Album Info

November 27, 2007
Fresh Sound

Album Review

David Amram's ambitious orchestral and large ensemble works are much better known than his small-combo recordings. In his early days, the pianist and French horn player did some fine hard and post-bop jazz prior to his third stream and world music excursions. These studio dates, done in Paris and New York City, are some of his first as a leader, long unavailable, and given his public lack of recognition, never properly heard. The Paris sessions from 1955 feature the great Belgian tenor saxophonist and flutist Bobby Jaspar, bassist Eddie DeHaas, and pianist Maurice Vander. Curiously, Amram or Jasper alternately take the lead lines with the other playing subtle background harmonies, but they rarely play in unison. The selections "The Birds of Montparnasse" and "Bedtime Story" have Vander on harpsichord, and they are circus-costume Kurt Weill-like, boppish but a bit goofy. The rest of the tunes are serious but playful, gliding easy swingers, all Amram originals and all with him on French horn, including the tango-ish "Hess Goes West." The lone standard is "I Married an Angel." Back in the States in 1957, Amram splits between piano and brass on the next ten tracks, and you hear the forthcoming third stream ideas initially conceived by him, Ran Blake, George Russell, and Gunther Schuller. George Barrow plays tenor sax, with Arthur Phipps on bass and Al Harewood on drums, a fine band for the time. Amram and Barrow play together on "Lobo Nocho" and "Phipps Quipps," straight-ahead swingers. The more advanced harmonics crop up on "Someday Morning Will Come"; the chamber-like, long-toned, soaring ballad take of "Darn That Dream"; the reverent "Shenandoah"; and the laid-back, cool "Somewhere Along the Way." The hippest piece, Amram's "City Talk," has a wonderful inventiveness during instantly shifting and repeated melody dynamics. The remaining three cuts, done in New York in 1961, have West Coast tenor saxophonist Harold Land within a quartet and Amram exclusively on piano. "Las Muchachas Delicadas" and "Harold's Way Out" are preludes to the urbane and slightly Latinized sound Horace Silver would carve out and make his own. Of course, this was Land's post-Clifford Brown/Max Roach and pre-Bobby Hutcherson period, and he sounds great. This CD is more than a historical footnote or a rarity, but a time portal into the fertile, unconventional compositional and performance mindset of Amram. It is a CD that all lovers of modern music should pay attention to.
Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Rue Mazarine
  2. I Married an Angel
  3. Hess Goes West
  4. Plays This Love with Me
  5. The Way You Look Tonight
  6. The Birds of Montparnasse
  7. Occasion
  8. Bed Time Story
  9. Someday Morning Will Come
  10. Lobo Nocho
  11. I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart
  12. Darn That Dream
  13. City Talk
  14. Phipps Quipps
  15. The Best Thing for You
  16. Shenandoah
  17. Somewhere Along the Way
  18. I Love You
  19. Las Muchachas Delicadas
  20. True Blue
  21. Harold's Way Out