It would seem that this year has not been a very good year for Jazz in many senses and the past few months have proven to rather depressing with a large number of players having passed on.
The Most significant one being the recent death of Hard Bop legend, Horace Silver, a pianist/composer who was one of the stalwarts of Blue Note Records in the fifties and sixties. Horace was a great composer and produced many brilliant albums such as Song for My Father, Six Pieces of Silver, and the Jazz Messengers, Blowing the Blues Away and In Pursuit of the 27th Man. He also composed many memorable compositions including the gospel infused blues “The Preacher” which was based on the tune “Show Me the Way to Go Home”, “Sister Sadie”, “Peace”, “Senor Blues”, “Yeah!” and “Let’s Get to Nitty Gritty”. This was perhaps his golden period and despite his attempts to utilise jazz funk and pseudo political spiritual in his United States of Mind series of albums, I think the 1970’s was his lowest ebb and I feel free to admit I don’t think lyrics were his strong point.
Charlie Haden is another lost legend, but I must confess I have not knowingly listened to a lot of his work, say for the album he did with Gonzalo Rubalcaba of Bueno Vista Social club fame and a few he did as side man to Keith Jarrett, funny how you hear bad news and then you realise how little of their work you actually have.
Paul Horn a rare example of a jazz flautist has passed recently too as has Kathy Stobart, a rare example of a female lead sax player who was part of the Humphrey Lyttelton band. Again these are artists I’m not overly familiar with, I have heard a few tracks by Paul Horn on a few compilations but I will admit he never struck me as an artist I would rush by to check out further work by him.
Stobart I heard mainly through my weekly listening to the Humph’s Best of Jazz show which ran on Radio 2 for well over 30 years and in later years he’d show case his own work more often drawing out the names of his sidemen. I had the good fortune of seeing that particular line up of the band a fair few years ago at Symphony Hall as part of a three act evening under the umbrella title ‘the Giants of Jazz’.
Then of course there was little Jimmy Scott, a gifted vocalist who suffered from a rare genetic disorder which meant his body never matured to adulthood, giving him a high almost childlike voice. His career suffered a major setback when a collaboration album between him Ray Charles fell foul to some behinds issues and was withdrawn from sale until the early 2000s. The album in question is “Falling in Love is Wonderful” and its release from album limbo was due to the death of the original producers who had imposed the release ban. This may have disappointed eBay sellers as vinyl copies up to that point were going for several hundred dollars apiece, making it the Lungbarrow of Jazz records it seems.
Then there was Guitarist and Jazzwise columnist Jack Masserick who insisted that Billy Jenkins would not do the Eulogy at his funeral… sadly the reason why is unreported.
And of course it hasn’t just been the jazz world to suffer loses, I am of course referring to Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams. Bacall fine actress has lived a long and successful life and hopefully is reunited with Bogart in the film studio in the Sky. But Robin Williams, that was quite a shock. One of those people you’d never expect to end his own life, but sadly the gift of comedy does frequently come with an unhappy curse; Spike Milligan was a genius of zany comedy bringing us the Goon Show and the Q series which would influence the Monty Python team, but he was cursed with extreme manic depression which frequently institutionalised him. Though Robin Williams has appeared in many serious films such as Good Morning Vietnam, Awakenings, Dead Poets Society, the Fisher King and the criminally underrated Toys for me I think he’ll always be Mork from Mork & Mindy.
It would seem the angel of death has be a busy and naughty boy these past few months… if he comes near me I’m gonna rip his nipples off.
Anyway keep an eye out for some retrospectives of some of the jazz artists I mentioned.