Stan Tracey albums
Duke, Monk and BirdStan Tracey & Don Weller play Duke, Monk & Bird
EMANEM Jazz Series - 3604

Notes: © Martin Davidson

If fame and fortune were directly related to originality and talent, then Stan Tracey would be one of the most famous and prosperous musicians around today. He has been a professional musician for forty five years, and for most of that time has been highly original and immensely talented. Why then has he never received the acclaim he deserves? It did not help that, unlike several lesser British jazz pianists, he chose to remain in London rather than live in the USA at a time when not many people took the jazz scenes outside of the USA very seriously. But what about now, when promotion is being heaped on some jazz musicians from London as well as elsewhere? (Mind you, one suspects that the hyper-hype currently being thrown up about some of the Modern Jazz Revivalists from Britain and elsewhere is an attempt to hide, or even exploit, a lack of originality and/or talent!)
Although highly original, Tracey was strongly influenced by Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. He has been called an imitator of one or the other, but listening to the way he plays their material, as on this record, reveals more differences than similarities. Tracey still sounds as outrageously brilliant as ever, bringing back some very pleasant memories of all those many hours I have spent listening to him over the last thirty years. If anyone's music deserves to be called "the sound of surprise", his does!
Don Weller has been associated with Tracey, on and off, for a couple of decades. He originally came to some prominence in a band called Major Surgery, but has spent most of his career freelancing. (Coincidently, Major Surgery evolved out of a band led by Ken Harrison, who now leads a band in Sydney that includes Tracey's "Under Milk Wood" in its repertoire.) One thinks of Weller as a straight ahead player, but his music has enough of its own idiosyncrasies to make it both very personal and delectably unpredictable. It also has a quality that is often described as being "dirty".
John Pochee has been drumming up the Sydney scene for some thirty years, and is slowly getting some of the recognition he deserves. He leads a quintet, The Last Straw, and an almost big band, Ten Part Invention. He also works in numerous other situations of varying musical and/or financial value. This last point also holds true for Chris Qua, who comes from a very musical family, and is possibly best known for his work with the original edition of Galapagus Duck This studio session was the first time Tracey and Qua had met, let alone made music together.
The Perth Jazz Society arranged for Tracey and Weller to visit Australia to play five concerts in the Perth area, and to team them up with John Pochee. (Tracey was already aware of Pochee's work via Bernie McGann's records on Emanem.) The Melbourne Jazz Co-operative and the Sydney Improvised Music Association organised additional concerts in Sydney and Melbourne in the few days between the Londoner's last Perth gig and their return home; and Emanem could not resist setting up this recording session on their only afternoon in Sydney.
The music on this record, presented in the order it was performed, consists of some of the jazz standards that made up the repertoire that Tracey and Weller brought with them. (The inclusion of a sentimental ballad, rarely associated with jazz, may have had something to do with both Tracey and Weller having always lived within commuting distance of Berkeley Square - not that either of them would ever have been likely to commute there!) This recorded music is an excellent souvenir of an all too brief meeting between two London and two Sydney musicians, on what will probably prove to be the most memorable day in Sydney in 1988. One hopes it will help a little in getting them some of the recognition they deserve - or do they have to persevere for another forty five years?