Friday, November 19, 2010

braxtothon phase five: prologue

1976... is not yet quite over. yes, the old rhythm section has gone, and with its passing a major chapter of the quartet's history has closed. but that action-packed year (the thought of which so daunted me back in may 2008... dear oh dear, was it really that long ago?!) is still where i find myself, just about: there is one more station stop to deal with before moving into 1977.

rather neatly, the transition into the new year is marked with an  "overlap" of sorts. over a month after the old quartet gave its last concert, our man is in a toronto studio with his old friend/aacm colleague/supposed rival roscoe mitchell, cutting an album of duets under the latter's name; that is actually the last discog entry for 1976, and the first for 1977 sees the pair back in the studio, this time in their home town of chicago, laying down one more duet as part of the sessions for mitchell's famous nonaah. not surprisingly, i worked both of these recordings into one session, the first for this new phase of the continuing journey.

- and after that? however it worked out at the time, for us here and now dealing with the official discography the first few dates following the dissolution of the "first classic quartet" (as one might call it, bearing in mind that there were - at least - two versions of that group anyway) all feature b. as sideman, not leader. well... sideman or collaborator: those duets are not really sideman dates (not at all, in fact), even if they do appear under mitchell's name; and the company week performances are not that sort of deal either. actually, only woody shaw's the iron men has b. playing a genuine sideman's role around this time. but the fact remains that this clutch of recordings does not include any of b's compositions, nor are any of them under his leadership. it is known (confirmed in the composition notes) that there was a regular working group during 1977, but the only official recording from this period which fits the bill is this one - and i've always had trouble believing that abrams would have been a regular sideman in anyone's band by this time... then again, we know that he did play at least one other gig with this group, though that one is apparently something of a one-off (two standards, no originals? and bluiett clearly there as a guest - chances are the bootleg does not contain the entire performance; maybe the band was joined by the guest just for the two standards, and only these have made it into circulation..?). in any event, abrams obviously was in europe at the time, and played at least two concerts as part of b's group; even if he was not a regular member, it's entirely feasible that the rest of the line-up - lewis, helias, shaw - comprises the working unit at this time. needless to say, i have not yet been able to confirm any of this.

i'm getting slightly ahead of myself anyway... for the time being, i have not made up my mind which of the above-mentioned recordings will be covered in phase five. not completely, that is: the company week recordings will definitely be dealt with (at least the ones featuring b - i have no intention of covering all three albums in their entirety), and of course the basel quintet set is also a certainty, as if that needed to be said. the woody shaw album... i'm unlikely to include that one, i think. (though as a matter of fact, i did start writing something about it ages ago now, and one of these days i will probably finish it..! chances are it will end up as a detour, rather than an actual station stop... that seems rather more appropriate.) as for the "covers" sextet boot, i'm not about to make a decision on that one until nearer the time... but two standards? maybe not, eh... again, perhaps it'll end up getting discussed in some other format. or perhaps, by the time i get there, i shall have changed my mind...

first up, then, will be the mitchell duet sessions, and we'll take it from there. it's a strange accident that the discog has a lack of "canon" recordings at this time, but there are other gaps in the chronology, this is hardly the first. in any case, 1977 has its share of important recordings: as well as the basel set (only released in 2000), there is always this to look forward to, continuing the arista offerings. as we're going to see, b's career as a leader has by no means been derailed by the loss of his two longtime companions.

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