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Saturday, March 12, 2022

Geri Allen, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian - Live at the Village Vanguard (Unissued Tracks) December 21 & 22, 1990 (Somethin’Cool, 2022) ****

I have a confession. Until I began to review this recording, I didn’t know that Geri Allen passed away in 2017. It gave me the kind of shock you get when you learn that the friend you long intended to get back in touch with has left the building.

I knew of the passing of Charlie Haden (2014) and Motian (2011). Motian was of special importance to me, as I first fell in love with jazz while listening to Bill Evans recordings. This Live at the Village Vanguard recording is a literally timely reminder that the durability of recorded music only emphasizes the mortality of genius.

It took a bit of detective work to pin this recording down. The three jazz masters played the Village Vanguard on the above date and a recording was released by a Japanese label DIW. It is difficult to find at any reasonable price. The unissued tracks recording is also released by a Japanese labelavailable from Amazon for $8.99 or Amazon music.

This is mostly what I like to think of as page 3 jazz: hard bop and clearly stated melodies punctuated by solos. The first cut on the album is lovely rendition of Monk’s In Walked Bud. Allen’s playing steals the show on this one. She is bright, lyrical, and, well, happy. Haden and Motian keep a effervescent pool of joy for her to dive into. Their solos were what you would expect from these two masters.

It was interesting to compare the version of Motian’s composition Fiasco with the one the trio recorded only a year earlier at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Allen’s playing earlier version shows more fire and precision. The latter, however, is more evocative and articulate. It is not easy to choose, but I think I prefer the Village Vanguard version. For Haden’s solo, I think I would go the other way were for the fact that the Vanguard version is a little bit more vivid on the recording.

This is mostly straight ahead jazz. I love it. I say mostly. Haden’s solo on Fiasco would fit on most bass solo albums reviewed here at FJB. Moreover, Song for the Whales is classic Avant Garde: the texture of Haden’s bass is clearly dominate over any narrative. No fan of adventurous jazz is going to be disappointed by this one. I just think that Song by the Whales would have been a more accurate title.

If you are looking for an example of Geri Allen in an edgier context, check out At This Time by the Trio 3 (Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake, and Reggie Workman) with Geri Allen. It won’t disappoint.


Anonymous said...

The ‘village vanguard’ recording is on DIW, not ‘DWI’.

Ken Blanchard said...