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Livelove Radio Bremen series continues: Working Week and Jazz Passengers

Mark Sullivan By

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The Livelove series issuing archival live Radio Bremen recordings began with Larry Coryell & The Eleventh House from January 1975 (Promising Music, 2015) and the Horace Silver Quintet from June 1977 (Promising Music, 2015). That seems like a pretty wide range: from jazz fusion to hard bop. But the third and fourth releases in the series broaden the range even more, with the jazzy pop of Working Week and the eclectic jazz of The Jazz Passengers 99. Every release in the series has borne the proud claim "pure—no overdubs," so they are the real live deal. And the Radio Bremen engineers were unsurpassed at capturing live performance on tape.

Working Week
May 1985 (Livelove Series Volume 3)
Promising Music

Working Week was led by saxophonist Larry Stabbins and guitarist Simon Booth (later of Afro Celt Sound System). In 1985 they were on tour promoting their most successful album, Working Nights (Virgin Records, 1985). It's an energetic, tight nine-piece dance/pop band that displays significant Latin and Jazz influences. With powerful vocals from Julie Roberts, the set begins with a fine cover (the only song in the set not written by the band) of Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues."

"I Thought I'd Never See You Again" begins as a ballad, but shifts into samba, with a high-energy high note trumpet solo from Paul Spong. "No Cure, No Pay" continues the Latin feel. An extended instrumental montuno, it features trombonist Richard Edwards, percussionist Joao Bosco De Oliveira, and pianist Kim Burton. "Where's The Bridge," another instrumental, gives bassist Chucho Merchan a chance to shine. "Venceremos" is another samba, strongly reminiscent of Sade's work. Stabbins plays several memorable solos, while Booth makes his main contribution as composer.

This is clearly a pop group, but they have talent and charisma to burn. The Latin and Jazz stylings in their music are completely convincing: far more than mere added flavors.

Jazz Passengers
April 1990 (Livelove Series Volume 4)
Promising Music

The Jazz Passengers were formed in 1987 when John Lurie's backup band Lounge Lizards staged a mass defection. By 1990 they had three studio albums to draw from for their live set: Broken Night Red Light (Les Disques Du Crépuscule, 1987); Deranged and Decomposed (Les Disques Du Crépuscule, 1988); and Implement Yourself (New World Records, 1990). This version of the band was a septet, giving them access to a broad array of instrumental colors. While they could be quite respectful of the jazz tradition (as in their restrained cover of Duke Ellington's "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me") they generally did not take themselves too seriously. Musical humor was always a possibility. The opening "You're The Fool" gently taunts someone (the listener, perhaps?) with the closing vocal: "Don't you know the meaning? You don't know the meaning."

The title "Decomposer By A Neck" is also a good clue to their working method. The standard "Angel Eyes" (the only other cover in the set) begins with a straightforward statement of the theme by saxophonist Ray Nathanson and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes—but then the group enters and gently takes it apart. "Fathouse" also moves into an extended free blowing section, this time led by guitarist Marc Ribot. "In No Languages" features vibraphonist Bill Ware, while Ribot turns in another incendiary solo on "Spirits of Flatbush." Violinist Jim Nolet gets the final say with his galloping composition "Peace In The Valley" (which bears no apparent relationship to the famous gospel tune written by Thomas A. Dorsey).

The Passengers can be accused of being overly jokey and eclectic. But rarely is avant-garde jazz this much fun.

Tracks and Personnel

May 1985 (Livelove Series Volume 3)

Tracks: Inner City Blues; I Thought I'd Never See You Again; No Cure, No Pay; Sweet Nothing; Solo; Where's The Bridge; Venceremos; Who's Fooling Who; Happy Inspiration; Sweet Nothing (encore).

Personnel: Simon Booth: guitar; Larry Stabbins: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute; Julie Roberts: vocals; Paul Spong: trumpet; Richard Edwards: trombone; Kim Burton: piano; Chucho Merchan: bass; Joao Bosco De Oliveira; percussion; Nic France: drums.

April 1990 (Livelove Series Volume 4)

Tracks: You're The Fool; Decomposer By A Neck; The Faker; Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me; In No Languages; Spirits Of Flatbush; Angel Eyes; Fathouse; Peace In The Valley.

Personnel: Roy Nathanson: tenor sax, soprano sax; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone, vocals; Marc Ribot: guitar; Bill Ware: vibraphone; Jim Nolet: violin; Bradley Jones: bass; Edwin Jesus Rodriguez: drums.


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