Monday, December 05, 2005

Booker Little

Booker Little (scanned from my copy of his album "Out Front")

There are many tragic stories to tell when it comes to jazz, but none are perhaps more tragic than the death of trumpeter Booker Little at the mere age of 23. Booker Little sound was influenced by another trumpeter that also met a tragic death, Clifford Brown. Like Brown, Little's technique was technically exquisite without losing a soulful edge. Booker spent a large percentage of his very short career working with Eric Dolphy. They were able to create a unique musical relationship. Booker was one of the few trumpeters that was capable of keeping up with Dolphy's flurry of ideas. He always accepted Dolphy's challenge, and also contributed several compositions to Dolphy's working bad. The partnership culminated in a live recording at the Five Spot that spawned 3 album releases. One of the most impressive songs played that evening was Booker own superb composition "Aggression". Booker Little even managed to squeeze a few self-lead albums into his all too short career. One of my favourite solo albums of his was his self-titled album on Time records. One of the highlights of the album is to hear Booker working with another great jazz musicians that died tragically early, Bill Evans' bassist Scott LaFaro.

Cover Art for Booker Little's Self-Titled Album

The album has a beautiful timeless quality to it. I consider Booker as one of my favourite jazz trumpeters and even jazz composers. There are some amazing compositions on this album by Booker, and one of my favourites (which coincidently it was also his favourite) is "The Grand Valse". Booker based this tune around Sonny Rollins' Valse Hot. It's a touching jazz waltz. With a marvelous solo by Booker that clearly illustrates his beautiful full tone, and expressive sound.

Sheet music for "The Grand Valse"

Another picture of Booker from the cover of Dolphy's At The Five Spot Vol.1

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Casque D'Or

*Warning Second Paragraph Has Spoilers*

Almost every Sunday I go to my state's main art gallery to see the free films they hold in their full size film theatre. In the past I have seen as diverse films as "La Dolce Vita", "The Blue Kite", "Taxi Driver", "L'Age D'or" among many others. The films featured are always related to a particular art exhibition at the gallery. The films from the past few weeks, and the next few weeks to come relate to the current Pissarro exhibition. The first film of the series was Jean Renoir's excellent "La Bete Humaine (The Human Beast)". A very enjoyable film directed by the son of impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The second film in the series was Jacques Becker's Casque D'Or, a superb tragic drama.

Casque D'or, The Golden Helmet played by Simone Signoret

The film was influenced by the real life story of Amelie Helie, a prostitute nicknamed "Casque D'Or". However there a great discrepancies between the real story and the plot of the film. In a sense it would be unwise to say that the film was based on the story of "Casque D'Or". Instead it used its backbone as a basis for the film, the story of jealous love that overtook the minds of Casque D'or's suitors. While doing research for this review a discovered a very interesting website relating to the real Manda-Leca scandal. I think it helps put the film into historical perspective. In reality Manda was no carpenter, but a well known leader of an infamous apache gang named Orteaux. He did indeed stab and kill a former lover of Casque D'or, but the ending of the film is pure fantasy. With Manda serving life manual labour rather than the guillotine, and Leca 8 years and Casque D'or forgetting about both of them by entertaining herself with wealthier men. It is therefore important to understand Becker's decision to make fundamental changes to the nature of the different characters. By doing so Becker was able to create a more symphetic view of Casques D'Or (Marie), and Manda. Instead of a story of betrayal it becomes a tragic love story. Manda is presented as a simple carpenter, drawn into a life of crime because of his love of Marie, while Leca is polarised into a stereotypical gang leader. This decision allows Becker to accentuate the devastating power of love on Manda. If we were to believe he was a leader of a gang, the stabbing of Raymond, and the shooting of Leca would seem far less shocking. The transformation of Manda is in my opinion a key aspect of the film. Becker also makes the character Leca highly unlikable, presenting him as an arrogant and deceitful gang leader. In the end in is hard to feel compassion for Leca, when he is murdered by Manda. Given the nature of the real Casque D'Or I was somewhat surprised by the ending. The radical transformation of Casque D'Or to find true timeless love is a little less convincing (at least for me).

All this drama is filmed beautifully with some fantastic cinematography. The film's cinematic highlight perhaps can be found in the fight to death scene between Manda and Roland. The close up of Manda's face being eye-gouged is a stands out as a beautiful piece of cinematography.

I can't help but feel this shot was influenced by film noir

I also loved this particular shot too

Well I think I've gone a little too much regarding this film. I was quite impressed with it as a whole. It has also recently been released by the Criterion collection. So if you have the money, I would recommend picking it up sometime in the future. It is well worth watching.

Link with more information on the real Manda/Leca Scandal

Another link with more info regarding the real Manda/Leca Scandal

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Takehiro Honda: Japanese Jazz Piano Trio

I have to say that I am a huge fan of the piano trio format. In fact Bill Evans 'Sunday at The Village Vanguard' was the first Jazz album I ever owned. Ever since hearing this album, I have always taken the opportunity to buy and listen to as much piano trio jazz as I possibly can. Which takes me to my record shopping experience in Tokyo. I've always had a keen interest in Japanese jazz. From the far out realms of Kaoru Abe and Masayuki Takayanagi, Toshinori Kondo to more mainstream artists bebop influenced artists. One of the more mainstream Japanese jazz musicians I like is the relatively obscure (at least outside Japan) pianist Takehiro Honda. Takehiro sounds a little bit like Oscar Peterson, with spliced with Erroll Garner, with a pinch of Ray Bryant. His playing style isn't exactly the most unique, but it's still infused with a heavy dose of energetic bop.

I found out about him simply by chance. I was in the Jazz Disk Union store, and was looking through the Japanese Jazz section, where I came across some LPs that were extraordinarily low priced. One of these albums was Honda's "The Trio", a 1970 album priced at a remarkable 140 yen ($1.20 US). At that price, I couldn't refuse to "give it a try". Thankfully for my good fortune the LP was well worth the dollar (and a bit) I paid for it.

The Cheapest LP in Tokyo

At the same time I picked up a second album by Honda that was a little more pricey (but in better condition) at 800 yen ($6.70 US). The LP was a later album entitled "I Love You" released in 1973.

The Album Cover of "I Love You"

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Jimmy Lyons

Jimmy Lyons, a Free Jazz musician that reads sheet music!
Jimmy Lyons holds a unique place in the crossbridge between bebop and free jazz. As a young man he was friends with such Bebop musicians as Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Elmo Hope. These early jazz associations clearly had an effect on his future playing style. Chris Kelsey suggests that Lyons' "slippery, bop-derived rhythms and melodic contours" are more reminiscent of Charlie Parker than his contemporary free jazz entourage. Lyons bridges the jazz/free jazz divide and acts as suggested by Eugene Chadbourne as a "thinking man's Charlie Parker".

Only a month ago I was in Tokyo, Japan as part of my world "Record Collecting" trip. The record stores in Tokyo were quite amazing, and I spent a good deal of money buying records there. Amongst one of my best finds was an original copy of Jimmy Lyons' debut album as a leader "Other Afternoons". It features an all-star free jazz band, that included Lester Bowie (of Art Ensemble of Chicago fame) on Trumpet, Alan Silva on Double Bass, Andrew Cyrille on Drums and Lyons leading the band on Saxophone.

BYG/Actuel was a record label that issued some of the best and most unusual/experimental jazz music in history.

The song I have used to backup my following comments, is the second on side one. It's title is "Premonitions". In the song Lyons and Bowie challenge each other, pushing the boundaries. Alan Silva is featured in an amazingly beautiful plucked bass solo by Alan Silva. There is also a short solo by Lyons playing on top of Alan Silva's bowed bass, and Andrew Cyrille's snare drumming.

Jimmy Lyons - Premonitions

The band in action

Chris Kelsey's Jimmy Lyons Biography

Eugene Chadbourne's Review of "Other Afternoons"

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Hello an welcome to "Hypochristmutreefuzz",

Hypochristmutreefuzz is a blog dedicated to the discussion and criticism of music and film.

Some of you may be wondering what exactly "Hypochristmutreefuzz" means. Its origins stem from a composition by Dutch free jazz musician Misha Mengelberg. It was featured on Eric Dolphy's "Last Date", a brilliant album recorded in 1964 that featured Dolphy playing among two revolutionary European jazz fingers. The emerging Misha Mengelberg and his partner in crime drummer Han Bennink. The composition itself is greatly influencfed by Thelonious Monk, with a slightly more avant-garde edge. Imagine a crossbreed between Monk and Cecil Taylor. Dolphy plays the bass clarinet, an instrument not widely used in jazz music then and now. His solo is full of zestful expressionism, improvising in style that has not been emulated since. Indeed it was a tragedy that Dolphy died only 27 days after the recording.

Eric Dolphy - Hypochristmutreefuzz

Eric Dolphy and

Misha Mengelberg [Jazzarchieve of Paul Karting]

For more info on Eric Dolphy please visit this website

It's a very valuable source of information on who I consider to be the greatest jazz musician of them all.