Monday, May 18, 2020

Favorite albums: Trio Jeepy

Records that were important in my development, that might be in yours, too. Should be a major recurring feature, but very difficult for me to write. My problem is I don't have much intelligent or glib to say about most of these albums. Everything there is to say is on the record itself. I'm not into history, scene, or writing plaudits, or speculating about players' psychology, or grading performances. So this is just a way of directing you to the thing, and saying spend a lot of time with this, if you haven't already.

So: Trio Jeepy by Branford Marsalis, released in 1989. With Milt Hinton (and Delbert Felix) on bass and Jeff Watts on drums. I bought a cassette of this because Wynton Marsalis's Standard Time and Live At Blues Alley records were very hot then, and I wanted to get more of Watts. Most of us who were students in the 80s were trying to find a voice somewhere between fusion and the neo-classic thing, and at this time neo-classic was where most of the energy was. Fusion was declining into fuzak, but its major artists were edging away from that, towards a more acoustic conception. See Michael Brecker's first solo record, Chick Corea's Akoustic Band, Scofield's Time On My Hands, Metheny's Question & Answer.

This is a nice, loose little recording with a lot of blowing and a lot of great featured drumming. They included some outtakes and talking in between tracks, which adds to the spontaneous vibe. Marsalis is doing his Dexteresque thing that is nice to listen to. The record introduced many of us jazz neophytes to some tunes we would play a lot in coming years: Doxy, Makin' Whoopee, UMMG, Three Little Words, The Nearness of You. Now I realize that it took some nerve to put Doxy on a record in 1989, and present it with an attitude of THIS. IS. THE. SHIT.

There's always an element of doctrinal pronouncement in recordings by any Marsalis; you come away feeling like you've been told how you're supposed to play. I don't know to what extent mainstream jazz was actually dead when the Marsalises came around— but they needed to declare it so, so they could bring it back. There was still jazz education, and a professional culture where people were still playing old tunes. But maybe all the big records were in the fusion arena, before they came along. 

Jeff Watts is fantastic of course. He has a much deeper, more muscular sound here than we're accustomed to today. Similar to post-60s Tony Williams, but less outrageously aggressive. Listen to Watts if you want to find a sound different from the current twitchy, trebly thing. There's also a great example of “melodic” drumming, with his playing on Housed From Edward— hearing that was an unavoidable instruction to get a concept of playing blues.

On that track he does a big time displacement thing, which is a pretty audacious move. It doesn't add anything, and is kind of crass, showing off his fearlessness of blowing a take— and also Milt Hinton's unshakability. I wrote a page on how to do it. Good luck ever finding musicians you can do that with, or on having the courage to actually attempt it in a critical situation.

Here's Housed From Edward— listen to the video, but the proper way to do this is to buy the physical record, and play it many, many times.


Michael Griener said...

To me that's actually quite a lot what you did say about this album (which I never really listened to, because I thought I was too smart for anyone named Marsalis). Enough to make me curious and I'm listening to it right now . Wow, Milt Hinton is like a rock!
Your writing about music is more intelligent than what most critics write about these albums, so please make it a major recurring feature, please!

Todd Bishop said...

Oh thanks Michael! It takes me hours and hours to hack this out.