Sunday, 28 March 2010


An average "bop" fan relaxes at home...
"Mad Men", "Life On Mars" and "Ashes to Ashes". Three TV shows with one thing in common.

They're all set in the, fairly, recent past. Or to be precise the 60's, the 70's and the 80's - in that order (could be a sign of getting on a bit - calling the 60's "recent").

Or are they? Because to me they seem to be set in a distilled and concentrated essence of those decades.

I've experience of those three decades. And while I don't recall too much about the 60's I'm fairly certain that in the 70's and the 80's no one, or no one that I knew, had a "stereotypical" 70's or 80's lifestyle. In these TV shows everyone has everything that we now associate with the 60's, 70's or 80's. Be it clothes, cars, food, homes or gadgets.

Whereas in the 70's "real" people still clung onto some 60's styles and furniture. In the 80's not everyone had an Audi Quattro etc. In real life there is more gradual take up of innovations and social trends than TV people would have us believe. But these shows work because it's what we want to remember.

Anyway.. last weeks jazz find, that was lurking on the shelves of a second hand shop, has the same distilled essence approach. "Headlines" by Dutch group the Houdini's (in New York) sounds more like an Art Blakey and the Messengers album than any Art Blakey album that I own (and that's a few). Recorded in 1991 this album positively oozes with classic 60's jazz sounds.
Piano, bass, drum, alto sax, tenor sax and trumpet - this is a classic jazz combo lineup.

It's not an exact copy of Blakey and the Messengers (all bar one of the tunes are original for a start).

It is undoubtedly helpful that the album was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at his studios - the man and the place responsible for almost all the famous Blue Note recordings. It was, if I'm honest Rudy Van Gelders name on the sleeve that encouraged me to buy this.
Pianist Erwin Hoorweg writes a few of the tunes and seems to write primarily for the others. It's not an album of "solo-combo-solo-combo-solo-bring it all together" type numbers and more often than not the horns are to the fore.
The Jazz Messengers were never a fixed group but more like an ever changing school roll in an academy for up and coming jazz greats. The list of musicians that passed through Blakey's hands reads like a who's who of jazz and therefore the pressure must be on for any group trying to recreate that sound, to live up to and recreate the sound of some of these luminaries. But the Houdini's pull it off simply by not trying to sound like Lee Morgan or Wayne Shorter or Horace Silver. By not trying to imitate the individual elements of the Messengers they manage to somehow replicate the whole.
It's a wonderful find and an amazing album. Needless to say I shall seek out more.
Oh. Strangely enough, I also started to watch a new box set of Mad Men DVDs :-)

No comments: