Little Big Bands
Retrospective of the 1975 Jazz Marathon.
They were top bands, but The Brotherhood of Breath and Randy Weston stood out.
The second Jazzmarathon took place on 16 and 17 May 1975 at De Oosterpoort in Groningen. The solid roster featured 12 attractions, including the Anthony Braxton Quartet (with Kenny Wheeler, Dave Holland and Barry Altschul), the Slide Hampton Quintet (with Art Taylor, among others), Carmell Jones & Leo Wright (assisted by the Rein de Graaff Trio), Charles Tolliver Music Inc (with John Hicks, among others), Randy Weston Solo and the Frank Wright Quartet. Three top Dutch groups include Association P.C., the Willem Breuker Kollektief and the Theo Loevendie Consort.
All groups performed in their regular (star-studded) line-ups. And the Dutch bands were also populated with mere all-stars: no second-rate substitutes, all bands at war strength.
Chris McGregor and his twelve disciples stole the show.
The performance of the thirteen musicians who formed The Brotherhood of Breath made the most impression. Many visitors will have had little idea of what to expect, as The Brotherhood of Breath’s albums (represented by three titles on the record market at the time) were hard to come by, but live, you were immediately swept away by a swirling maelstrom of sweet-voiced melodies, fiercely attacking riffs and by solos running from Jack Teagarden to Roswell Rudd, from Henry Red Allen to Don Cherry, from Johnny Hodges to Ornette Coleman. Rhythmically, this band goes through all gradations from unequivocal big band swing to remarkably free, anarchic rolls and ramblings. But after a ferocious flight with lots of turbulence, a preserved landing always follows.
An irresistible concoction of kwela and free jazz.
The Brotherhood of Breath was founded in 1970 by South African pianist Chris McGregor. He gathered around him in London, several musicians he knew from the days when they performed in South Africa as The Blue Notes: Mongezi Feza (trumpet), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), Johnny Dyani (later replaced by Harry Miller) (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums). Of The Blue Notes, the inimitable, extraordinarily versatile Moholo (*Cape Town, 1940) is the only one still alive.
Around this core of distinctly South African personalities, McGregor was able to call on a host of London musicians working in the sphere of free jazz. People like trumpeters Harry Beckett and Marc Charig, trombonists Nick Evans, Malcolm Griffiths and Radu Malfatti and saxophonists Mike Osborne, Evan Parker and John Surman.
When writing out his arrangements, McGregor always assumed a 13-man line-up: 3 trumpets, two trombones, five saxophones and piano, bass, and drums.
Characteristics of his writing style are the short, chattering melodic motifs versus the sweet, weighty chords and the predominance of the saxophone sound. The soloists are often given a sea of space to perform their breakneck straps.
Randy Weston also draws his inspiration from Africa.
Pianist Randy Weston grew up in Brooklyn, became familiar with the music of Thelonious Monk in his youth, and played in R&B bands before embarking on an entirely individual course in 1956. Later in his career, he was inspired by African influences, usually calling on the arranging skills of Melba Liston for big band projects.
He has also gained a formidable reputation as a solo pianist: few pianists know how to draw such a multicoloured sound from the piano as Randy Weston. He appeared at this Jazz Marathon because shortly before, in Zurich, he had recorded his first full-length piano solo album: Blues to Africa (on the Freedom label).
Playlist Jazzmarathon 1975
1. Union Special: Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath (RCA Neon) 1970
2. Davashe’s Dream: see 1
3. Tunji’s Song: Live at Willisau (OGUN) 1974
4. Nick Tete: Brotherhood (RCA) 1972
5. Congolese Children: Randy Weston-HIGHLIFE (Colpix) 1963
6. Blues to Africa: Randy Weston-Blues to Africa (Freedom) 1974
7. Uhuru Kwanza: see 6
8. Think of Something: see 4
9. Andromeda: see 1
10. The Bride: see 1