europe and it has such a beseeching, prayerful title, LORD, LORD has always seemed to me like a harbinger of things to come, the document of a cautionary tale. This is underscored by the chilling effect of the unintentionally fateful message Lucky spoke into a tape recorder shortly after his American return, and which was included on the later CD issue of the album. It was addressed along with a letter to some British jazz fans who invited Thompson to a symposium in his honour to be held, if memory serves, in Birmingham. Lucky sounds very warm and wishes his friends well, giving an oddly outspoken but very mellow and spiritual speech cautioning against false idols and excessive commercialism and the like, he sounds like a gentle visionary. His message is bitter but his delivery is so laid-back, it’s quite touching. The sad irony is that the event in England never happened, cancelled due to a lack of interest. Eli Thompson’s nickname of “Lucky” may be the most inapt in all of jazz, his was a star-crossed career.
On to a happier subject, namely this wonderful track. It’s a complex and graceful composition with a subtle blues element, its sinuous melody punctuated by stop-time figures from the rhythm section. Its chord changes – delicate and elusive – flow nicely at this perfectly loping tempo, a bebop soft-shoe. Thompson alternates between his two horns throughout the album and he’s on soprano here. He was fussy about who he played with, especially when it came to piano and drums, but he has no worries here, it’s one of the most sympathetic bands he ever played with. On piano is the redoubtable French-Algerian master Martial Solal, able to play so musically in any context ranging from Sidney Bechet to the avant-garde and stops in between, as here. The bassist is the very solid and under-appreciated Dutchman Peter Trunk, who has never sounded better. Thompson had trouble with drummers, he needed delicate ones like Connie Kay or Dave Bailey who could deliver the lightness and flexibility he needed, with some firmness underneath. Needless to say, Kenny Clarke, who practically invented this formula himself, delivers here. The only improvement on this performance would be if Clarke went from brushes to sticks on cymbals at some point. This is not a criticism, he’s wonderful with brushes. It’s just that Kenny Clarke’s ride cymbal is one of the most beautiful sounds in all of jazz, I would have liked to hear some here. Enjoy this, one of the nicest five minutes I can imagine spending, a beautiful Tuesday indeed:
I was still toying with the idea of including “Ruby Tuesday” as part of the last blog, if only to share this very good, very funny clip I discovered – a cover of it by four guys playing somewhere in an American bar. The main source of the humour will become obvious (think “recorder”) and I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Also worth noting are the guitarist’s close resemblance to Louie CK and the way the drummer recreates Charlie Watts’ ultra-simple drum fills from the original in perfect detail – Watts is surely the Connie Kay of rock drumming.
So, while none of them are exactly famous, that’s quite a few jazz tunes about Tuesday, considering that it doesn’t really have its “own feel”. I was a little surprised that none of them turned up on a Google search, but then again Google, though comprehensive enough, is mostly geared toward the widely popular. When it comes to music, especially out-of-the-way music, YouTube is much better, like way smarter than Google, eh?
Speaking of smarts……if the quality of a blog site is measured by the intelligence of its readers rather than their number, then I feel like I’m on the right track. To put it another way, my readers may not form a big room, but judging by the comments left, it’s a sharp room, a classy room. The most fulfilling part of writing a blog like this is the feedback I receive – jokes, stories, links and all sorts of information small and large which I’ve learned a lot from. The feedback has also led to me unexpectedly meeting all sorts of people far and wide, either in cyberspace or eventually, in person. So here’s the deal…….I promise to keep writing if you promise to keep reading and leaving comments and we’ll see where we end up. Probably in the nuthouse, but never mind, it’ll be a short trip.
© 2016, Steve Wallace. All rights reserved.