The label that calls itself Year Zero certainly had a bit of a year zero concept when they thought up the musical compilation of a six set history of New York’s musical melting pot; so let’s investigate how high they got on with the first edition covering 1945-59.
As with other Year Zero compilations, this mammoth project starts with renowned music journalist Kris Needs and it’s going to be 1945 to the 2000s so be prepared for a long ride; watch the closing doors being a reference to the subway transport system.
So we’ll forgive him the obvious starter for ten with Duke Ellington’s classing ode to rail transport, ‘Take The A Train’, I’ve now played this at the last two Jazz Chronicles Sessions and you can’t deny that it’s as close to a perfect 3 minute big band swing; Sir Duke indeed!
But this is not just a golden jazz 2 CD set (although there are some big jazz tunes) as this set covers an era where rock’n'roll, pop, soul, jazz could melt in a big pot and spit out something that broke the mould, like Frankie Lymon and his classic ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love’? What would have Hairspray have done without the template of poor Frankie. And whilst on a dance craze tip, king of the ‘Mucho Mambo’ Machito gets up on the floor.
Doo Wop, Blues and Rock-a-Billy get a fair hearing and it’s not the obvious compilation choices even if ‘Shake A Hand’, ‘Money Honey’ and ‘Twilight’ could be any number of similar (imitation?) tunes; thou’ you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Big Maybelle!
He couldn’t have missed out Louis Armstrong (you can see why your Humphrey Littleton et als were so influenced by this world star) and then there’s the true star of the Blues Brothers, Cal Callaway and legends Nina Simone (there’s much more to her than ‘Baby Just Care’s For Me’), Miles Davis (what timing with the fantastic version of ‘Summertime’ when Miles was as Cool as he possibly ever got), Dizzy Gillespie (always loved ‘Manteca’) and Charles Mingus’ influential ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’.
Talking of timing, whether you’re rioting in Greece or marching against the attacks on Public Authority pensions, ‘Talking Union’ reminds us that there’s power in a Union whilst by CD2, there’s not; ‘How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live’. And then the first black superstar (discuss?), Harry Belafonte or Billie Holiday (discuss?) being mellow on ‘Autumn In New York’.
The revelation for me is Cozy Cole who gets two tracks, the bluesy rock-jazzer of ‘Bad’ and the jazzy big beat opener on CD2, ‘Topsey Pt. 2′: no doubt a diggin’ Needs guilty pleasure?
CD2 is more blues orientated with Sonny Terry and Big Joe Turner but this was the pre-Rolling Stones, Cream et al blues re-discovery and it’s easy to see why these ‘unknowns’ were such an influence on 60s Brit rock bands.
Each CD finishes on an oddball, 20+minutes of free spirits John Cage (blimey, what’s that about?) and beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
These are all original recordings, (‘Minnie The Moocher’ having the authentic ‘fluff’ on the needle background noise (the only one) and most are released on CD for the first time; the highlight being the sublime ‘Senor Blues’ by Horace Silver recorded at the Newport Festival (ever seen the film documentary Jazz On A Summer’s Day?); this is perfection.
And if you’re new to jazz and still find Thelonious Monk “challenging”, here’s ‘Brilliant Corners’ in timeline context – you’ll be converted instantaneously. Monk – Mingus – Miles, the ‘M’ trilogy of jazz – don’t’ miss out, they are all gods (with Mobley, Sun Ra, Hancock…don’t get me started).
At the end of the day, if you are going to pick 34 tracks over this incredible 15 year period, I suggest you’re going to be pushed to better Kris Needs’ choices here. And in musicology terms, if you’re new to jazz, rock, pop and more, New York or otherwise, this IS the reference album (and the rest of the series will bound to be as good).
“Mind the gap” as we say in London Town, happy 4th July holiday over there – morning, noon and night, love you pretty baby.
Reviewed: V/A – Watch The Closing Doors: A History Of New York’s Musical Melting Pot Vol. 1: 1945-1959 (Year Zero) Format: 2CD + 72 Page Book / 2LP Cat. No. YZLCD007/YZLDV007 Release date: 30th May 2011
1. DUKE ELLINGTON – Take The ‘A’ Train ** (2:57)
2. COZY COLE – Bad ** (2:33)
3. FRANKIE LYMON & TEENAGERS – Why Do Fools Fall In Love ** (2:19)
4. MACHITO – Mucho Mambo (3:03)
5. FAYE ADAMS – Shake A Hand ** (2:56)
6. LOUIS ARMSTRONG – Yellow Dog Blues ** (4:18)
7. ALMANAC SINGERS – Talking Union ** (2:58)
8. HARRY BELAFONTE – Matilda ** (3:15)
9. CAB CALLOWAY – Minnie The Moocher ** (3:11)
10. DANNY TAYLOR – Coffee Daddy Blues ** (2:41)
11. DIZZY GILLESPIE – Manteca ** (3:09)
12. NINA SIMONE – Little Girl Blue ** (4:20)
13. FIVE SATINS – In The Still Of The Nite ** (3:05)
14. BILLIE HOLIDAY – Autumn In New York ** (3:44)
15. MILES DAVIS – Summertime ** (3:21)
16. CHARLES MINGUS – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat ** (4:49)
17. JOHN CAGE – Indeterminacy Pt 2 (23:05)
1. COZY COLE -Topsy Pt 2 (3:38)
2. HONEYCONES – Op (2:32)
3. HORACE SILVER – Senor Blues [Newport Jazz fest] (8:14)
4. JOSH WHITE – Southern Exposure ** (3:17)
5. NEW LOST CITY RAMBLERS – How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live ** (3:36)
6. DAVE VAN RONK – Duncan & Brady ** (3:03)
7. SONNY TERRY – Custard Pie Blues ** (3:00)
8. DRIFTERS – Money Honey ** (2:57)
9. BIG JOE TURNER – Morning Noon And Night ** (2:44)
10. THE EMBERS – Paradise Hill ** (2:16)
11. PARAGONS – Twilight ** (2:51)
12. BIG MAYBELLE – One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show ** (2:53)
13. THELONIOUS MONK – Brilliant Corners (7:46)
14. RAYMOND SCOTT – Ripples ** (4:06)
15. ALLEN GINSBERG – Howl (21:49)
Jazz Chronicles with Simon S, Martin Gordon (Brownswood) and Gerry Hectic
Saturday 2 July 2011 at 3:00pm the Jazz Chronicles trio of regular DJs Simon S, Martin Gordon & Gerry Hectic (www.flyglobalmusic.com) for some sounds from labels like Blue Note, Impulse, Strata East, CTI & Black Jazz together with other dusty grooves and future classics!
Sixty Million Postcards, 19-21 Exeter Road, Bournemouth BH2 5AF http://www.sixtymillionpostcards.com