What’s Old is New Again in November 2013, Part One

I’ve been finding a lot of CDs in my inbox of late: discs that contain neither new music nor reissues; instead they’re new releases of previously-unissued material. Many of these are live concerts, the sort of thing that hardcore collectors like myself used to trade on the underground means. But these official releases come with excellent sound quality, of known lineage, and they often include useful liner notes and images. Plus – and this is very important – the artists get paid something for their trouble. Here are three such releases; more will be on the way soon. – bk

Stan Getz Quartet – Live at Montreux 1972
Montreux, Switzerland – and more specifically, the Montreux Jazz Festival – has long been a go-to location for artists wanting to capture a live performance for an album. This was especially true up to the 70s when the festival was still jazz-only; several landmark albums resulted from shows on its stages. Les McCann‘s 1973 Live at Montreux and Sun Ra‘s 1976 concert (released in ’77) of the same name followed releases from Bill Evans (1968) and Bobby Hutcherson (1973), to name four of many. The Stan Getz Quartet – having left bossa nova behind and morphing into a fusion unit – made their first appearance at Montreux in ’72, with a lineup of staggering intensity: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and drummer Tony Williams. But thanks to Getz’s innate sense of musicality, of – dare I say – commercial appeal, his brand of fusion is rooted in melody, not of an abstract sort. It’s thrilling without being inaccessible. Corea’s keyboards are nonetheless exploratory, while Clarke’s bass is assertive, muscular. And Williams is Williams, always both in the pocket and pushing boundaries. Nicely recorded, this heretofore unreleased album is a belated yet warmly welcomed addition to the canon of Montreux concert documents.

Quicksilver Messenger Service – Live at the Old Mill Tavern, March 29 1970
Quicksilver were known more as a live outfit than a studio entity, so – decades later – it makes perfect sense that their prime-era studio catalog (eight albums in eight years) would be expanded not through archival outtake material, but of live documents of the band doing their thing onstage. After all, even on so-called “studio” albums, the featured live cuts were often the best. As Dave Thompson‘s knowledgeable liner notes on this new release of a ’72 show attest, by this period in the group’s history, most thought QMS past their prime. But a lineup that still included Nicky Hopkins, David Frieberg and John Cippolina, a returning Gary Duncan and Dino Valenti, and drummer Greg Elmore still had plenty to offer. Though Shady Grove had been released a mere seven months earlier, on this night in Mill Valley CA the band did no songs from it, and only one (“Mona”) from Happy Trails (also 1969). Instead they played material that wouldn’t see release until much later; these were more structured, less jammy than their earlier material. But the jam spirit wasn’t gone: a long blues medley featuring James Cotton makes up nearly a third of this spirited concert.

It’s a Beautiful Day – Live at the Fillmore ’68
Casual listeners – the kind whose knowledge of It’s a Beautiful Day extends little beyond familiarity with the lilting, ethereal sounds of the group’s “White Bird” (a hit on both AM and FM radio) – have a skewed conception of what the band was like. While “White Bird” was all gentleness and light, elsewhere (and especially onstage) the band cooked; they had more in common with Canned Heat and The Doors. David LaFlamme and Patti Santos‘ dual lead vocals on “Wasted Union Blues,” for example, sounds more like Marty Balin and Grace Slick than the duo who sang about birds who must fly lest they die. Of course Linda LaFlamme‘s combo organ and David’s electric violin add an otherworldly, spooky vibe to the songs. Anyone who thinks a violin inhibits a band’s ability (or propensity) to rock hasn’t heard this set from the band’s early days. Though the sound and music are superb, this release’s packaging and info are on the dodgy side; several tunes originally co-credited with then-spouse Linda are credited here solely to David LaFlamme. The package includes a DVD entitled The David LaFlamme Story. You decide if those bits of info might be connected.

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