It is summer dawn… and you are alone
Here is music for your strange mood. The piano starts the first track, slow tempo beat, a strict beat, a swinging beat. Lillemor—here minor harmonies give the tune a rural, romantic feeling of some place in Spain or France. The tempo changes to medium fast—the flute solos. Light phrasing contrasts beautifully to the earthy, swinging beat of the rhythm section and the repeating piano figures. The trombone adds a new color, a counterpoint of sound and phrasing, backed by the pulsating beat of this wonderful rhythm and the driving piano.
This music has more to offer, because it shows the personality of Sahib Shihab at its best. Sahib is a universal musician who reflects musical experiences in jazz since the end of the thirties. He lived through the important periods of modern jazz with his heart and mind wide open toward everything that was good music, regardless of being termed “Mainstream”, “Bop”, “Cool”, “Westcoast”, “Eastcoast”, “Hard Bop”, et cetera. When you listen closely to his music, you will find traces of all these, but they are immersed in his deep musicianship and his true jazz personality.
Sahib Shihab’s background reads like the record of a master of advanced studies. Furthermore he played and collaborated with the coolest jazz musician of that period. Above all let’s name Budd Johnson, Theolonius Monk, Tadd Dameron, Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Illinois Jaquet, Elmer Snowden, Luther Henderson, Larry Noble, Fletcher Henderson, Roy Eldridge.
In his early professional years, Sahib was heard mostly on alto sax; later, more often on baritone sax and flute. Today, his name is inseparably connected with these two instruments.
The unity of his jazz performances is not alone bound up with the com¬positions and the arrangements of Sahib Shihab, though in their understated simplicity they have a melodic beauty that is seldom found in jazz of today. The rhythmical subtleties add to the overall qualities of being relaxed vehicles for free-blowing, but there is an immediacy that you hear and feel every moment when listening which defies analysis. The playing of the rhythm section helps greatly to promote the sense of flux and contrasting constant renewal that makes listening to this record so invigorating an experience.
Well, this is no surprise, with Kenny Clarke as the nucleus of the rhythm group. Kenny ‘Klook’ Clarke is a major figure and contributor in jazz, one of the founders of modern jazz, and is ranked as one of the all-time great drum¬mers. He influenced a whole generation of musicians with his playing, though living in Paris since the middle of the fifties somewhat dimmed his name to the general American public. Nevertheless, his name alone will assure a connoisseur to expect top class musical experiences.
Talking of the rhythm section we have to name Jimmy Woode’s bass, which together with Kenny’s drumming, is the driving force for the group and the reliable harmonic anchor for the improvisors. By the way, Jimmy has been with the Duke quite a while, and this alone is an award for extraordinary craftsmanship and artistry. The good sounding rhythm with its full-bodied color is also a result of the added bongos of Joe Harris, who manages to stay out of the way of the players—a quality not often found with drummers—but his playing is felt through the set.
There are two members of the group not yet mentioned. Two Europeans, pianist-composer-arranger Francy Boland from Belgium, and trombonist Ake Persson from Sweden. Francy Boland this time is a sideman, though normally he is a leader of recording sessions, both as composer-arranger and as musical director of the band. In the fifties he was in the States writing arrangements for different name-bands, such as Basie and Goodman. In Europe, he is famous for his swinging modern big band arrangements; and his inventiveness as a writer is reflected in his piano playing. He has the talent of using the right dynamic approach every moment, thus making his playing helpful to soloists and interesting for listeners as well. Ake Persson has been Scandinavia’s out-standing trombone player for about ten years. There are only a few trombonists in Europe who might match his talents at times, but they lack the consistency of his playing. He is impressive, whether playing in a big band, or whether main soloist in his own small groups. American musicians love the sound of his slide trombone and his easily flowing romantic improvisations, so he often joins American name-bands as they travel in Europe.
The music speaks alone… we said it before. You have your soul to feel the beauty, to follow lines and structure, and to enjoy the spiritual excitement. Whether you enjoy the flowing, easy sounding theme of “Please Don’t Leave Me”, or the climaxing piano solo in the same piece—the bass solo in “Waltz For Seth” or the swinging baritone sax—listen to the first bars of this solo and pay attention to Kenny. Whether you listen to “Campi’s Idea”, (named after Gigi Campi, the well known Cologne jazz enthusiast who organized this recording) with the romantic flute solo of Sahib, the interesting tempo changes, the piano comping, the moving trombone solo; or to the up-tempo “Herr Fixit”, with the cooking Kenny and humorous, driving flute solo, you know that these six musicians where in the right mood, in the right stimulating surroundings to feel what we all feel when it’s: