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JAZZ A LA BOHEMIA

recorded  14 October 1956  
La Bohemia  New York   USA
CD  1992   Riverside Original Jazz Classics    1747-2
LP  1992   Riverside Original Jazz Classics    1747
LP  1957   Riverside  (except 1, 9, 10)           12-232

GREENWICH VILLAGE JAZZ
        LP   1960   Jazzland   JLP13


| real | wm |


        liner notes


Randy Weston piano
Cecil Payne
baritone sax  (except 4, 8)
Ahmed-Abdul Malik
bass  (except 4)
AI Dreares
drums  (except 4, 8)

Ray Fowler engineer
Bill Grauer
producer
Orrin Keepnews
producer, liner notes

  1   Theme / Solemn Meditation (Gil)
  2   Just a Riff 
(Catlett)
  3   You Go to My Head
   (Coots / Gillespie)
  4   Once in a While
  (Edwards / Green)
  5  
Hold ĎEm Joe (traditional)
  6  
Itís All Right With Me (Porter)
  7   Chessmanís Delight
  (Weston)
  8   Theme / Solemn Meditation AP
(Gil)

 


JAZZ A LA BOHEMIA


The Cafe Bohemia lives up to its name in part by being located about as close as you can get to the geographical core of Greenwich Village, New York's fabled center of the bohemian life. It lays further claim to Bohemian artistic status by being an unpretentious and comfortable (except perhaps on Saturday nights, when no club in the city has the space for true comfort) home for some extremely noteworthy modern jazz. One evening in the Fall of 1956, when the attractions at the Bohemia included a group headed by the remarkable young pianist, RANDY WESTON, Riverside unloaded a station-wagon full of recording equipment into the club and settled down to several hours of taping a live performance by Weston and his colleagues. The results of that evening make up this album.

As recordings such as this sharply indicate, jazz as heard "live" in actual club performance is inevitably more than a little different from jazz recorded under studio conditions. Nowadays, many members of the American jazz public have become frequent record-buyers and only occasional club-goers. And while it may seem strange for a record company to say so, this present imbalance is a most unfortunate situation. For, despite the technical superiority of even a fairly good recording studio to the average club, there are some very definite advantages to "live" jazz performance-and these are being missed by a good many people.

Most obvious, of course, is that the musicians are playing at and reacting directly to an audience, rather than just acoustically impeccable walls and two or three faces in the studio control room. But there's more to it than that. In a studio, there is very often (even if only subconsciously) an insidious awareness of permanence: once issued, a given solo will stand as the way you treat that tune; and a clinker can live to haunt you forever.

So there is incentive, as well as opportunity, for several 'takes' of each number, in a search for precision or for inspiration that sometimes succeeds -but that can often lead jazzmen to stiff, stilted playing, even to downright boredom. In a club, a given tune is rarely played more than once a night, and there is no need to strive to create anything deathless. Of course, there can be an opposite danger here, brought on by the dangerous assumption that rough spots and clinkers will quickly be forgotten by the audience if only the "feeling" is right.

A vast amount of lastingly excellent jazz has been and will continue to be made in the recording studios; and some nights in jazz clubs can be, musically, quite a waste of time. But, canceling out pro and con, there remain certain important qualities of live performance at its best -warmth, spontaneity, vitality- that are only rarely duplicated in the studio.

In recognition of this, there is a growing (if still limited) tendency towards on-the-spot recording. This means sacrificing something of acoustics, freedom from distraction and overall control of the situation, in hopes of catching your performers on a good, truly live night. In the present case, the negative elements were minimized by the fact that the Bohemia is an unhectic place, and that Riverside's staff engineer, Ray Fowler, is an unhectic, highly skilled and sensitive technician. Also, the key musicians of the evening, Weston and baritone sax man Cecil Payne, are both exciting, inventive artists with a good deal to say.

Randy Weston has become, in just a few years, one of the important younger jazz figures: the object of almost universal critical praise, Down Beat choice as "New Star" pianist of 1955, and possessor of an ever-growing following. He offers a rhythmic piano style that owes something to the early attention he paid to Thelonious Monk and to Art Tatum, but that increasingly, each time around, reflects his own richly lyrical and highly individual jazz imagination.

Cecil Payne (who grew up in Brooklyn with Randy) has an astonishingly agile command of a potentially cumbersome instrument, plus a vibrant tone and a swinging-modern conception. Bassist Ahmed Abdul  Malik is also noteworthy, for his full sound and impressively strong beat. Altogether, it's a group quite deserving of being presented in a natural habitat. Throughout the evening they played tunes at their normal club length, which is often (though not rigidly so) several choruses more than average recording studio length. In lieu of several 'takes' per number, the evening consisted of the normal (in a club) varied and non-repeated repertoire: with the most success. full selections of the many being chosen for the LP.

Thus the album does not actually present one continuous set of performances; but this is the only artificiality. The applause, for example; is quite real; and the album opens and closes with the group's Theme (written by Randy's original bass player, Sam Gill, at this time in the Army). In between there are three standards, a Weston original (Chessman's Delight) dedicated to a Brooklyn chess club, a calypso, and a bright, neglected tune (Just a Riff) previously recorded only by the late Sid Catlett with Ben Webster. Except for two trio numbers, the emphasis -as it usually is in club appearances by this group- is on Weston and Payne both as soloists and in their ability to interweave with skill and originality.

We feel that this recording captures the "feel" of live, in-the-club performance on a good night-that by bringing the studio to the club in this instance we have been able to preserve on disc something of the best of two technically very different corners of the jazz world.

The Cafe Bohemia has quickly established itself as among the top showcases for modern music (Down Beat has called it "the most valuable jazz club in the East"). As a practical tribute to the club's atmosphere, this Riverside album (our first at the Bohemia) has been preceded by five other LPs of actual performances there, recorded by other labels: a Kenny Dorham album, and two by The Jazz Messengers (all on Blue Note), a Charlie Mingus (Debut) and a George Wallington (Progressive).
 

1957  Orrin Keepnews
 

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