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US 4

My Scandinavian Blues : A Tribute To Horace Parlan

Stunt Records STUCD 16012

 

 

 

 

 

 

CD

1. Us Three (1960)

2. Heading South (1962)

3. Norma (1972)

4. In The Spur Of The Moment (1961)

5. One For Wilton (1980)

6. Arrival (1991)

7. Broken Promises (ca. 1991)

8. Little Esther (ca. 1988)

9. Opus 16A (ca. 1986)

10. Wadin' (1960)

11. Party Time (1999)

DVD

1. Heading South

2. Us Three

3. Arrival

4. Norma

5. One For Wilton

6. Broken Promises

Tomas Franck - Tenor sax

Thomas Clausen - Piano

Jimmi Roger Pederson - Bass

Adam Nussbaum - Drums

Sinne Eeg - Vocals (tracks 3, 8)

The Pittsburgh-born pianist Horace Parlan is overdue the recognition which this CD/DVD package bestows on him. As a child, he contracted polio which left him with a weakened right hand. Parlan rose triumphantly over this disability to become a potent jazz pianist. Naturally enough, his left hand was the stronger but he was still able to use his right hand to good effect. He was influenced particularly by Ahmad Jamal (who was a favourite of Miles Davis, incidentally). The blues were always there or thereabouts in his work. Parlan made some significant recordings as a leader with the Blue Note label during the early 1960s as well as being in demand as a sideman with a host of jazz musicians of quality, both Stateside and subsequently in Denmark where he settled in 1972, taking up residence in Copenhagen. His album in 1960 with Blue Note, Us Three, is credited with being the inspiration behind the jazz/hip-hop group of the early 1990s, US3. Parlan has struggled with diabetes in latter years which has led to his eyesight being adversely effected. He also suffers from restricted mobility, all of which means that he now resides in a nursing home.

This album is not by him but it features his compositions. They were chosen by Parlan himself and he selected the musicians who play them, as well as financing the whole enterprise. This is not a vanity project. What emerges from the CD and the accompanying DVD is an affectionate tribute to a special musician and human being. The group consists of the Swedish-born, but Copenhagen-based, tenor saxophonist Tomas Franck, Thomas Clausen the Danish pianist, Jimmi Roger Pederson who is also Danish on bass, and the American Adam Nussbaum on drums. Franck has played with the DR Big Band and has led his own groups. Clausen owes a debt to Bill Evans (very few modern jazz pianists can avoid that) but is proficient across several musical genres. Pederson is a close friend of Parlan's, having toured with him over a period of 15 years. Nussbaum is vastly experienced - one of his recent highly successful collaborations is with The Impossible Gentlemen band. The group are joined on two tracks by vocalist Sinne Eeg, one of Denmark's finest, with five albums to her credit so far.

The CD is highly accessible and enjoyable mainstream, jazz. For me, there wasn't a dud track but two of them were exceptional. Broken Promises has everything, a strong theme, blues-tinged piano, expressive tenor and a probing bass solo. Opus 16A again ticks all the boxes. A tuneful melody, mellow performances all round, piano and bass particularly on song. Then again, not far behind is Wadin' which has that classic Blue Note feel - lusty tenor, gospel-tinged piano, walking bass. I liked, too, the ballad Norma, an evocation of Parlan's late wife and partner. The lyrics, provided by British writer Susie Scraigg, are delivered with clarity and style by Sinne Eeg. There's a refreshing touch of June Christy in her voice. There is some more sublime piano on this track while Nussbaum is unobtrusively supportive, as is his wont. So, the CD is a success but I want to put in a special word of praise for the DVD. This features half a dozen of the tracks on the other disc and proves to be a genuine bonus. The band are featured at work and we get some insights into the creative process. Horace Parlan is shown in conversation but in addition there are some superb visuals of the Danish countryside and places significant for Parlan. It is beautifully shot and at times, extremely moving. A joy to have, in other words. German photographer, Volker Sch÷werling was the creator of these short music videos.

What we have here, then, is an excellently packaged tribute to a jazzman who has made his mark both in the land of his birth and in his adopted country. Parlan was the subject of an admiring BBC radio documentary not long ago. This release will help those new to this remarkable man to appreciate his facility as a composer of jazz pieces, as well as informing them about his life and times.

James Poore



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