JAM, X: Harold Land on "Crazeology"

Every weekday this month I'll be posting new content in observance of Jazz Appreciation Month (J.A.M.), so-designated by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History beginning in 2001. International Jazz Day, so-designated by UNESCO in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, is on the last day of April, the 30th; it was first celebrated in 2012. Debating the relative merits of designating specific days or months for celebrating heritages, traditions, and the like aside, Jazz Appreciation Month is at the very least an excuse to dig into some material that I've been interested in for a while on the blog. 

Yesterday's featured Eric Dolphy plumbing the depths of "Take the 'A' Train" on bass clarinet shortly before his tragic death. Tomorrow's will feature the other solo on "Crazeology," played by none other than Hampton Hawes (check out Scott LaFaro's bass solo, too).

†If you enjoy the content on this blog, please consider supporting my band's homegrown effort to get our record through the final stages of mastering and production. It's all recorded—you can listen to it now!—but we just need a bit more help to get to the finish line. We appreciate it. </self-promotion over>

* * * * *

The Curious Case of Harold Land

via haroldland.jazzgiants.net
Tenorist Harold Land appears in more than one post during this month's JAM series (JAM, III with Scott LaFaro and JAM, IV with Clifford Brown), and that's not a coincidence. As far as I can tell, pianist Hampton Hawes and Land, who appear jointly on For Real! (1958), seem to exert a similar degree of aesthetic influence on their instrumental descendants—that is, not all that much as far as the mainstream goes, but in surprising, subtle ways for more devoted followers. 

To be honest, I didn't start checking out Land until I heard about his influence on perhaps the most influential tenorist of the moment/past decade, Mark Turner. In a lesson, Billy Hart mentioned offhand how studied and saxophonistically diverse Mark was, i.e., how he'd reveal that certain things "he got from Harold Land. Like, Harold who?" 

This Greenleaf/Dave Douglas podcast from July 2014 sheds some insight into Land and the centrality of the blues:
(starting around 8:50)
Mark Turner: I think of it as jazz, in this music—improvised music from the Americas. I think that's what we call it, as far as I know. 
Dave Douglas: There's always a component of blues. 
MT: There's always a component of it, and that's the thing. The more I try to address it, the more the other things about jazz, as far as I'm concerned—all the other things meaning, especially, the rhythm, relationship to the bass and drums, the harmony, too, became more and more clear... 
DD: So who are you checking out? (~10:33) 
MT: Right now, I've really gotten into Harold Land. That's it, or at least for me. Someone else might say, "Oh, that's bullshit, whatever," but I was like, that's the thing I want to get to and figure out. If I can figure out, it will be part of it. Harold Land is a big one right now... 
...and more about Harold Land, especially in the early '70s and late '60s. Something about his sound, especially about those West Coast tenor players usually, they came from around Texas, Oklahoma, then went to the West. I really took that expression...textures, and he's not from Texas, but he's from the West Coast. I also like the way he deals with whatever, the blues and all that. Those are three in particular, and also Ornette, and also Dewey, they all have that thing.  
DD: James Clay.  
MT: James Clay! That's who I was thinking of. [DD: Art Deco, Don Cherry] Anyway, they have this West Coast mystery that you don't get on the East Coast, there's some kind of Wild West mystery about it. I don't know what it is, wide open...for those of you who don't know, I'm from the West Coast.
I'll be writing more at length about this "West Coast tenor" topic later this month when I take on Teddy Edwards, the "original bebop tenorist" (at least according to Fats Navarro), but Ted Gioia does spend a few pages discussing Land in the chapter of West Coast Jazz entitled "LA Hard Bop." He calls The Fox (1959) Land's masterpiece; I recently picked up a copy on CD, and it's good, but I still think Land sounds better with Clifford and even on For Real!, but I should revisit that record again soon. Gioia also writes on the unavoidable influence Trane would have on Land:
But by then [early 1960s] the tenorist's playing was diverging sharply from the bop roots of his Brown/Roach and [Curtis] Counce work. The cause of this shift in perspective was the innovative work of John Coltrane, then causing waves in the jazz world. In the words of critic Francis Davis, writing in 1982, Coltrane meant for Land an 'artistic mid-life crisis which gripped him (along with many other tenors his age) in the early 60s. The kind of pentatonic, modal, post-Coltrane thinking, which first rumbled through his work around the time of Elmo Hope's The Fox (when it promised to deliver great things) still colors his playing, writing, and choice of sidemen to some extent, and not always for the better.' Land acknowledges Trane's influence but believes that it has not clouded his own musical identity: '[Coltrane's] expression of so many emotions that we all feel touched everybody. I was no exception to that. Being inspired by his spirit, by the same token, I tried to maintain my own identity. [1984 interview with Marc Cobb]' (328)
Land lived long (he passed in 2001 in LA), so there's a great deal of documentation on his musical evolution over time. I have his last record, Promised Land (2001), and also recently picked up a Bobby Hutcherson record called Spiral (1968*), which features a promising band: Stanley Cowell on piano, Reggie Johnson on bass, and Joe Chambers on drums. I have to say, though, that I was pretty severely disappointed with Lands's playing overall on the record. Over post-bop harmonic settings and odd-meter tunes, Land clearly has been checking out post-bop harmonic approaches, pentatonic shapes and colors, but it lacks the crystallized direction in contemporaries like Joe Henderson and Trane—it's sort of like hearing Coleman Hawkins trying to hang at bop tempos on the Dizzy Gillespie tenor session Sittin' In (1957), which is not to say completely not happening, but just an ill fit. 

Anyway, like I said, more to be said on Land in the future. For now, "Crazeology":


*ed. note: misread the liner notes, which also list the date of the sixth track, recorded in '65 with Andrew Hill and a whole different band (Sam Rivers, Freddie!). Thanks to the ever-vigilant Mark Stryker for the catch!