Search Manic Mark's Blog

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Friedrich Gulda At Birdland


Air From Other Planets

Friedrich Gulda At Birdland
Arrangements by Friedrich Gulda
Produced for RCA Victor Records by John Hammond
RCA Victor LPM 1355

Aaron Bell - Bass (Courtesy Roost Records)
Nick Stabulas - Drums
Phil Woods - Alto Sax (Courtesy Prestige Records)
Seldon Powell - Tenor Sax
Idrees Sulieman - Trumpet
Jimmy Cleveland - Trombone (Courtesy Em Arcy Records)

From the back cover: Friedrich Gulda, who has been called the greatest piano virtuoso to emerge in the last ten years, has made the switch to jazz in the multiple role of composer, arranger, pianist and bandleader. The occasion is historic, for it is the first time that a classical artist of stature had bridged the hitherto impenetrable gulf between the two hostile musical worlds.

Of Czech parentage, Gulda was born in Vienna in the Spring of 1930. In 1946 he won the international Music Competition at Geneva, the youngest artist ever to do so, playing works of Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Debussy. The following  year he began his recording career in the pre-long play era with sonatas of Mozart and Prokofieff, and since then he has recorded ten Beethoven sonatas, all twenty-four Chopin and Debussy preludes, five major concerti, the Richard Strauss Berleske, and a minimum of encore pieces. His success has been truly world-wide, and his career in the concert world is at its peak.

Why then should Gulda desert the concert work for even a moment to have a fling at jazz? The reason is simple; he loved American jazz ever since hearing his first Count Basie record in 1946, while preparing for the Geneva competition. He feels that serious contemporary composing is at a dead end, and that swinging modern jazz may well be the most exciting musical trend of the century.

In 1955, despite a fantastically heavy concert schedule, Friedrich found tine to organize an eight piece jazz band in Vienna to play a series of six broadcasts of his fourteen jazz compositions and arrangements for the Vienna Government Radio. (On alternative weeks for the same radio program he played all thirty-two Beethoven piano sonatas) In the band were five fellow Czechs, one American, and one native Viennese, all adept improvisors. The tapes that were made of these broadcasts showed that Gulda was one of the most imaginative of all jazz composers and arrangers, and that furthermore he was an improving soloist of the very first rank. They were the direct cause of his being engaged at Birdland and the American Jazz Festival at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1956, and the formation of the truly all-star band heard on this disc. If there is a single unifying force in the concert world today it is a complete contempt for all the connotations of the word "jazz." Friedrich's decision to play jazz met with a fridge response from concert managers and classical recording executives alike. It is only because Gulda has the determination of a bulldog that he was able to override all objections to the switch. He has developed a dual musical personality, which critic Louis Biancolli of the New York World-Telegram has called "unique in piano history," and "the neatest trick of the concert decade."

In this first album ever to be released of a classical musician conquering the jazz form, Gulda is presented as the composer and arranger of six tunes, and as swinging improvising soloist in two extended, unhackeyed standards. His original compositions are his theme, Vienna Discussion; the jumping Scruby, which he is now arrranging for Count Basie's big band; the ballad Dark Glow, which features the marvelously inventive alto sax of Phil Woods; two jumping tunes, Dodo and New Shoes; and another exquisite mood piece, Air From Other Planets, which displays the warm sounds of Seldon Powell's tenor sax. Bernie's Tune is a jam number of ten minutes duration, with chorus after chorus of some of the finest improvisation ever recorded. Night In Tunisia presents Gulda as a jazz soloist, with rhythm backing.

Phil Woods, Jimmy Cleveland and Seldon Powell were last year's winners of the Down Beat Critics' Poll. Woods, who appears by courtesy of Prestige records, is the star alto saxophonist of Dizzy Gillespie's band. Powell, who is under contract to the Roost label, is the outstanding modern tenor saxophonist, and a bandleader in his own right. Jimmy Cleveland, an incredible technician and a Lionel Hampton discovery, is an Em Arcy recording artist.

Idrees Sulieman is one or New York's outstanding modern trumpeters, while Aaron Bell, a bassist who got his start with Erskine Hawkins' Bama State Collegians, is the only other member of the band with a classical background in trumpet, piano and string bass. Nick Stabulas, the drummer, is a real find who has spent much of his musical career playing in a Greenwich Village night spot.

This extraordinary group of musicians was assembled one week before the Birdland opening, and only two weeks before the actual date of this recording. The ensemble and cohesion achieved during this period is little short of history-making, and is a tribute both to Gulda as a leader and the great talent of the sidemen.

From now on Gulda will be pursuing two careers in music, one in concert and the other in jazz. He vows that he will never seek to combine the two forms, which he considers to be completely alien. He may well be the first musical schizophrenic of our time. – Jong Hammond

From Billboard - August 18, 1956: Jazznicks who caught Gulda and his fine group at Birdland or at the Newport Jazz Festival have been awaiting this set eagerly. All of the publicity about this concert pianist-turned-jazzman will undoubtedly pay off, especially since the music lives up to the hoopla. Gulda writes well for the combo, which includes such brilliant modern soloists as Phil Woods, Jimmy Cleveland, Seldon Powell and the underrated Idrees Sulieman on trumpet. He himself plays a deep-down-in-the-keys piano and demonstrates a refreshing concern for dynamic variation.

Theme Song: Vienna Discussion
Dark Glow
Night In Tunisia
Air From Other Planets
New Shoes
Bernie's Tune

No comments:

Post a Comment

Howdy! Thanks for leaving your thoughts!