Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Andy Scherrer remembers Mal Waldron...

Well, no surprises at Holmenkollen, Oslo on Sunday. The precocious Gregor Schlierenzauer continued his winning streak, disappointing the home fans who were all rooting for Tom Hilde. Hilde's second round jump gave them real hope and was a magnificent effort, but with the young Austrian jumping last and only requiring just over 120 metres, it was unlikely that he'd fail. Schlieri's win of course gave him extra points for winning the overall Nordic Tournament series, and although Tommy Morgenstern still takes the overall World Cup Title, the younger Austrian is clearly the man to beat at the moment.

He also happens to be the World Ski flying champion, and with the upcoming finale to the season being the long hill at Planica, many must be wondering if his dominance isn't going to continue. Could we be looking at the 2009 World Champion already? I've no doubt that Morgenstern will be fired up to defend his title next year, but Schlieri will also be another year older and more experienced. I'll be bold enough to suggest at least that the winner may well be Austrian!!

Time to take the Austrian theme into musical waters. Scherrer's disc is a strange one. It should be clear from reading the review that I love Mal Waldron's music. More, in fact, than I love this tribute disc. There's nothing wrong with Scherrer, a fine modernist in his own right, but just as his more recent Remember Joe Henderson wasn't as interesting as any given Joe Henderson record, this effort falls a little short too.

My advice? Get lots of Mal Waldron first, then take a look at this CD. If you want to know which Waldron's to get first, drop me a line...

Remember Mal Waldron
TCB (24202)

Blood And Guts; Searching For Kristiansund; The Seagulls Of Kristiansund; Rochade; Fire Waltz; Duquility; The Pawns Move; Dancing On The Flames; Maru-san; Status Seeking/We Diddit.

Andy Scherrer (ts); William Evans (p); Isla Eckinger (b); Dre Pallemaerts (d).
Recorded December 2003.

In a career that deserves to be more illustrious than it ultimately became, pianist Mal Waldron may end up being better known as Billie Holliday’s last accompanist and as the composer of the beautiful ballad ‘Soul Eyes’ than as an artist with a substantial and intriguing body of work spanning five decades. His contributions to Eric Dolphy’s ‘Five Spot’ recordings, the wonderful ‘Moods’ (with Steve Lacy) from 1978, and the 1986 quintet with Woody Shaw and Ed Blackwell that cut two Soul Note discs at the Village Vanguard are amongst my personal highlights.

Waldron’s career had at least two distinct phases, before and after the tragic personal problems of the mid 60s that led to his relocation in Europe. It is therefore quite appropriate that saxophonist Andy Scherrer should assemble a Euro-American quartet for this tribute. Perhaps best known for his work with arch-ironists the Vienna Art Orchestra, Scherrer is a heart-on-sleeves post-Coltrane stylist. Both Eckinger and Pallemaerts actually played and recorded with Waldron during his time in Europe, the bassist appearing with him on what became the very first ECM release, ‘Free At Last’.

William Evans hails from Detroit, a fact evident in his approach to the piano (think Barry Harris or Tommy Flanagan), and whilst he doesn’t shy away from the dark chordal vamps that characterise many of Waldron’s distinctive compositions, he is uninhibited enough to offer distinctly personal solo statements. Evans’ approach is indicative of the way in which the entire quartet negotiates the delicate balance between homage and personal expression. Whilst Evans’ own prelude to the sublime ‘Seagulls Of Kristiansund’ has none of the composer’s mesmerising economy, his reading of Waldron’s haunting theme most certainly does.

Each member of the quartet gets a short solo space to reflect on Waldron, the group then seamlessly moving into a reading of a carefully selected Waldron original. ‘Blood And Guts’ sounds like it is being tackled by Coltrane’s classic quartet circa June 1964, whilst ‘Duquility’ could just as easily have been lifted from a recent Charles Lloyd date. Ultimately it is the music of Waldron that is the true star, with the collective efforts of Scherrer’s high-class ensemble running in a very close second. Warmly recommended.

Fred Grand

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