Ron Miles - Trumpet, Fred Hess - Tenor saxaphone, Eric Gunnison - piano, Artie Moore - bass, Ginger Baker- Drums plus James Carter -Bass Clarinet & Baritone Saxaphone, Shamie Rpyston - Organ, Todd Ayers - Guitar, Glenn Taylor - Pedal Steel Guitar.
Jazz goes back near enough to a 100 years. Jazz has a history that can only be appreciated by listening to it in the broadest terms. As I write this I am listening to (& being very distracted by) Thelonious Monk - solo. He is now Classical Jazz - a giant who bridged Stride to Be-Bop and opened up the harmonic/rhythm possibilities that led to polytonality. I listen to this and marvel - I saw him on the "Giants of Jazz" tour - enigmatic, presence, a rare solo on this tour memories (unfortunately I didn't really appreciate his music at that time, and are still learning).
You then hear a new album, built, partly, on that foundation, and it is exciting. Contemporary Jazz albums are literally a curate's egg. They can be true to the traditions and be dull to competent to highly skillful. And then something comes along that, just, gets it all together: history, the current the alternate genres and it swings!
Ginger Baker had set up a polo horse-breeding ranch near Denver, Colorado - not a renowned Jazz town. He ran into some very good musicians and formed his jazz group which played at his ranch after his beloved polo game: "Polo & Jazz in the Park". The band varied from week to week, including Kofee Baker, but the key was the drummer and his friend: Teacher, Trumpeter, Composer, Arranger - Ron Miles.
Ginger raved about the band, got some gigs on the East Coast, got some strong reviews and a record deal. Unfortunately he had to get a shoulder operation and afterwards broke a few ribs (horses!). The album was recorded in Denver over a mere two days with James Carter as a guest player.
Sound is superb as it is live to 2 track. The drums and instruments were recorded with distance miking giving a warm, rounded live sound. Ginger is playing his new Drum Workshop kit and is using a 20" bass drum like the Cream days.
The album opens with Ginger's ode to Cyril Davis and immediately you know this is something special.
Track by Track (all compositions by Ron Miles unless indicated)
Cyril Davies (Ginger Baker) (8:52)
A Jazz blues homage to the legendary father of British blues. In a Miles Davis late 50's mode with lovely Baritone from James and Baker sounding a bit like Blakey but with his inimitable tom-tom patterns.
Ginger Spice (8.28)
An African rhythm lilt provided by the drums against the repeated figures of the guitars. And you know who it refers to!
Dangle the Carrot (Ginger Baker) (6.05)
Lots of odd changes a la Thelonious - it works beautifully. Built to jam (typical Baker) with the man in driving Elvin Jones mode. A fine contrary solo from Fred at half tempo.
Megan Showers (7.31)
A superb ballad with Ron playing in mode of Miles circa late '50s early 60's. Lovely brush work - this is musically more complex than it sounds!
Jesus Loves Me (9.32)
Incredible time changes but it isn't a "aren't I clever" piece - it really swings with the man playing his arse off - "Amazing".
Coward of the County (5.46)
Starts with the man doing one of his combined cymbal tricks, which underpins the whole song. The organ provides eerie chords with the bass providing a powerful counter line. A moving piece.
Ginger's succinct notes says it all - "a disturbing piece of music. Definitely the dark side of Ron Miles."
Jesus I Just Want to Sleep (6.46)
Done in 2 takes - they had trouble picking which one. Fine playing from James on the bass clarinet and Artie on bass with some lovely cymbal work.
In conclusion: A superb album, playing, songs etc with the Ginger man playing at his very finest.
DJQ2O = Denver Jazz Quartet to Octet
© Graeme Pattingale, 1999