Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
482

Neil Ardley/Ian Carr/Don Rendell: Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Neil Ardley/Ian Carr/Don Rendell: Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises Another masterpiece of British jazz reissued on Universal's outstanding Impressed Re-pressed series, where it joins other long unavailable classics such as Amancio D'Silva's Integration , reviewed last month.

Recorded in '69, Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises is irresistible on two counts. First, for its daringly conceived and brilliantly performed music, inspired by Greek folk songs and instrumental textures and deep enough to reveal all its treasures only after many repeated listenings. Second, for being recorded at the moment when the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet, a major force in British straight-ahead jazz since '62, had broken up and Carr's equally influential jazz-rock band Nucleus was rising from the ashes.

The first half of the album has composer Neil Ardley directing a fourteen-piece chamber orchestra featuring Rendell and Carr, plus a supporting cast of creme de la creme British musicians in "The Greek Variations," a six-part suite based on a traditional Greek folk tune. The second half features in turn a quintet led by Carr—Nucleus in all but name—and a quartet led by Rendell, on shorter suites maintaining a Greek flavour and ambience.

An undercurrent of brooding turbulence surfaces at various points in the "Variations" suite, as though some sort of tidal wave might erupt from the Aegean at any moment, but at other times the mood is sunnier and vivacious (or delicately moonlit), and there are lovely solo passages, both improvised and composed, from Frank Ricotti on marimba/vibraphone, Karl Jenkins on oboe, Rendell on alto flute (on which he has a voice as distinctive as on tenor sax) and Carr on flugelhorn. Comparisons with the Miles Davis and Gil Evans collaborations inevitably spring to mind. But Carr, though strongly influenced by Davis, is ultimately his own man, and Ardley is absolutely so too, and the result is an entirely fresh approach to composed/improvised orchestral jazz.

The three Carr-composed tracks are performed by Carr plus Nucleus founding members Brian Smith, Chris Spedding, Jeff Clyne and John Marhsall. "Wine Dark Lullaby" and "Orpheus" conjure up balmy Mediterranean nights, soft and lush, while "Persephone's Jive" is a wild Greek dance made ever more urgent by the sustained clatter of Afrobeat in Spedding's aggressive, staccato comping. Only a few minutes long, but still one of the highlights of the set.

The closing Rendell-composed tracks feature Rendell alongside Stan Robinson, Neville Whitehead and Trevor Tomkins. The wistful "Farewell Penelope" could almost come from a film noir soundtrack, with Rendell's tenor evoking a lonely night-time cityscape. "Odysseus, King of Ithaca" and "Veil of Ino" are fiercer, showing off his well loved ruff 'n' tuff side.

It's sad that Ardley, who died earlier this year, didn't live long enough to witness this CD release and the growing renewal of interest in his work. But how very fortunate we are to have this wonderful album available again.


Track Listing: The Greek Variations; Wine Dark Lullaby; Orpheus; Persephone's Jive; Farewell Penelope; Odysseus, King of Ithaca; Siren's Song; Veil of Ino.

Personnel: Neil Ardley, composer, director; Ian Carr, trumpet, flugelhorn; Don Rendell, tenor sax, soprano sax, alto flute, clarinet; Barbara Thompson, flute, alto sax, soprano sax; Karl Jenkins, oboe, soprano sax, baritone sax; Mike Gibbs, trombone; Brian Smith, tenor sax, soprano sax; Stan Robinson, tenor sax, flute; Frank Ricotti, marimba, vibraphone; Chris Spedding, guitar; Jeff Clyne, bass; Jack Bruce, bass, Neville Whitehead, bass; John Marshall, drums; Trevor Tomkins, drums; plus string section.

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Universal Music Group | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
[no cover]
Mike Taylor Remembered
Creative Sources
2007
buy
Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows
Kaleidoscope Of...
Dusk Fire
2005
buy
Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises
Greek Variations &...
Universal Music Group
2004
buy
[no cover]
Kaleidoscope Of...
Creative Sources
1996
buy
[no cover]
Harmony Of The Spheres
Creative Sources
1979
buy
[no cover]
Harmony Of The...
Creative Sources
1979
buy
Pharoah Sanders Pharoah Sanders
saxophone
Mahavishnu Orchestra Mahavishnu Orchestra
band/orchestra
John Surman John Surman
saxophone
Teo Macero Teo Macero
producer
Terumasa Hino Terumasa Hino
trumpet
Mike Westbrook Mike Westbrook
composer/conductor
Tubby Hayes Tubby Hayes
saxophone
Ian Carr Ian Carr
trumpet
Howard Riley Howard Riley
piano
Julian Priester Julian Priester
trombone

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus
Support our sponsor

Sponsor: Motéma Music | BUY IT  

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.