MUSICIANS TAKE CENTRE STAGE: JEAN TOUSSAINT
We ask the people making music to pull out their ten favourite albums.
L-R: Jason Rebello, Jean Toussaint, Mark Mondesir and Alec Dankworth
Photo: ©Terry Walker
1) Impressions: Live at the Village Vanguard (Impulse! 1961) by John Coltrane
The first time I heard this record was when I had recently started music college and, my ears being extremely undeveloped, couldn’t make sense of what I was hearing. I hated it. Then about six years later I heard it again, at drummer Jeff Watts’ house, and was knocked out. When I left I went straight to the record shop and bought it.
The highlights of the record, on which Coltrane plays rhythmically like a drummer and harmonically like a pianist, are ‘Impressions’ and ‘Chasing The Trane’. The intensity, spontaneity and inventiveness in this and other performances of this great band has yet to be matched.
2) A Night At The Village Vanguard (Blue Note 1957) by Sonny Rollins
Piano-less trio at its best. Sonny Rollins, with his incredible command of rhythm and harmony, really defines the sound of the sax, bass and drums trio. On ‘Strivers Row’ – a solo based on Charlie Parker’s ‘Confirmation’ – his playing is so clear that you can almost imagine a piano player laying down the harmonies.
Elvin Jones in his pre-Coltrane days is on drums, showing he understands melody as much as Rollins understands rhythm. The result is magic.
3) Bitches Brew (Columbia 1969) by Miles Davis
The irrepressible Mr Davis breaking new grounds once again. With this recording Miles Davis started in a new direction which the music-labellers quickly dubbed ‘jazz-fusion’. Forget the name and listen to the music. There’s so much happening on this record that with each new listen I hear something I’ve never heard before. With all these musicians playing at the same time, it’s amazing how clear the musical ideas and climaxes are. Group improvisation at its highest level. Miles Davis – one in a billion.
4) Juju (Blue Note 1965) by Wayne Shorter
This was the first straight-ahead jazz record I owned and I learned all the sax solos from beginning to end, note for note. Wayne Shorter is, for me, one of the greatest composers of this century and his solos are as thorough and full of insight as his writing.
5) Lady In Satin (Columbia 1958) by Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday, in my opinion, was the greatest vocalist ever. Something about her voice just reaches inside of you and tears at your emotions. The musical arranger matched her voice perfectly with his use of strings, brass and reeds.
6) Head Hunters (Columbia 1973) by Herbie Hancock
My older brother bought me this record when I was 17 and I wore it out listening to the grooves. Again, this is ground-breaking jazz. Herbie Hancock in his liner notes mentions how much he likes Sly & The Family Stone (one of my favourite bands from that period) and there’s a definite correlation – not in music but in spirit – with what Sly was doing. This record disproves the old adage that you can’t dance to jazz.
7) Jazz at Massey Hall 1953 (Debut 1956) by The Quintet
One of the greatest all-star recordings of all times, be-bop from the master innovators of the genre – Charlie Parker, along with Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. This performance is as fresh today as it was when they did it in the early fifties.
8) Power To The People (Milestone 1969) by Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson, to this day, remains one of the few innovators of the tenor sax. With this recording he made a musical political statement in support of the black power movement of the sixties. Other tunes include ‘Afro-centric’ and the calm and beautiful ‘Black Narcissus’.
9) Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane 1957 (Jazzland 1961) by Thelonius Monk
Some of the freshest compositions of that period – e.g. ‘Ruby My Dear’, ‘Tinkle Trinkle’, ‘Epistrophy’ – combine with John Coltrane, in his ‘sheets of sound’ phase, to produce what I think is one of the top five best records of the 1950’s. Coltrane’s virtuosity is as breath-taking and unbelievable as Monk’s quirky lines and unusual rhythm and harmony.
10) Soundtrack Recordings from the Film Jimi Hendrix (Reprise 1973)
The blues being the foundation of jazz and rock, I thought I’d include my favourite recording of master blues/rock guitarist Hendrix. This compilation is made up of a series of live TV performances and interviews. Some of the titles included are ‘Machine Gun’, ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Red House’. Hendrix was, I believe, as great a composer as he was an improviser. His vocal style suited his music perfectly. Had he only lived…