Sunday, November 29, 2015

GRAHAM BOND: Live At The BBC And Other Stories

My head nearly exploded this past Summer when it was announced that there would be a three CD Graham Bond live BBC CD set on it's way. Fans and owners of the 2013 4 CD Graham Bond Organization "Wade In The Water" set will be amused to note that in addition to the seven versions of "Wade In' The Water" on that collection they will now be in possession of a further four versions with this compilation should they, like me, purchase this! I was expecting more Graham Bond Organization material on this collection. Half of this set is either Bond's previous G.B.O. band The Don Rendell Quartet (and a few guest appearances on alto saxophone with other less known combos) or his post G.B.O. bands Bond & Brown and The Graham Bond Initiation (neither of whom ever did much for me musically). The quality for the most part is quite decent with a few notable exceptions but the cover photo of the G.B.O. in action and no indication of who performed what when I pre-ordered it from Amazon made it seem a bit, shall we say, deceptive.

The first CD kicks off with The Graham Bond Quartet April 1963 session hosted by the always amusing George Melly. The line up consists of Bond (Hammond/Vocals), John McLaughlin (guitar), Jack Bruce (double bass), Ginger Baker (drums) and guest vocalist Bobby Breen from the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra (who had previously spurned Bruce and Baker for being too "loud"). The first number is an incredible version of "Bluesology". Equally stunning and also of note are "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town" and Bond's original "Spanish Blues".  All of which swing in no small part to the powerhouse Bruce/Baker rhythm section.

The Graham Bond Quartet briefly backed our hero Duffy Power on a single "I Saw Her Standing There" (the second Lennon/McCartney cover ever issued a few months after Kenny Lynch's "Misery"). An undated 1963 session with the Quartet backing Power is contained with four tracks (including the previously mentioned Fab Four cover). The playing is incredible as expected but at times Power sounds a bit ragged at times but redeems himself with a version of "Summertime".

The September 1962 BBC session of Bond blowing alto with the Don Rendell Quintet (along with future GBO sax man Dick Heckstall-Smith) is an excellent time capsule that reminds one of the mod vs trad jazz argument that is now all but forgotten. It starts out with a great intro by host Steve Race who says:
"When people with narrow tastes complete about modern jazz, particularly about experimental modern jazz they tend to forget that it's roots lie firmly in the older forms. If they can't hear the connection that's a fault in their listening not in the music itself. For a session of modern jazz that knows it's ancestry we present the Don Rendell Quintet."
The session swings kicking off with a version of Cannonball Adderley's "Things Are Getting Better" .  Not content to be a jazz covers band they perform quite a few originals in the session including pianist John Burch's "Troika" and "Kazeef", leader Rendell's compositions ""Persian Party" and "Richmond Festival" and a Bond original "Elsie And Ena" (titled "Bring Back The Burch" on their LP "Roarin").

The second disc starts off with a January 1966 session Graham Bond Organization session featuring Bond (vocals/organ), Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophone) , Mike Falana (trumpet) and Ginger Baker.  There's a colorful introduction by George Melly who introduces the band by describing what they're wearing! It was this line up which cut my favorite version of "Wade In The Water" (which was released as a single in the US) which starts the session. Also included are a Bond original called "Only Sixteen" (creepy with later allegations that Bond would sexually abuse his wife's teenage daughter) and a version of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" that grooves.

The Bond & Brown 1972 session (featuring Bond's wife Diane on lead vocals on one track and Pete Brown on another) is excellent quality. Again, musically not my thing (as is the case with most post '67 Bond material).

There's an odd little piece from '62 recorded in Bond's front room of him and Dick Heckstall-Smith noodling around on their saxes called (unsurprisingly) "Improvisation". For G.B.O. completists only.

There's a raw as hell 9:40 live version of "What'd I Say" from either 1966 or 1967 with the short lived final  G.B.O. line up of Bond/Heckstall-Smith and drummer Jon Hiseman with some raunchy lyrics. It's actually quite good both musically and quality wise though a bit too long.

A 4 song Graham Bond Quartet session with Duffy Power from July 1963's "Pop Go the Beatles" is incredible, but the source quality is a bit sub par.  It sounds as though it was recorded from a mic placed near a radio speaker but regardless it's incredible with Power's performance surpassing the other session on Disc One. Power sings "I Got A Woman" and "I Saw Her Standing There" while the band play two instrumentals, a Bond "Green Onions" inspired instro original called "Cabbage Greens" and "Spanish Blues".

Seven tracks by the Graham Bond Initiation from January 1970 and  March 1970 respectively introduced by John Peel make up the third disc. Again not my thing but the quality is excellent. the version of "Walkin' In The Park/I Want You" is actually quite good though a bit on the long side for my liking.

The final disc is an odd selection of rarities and fodder.  The opening track "Things Are Getting Better" comes from an incredibly rare 1962 E.P. "Jazz And Twist" (Vaux VA 8) by the Brian Dee Trio featuring Bond blowing some excellent alto sax. The fodder comes in the form of an instrumental called "Blew Through" that somehow wound up Philamore Lincoln's 1970 U.S. only LP "The North Wind Blew South" (Epic BN 26497) . It's not bad but it reminds me too much of incidental music by the "Saturday Night Live" house band at times! A 1962 jam session from Club 43 in Manchester provides five tracks of Bond again on alto with Ken Wray & The Joe Palin Trio.  The quality and the playing are all fairly decent with again another version of "Things are Getting Better" along with "Work Song", "Sack O' Woe" etc.

1 comment:

Steve Coleman said...

Thank you for the honest review. I have read a couple on Amazon and they also make the point about the sound quality. The price is reasonable and can be accounted for by the variable sound quality and the minimal packaging. Actually, I am looking forward to hearing the material on either side of the GBO as I have been investigating and also enjoying the Don Rendell and "Grahame" Bond solo material over the last few months. Yes, even the Holy Magick pagan album from the early 70s. ;-)