Sunday, 19 August 2007

Shake Keane...

This is a truly dreadful re-issue of music from the '60s made by a musician who, artistically at least, should have known better. Yet with jazz declining in popularity at the time, part of me doesn't blame Keane for trying to cash in.

The British free music scene of the era brought us lots of memorable music, particularly after South African exiles such as Chris McGregor, Dudu Pukwana and Louis Moholo arrived. Keane was part of that scene, playing a significant role in West Indian emigre Joe Harriott's pioneering music.

This recording, however, is so 'lite' it would make even collectors of kitsch scratch their collective heads in dismay. I post the review now only because it reminds me of my feelings for the Klaus König CD below - feelings of disappointment that I always have when I know that far more is possible...

That’s The Noise

As Tears Go By; You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’; It’s Not Unusual; New Sunday; Walk On By; Mr Tambourine Man; Colours: Girl; Downtown; Morning Blue; My Guy; Fidel.

Shake Keane (t/flhn); Bob Efford (ts/ob); Olaf Vas (f); Pat Smythe (p); Coleridge Goode (b); Bobby Orr (d); Stan Tracey (p) on 4,6,12.
Recorded 1967

Like it or not, the current resurgence of interest in British jazz of the 1960s owes a lot to Acid Jazz supremo and broadcaster Gilles Peterson. The two volumes of his Impressed series were packed with exciting cuts from the era. Tubby Hayes, Michael Garrick, Neil Ardley and Mike Westbrook suddenly seem to have acquired a hipness to rival George Best or Twiggy in some unlikely places. Like many, I was grateful for Redial’s Joe Harriott reissues in the late ‘90s, and Shake Keane impressed me then with his bell-like tone and willingness to tackle adventurous musical challenges.

That’s The Noise sadly fails to make such a favourable impression. Essentially an attempt to woo Carnaby Street with jazz interpretations of a dozen popular hits from the time, there is little of any great substance to light the flames. I don’t make such a comment lightly, as many will have gathered that I’m hugely sympathetic to quality “soul jazz”, a form which often grooves on musical vehicles drawn from precisely this type of repertoire.

What we get on That’s The Noise are some nifty arrangements and bold instrumental voicings, but they come at quite a cost. The deployment of Efford’s startling oboe on “New Sunday” and Vas’ flute on the great “Walk On By”, for example, indicate some thought behind the project, but with most tracks lasting less than three minutes and much of the material scarcely worth covering, the results all too frequently sound trite. A calypso setting for “Mr Tambourine Man”, a piece that I find irritating at the best of times, almost induced nausea, whilst “Downtown” and “My Guy” were simply execrable. Keane’s haunting flugelhorn feature on Lennon & McCartney’s “Girl” is more like it, though hardly enough to justify the cost of admission.

The good news is that Vocalion haven’t stopped here, and Keane and Harriott feature on other releases as members of Michael Garrick led ensembles. Unless you’re an avid collector or one of those disgruntled folks looking for something else to blame NuJazz architect Gilles Peterson for, That’s The Noise can safely be ignored.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, May 2006)

No comments: