Timeless Allstars ‘At Onkel PÖ’s Carnegie Hall / Hamburg 1982’ 2LP/CD (Jazzline) 4/5

The Timeless Allstars concert at Hamburg’s Onkel PÖ’s venue was originally taped for the German radio station NDR and thanks to the Jazzline label and some valuable archived concert tapes, this previously unreleased recording sees a welcome release, put together with stylish presentation and packaged as one CD which includes a 12 page booklet or 2LP vinyl format.

The Timeless Allstars sextet were named after the Dutch label, Timeless, and feature a distinguished line up of jazz musicians with Buster Williams [bass], Billy Higgins [drums], Cedar Walton [piano], Harold Land [Tenor Saxophone], Curtis Fuller [Trombone] and Bobby Hutcherson [Vibraphone].

For this 1982 concert performance, the stellar group decided on four lengthy compositions which perfectly allow the space to accommodate each composition to gently unfold whilst allowing room for the soloists and development of each composition.

The original and progressive style of bassist Buster Williams can be heard on many classic jazz albums dating back to the 1960s, with lengthy stints alongside the Jazz Crusaders on such albums as ‘Lighthouse 68’ and ‘Uh Huh’, as well as valuable collaborations alongside countless figures including Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. He also featured as part of the Mwandishi Sextet, who were regarded among the finest jazz-rock and pop-tinged units of all time. His composition ‘Tokudo’ lifts off in a swinging fashion with Curtis Fuller sparking off Billy Higgins’ uptempo ride cymbal tempo with some sharp shifting uplifting notes before Bobby Hutcherson and Harold Land takes the stage. The composition stretches out over 19 minutes and also features a highly inventive 3-minute solo by Billy Higgins to round off the proceedings. The composition has a slight air of Thelonius Monk coming through.

The beloved compositions of Cedar Walton have been in many an esteemed jazz musicians repertoire and it’s fitting that this live performance should feature his majestic composition ‘Clockwise’. Other notable albums that included this beautiful piece include Bobby Hutcherson’s 1979 ‘Conception’ album and Billy Higgins’ debut album ‘Soweto’ from the same year. The shifting patterns and beautifully crafted textures prevail throughout the 20-minute long track and it’s worth noting that the composition was also included on the Timeless Allstars live album ‘It’s Timeless’ in 1982, recorded in a much shorter form for their performance at the Keystone Korner in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Cedar Walton’s ‘Eastern Rebellion’ album remains a favourite album from his career and also features Billy Higgins on drums.

Victor Young and Ned Washington’s ‘s late 1940’s composition ‘My Foolish Heart’ was accentuated by many jazz artists including Bill Evans and Carmen Mcrae who both elevated the late-night contemplative moody piece from the Great American Songbook and propelled it through the years with their own unique style and interpretation. Bobby Hutcherson takes it a step further here weaving a beautiful palette of harmony that is at once complex and yet rich in texture and inventiveness. The compositions tempo lifts and briefly opens up in the middle before settling back down as Bobby Hutcherson adds more layers of embracing sound to finish off this exquisite composition. His many great albums show a wide-ranging approach that developed and ventured towards the adventurous experimental side of jazz alongside such great musicians as Andrew Hil, Eric Dolphy and many more. He recorded over 20 albums for the esteemed Blue Note label of which many are highly regarded as pinnacles within the catalogue.

Leading West Coast saxophonist, Harold Land, brings his driving uptempo post-bop composition ‘Mapenzi’ to the fray with some great solos and supporting work throughout, especially from Billy Higgins who adds an incredible range of sounds and changes that really add something special to this track, which lasts over 20 minutes. The drummer’s hard bop touch lends itself to the solid punchy tones of Harold Land. The lyrical sparse lightness provided by Cedar Walton and Bobby Hutcherson acts as a perfect counterweight for both Curtis Fuller and Harold Land’s deep notes. Harold Land recorded many great albums under his own name and featured on over 9 Bobby Hutcherson albums for Blue Note. Check out ‘The Peace-Maker’ album amongst other great works including ‘The Fox’.

The title of Allstars is definitely apt for this set of musicians who are all masters within their respective fields and the understanding between each musician brings together a magical collective sound full of warmth and dynamic understanding. It’s a special album that will grow with each listen and the group’s affinity with all the compositions is clearly evident as the enjoyment and composure reigns supreme throughout.

Mark Jones