Roarin’: DON RENDELL New Jazz Quintet
Don Rendell (ts) Graham Bond (as) John Burch (p) Tony Archer (b) Phil Kinorra (drs)
Recorded in London, England; June17 and August 29, 1961
Bring Back the Burch (4:05) (Graham Bond)
Manumission (6:50) (John Burch)
Blue Monk (7:56) (Thelonious Monk)
Jeannine (5:05) (Duke Pearson)
You Loomed Out of Loch Ness (4:54) (Don Rendell)
So What (6:03) (Miles Davis)
The Haunt (5:50) (John Burch)
It would only be honest to admit that until recently the jazz played and recorded outside America by non-Americans has been little better than a substitute for the original music. This has not dissuaded a number of outstanding musicians, in Europe particularly, from playing the music they love whenever the opportunity has arisen; the necessary economic stability being achieved by undertaking studio and dance band work.
For a long time, one of the best-known of these musicians has been Don Rendell. One of the first men to play modern jazz in Europe, since the early 1950s his has been the name which appeared most often in reports on the English jazz scene appearing in American magazines. A charter member of the John Dankworth Seven – the group which showed the commercial possibilities of modern jazz in Britain – he has always played as much jazz as possible, and only resorted or studio work when gigs with his own or someone else’s jazz group became impossibly scarce. He has always been highly respected by visiting American musicians – to such good effect that he was chosen for the first tour of Britain made by Billie Holiday, for the vacant tenor chair in the Kenton band during its 1956 tour of Britain and Europe, and as one of the British musicians in the Woody Herman Anglo-American Herd.
But, in the early months of 1960, Don’s name began to appear less and less frequently in the pages of the local music papers. Although still universally respected by critics and musicians he found it increasingly difficult to keep going economically with a wife and child to support, and played less and less regularly in jazz clubs. So complete in fact was his disappearance from the eye of the public, that the Melody Maker asked, in an early 1961, feature article: Is Rendell the Forgotten Man of Jazz?
However, for some months before that, Don had been attempting the long struggle back to recognition – and finding some success, too – with a quartet. Most remarkable was the fact that not only was he back on the scene again, but his playing was harder and more exciting than ever before. He has always been a great harmonic improvisor, but whereas in the past his style had been indirectly based on that of Lester Young, now it was much more suggestive of that of John Coltrane. Don himself remarks of the change: “It was entirely unforced on my part … any change there may have been in my outlook which might have conditioned my playing was entirely unconscious.”
Unforced though the change may have been it was certainly most noticeable. By the Spring of ’61 don had again become the British jazzman most likely to be under discussion when any two or more of the London critics gathered together. Then, late in May, the dam burst. For a date at a small out-of-London club Rendell added a young unknown alto player, Graham Bond, as well as a new drummer and bassist. Just three weeks later, we heard the group at its first London session, at the Marquee Club, and a swift chain of events was set in motion that swiftly resulted in the recording of this album (and arrangements for its American release on Jazzland). Although we had only heard the group once before the recording session, we were excited enough to be daring, and proceeded to invite literally every jazz critic and writer in London to the studio for the date. As it turned out, that audience – certainly the toughest that could be found – was every bit as impressed as we were.
Since then, the group has made its impact on a wider audience, and the genera belief is that the British jazz magazine reader polls are sure to confirm our strong feeling that Rendell’s quintet has achieved the swiftest and most large-scale breakthrough to popularity ever made by jazz musicians outside America. (For the fact is that British fans usually tend to feel slightly diffident about their native musicians, undoubtedly a result of the ‘only a substitute’ attitude noted in the first paragraph of these notes. Thus they are seldom quick to rally to the support of a home-grown jazz group. But this time all the sings are that the opposite will be the case.)
The American release of this album will, we hope, bring Rendell’s group the same sort of almost-instant approval it has experienced in England. This is, undeniably, a brave hope – for American jazz fans are at least as tough on non-US. Musicians as any European audience could be. Perhaps the surest test for unbelievers would be to use the “blindfold test” approach. And to make it really a test, we suggest trying the tracks firmly associated with top American groups: Miles Davis’ So What; and Jeannine, first recorded by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. We have no doubt that Rendell will more than pass the test, and that he’ll leave you agreeing with us that the best description of the spirit and impact of this group is the word that was picked out for the album title – Roarin’!
DON RENDELL is, while still a young man, one of the elder statesmen of the British jazz scene. Still in his early thirties, he has worked as a professional musician since he left school at seventeen.
GRAHAM BOND is perhaps the most controversial member of the group. Much of the excitement of the group’s sound comes from the contrast between his melodic approach to improvisation and Don’s harmonic approach, and from the tension resulting from their different approaches to the beat. A widely experienced 23-year-old, he claims to have been influenced by every good altoist ever.
JOHN BURCH played with Don’s original quartet. He is, at twenty-nine, one of the older member the group, and has had considerable professional experience. He shares with Graham much of the writing for the group.
TONY ARCHER is undoubtedly already one of the finest bass players in Britain. At twenty-two he has been playing bass for only six years. Before joining Don he worked as one of the members of a trio whose other members were John Burcher and Phil Kinorra. He rates Paul Chambers, Scott LaFaro and Leroy Vinnegar as his favorites.
PHIL KINORRA has, at twenty, been playing drums for four years, with a break of some five months work as a solo night-club performer. During the early months of 1961, he and Archer appeared with Jackie McLean and Freddie Redd in the London production of “The Connection.”
Produced by ED MITCHEL
Photos by ALAN CLIFTON
Recorded in London, England: June 17 & August 29, 1961
An Interdisc Production
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 951S) and Monophonic (JLP 51) form
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York