The Stan Tracey Quartet
STEAM [LP] SJ 102
See Meenah [15.43]
Doin' it for Art [7.55]
Tease 'n' Freeze [13.42]
Captain Adventure [10.46]
Art Themen - tenor/soprano
Stan Tracey - piano
Dave Green - double bass
Bryan Spring - drums
Recorded live at 100 Club London, 1975 November 3rd Engineer: Peter Bould Assisted: Peter Ball, Ray Butcher and Joe McCorry Re-mixed: Peter Bould and Stan Tracey Mastered: Ray Staff, Trident Studios London Sleeve design: Dick Whitbread Photography: Steve Berry & Dick Whitbread Sleeve Notes: John Fordham (Time Out) Piano by Bosendorfer Produced by STEAM RECORD CO Notes: © John Fordham If somebody else hadn't got there first, they ought to have called this band Ten Years After instead of the Stan Tracey Quartet. The 1965 Quartet's "Under Milk Wood" session is re-issued and back among the jazz bestsellers. Around about the time Tracey made that album, Sonny Rollins said "does anybody here know how good he really is?" From that day to this, he has been a musician who gave his identity away from the first note. Pianos that are old, infirm or of a nervous disposition should hesitate before working with him. He approaches the instrument almost as if he were about to pick a fight with it. It's a stirring sight right enough, and it was much in evidence one night in November 1975 when these four tunes were recorded.
If you bend an ear to the music on this album then you'll know that it speaks for itself - and so does the reaction from the audience. If you have "Under Milk Wood" then you'll also know that this is Stan Tracey's strongest band since that time, and the pianist himself is in his imperious prime. In the past couple of years he has played as if his musical life were begun all over again, and he puts it down to working with the younger musicians like the members of his present Quartet Dave Green and Bryan Spring have worked with Stan on and off for many years; both men are able to make a conventional jazz pulse sound as if you're hearing it for the first time and they complement each other perfectly. Green is firm, dependable with a warm and velvety tone that intriguingly contrasts with Tracey's jarring dissonances. And, for a drummer, Bryan Spring couldn't have been more aptly named - he's one of the most forceful and exciting percussionists in British jazz, with the kind of rare sensitivity to whats going on around him that can send a soloist flying into space.
These are all Tracey compositions, and 'See Meenah' 'Tease 'n' Freeze' and 'Captain Adventure' all came from the second set of the band's 100 Club appearance. 'See Meenah' is launched by the Guvnor, with a string of churning chords like all the freight train blues you ever heard rolled up into one. Art Themen sweeps in on soprano to make the whole thing momentarily bring back echoes of the famous Coltrane Quartet. The saxophonist acknowledges his other major inspiration on 'Tease 'n' Freeze' when he turns to the tenor and delivers a wild, raucous Rollins-like solo that is nevertheless pure Themen. 'Captain Adventure' is a typical Tracey piece, starting with the pianist stabbing chords into the rhythm like somebody trying to swat flies with a sledgehammer; and here, as in the other three, Dave Green demonstrates that he's one of the most surefooted 'walkers' in the business and Bryan Spring plays as if his life depends on it. 'Doin' it for Art' is both a beautiful example of the bands bitter-sweet ballad style (Themen with a bit more space to stretch, plays his best solo on the disc) and a pretty fair example of the Tracey way with titles, which has always been very nearly as reliable a trademark as his music. Remember folks, Stan Tracey is British, and moreover one of the country's few assets that's actually going up in value. 'Captain Adventure' means what it says, it represents his music in a new and fiery mood. Buy this record, turn up the wick, and mind your head.
The Return of Captain Adventure Re-isued on TenToTen Records with 7 previously unissued tracks.
Stan Tracey, The Return of Captain Adventure
© John Fordham
Friday February 17, 2006
© The Guardian
Working with Stan Tracey, according to American saxophonist Charlie Rouse, was the closest thing to working with Thelonious Monk himself. Rouse's new album also features a quartet, with the truanting orthopaedic surgeon Art Themen on saxes, recorded at the 100 Club in 1975. The reissue adds a second disc of previously unreleased material caught on the same gig.
This was a ferociously full-on Tracey band, partly because Themen veers on and off rhythm and pitch with a cavalier aplomb, and partly because drummer Bryan Spring made it sound as if the only remaining option the band had was spontaneous combustion. Tracey's piano clanks and rattles over Dave Green's unwavering bass walk, and Themen's soprano wails like wind-buffeted gulls on the scudding Let's Call Us. An 11-minute account of Under Milk Wood's Afro Charlie Meets the White Rabbit is a virtuoso display from Spring. Tracey's unaccompanied Lover Man sounds like a lover in a tumult of conflicting emotions, and the closing Blues, Encore Blues shifts its percussion groove between a Gene Krupa-ish swing and effects that wouldn't have been surprising from a drummer like Han Bennink.