March of the Siamese Children: FRANK STROZIER Quartet
Frank Strozier (as, fl-*) Harold Mabern (p) Bill Lee (b) Al Dreares (drs)
1.March of the Siamese Children (*) (5:06) (Richard Eodgers)
2.xtension 27 (4:54) (Frank Strozier)
3.March of the Siamese Children (*) (5:06) (Richard Eodgers)Magidson)
4. Don’t Follow the Crowd (4:56) (Bill Lee)
1. Our Waltz (5:29) (David Rose)
2. Will I Forget? (*) (5:30) (Frank Strozier)
3. Lap (3:32) (Bill Lee)
4. Hey, Lee! (4:33) (Harold Mabern)
This is Frank Strozier’s second Jazzland LP. The first, called “Long Night”, was a surprise to several people, myself included, in that it showcased a considerable talent for composition and arrangement that Strozier was not generally known to possess. It is almost as though more attention were given to shoes aspects of his talent than this young alto saxop0honist might have wished, for this album is obviously designed to focus attention on his talents as an instrumentalist.
And that is certainly does. That he is technically fluent will be immediately obvious. In the notes on the preceding LP I remarked that his saxophone playing, “unlike that of many others of his age, goes directly back to Charlie Parker for its inspiration and ignores most of the later embellishments which have accrued to that style.” For one thing, he does not have what I can only call a “New York sound” – that hard, flat way of playing that is so much in vogue in the east. (The closest approximation to his is the sound of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, but even that is not a precise equivalent.) One particular notable point is the way Strozier’s complex, multi-noted runs in ballads such as Don’t Follow the Crowd and Something I Dreamed Last Night flow directly out of the preceding ideas, rather than being thrust in abruptly as a gratuitous display of finger-work.
Something I Dreamed Last Night and David Rose’s Our Waltz, by the way, are further evidence of a quality which helped to make that initial Strozier LP so enjoyable: his seemingly impeccable taste in standards. The previous set contained The Man That Got Away and Happiness Is A thing Called Joe, two Harold Arlen songs unduly neglected by jazzmen, and now he comes up with two other lovely pieces, the first of which has been played as jazz only seldom, and the other, to my knowledge, not at all. It is always possible of course, that in the future he will defect and join in that systematic raiding of the Ahmad Jamal Song Book that so many others are now engaged in, but for the present he shows that same awareness of what is appropriate material which makes certain musicians – Sonny Rollins for one – that much more valuable.
Undoubtedly the most unusual selection here is Richard Rodgers’s March of the Siamese Children. Of course, such a tune has its own built-in gimmick value as a minor shock, but I doubt that this was in Strozier’s mind when he chose it, for he gives no indication of working that way. Rather, it is an excellent vehicle for Strozier’s second instrument, the flute. There has in recent years been an increasing interest among jazz musicians in Eastern and pseudo-Eastern music, and the flute’s adaptability for such music has been amply demonstrated by Yusef Lateef. Here, Strozier takes advantage of the modal design of the piece and shows that he is equally inventive on his auxiliary instrument.
The remaining pieces are in the category of originals. Two are the work of the album’s bassist, Strozier’s close friend Bill Lee. In a conversation we had that was supposed to be concerned with his first Jazzland LP, Frank kept talking about his friend’s writing abilities almost ot the exclusion of his own. And now, here are two examples. The ballad, Don’t Follow The Crowd, seems to me to fall into the genre of composition typified by such composers as Buddy Johnson, Jerry Valentine, and George Treadwell, and inexhaustible wellspring that John Coltrane is one of the few people to employ consistently. Strozier gives it a reading perfectly in keeping with the tradition. Lee’s second piece is Lap, a blues line inevitably reminiscent of Charlie Parker. Frank takes several laps around the chart, his playing very much in the Parker vein, putting one in mind of several Parker quartet blues performances. Hey, Lee! is not by the bassist, but by Harold Mabern, the pianist on the date, currently a member of the Jazztet. More songful than many lines, it nonetheless serves as an ample springboard for extended blowing. Here, as elsewhere, there is effective support by drummer Al Dreaes. Of the two pieces by Strozier himself, Extension 27, played on alto, demonstrates the unusual flow of which he is capable, while Will I Forget? Is in a Latin mood appropriate to the use of the flute.
With this album, Strozier would seem in a way to have reversed the usual recording procedure of the relatively unfamiliar musician. If this had been his first LP for this label, one could remark on how well he plays, and then at a later date be pleasant surprised by his composing and arranging talents. But, as I have noted, that surprise came first, so that his point here may be to deliverately re-emphasize his playing skills. Or perhaps he simply wanted to get back to basics and show what he could accomplish within the limitations of the quartet ‘blowing’ date. He has certainly demonstrated here that there is a great deal to be accomplished with accepted forms – even though others are finding it necessary to search for new ones. Whatever the motives, his choice is eminently justified by the music that has resulted. And lastly – and perhaps this is the real point – he has shown himself to be so talented in two such widely differing contexts that one can only wait rather impatiently for the next Strozier recording, in happy expectation of being surprised once again.
The previous Strozier LP, referred to in these notes, is :
Long Night (JLP 56; Stereo 956)
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 970) and monaural (JLP 70) form.
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
(Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios)
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York