Various ‘Gilles Peterson – Magic Peterson Sunshine’ 2LP/CD (MPS/Edsel) 4/5

gillesThe MPS label out of the Bavarian Black Forest was that most esoteric of labels, but the personal attachment and involvement of its founder meant all manner of jazz musicians, European, American, and others were able to record under optimum recording conditions. DJ Gilles Peterson has regularly trawled the label’s archives and on this occasion has unearthed some gems with discoveries aplenty alongside the established winners. The album starts with an atmospheric opener, layered textures and a hint of the East on ‘Dew’ by Don Ellis, who constantly played around with time signatures. A feature of this compilation are the delightful short vignettes that regularly feature and this adds a lovely personal touch that makes the music flow all the more easily. Pedro Iturralde was a vastly underrated Spanish saxophone player and his ‘Jazz Flamenco’ (not to be confused with a separate duet of albums, ‘Jazz Flamenco’ volumes one and two) recording from 1967 was a major innovation and featured a then young Paco de Lucia who would go on to become the major flamenco guitarist of the second half of the twentieth century and cross stylistic boundaries in the same way that Miles Davis did. Here, a reworking of classical composer Manuel de Falla’s ‘Cancion del Fuego Fatuo’ is transformed into a modal work with bass and piano in unison on the main theme riff, while the drums hint at Elvin Jones. Masterly. In stark contrast, the Singers Unlimited are prime examples of elegant vocalese and here offer up some tasty wordless ad-libs that are not without recalling Brazilian MPB harmony group MPB 4. North African flavours are evoked via an extremely hard to find album from George Gruntz, ‘Nemeit’, with the flute excursion, ‘Night in Tunis’, just the kind of number that Roland Kirk might have contributed to. A major
bonus on CD only is the inclusion of John Taylor with his trio and ‘White magic’. Taylor was at the beginning of an understated career and one that requires a dedicated record company at some point to cut across labels and produce an authoritative anthology of his work. This flowing, expansive number is a listening joy to behold and an undoubted album highlight. If left-field grooves are your forte, then the little known Jonny Teupen with his ‘Harp revolution’ will fit the bill admirably and this is a bop-inflected piece with avant-garde harp plucking and trumpet that stands out from the rest. unlike either Dorothy Ashby, or Alice Coltrane. Big bands are certainly not forgotten and a Jimmy Heath composition, ‘Big P’, from the Modern Jazz group Freiburg works a treat with a lovely melodic main theme riff from saxophone and trumpet. In between, the Orchester Kovac offer up a brief treat in the brief rendition of ‘Service 1’.

Key American musicians who were picked up by MPS included Mark Murphy and Mary Lou Williams and both are showcased here. For the latter, an outing with the Clarke-Boland band resulted in a stunning number, ‘Why and how?’, and this has long been a jazz dance favourite. For the more reflective jazz fan, ‘It ain’t necessarily so’, is a wonderful skeletal version of the Gershwin classic and Williams is on top form throughout. French jazz was, on occasion, explored on the MPS label and, in Hammond organist Eddie Louiss, this was not necessarily of the standard soul-jazz variety. In a trio setting, along with drummer Daniel Humair, ‘Out of the sorcellary’ is a piece that well and truly drives in intensity. Louiss recorded among others with Stan Getz. An excellent overview of the MPS label in general, then and full marks to Gilles Peterson for offering such a wide-minded selection. Perhaps some Barney Wilen could be included in a future edition?

01: Don Ellis – Dew
02: Mary Lou Williams – It Ain’t Necessarily So
03: Johnny Teupen – Harp Revolution
04: Petro Iturralde Feat Paco De Lucia
05: Gunther Hampel – Our Chant
06: George Gruntz – Nemeit
07: Orchestra Roland Kovac – Service 1
08: Third Wave – Love Train
09: Singers Unlimited – Stone Ground Seven
10: Eddie Louiss – Out Of The Sorcellery
11: John Taylor Trio – White Magic (CD Bonus Track)
12: Modern Jazz Group Freiburg – Big P
13: Francy Boland – Lillemor
14: Mark Murphy – Why And How
15: Wolfgang Lauth & Hermann Impertos – Denn Liebe Ist Stark Wie Der Tod
16: Wolfgang Dauner – Love In Summer

Tim Stenhouse