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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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FRIEDRICH GULDA &
HIS SEXTET

At Birdland

Fresh Sound FRS-CD 648

 

 

1. Theme Song: Vienna Discussion
2. Pee Wee Marquette Introduces Friedrich Gulda and his Sextet
3. Scruby
4. Dark Glow
5. A Night In Tunisia
6. Dodo
7. Air From Other Planets
8. New Shoes
9. Bernie's Tune
10. Quintet
11. Introvert
12. Out Of Nowhere
13. Teheran
14. All The Things You Are
15. Cool Hill
16. Lullaby Of Birdland

Friedrich Gulda - Piano
Idrees Sulieman - Trumpet
Jimmy Cleveland - Trombone
Phil Woods - Alto sax
Seldon Powell - Tenor sax
Aaron Bell - Bass
Nick Stabulas - Drums

 

Friedrich Gulda was a classical pianist of international stature who, following a meeting with Dizzy Gillespie in 1951, embarked on an attachment with jazz. This eventually led to his first regular American appearance at Birdland in New York City in 1956 which has been captured in this Fresh Sounds reissue.

The impresario John Hammond was the driving force behind this Birdland session which was originally released on two 12" albums, the first by RCA Victor entitled Friedrich Gulda At Birdland and the second by Decca called A Man Of Letters. Hammond was fully aware that, while there might be some curiosity value in such an appearance by a classically trained pianist, he needed to ensure that Gulda had the opportunity to succeed and thus he put together a front line that was supportive and collaborative. The bassist and drummer were also known for their swing and steady timekeeping. The song set was a combination of Gulda original compositions and "head" arrangements of popular and jazz standards designed to engage the audience.

Now while it is accurate to say that all the tracks were recorded at Birdland, not all of them were performed live. All nine Gulda compositions were recorded in the afternoon without an audience, much like a recording studio, and the other five jazz-oriented tunes were done with an audience during the evening sessions. The Gulda compositions are intricately constructed with a chamber jazz feel but allow space for solos by the members of the band. Dark Glow is a sensuous ballad designed to showcase the creative alto sax of Phil Woods. Another piece in the same vein is Cool Hill which has a modelled structure for Woods to shine. Seldon Powell's cool tenor sax is prominently featured on Air From Other Planets.

The real goodies on this disc are the live tracks from Birdland and all are swingers. The first substantive taste of Gulda's pianistic style shows up on a trio version of A Night In Tunisia. With Aaron Bell on bass and Nick Stabulas on drums, Gulda romps through the tune with strong single-note phrasing in a Bud Powell mode, but with a percussive note-striking style reminiscent of Eddie Costa. An extended version of Bernie's Tune has all the elements of a jam session, with strong choruses from all members of the band. Out Of Nowhere becomes a vehicle for trombonist Jimmy Cleveland where his creative and enthusiastic offerings are fully evident. Idrees Sulieman, a somewhat under-appreciated trumpeter, shows that he deserves more attention with some fine soloing on All The Things You Are.

Finally the George Shearing classic Lullaby Of Birdland allows Gulda to take a block-chord Shearingesque attack on this signature tune.

This is an interesting and noteworthy addition to any record collection.

Pierre Giroux



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