Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Medieval Jazz Quartet plus three (circa 1961): Bob Dorough and recorders galore

UPDATE, 2.16.09:
The good news - - This wonderful and rare old album has recently been reissued onto CD!

Knock me over with a feather, who'd a thunk it! Run a search for it - -
I've just seen it listed at CD Baby and at the Music Minus One website.

And so the bad news, in light of its reissue, I'm removing the mp3 links from this post.

Go track down this supercool album! You won't be disappointed!

*****************

The process of this record coming to be would seem a case of jazz artist Bob Dorough and a group of his 'respectable' 'Early Music' friends all letting their hair down a bit and having some fun.

- - Even with their choice of a band name, poking gently at the Modern Jazz Quartet.

It was a different era, but still it's hard to believe they could have been courting any commercial potential in marrying recorders and other early intruments to the jazz idiom - - and that's part of the beauty of it.

Boasting a stellar line-up, it's a fun and lovely LP, one that swings on many levels. But it's not a great stretch to imagine that it may have been received as being too high-brow by one crowd, and too low-brow by another.

The album was released on 'Classic Editions', an imprint of the 'Music Minus One' training record company.

In the copious and rambling liner notes, Dorough carries on a dialogue with his own 'Hipper Self', discussing how best to present the album. Eventually 'they' get around to some of the pertinent details, which I've distilled down a bit:

(the 'caps are his)

"IN THE UNITED STATES, MUCH OF THIS RECURRENT INTEREST IN OLD MUSIC AND OLD INSTRUMENTS IS DUE TO THE WORK AND TEACHING OF DR. ERICH KATZ, WHO FOUNDED THE AMERICAN RECORDER SOCIETY IN NEW YORK CITY IN 1949, BUILDING ON THE PREVIOUS WORK OF MISS SUZANNE BLOCH. THIS ORGANIZATION CONTINUES TO GROW THROUGHOUT THE LAND AND HAS BROUGHT MUSIC INTO THE LIVES OF COUNTLESS PEOPLE.

"FROM THE BEGINNING, LANOUE DAVENPORT, A STUDENT OF DR. KATZ' AND A FORMER TRUMPET PLAYER FROM DALLAS, TEXAS, TOOK PART IN THAT WORK, CONDUCTING A GROUP OF HIS OWN (THE MUSICIANS' WORKSHOP), AND GIVING MANY CONCERTS OF OLD AND MODERN MUSIC. TODAY HE IS THE RECORDER SOLOIST WITH THE PRO MUSICA ANTIQUA OF NEW YORK, A GROUP OF WORLD-WIDE RENOWN, AND MAY ALSO BE HEARD IN HIS MANY RECORDINGS FOR CLASSIC EDITIONS WITH THE MANHATTAN CONSORT, WHICH HE FOUNDED AND DIRECTS. THIS GROUP, BY THE WAY, INCLUDES, BESIDES THE FOUR RECORDER PLAYING MEMBERS HEARD HERE, TWO OTHER MEMBERS; SHEILA SCHONBRUN, SOPRANO, AND BARBARA MUESER, VIOLA DA GAMBA. MR. DAVENPORT IS A COMPOSER AS WELL, AND HAS WRITTEN NUMEROUS WORKS, AMONG THEM SEVERAL FILM SCORES UTILIZING RECORDERS. IN THIS RECORDING HE PUTS TO GOOD USE HIS EARLY EXPERIENCE WITH THE TRUMPET AND WITH JAZZ.

"MARTHA BIXLER, AFTER A THOROUGH BACKGROUND IN PIANO, VOICE, AND OTHER INSTRUMENTS, GRAVITATED MORE AND MORE TOWARD EARLY MUSIC, DUE PARTLY, NO DOUBT, TO THE WORK SHE DID WITH THE COLLEGIUM MUSICUM WHILE A STUDENT AT YALE UNIVERSITY. THIS LATTER GROUP WAS CONDUCTED BY PAUL HINDEMITH AND IS, OF COURSE, DEVOTED TO THE PERFORMANCE OF EARLY MUSIC. TODAY SHE PLAYS THE HARPSICHORD AS WELL AS THE RECORDERS. LIKE MR. DAVENPORT SHE HAS BEEN VERY ACTIVE IN THE WORK OF THE AMERICAN RECORDER SOCIETY.

"SHELLEY GRUSKIN IS A GRADUATE OF THE EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC, A VERY THOROUGH MUSICIAN AND THE MASTER OF SEVERAL INSTRUMENTS. HE HAS PERFORMED AS FLUTIST WITH THE N.B.C. SYMPHONY AND IS AT PRESENT A MEMBER OF BOTH THE PRO MUSICA ANTIQUA AND THE MANHATTAN CONSORT. THlS IS SHELLEY'S SECOND EXPERIENCE WITH 'JAZZ' ON THE RECORDER, HAVING ONCE BEEN CALLED UPON TO FILL IN WITH THE SAUTER-FINEGAN BAND DURING A CONCERT AT ROCHESTER. (INCIDENTALLY THAT BAND WAS ONE OF THE FEW, IF NOT THE ONLY, JAZZ-OR-DANCE BANDS TO EMPLOY RECORDERS.)

"THEIR WORK IN THIS RECORDING IS THEN A DEPARTURE FROM THE NORM FOR THE MANHATTAN CONSORT, AND IT IS TO THEIR CREDIT THAT THEY HAVE ACQUITTED THEMSELVES SO WELL IN THIS UNUSUAL VENTURE. HEAR MARTHA'S SWEET SOUND ON THE SOPRANO RECORDER IN 'AUTUMN LEAVES'. SHELLEY GETS A CHANCE TO PRESENT A BEAUTIFUL TONE ON THE TRANSVERSE FLUTE IN 'NATURE BOY'. LANOUE WILL NO DOUBT CAUSE
MUCH DELIGHT AMONG HIS MANY FRIENDS, STUDENTS, ADMIRERS, AND FANS WHEN THEY HEAR HIM IMPROVISING A 'HOT CHORUS' WITH ALACRITY, WARMTH, AND (THAT MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT) SWING.

"AS IN MOST GOOD JAZZ WRITING, THERE IS A BLENDING OF THE WRITTEN AND THE UNWRITTEN, OR IMPROVISED, SO THAT THE LISTENER IS NOT REALLY ABLE TO SAY WHERE IMPROVISATION STARTS AND ENDS"

"DURING ONE OF THE INNUMERABLE SESSIONS FOR CLASSIC EDITIONS SOME OF THE MEMBERS OF THE MANHATTAN RECORDER CONSORT, WHILE RELAXING BETWEEN TAKES OF A HIGHLY COMPLEX PIECE OF 17th C. POLYPHONY, WERE PLAYING FOR FUN SOME SIMPLE VOCAL ARRANGEMENTS OF POPULAR TUNES. PRODUCER IRVING KRATKA OVERHEARD THE GROUP FOOLING AROUND AND THOUGHT A MORE THOROUGH UNDERTAKING IN THIS DIRECTION MIGHT BE WARRANTED.

"IT WAS A YEAR OR SO LATER THAT THIS GERM OF AN IDEA FIRST TOOK GROWTH. THIS WAS OCCASIONED BY THE RETURN TO NYC, AFTER A FEW YEARS' ABSENCE, OF VETERAN JAZZ MUSICIAN, BOB DOROUGH, WHO HAD ALSO PLAYED THE RECORDER FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, AND HAD TAKEN PART IN MANY RECORDINGS AND CONCERTS UNDER THE DIRECTION OF LANOUE DAVENPORT. EARLY IN 1961 MR. DOROUGH WAS INVITED TO JOIN MISS BIXLER, MR. GRUSKIN, AND DIRECTOR DAVENPORT AS A FOURTH MEMBER OF THE M.R.C., AND TO PARTICIPATE IN THEIR ANNUAL CONCERT FOR THE AMERICAN RECORDER SOCIETY.

"AFTER THIS EVENT THE CONSORT PROCEEDED TO MAKE A NEW RECORDING (CE 1049), WHICH INCLUDED MANY OF THE SELECTIONS FROM THAT CONCERT. DURING THE ENSUING REHEARSALS AND SESSIONS IT WAS REVEALED (SOMEWHAT ABASHEDLY) TO BOB THAT SUCH A PROJECT AS THIS ONE WAS IN THE AIR."

Group lineup - -

The Medieval Jazz Quartet:
LaNoue Davenport (sopranino, alto, bass, tenor recorder, tenor crumhorn)
Martha Bixler (soprano recorder, crumhorn)
Bob Dorough (tenor recorder,vocal on 'September Song', 'Nature Boy', and 'Lady Be Good' )
Shelley Gruskin (bass recorder)

with:
George Duvivier (bass)
Al Schackman (guitar, bouzoukee)
Paul Motian (drums, mallets)
and
Irving Kratka (Producer, MMO A&R man, finger cymbals on 'Nature Boy')


From the self-titled LP, 'The Medieval Jazz Quartet plus three' (MMO/Classic Editions Records, circa 1961), Listen to:

How High The Moon
September Song
Chloe
Nature Boy
Lady Be Good
You Are Too Beautiful
Mood Indigo
Autumn Leaves

(click for audio)


A post-script link :
Turns out a few of the rarer Bob Dorough albums have been kept in print, and are available via
stuie's humble homepage. (Thanks and praise to Funky 16 Corners.)

3 comments:

Brian Hayes said...

It's been too since I browsed Village Records. Maybe more than 25 years.

And it's been too long since I took a couple hours to enjoy good music, dredge up memories and relax.

I'm sending thanks.

Plus kudos for a fun, thorough, mature and dedicated site.

saffydd said...

great! love the crumhorn.
a group called "the wooded O" did something like this in and around 1968-69...the jazzy medieval-renaissance sound.

stalzz said...

This LP has finally been released on CD! It's on CD baby!

Freshly-stirred links