Drummer Paul Motian (1931-2011), perhaps best known for his perceptive, shimmering cymbals and hit-and-run snare work in Bill Evans' monumental first trio, died on Nov. 22. He was 80. [Pictured from left at the Vanguard in '61: Bassist Scott LaFaro, pianist Bill Evans and drummer Paul Motian]
Here's Motian quoted by Adam Gopnik in the August 2001 New Yorker on the 40th anniversary of the trio's famed Vanguard sessions:
"We were great. But look at this—I got $136 for the famous legendary record, $110 for the gig, and $107 for the second record. Look at my gig book: here we are at the D.C. Showplace. That's where Bill said, first night, second night, 'Ladies and gentlemen—I don't feel like playing tonight. Can you understand that?'
"And they kind of did. Bill was sincere, and he had a great sense of humor. He was good, but I was good with him, you know, because I listened. We listened to each other, and you can still hear us listening when we play.
"[Bassist] Scott [LaFaro] was tough on Bill. He was the one man who could be tough on Bill. Like if he didn't think the music sounded right—if it was great but not perfect—he'd say to Bill, 'Man, you're just fucking up the music. Go back and look at yourself in the mirror!'
"He'd even say it to me, when he didn't think I was playing right. And he had only been playing the bass for a few years...
Here's the Bill Evans Trio in 1959, playing When I Fall in Love, with Paul Motian on drums and Scott LaFaro on bass...
The hit was More, More, More, which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 2 on the dance chart in 1976—a particularly potent year for disco. In the years prior to the release of Saturday Night Fever in December 1977, disco was largely a hip, cult genre fueled largely by independent record labels, low-key urban clubs and adventurous disc jockeys. In disco's early years, soul-dance vocalists such as Vicki Sue Robinson, Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer dominated the solo female vocalist niche.
But despite the formidable competition, there still was room for one-hit wonders like Penny McLean (Lady Bump), Tina Charles (You Set My Heart on Fire), Retta Young (Sending Out an SOS) and others. Into this mix came Andrea True at the end of January 1976 with More, More, More, a bouncy tune with an addictive, chunky beat.
Recorded at Federal Records in Jamaica in late '75 using a studio band hastily assembled locally and named the Andrea True Connection, the12-inch single was released at first only in clubs like Chameleon and 12 West in New York, the DCA Club in Philadelphia and 15 Lansdowne St. in Boston. Interestingly, buzz for the single began not on the radio but on the dance floors, where record company executives measured a song's potential by the number of people rushing out to do the hustle.
What's perhaps most interesting about Andrea True Connection is that all of the tracks on the More, More, More album—produced, arranged and mostly written by drummer Gregg Diamond—turned out to be equally as good as the hit, a rarity for disco albums at the time.
Here's the original Tom Moulton mix of More, More, More...
Russ Garcia. As JazzWax reader John Guerrasio in London reminded me last week, fans of the late Russ Garcia should not overlook his string arrangements on Margaret Whiting Sings Jerome Kern, Vols. 1 and 2. You'll find both on one CD at Amazon. Whiting is superb on the session.
Wrecking Crew. If you're in Boston on Dec. 17, Denny Tedesco will be screening The Wrecking Crew—his documentary on the group of Los Angeles studio musicians who played on hundreds of pop-rock hits in the 1960s. Denny is the son of guitarist Tommy Tedesco. I've seen this documentary, and it's fabulous. Where: Regent Theater, 7 Medford St., Arlington, Mass. (781-646-4849). When: 7 p.m. Tickets: $8 to $15. More information.
CD discoveries of the week. Ilhan Ersahin's Istanbul Sessions: Night Rider (Nublu) is riff-jazz electronica at its best. Ersahin's tenor saxophone joins the big electric bass of Alp Ersonmez, exotic percussion of Izzet Kizil and fusion drums of Turgut Alp Bekoglu. Each track sets up a funky mood that reverberates with Eastern and Western global touches. This is another one of those experimental jazz albums that takes risks and works. Dig Etnik, Birds and Black Sea. You'll find this one at iTunes and Amazon. More on Ilhan Ersahin at his site.
Composer Ralph Rainger was active between 1930 and 1942, when he died aboard a passenger plane that collided with an Army Air Corps bomber. Among Rainger's many hit songs are Moanin' Low, Easy Living, Thanks for the Memory, I Wished on the Moon and June in January. Many of his finest songs are given the jazz treatment by the Chuck Berghofer Trio on Thanks for the Memory: The Film Music of Ralph Rainger (Fresh Sound). Joining bassist Berghofer are Jan Lundgren on piano and Joe La Barbera on drums. Singer Sue Raney appears on two tracks, including the title tune. This trio allows you to appreciate how truly relaxed and coaxing Rainger's melody lines were. You'll find this one at iTunes and Amazon.
Oddball album covers of the week. Many jazz purists like to think of rock and roll as the genre that wiped out recording opportunities for jazz musicians on both coasts. But it's important to remember that before rock took over completely, jazz musicians did try to scramble onto the teenage bandwagon, if only to earn a few bucks to pay the rent. Here are two examples of jazz musicians' early attempts to hang with the kids and deliver a bigger beat. One LP is by Stan Kenton's sassy saxophonist Vido Musso. Could the other be by Lydian Chromatic Concept pioneer George Russell? Or British guitarist George Russell? A careful look at the cover tells us that the hep track lineup includes the Hokey Pokey, which would soon become a crowd-pleaser at wedding parties everywhere.