Blue Note (CD) CDP 831139-2
Some Other Blues
The Cuban Connection
The Sixth Day
Sleeve Notes by Ronnie Scott.
Recorded by the BBC at the QEH on 30 November 1993. Notes: © Ronnie Scott
Stan Tracey and I go back a long way. I first came across him sometime in the forties when he was working at the Paramount Ballroom, Tottenham Court Road, with a group called "The Melfi Trio", which consisted of a bass player doubling on hi-hat cymbals, a leader who played the mandolin and "sang", - and Stan on accordian. Beginnings don't come much more inauspicious than this - but you've got to start somewhere. Over the years since then we've worked together, shared concerts, and for some six or seven years in the sixties Stan was the house pianist at the original Ronnie Scott's Club in Gerrard Street where he accompanied musicians like Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Zoot Sims, Dexter Gordon and more. All great talents, and many of them with temperaments and personal peculiarities to match. And it has to be said that not all of them heard ear to ear with Stan. But this was their problem, because ever since I've known him Stan has been his own man.
If it is true that each of us makes his own reality than he has certainly created his, and it's your loss if you can't find your way in. He has followed his path, with its sideways look at life and music, without regard for trends and fashions and with a complete and acerbic disdain for the much trumpeted, overpraised and spurious "flavour of the month" music and musicians that much of the media would have you believe is jazz. A friend of mine described it as "designer jazz." It's not for Stan. He is entirely true to himself and is one of the most serious, dedicated and truthful musicians I know.
A baseball player who obviously doubled as a rocket scientist once said that baseball was "ninety percent physical and the other half was mental." Well if making jazz music is ninety percent art and the other half is craft, what is certain is that one isn't much good without the other.
Whatever the proportions are Stan is possessed of both qualities. This record is proof of that. But all this is just my opinion of Stan Tracey the musician - the music must stand on its own - and this may be the best record Stan has made. There's the opening track "Triple Celebration", with Art Themen playing calypso style tenor saxophone as if to the manner born. Peter King's bravura rendition of Ellington's "Come Sunday" against the velvet backdrop of Stan's accompaniement, the prodigiously gifted young trumpet player Gerard Presencer duetting with Stan on Coltrane's "Some Other Blues", and "Easy Living", the sextet playing two of Stan's compositions "Devil's Acre," and "Mary Rose," and the octet playing Stan's "Cuban Connection", all featuring inspired solos by people like Guy Barker, Don Weller, Jamie Talbot and Malcolm Griffiths, and his big band roaring through "The Sixth Day with its thunderous coda. And through it all the urgent encouragement of the rhythm section with the superb Dave Green on bass and Clark Tracey (who Stan fondly thinks is his son), one of the country's finest drummers. Finally there's Stan alone, tenderly weaving his way through the changes of Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady."
It's all played to a warm and appreciative audience and mention must be made of the BBC sound engineers for the superb balance. If I had to choose three records to illustrate the extremely high standard of contemporary British Jazz music this would certainly be one of them.
I'd have to think about the other two.