In 1976, when At Onkel Po's Carnegie Hall
was recorded, hard bop was viewed as nostalgia-based heritage music by the young lions of American jazz. But for drummer Louis Hayes
, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook
, trumpeter Woody Shaw
, pianist Ronnie Matthews
, and bassist Stafford James
whose paths had crossed and recrossed in bands led by Horace Silver
, Art Blakey
, and Cannonball Adderley
hard bop was still the staff of life.
By turns raw and blazing, flowing and balladic, At Onkel Po's Carnegie Hall
sounds like it was made during hard bop's pomp. Recorded live at the famously louche Hamburg club, the performance was taped for broadcast by German radio station NDR. Previously unreleased, it still hits the spot.
The two CDs have just seven tracks between them and a total playing time of approaching two hours. As those facts suggest, the album is a loosely structured blowing-session with plenty of time for extended solos. With a lesser band, that might have resulted in a "you had to be there" vibe. But with musicians of this caliber, practically every minute is a delight.
Two months after At Onkel Po's Carnegie Hall
was recorded, the band got together in New York City, augmented by percussionist Guilherme Franco
, to record Ichi-Ban
(Timeless, 1976). In addition to the title track, "Pannonica" and "Moontrane" were repeated from the Hamburg set list. Despite the extra weeks during which band and material had bedded down, the live version here has the edge over the studio recording.
Unlike the mortals who make it, great music never passes, it just carries on maturing. Stafford James
and Louis Hayes
are still with us, too, and in 2017, just days before his 80th birthday, Blue Note released Hayes's muscular tribute to his onetime employer, Serenade For Horace
CD1: All The Things You Are; When Sunny Gets Blue; Moontrane. CD2: Pannonica; Ichi-Ban; Moment To Moment; Four For Nothing.
Junior Cook: tenor saxophone; Woody Shaw: trumpet; Ronnie Matthews: piano; Stafford James: bass; Louis Hayes: drums.