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In early April, 1960, a large-scale jazz festival took place in Essen, one of the principal industrial cities of the Ruhr district in Western Germany. This city is not able not only for the Krupp works, but also for its enormous concert hall, the “Grugahalle”, an architectural and accoustical wonder with a seating capacity of no less than 8000.
In this hall were staged the two concerts that made up the third annual jazz festival in Essen, the “Essener Jazz Tage 1960” on Saturday, 2nd April, a concert of modern jazz; on the following day a concert devoted to various aspects of traditional jazz. This record captures some of the most memorable events of the first of these concerts.
A German group, the Michael Naura Quintet, opened the concert and was followed by, in turn, a trio composed of Bud Powell, Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clark; Helen Merrill accompanied by Pettiford; Coleman Hawkins with Powell-Pettiford-Clarke; the Dave Brubeck Quartet; and the Quincy Jones Orchestra. Of these, the trio of Powell, Pettiford and Clarke, and the quartet with Hawkins were recorded for release on record.
Joachim Ernst Berendt, the prominent German Jazz critic, acted as master of ceremonies, and in his introduction to the trio he point out that Powell, Pettiford and Clarke may be considered the fathers of their respective instruments in modern jazz - Powell Has been the most influential jazz pianist since the war, Pettiford carried on the innovations of Jimmy Blanton and became a source of inspiration to most of the younger bass players, and Kenny Clarke founded the modern conception of jazz drumming. To have these three musicians united in a trio for the first and last time promises to be the unique experience it is.
At the time of the concert, Powell, Pettiford and Clarke were also the most prominent of the American jazz expatriates in Europe. Pettiford had been playing mostly in Germany, Austria and Denmark since coming to Europe in 1958, while Powell and Clarke had mainly been resident in Paris, Clarke since 1956, Powell since 1959. Oscar Pettiford died in Denmark five months after the Essen festival and this record will be treasured by the many who still miss him.
On the first side of the record, after Mr. Berendt’s introduction, the trio opens its part of the programme with the Parker-Gillespie classic, Shaw ’nuff, complete with tricky introduction and finale, and played at the customary fast tempo. Bud Powell is the only soloist in this number.
Blues in the closet is one of Oscar Pettiford’s best known and most frequently recorded themes. It has also been recorded by Bud Powell under the title Collard greens and black-eyed peas. Powell and Pettiford share the solos in the present medium-fast version.
Pettiford introduces Willow weep for me, a ballad feature for his own bass playing and a remarkable demonstration, not only of his technical command of the instrument, but also of the passion with which he used to play it. The solo consists of two choruses, with piano and drums entering discreetly at the first bridge.
John’s Abbey, a 1958 composition, “written by your favourite, Bud Powell”, as Pettiford puts it, is played almost as fast as Shaw ‘nuff and also has Powell as the only soloist. Clarke’s wire-brush accompaniment is certainly worth noting. Salt peanuts was composed by Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Clarke back in 1941, when they were both playing with Ella Fitzgerald, even though Pettiford - judging from his introduction - apparently ignores or forgets that Clarke has a part in the theme with its drum-like octave motif, he makes this number a vehicle for Clarke’s drumming.
For the second side of the record, the trio is joined by Coleman Hawkins, who was to an evenlarger degree than his partners, the father of his instrument, and who was, before the war, the first of the great American jazz musicians to take up residence in Europe. As far as we remember, Hawkins has only recorded All the things you are once before, in 1944. This new version is played at a well chosen medium tempo, which also seems to suit Bud Powell in his three choruses. The eight-bar introduction and coda has been a part of this number since the 1945 Gillespie-Parker recording of it.
The second quartet tune played was Just you, just me - in the second chorus, Hawk makes use of a paraphase of the tune known variously as either Spotlite or Just Bop. Another Jerome Kern tune, and one which has been associated with Hawkins for several years, is introduced by himself: Yesterdays. Hawkins is the main soloist, relieved by Pettiford for the first half of the third chorus.
Stuffy, which ends the record, is one of Hawkin’s most favourite themes, a typical example of the semi-bob style favoured by him in the middle ‘forties. In fact, he first recorded it in 1945, accompanied by, amongst others, Oscar Pettiford. In this version, Hawkins does most of the soloing himself, but Pettiford takes the bridges at the beginning and at the end, Powell plays three choruses, and there is one chorus of four-bar exchanges between Hawkins and Clarke.
Thanks are due to Ralf Schulte-Bahrenberg, the arranger of the concert, for his kind collaboration, without which the recording could not have taken place, and also to Joachim Berendt, who was helpful in many ways. Erik Wiedemann
Recorded at Grugahalle, Essen, West Germany on April 2, 1960
Bud Powell (piano); Oscar Pettiford (bass); Kenny Clarke (drums) with Coleman Hawkins (tenor saxophone) on title 6-9 only
Shaw Nuff (4.33); Blues In The Closet (5.17); Willow Weep For Me (4.13); John’s Abbey (3.35); Salt Peanuts (3.48); All The Things You Are (8.01); Just You, Just Me (5.50); Yesterdays (6.47); Stuffy (7.37)