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George Gruntz: Mental Cruelty

Mark Corroto By

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Atavistic's Unheard Music Series, curated by John Corbett, has unearthed some obscure and curious music. So far most of it has been avant-garde and experimental sounds, pressed on vinyl years ago and hitherto available only to collectors. This session by pianist/orchestra leader George Gruntz is an exception to the UMS rule and proves itself to be an exceptional bop recording.

Swiss pianist George Gruntz was hired to create a soundtrack to the film Mental Cruelty, and taking a note from the 1957 Miles Davis work on L’Ascenseur Pour L’echafud, he hired French saxophonist Barney Wilen and legendary drummer Kenny Clarke. As with L’Ascenseur Pour L’echafud, Gruntz built these tracks around a repetition of themes, all very hip bop phrasings.

This recording can barely be called a reissue, as it appeared on only about 100 LPs before it was pulled from the shelves for legal problems, only to survive in rare collectors' circles.

Gruntz, now known for his large concert bands, plays this one in the very cool stylings of Miles Davis’ late Prestige outings. This relaxin’ music draws from the pop and sway of bop, with a knowing nod by way of a few waltzes and a tango. Barney Wilen, whom Miles adored back then, is on his game with a big round tenor sound; and Kenny Clarke keeps the beat casual throughout. His solo on “Music For Night Children” is a certain blindfold test for all students of modern drumming.

There is much to like in this hip – when "hip" meant something – recording.


Track Listing: Main Theme; Blues And Theme; Student Hang Out; Morning After The Wedding Night; Music For Night Children; Jazz Appreciation I; Jazz Appreciation II; Swiss Tease; Romance I; Romance II; Stroll On Theme; Good Time Joe; Latin Stroll On Theme; Main Theme - Romance; Spanish castles; Nick And Marlene; The Proposal; Final Theme; Student hang Out; main Theme Version X; Main Theme Version Y.

Personnel: George Gruntz - Piano; Barney Wilen - Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone; Marcel Peeters - Alto Saxophone, Flute; Raymond Court - Trumpet. Karl Theodor Geier - Bass; Kenny Clarke - Drums.

Title: Mental Cruelty | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide


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