Genre = Jazz
Title = Delmark: 60 Years of Jazz
Record Company = Delmark
I admit to fondness for samplers, albums containing selections from various LPs or CDs released by a single company. They are compiled to present highlights from the catalogue, or at least to provide representative selections, in the hope that listeners will buy the albums from which the selections come. Among the many impressive ones are Jazz at Columbia—Swing (1956); The Blues in Modern Jazz, which Atlantic issued in 1961; and Blue Note Gems of Jazz (1967). A decade after its two-CD 45 Years of Jazz and Blues (1998), Delmark released 55 Years of Jazz and 55 Years of Blues. Its 60 Years of Jazz appeared in late 2013. This sampler reminds listeners that Delmark is one of the few jazz record companies active in the 1950s that is still in business as an independent concern. Atlantic, Blue Note, Contemporary, Fantasy, Prestige, Verve—these and other venerable labels continue operating, but as parts of conglomerates, such as Universal Music. Appealing music, though, is the major reason for purchasing this CD.
Born in 1932, Bob Koester founded Delmar Records in St. Louis in 1953, naming the business for its location, Delmar St. Sometime after moving to Chicago in 1958 to be near a thriving blues scene, he renamed his label Delmark. It is noted for a strong blues catalogue featuring recordings by Jimmy Dawkins, J. B. Hutto, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Speckled Red, Junior Wells, and Big Joe Williams, among others. In jazz, it is important as the first company to record musicians affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM), which did, indeed, advance creative music; Delmark also distributed early recordings by Sun Ra. Though it remains independent, Delmark has become something of a mini-conglomerate as a result of Koester’s having bought the recordings of other labels, including Apollo, Paramount, Parkway, Pearl, Regal, Sackville, States, and United.
Nine of the twelve selections on Delmark: 60 Years of Jazz were recorded in this century; the others are from 1947 (Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis), 1952 (Dewey Jackson), and 1969 (Sonny Stitt). The Davis recording, an alternate take, is issued here for the initial time, as is a tune recorded in 2013 by the Fat Babies. Koester is partial to early jazz, which is represented here by trumpeter Jackson (a professional by 1912) and the Fat Babies. Musicians associated with AACM are not present, but Jason Adasiewicz’s trio plays in what might be called a quasi avant-garde mode. Groups led by Ernest Dawkins, Red Holloway, Rob Mazurek, Nicole Mitchell, and Ira Sullivan perform more traditionally.
Two selections combine free and more restrained playing. One, Kahil El’Zabar’s “Crumb-Puck-U-Lent,” has a steady beat, but the solos by tenor saxophonist Ari Brown and violinist Billy Bang are somewhat “out.” The other, cornetist Josh Berman’s “Sugar,” is, to me, the most impressive performance on the CD. Composed in the mid 1920s by Maceo Pinkard, Edna Alexander, and Sidney D. Mitchell, “Sugar” has been recorded hundreds of times and was the signature song of Lee Wiley. Berman’s version is unlike any I have heard. Initially cacophonous and halting but settling into a groove behind the gritty soloing of tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson, the group plays largely “out” for two-and-a-half minutes before introducing the melody, which it plays in unison for only sixteen bars. Bass clarinetist Jason Stein begins soloing at the start of the bridge and dominates for most of the remainder of the performance. Drummer Frank Rosaly solos briefly before the group concludes not with a restatement of the melody but rather by reverting to the manner of the long introduction. This is a daring, thrilling recording during which the leader does not solo.
This CD will interest people curious about the history of independent record companies and listeners who enjoy stimulating improvised music. Concurrent with this release, Delmark issued Delmark—60 Years of Blues, though I cannot comment on it because I have not heard it.
Author = Benjamin Franklin V
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