Back To the Liner Notes

"Lester Young is breathing" by Lola Lonli 
(Wikimedia Commons)
After another holiday-driven Prex run, I dug into the liner notes for some more miscellanea and apocrypha. 

Bouncing With Bud (1962), J.B. Figi

I hadn't read anything by J.B. Figi prior to the liner notes to this 1962 Copenhagen session (featuring a 15-year-old NHOP), but I was impressed by his stark, gothic evocations of Bud and his inner machinations. Maybe it's not the place of the liner notes author to fictively psychoanalyze an artist of Bud's stature, but it's certainly more memorable than the usual liner note banalities. Some highlights:
BUD LIVES! Chalk that upon the wall, a reminder, a challenge to the too-ready pallbearers. Tormented, haunted, above all-erratic, he may be; but the Powell mind still stalks baroque corridors, fingers still translate wrought-iron into music... 
...Because Bud retains his glimpse of another, frightening dimension, an added ingredient removing him from competition. Because despite what the polls may tell you, there are perhaps only three pianists today in that upper league - Bud, Thelonious Monk, and the child prodigy, Cecil Taylor. The ones who don't skip along the surface as wind-up pianists do, or even dig deeply and break open the crust the way a few of our better pianists do, but dwell within the music, deep beneath the surface, opening great dark veins of beauty, disclosing the terrible secrets of their minds. Because Bud plays music that effects the nervous system, spikes your spine, rattles endings like a handful of hooks. Because he has spent long weekends in a land of eldritch beauty, the beauty of carnivorous plants. Because Bud is our Baudelaire of the piano. 
This Album makes its own pronouncement. 
From the first jangling wash of Rifftide, it is evident that Bud's Easter egg is intact. Remember those frosting eggs with a window in one end, through which you could peep into a dainty, serene little paper and fluff landscape? Bud's has a landscape all its own - iron cacti, leaden earth, thorn trees, strange hues at the horizon, frozen streets, tumbleweeds, a moon that won't thaw, and in the center of that blasted heath, Bud, a gnarled gnomic tree through which the wind twists song.
Sure, maybe a bit bombastic, but way more compelling than most anything you'd read in Down Beat or JazzTimes these days, I'd wager (although I'd welcome any/all contentions to the contrary). I don't think it'd hurt to have more jazz writing like this around.

Also, I can't imagine growing up on the '40s-'50s Philly scene (or any of those major scenes, back in the day), but thanks to McCoy:

Tender Moments, McCoy Tyner (recorded late 1967)

"This ["Lee Plus Three"] has a sort of nostalgia for me," says McCoy. "Lee and I grew up together in Philadelphia, and played some of our first jobs together — fraternity dances and around town. I think one of the very first jobs ever played was in Atlantic City with a quartet, and Lee was the leader. We were both about 18. Lee developed into a truly great musician, and playing with him like this — just a 3/4 blues — took me back to the old days, more than ten years ago, when were were both just starting out." — notes by Leonard Feather

Lester Young: The Complete Savoy Recordings (Loren Schoenberg, king of liner notes):

A lovely Ralph Ellison thought juxtaposed with Prez:
A great religious leader is a 'master of ecstasy' He evokes emotions that move beyond the rational on to the mystical. A jazz musician does something the same. By his manipulation of sound and rhythm, he releases movements and emotions which allow for the transcendence of everyday reality.
And that Prez played in a band with Dizzy for a short while, and how that might have left its mark on his playing:
"Ghost of a Chance" reminds us that at this time, although there were already a legion of saxophonists copying his stance, tone and phrasing, there had yet to emerge a tenor man with even a glimmer of his originality. Just before Young rejoined Basie in late 1943, a music magazine reported his presence in the first Dizzy Gillespie-Oscar Pettiford Quintet (which briefly included Thelonious Monk), and this is verified by a photograph of this band (with George Wallington on piano. The new music did rub off on Young although, like Ellington, he processed it in an intensely personal fashion. That may be what we are hearing in the super-tonic chord at the end of the bridge on Ghost of a Chance or the odd intervals that permeate some of his blues choruses on Jump, Lester, Jump. The legendary saxophonist Dave Schildkraut was convinced that the notes Lester played on the second half of Ghost's bridges were proof of divine inspiration.
And a nice Easter Egg, a remembrance of playing with Lester by Paul Bley:
"The bar was crowded, and the bell of his horn was literally a foot or two from my ear. The first thing that occurred to me was (that) I'd played with dozens and dozens of saxophonists (but) here was a sound hat had nothing to do with any other sound I'd heard on a horn. It was a different order of magnitude from anything you could possibly imagine on a record. This was high fidelity and everything else was no fidelity at all. It was incredibly gorgeous and expressive, and were going to be there for a week!"

Trane and Monk, Live at the Five Spot: Discovery!

"Coltrane acknowledged, in the important article "Coltrane on Coltrane" (Down Beat, 9/29/60), that he paid more attention to harmony than rhythm at that time in his life. If one compares his intensely rhythmic playing from, say, the Village Vanguard sessions of 1961, based on a relentless eighth-note pulse broken up in myriad ways, one realizes that the sheets of sound phase had ended before then." - Lewis Porter
I should read up on more of Lewis Porter's work. This description of the rhythmic development in Trane's playing exactly matched something Miguel mentioned to me at our last lesson: Trane's legacy as a rhythmic innovator. I'd been so fixated on Trane's harmony (as I think most jazz pedagogy has been for however many decades) that I'd ignored one of the most obvious and enduring elements of his playing: all those eighth notes, punctuated in larger long-short groups with quarter notes here and there, plus the gradual elimination of the bebop's trademark triplets. Maybe that's the big sonic signifier of mainstream "post-bop," aside from the more conventional endless pentatonic patterns moving through nearby keys—the measured outpouring of eighth notes and quarter notes into larger, jigsawed rhythmic units à la Woody Shaw, etc.