Saturday, 19 September 2009

Al Haig...

No time for shirking, time to get some more old reviews posted. There seems to be a bit of an Al Haig thing going on at another blog I've recently enjoyed visiting, and if you're curious I can offer a link to this very CD. Of course, such downloads should only be for research purposes. If you like what you hear you should always support the artists directly.

The services such blogs perform for avid and curious listeners can't be underestimated though. I for one have discovered lots of new music that I've later gone on to buy as a result of sampling other folk's libraries. I hope that this educational and close knit community ethos amongst jazz aficionados isn't stamped out by the record industry. We aren't interested in mainstream releases, and our holy grail consists of long out of print (almost unobtainable) music as rare as any antiquity.

Removing the opportunity for felicitous encounters which inspire listeners to go out and expand their collection seems counter-productive. Where a release is out of print and never likely to be re-issued ever again, the enthusiast's quest to hear the material seems to me to be entirely different to the consumer that is simply looking for a free copy of the latest Peter Andre CD to stick on their iPod. Thanks to blogs like the one I mention above, I now know about Tony Dagradi, and I'm off to Amazon right now to see what I can find...

Un Poco Loco

Confirmation; Naima; All Blues; Laura; Voices Deep Within Me; Never Let Me Go; How Deep Is The Ocean; Un Poco Loco; The Theme

Al Haig (p); Jamil Nasser (b); Tony Mann (d), (Recorded September 1978).

Although not a Be-bop pioneer, Al Haig kept a high profile during the music’s very earliest days, quickly assimilating and embracing the example of Bud Powell. His legacy includes historic recordings with Parker, Gillespie and Navarro, as well as tenures with Chet Baker and Stan Getz and immortality via Miles’ Birth of the Cool nonet sessions. Long periods of inactivity, including jobbing as a cocktail pianist, effectively divide his career into two phases separated by a twenty year gap.

British record label Spotlite was instrumental in helping Haig to attain recognition as a giant of bop, returning him to the studios late in 1973. An Indian Summer followed, before Haig passed away in 1982. Un Poco Loco, recorded in 1978, is further fruit from the Spotlite partnership, and a fine example of Haig at his peak. Accompanied by regular bass partner Jamil Nasser and British drummer Tony Mann, it’s good to see how much Haig had moved with the times and built on his roots. Although renditions of “Confirmation”, Un Poco Loco” and “The Theme” survive from the Be-bop book, there is a far more expansive side to Haig’s work in evidence. Happy to embrace Jamal, Cedar Walton and Chick Corea as influences, Haig’s style nevertheless remains personal. Readings of “Naima” and “All Blues” further indicate a musician open to change.

Although the trio never abandon progressions or probe as deeply into harmony as more interactive trios from the Bill Evans school, Haig works within the structures to turn in some thoughtfully impressive work. Nasser’s bass is a muscular backbone well at home in this environment. Aside from his long tenure with Ahmad Jamal, Nasser also worked with Phineas Newborn and Harold Mabern, and yes, this is the same man who also worked with Eric Dolphy and Booker Little. Standouts include an elegant “How Deep Is The Ocean”, a breakneck run through of Walton’s “Voices” (complete with “Salt Peanuts” quote) and a rhythmically hypnotic take of the Bud Powell composed title track. Although it won’t shake the earth or move mountains, Un Poco Loco is a rewarding way to spend an hour, and a reminder of a talent so nearly lost to the vagaries of jazz fashion.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, May 2006)

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