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Jackie Cain & Roy Kral: A Wilder Alias

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Jackie Cain & Roy Kral

A Wilder Alias

CTI Masterworks

2011 (1974)

Producer Creed Taylor
Creed Taylor
Creed Taylor
b.1929
producer
's 1970s' label, CTI, has had a controversial history. Some of its detractors, averse to the lush sound and embrace of fusion, have been reluctant even to recognize CTI as a jazz label. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (Macmillan, 1988 and 1994), for instance, the most authoritative pre-internet compendium of jazz information, contains no potted history—nor, more significantly, a biography of Taylor himself.

The second omission suggests that Grove's editors were so hostile to CTI that they were prepared, in retribution, even to "disappear" from their pages a man who had earlier in his career founded jazz's most influential post-Blue Note label, Impulse!, and produced its first half dozen albums. These included such universally acknowledged classics as composer and arranger Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
' Out Of The Cool and saxophonists Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
1932 - 1975
arranger
's Blues And The Abstract Truth and John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
's Africa/Brass (all 1961).

CTI did, indeed, produce a fair amount of schlock, but, as Sony's 40th Anniversary reissue program is affirming, it also made many substantial recordings. The summer 2011 quartet of reissues includes two of these: pianist Randy Weston
Randy Weston
Randy Weston
b.1926
piano
's Blue Moses and vocal duo Jackie Cain
Jackie Cain
Jackie Cain
1928 - 2014
vocalist
and Roy Kral
Roy Kral
Roy Kral
b.1921
's A Wilder Alias (1974).

Now all but unknown except among hardcore fans of vocal jazz, Cain and Kral are seriously deserving of a revival in interest. They started singing together in Chicago in the mid 1940s, as Jackie & Roy, before joining tenor saxophonist Charlie Ventura
Charlie Ventura
Charlie Ventura
1916 - 1992
sax, tenor
in 1948 and recording and touring as part of his Bop For The People band. They married in 1949 and, after spells in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, settled in New York City in 1963.

Both were songwriters as well as singers, and Kral (who passed in 2002) was a gifted pianist and arranger. Lucid and musicianly interpreters of The Great American Songbook, the pair were also virtuosic scat singers. It is no exaggeration to say that they were the equals of Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
, Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
and Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
1919 - 2006
vocalist
.

During the 1960s, Cain and Kral recorded in standards and scat vein for a variety of labels, including Verve, where Taylor had moved after leaving Impulse!. When Taylor quit Verve to set up CTI, the pair followed, making the more or less straight-ahead Time & Love in 1972.

And then came A Wilder Alias. Harking back to Evans' album, it might be re-titled Out Of The Blue, for it was unlike anything Cain and Kral had recorded before.

There are five, relatively lengthy tracks, the shortest 4:18 minutes, the longest 10:40. All are originals. There are lyrics for one tune only, with the other four conceived for wordless vocals. Electric piano and bass are used throughout, and the band includes jazz funk and fusion stars drummer Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
b.1945
drums
, flautist Hubert Laws
Hubert Laws
Hubert Laws
b.1939
flute
and saxophonist Joe Farrell
Joe Farrell
Joe Farrell
1937 - 1986
saxophone
, in 1971 a founder member of Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
's Return to Forever
Return to Forever
Return to Forever

band/orchestra
. The liner notes give Kral as the arranger, with "music direction" from Don Sebesky
Don Sebesky
b.1937
arranger
(a Verve and CTI Taylor-stalwart, who arranged Weston's aforementioned Blue Moses).

Despite the sundrenched, albeit dramatic shorescape of the cover art, A Wilder Alias is an emotionally complex album, oftentimes quite dark. The opening title track starts in distinctly edgy mode, and ends with atonal free improvisation by the entire lineup; the closing track, the 10:40 minute "Good And Rich," ends with a dissonant collective chord, again from the entire lineup. Between times, an undercurrent of tension pervades the music, even on the overtly celebratory love song "Niki's Song," the one tune with lyrics. Tempos are mostly fast and urgent. The vocal arrangements, including their rapid-fire scat passages, are generally delivered in unison with the horns, or keyboard and drums, or the whole band, and as much attention is given to rhythm as it is to melody and harmony; even Farrell and Laws' solos sound, at times, quite closely scripted.

An intriguing one-off which reveals new facets with each repeated listening, and further evidence that CTI's oeuvre was a many splendored thing.

Tracks: A Wilder Alias; Niki's Song; Waltz For Dana; The Way We Are; Good And Rich.

Personnel: Jackie Cain: vocal; Roy Kral: vocal, electric piano; Joe Farrell: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Hubert Laws: flute; Roy Pennington: vibraphone; Harvie Swartz: electric bass; Steve Gadd: drums.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Anne Phillips

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