Archive for Denzil Best

Wee

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on February 20, 2012 by telescoper

Here’s an exhilarating little duo featuring alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson and the extraordinarily brilliant  pianist Tete Montoliu. Lou Donaldson at times sounds more like Charlie Parker than Charlie Parker ever did, but if you’re going to play bebop there’s no better example to follow. Tete Montoliu on the other hand never sounded like anyone other than himself. He was from  Barcelona, by the way, and was born completely blind. The tune, written by drummer Denzil Best, is called Wee although it does have an alternative title, Allen’s Alley; it’s yet another one built around the chord changes of Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm. Anyway, it’s a typically intricate and edgy tune that finds these great musicians at their playful best.

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Move

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on May 23, 2011 by telescoper

Well, it’s 1pm and my third-year students are just sitting down for two hours of fun with their Nuclear and Particle Physics examination. For my part I’m obliged to sit by the phone for the next two hours in case there’s a problem with the examination paper. Ideal excuse for a quick blog post while I eat my sandwich.

I also notice from my trusty wordpress dashboard that this is my 1000th post since I started blogging, way back in late 2008.  Time to indulge myself, then. I haven’t posted much jazz recently so I thought I’d share this classic recording with you. It’s from my favourite era of jazz – the late 1950s – and my favourite kind of jazz, bebop, which by then had matured, ripened and hardened considerably since its birth in the 1940s.

This gives me the excuse to mention a nice article in Saturday’s Grauniad about the poet Philip Larkin, his love for “trad” and his hatred for the “modern” jazz exemplified by bebop. It’s entirely a matter of personal taste, of course, but speaking for myself I can say that I’ve never had any problem loving jazz of all ages. For me, though, it reached a peak in the late 50s with musicians of the calibre of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman.

This particular track features alto-saxophonist Lou Donaldson whom many jazz critics regarded as a pale imitation of the pioneering be-bop icon Charlie Parker but whose playing I’ve always admired. In my book, anyone brave enough to follow Charlie Parker deserves the highest esteem. In any case when Lou Donaldson walked into the Van Gelder studio in Hackensack, New Jersey on July 28th 2008 he clearly had fire in his belly.

The tune is entitled Move and it was written by drummer Denzil Best. It’s quite unusual for a drummer also to be a composer, but Best wrote a number of classic jazz tunes. I even managed to find the chords that make up this one’s 32 bar AABA structure…

Many bebop compositions are based on the chord progressions of standard tunes, such as How High the Moon or I Got Rhythm, but with the melody replaced by something much more intricate than the original tune. I don’t recognize the chords above from anywhere else so it may be an entirely original composition by Denzil Best. I’m sure there’s a jazz buff out there who will correct me if I’m wrong. In any case the jagged melody is archetypal bebop stuff – complex and angular, very difficult to play but intensely exciting to listen to.

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