Alexander Hawkins

Joe Albany

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I've just in the last couple of weeks heard my first Joe Albany (apart, maybe, from a few tracks with Lester Young)...

The Right Combination (with Warne Marsh)

and

Bird Lives (w/Art Davis and Roy Haynes)

This is great stuff. The guy seems to be a true original. I marginally prefer his playing on the album with Warne Marsh, and was wondering if anyone had any recommendations of some more Joe Albany, whether as leader or sideman?

And a subsidiary question - on The Right Combination, is there a drummer? I could swear there was, but the sleeve of my LP only lists ts/p/b.

Thanks in advance!

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There is a very interesting Joe Albany session that was recently released by Fresh Sounds. It's called 'Portrait of a Legend'. It was recorded in 1966 with Leroy Vinnegar and Frank Capp and remained unissued until Fresh Sounds got it out.

You may have trouble finding many Joe Albany CDs. Most of his records have gone out of print.

Albany recorded a couple of albums for Steeplechase. Those should be available. 'Two's Company' with NHOP on bass is excellent.

Another Albany album I have enjoyed is 'Portrait of an Artist" (with George Duvivier on bass). That was an Elektra LP. Not sure it has been issued on CD.

And as far as I know, there is no drummer on 'The Right Combination'.

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Thanks for that Brownie - I'll see if I can get my mits on that Fresh Sounds session!

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Ralph Garretson plays brushes (on a phone book or some such) on The Right Combination.

Another recommendation for Two's Company.

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I'm writing without sources from my office but for those interested, Joe Albany's daughter authored an account in a music issue of an arts review journal called "Tin House" in about 2001 or 2002 (I believe) that I borrowed from the library which details the extremely harrowing life Albany senior and junior had, in terms of Albany senior's drug problems, her mother's suicide and the continued effects on Ms. Albany.

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Ralph Garretson plays brushes (on a phone book or some such) on The Right Combination.

What's the sound quality like, is it a distraction ?

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There is a very interesting Joe Albany session that was recently released by Fresh Sounds. It's called 'Portrait of a Legend'. It was recorded in 1966 with Leroy Vinnegar and Frank Capp and remained unissued until Fresh Sounds got it out.

Can you tell us any more about this session, why ,where was it recorded? It sounds interesting. I 've been aware of it's existence for some time but couldn't find out much about it.

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I'm writing without sources from my office but for those interested, Joe Albany's daughter authored  an account in a music issue of an arts review journal called "Tin House" in about 2001 or 2002 (I believe) that I borrowed from the library which details the extremely harrowing life Albany senior and junior had, in terms of Albany senior's drug problems, her mother's suicide and the continued effects on Ms. Albany.

You can read a sample from "Tin House" by going on their website here

A. J. Albany published a book entitled "Low Down, junk, jazz, and other fairy tales from childhood" composed of fragments from her memories which are often trashy and dark : not exactly the childhood you wish you had...

You can listen to her talking about her father on WBGO online

Here's a review from the Los Angeles Magazine :

JAZZ HAS BECOME SUCH A FIXTURE IN ELEVATORS and on easy-listening stations that it's easy to forget that jazzers were once the bad boys of popular music, considered to be purveyors of low-class beats for low-class people. Pianist Joe Albany--who played with Bird, Mingus, and Lester Young, among others--lived up to the image of the hard-drinking, hard-living jazzman, chasing women and shooting heroin with his fellow junkies until his death in 1988. Albany was a gifted musician but no great shakes as a husband and father, often leaving his young daughter to fend for herself during his frequent drug binges. At age five she had little adult supervision. She played "jump the bum" with neighborhood kids to pass the time and ate toothpaste and shaving cream when there was no food in the house.

A.J. Albany recounts these memories of her childhood in Low Down (Bloomsbury, 163 pages, $24), a collection of vignettes about growing up in Hollywood during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her initiation into the jazz world starts early. As a baby, she is dropped on her head by Dizzy Gillespie; at five, she is serenaded by Louis Armstrong. Later, she hitches a ride in a runaway, no-brakes Dodge Dart with post-Beat writer Terry Southern and listens to the hard-luck tales of hookers and former strippers during her father's club dates. Characters with names like Blind Danny and Eddie No-Collar (a defrocked priest who goes nuts one night and stabs a boxer in the eyeball with the cross on a rosary) drift in and out of her life. The pathetic story of Koko, an aging circus clown and pedophile, is vividly captured through a single line of his poetry ("A.J. is an angel bright who lights up Koko clownie's night") and a brief description of his head ("bald except for a few random tufts of orange hair").

Albany inherited her father's love of jazz as well as a sympathy for her hometown and its inhabitants. In our collective memory the Hollywood of that period, midway between its glamorous heyday and its reinvention as a sanitized, Disney-fled tourist trap, was a seedy, violent hole. In many ways it was. But in Low Down it is also a magical place, full of charming oddballs and mysterious happenings. Hollywood shines, its run-down hotels and methadone clinics every bit as beautiful, on their own terms, as the grand jazz joints of Joe Albany's glory years.

Edited by Vincent, Paris

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Clunky Posted on Dec 13 2003, 05:03 AM

(Chuck Nessa @ Dec 12 2003, 01:54 PM)

Ralph Garretson plays brushes (on a phone book or some such) on The Right Combination.

What's the sound quality like, is it a distraction ?

Thanks Chuck - nice to know I'm not hearing things! Clunky - I don't find the sound quality in any way distracting; but I'm admittedly nothing of a stickler in this department. In any case, there's no way sound quality should put anyone off something as good as this (IMHO)!

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There is a very interesting Joe Albany session that was recently released by Fresh Sounds. It's called 'Portrait of a Legend'. It was recorded in 1966 with Leroy Vinnegar and Frank Capp and remained unissued until Fresh Sounds got it out.

Can you tell us any more about this session, why ,where was it recorded? It sounds interesting. I 've been aware of it's existence for some time but couldn't find out much about it.

The album was produced by Ross Russell (of Dial Records fame). Recorded March 15 (the trio sides with Vinnegar and Capp) and March 16, 1966 (three solo sides) at Whitney Studios in Burbank, Calif. It was the first Albany record date since the 1957 'Right Combination' album. No reason are given for its non release at the time. Albany plays his nervous and inspired self on a Steinway piano.

Too bad that Fresh Sounds has distribution problems in the States because they release quite a number of very interesting sessions.

The Albany CD has a striking image of Albany taken by William Claxton on its cover.

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There's another Joe Albany album out on Fresh Sound that is excellent, even better than 'Portait of a Legend'. It's 'The Legendary Joe Albany - Live in Paris', recorded live at the Riverbop club in Paris in 1977. Six solos (with vocals by Albany on 'Lush Life' and 'Christmas Song') and five trio sides with Alby Cullaz on bass and Aldo Romano on drums. Albany is magnificient thourghout. Notes by Amy-Jo Albany, his daughter.

One to get for fans of Joe Albany!

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I knew Joe very well in NYC in the 1970s-80s. He had some incredible chops when he was right, but a tendency, in those days, to get lost. The best stuff is the stuff with Marsh from the living room, and I recemmended the recently issued live recording from Donte's. Joe's solo on I Love You (from the Riverside) is astounding and transcendant, astonishingly advanced and individual, rhythmically complicated in an entirely original way (almost sounds like Cecil Taylor in small bits). I produced a session he was on in the late 1970s with a Connecticut saxophonist named Diockey Myers - Joe played well, but got lost on occasion. Read AJ Albany's book, which is simply one fo the best jazz books I've ever read by anyone. I emailed her after reading it that Joe came off like a combination Ward Cleaver/degenerated junkie, and she was in complete agreement. Joe could be quite cranky as well as quite affable, and cleaerly had a problem with recurring depression which he self-treated with alcohol, junk, and a lot of pot in the years I knew him (a side benefit was that Joe always had the best stuff in NYC, or so it seemed).

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I should add that Bruce Lundvall called me, probably around 1980, because he wanted to do a duo album with Al Haig and Joe Albany (and someone had told him I knew both of them). I proposed it to Haig, who would have none of it, as Joe was quite unpredictable, both personally and musically -

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sorry, can't stop talking about Joe. After I wrote the last post I put on the Donte's CD, with notes written by the writer who wrote the Marsh bio (which I have not read but have been told is quite good) - have to say I was a bit annoyed when he termed Joe's solo on 'S WOnderful as one of Joe's best; well, Joe gets lost in the middle of it and clearly has trouble keeping up with the rhtyhm section - and so goes jazz writing...

Edited by AllenLowe

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I was a bit annoyed when he termed Joe's solo on 'S WOnderful as one of Joe's best; well, Joe gets lost in the middle of it and clearly has trouble keeping up with the rhtyhm section

How ANYBODY could keep up with that drummer is beyond me...

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I've been listening to the the Parker recording from March '46 w/ Albany and I have to say his (Albany's) playing sounds very amateurish. He sounds like a student trying to figure out how to play bop lines. Oddly the Koch book (Yardbird Suite) heaps heavy praise on Albany's playing on this session but I'm just not hearing it. 

What am I missing?

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On 10.7.2018 at 8:37 PM, bluesForBartok said:

I've been listening to the the Parker recording from March '46 w/ Albany and I have to say his (Albany's) playing sounds very amateurish. He sounds like a student trying to figure out how to play bop lines. Oddly the Koch book (Yardbird Suite) heaps heavy praise on Albany's playing on this session but I'm just not hearing it. 

What am I missing?

Bebop at it´s beginning was a hard music to play for beginners. I wouldn´t say Albany sounded very amateurish, but there is some truth about pianists who tried to follow the movement of Bird, Diz, Bud etc.

I think the problem was they heard the music in their head but when trying to finger it, it started to sound more like some edgy western avantgard type music, with chromatic lines and difficulties to interakt with the left hand.

I had the same difficulties 40 years ago when I wanted to play "be bop" and when I listened to my own playing on tape, it sounded stiff and edgy and abstract.

Listen to the first Al Haig recordings with Diz and Bird at Town Hall, same thing. But Haig was learning very fast and in 1949 he was a master and had it all. Same with Duke Jordan, his playing on the early Savoy recordings with Bird sounds stiff, but listen how he flows and sounds wonderful on later recordings.

Same with Joe Albany. So I would say it is not the pianist, it´s the music that was a challenge. Now bop is old stuff but I still think it´s hard to play it beautiful if you dont feel it completely. If you can make it comin out of your heart it will sound right. Like in my yough when I played sometimes with a very good LA born and Europe base alto saxophonist, who later teached in Austria, who told me one thing I´ll never forget: "Bouncing with Bud".... you know what "bouncin´" means, so make it bounce, not hammerin´it out on that piano....

Or the late world famous austrian classical pianist, who also got into jazz and recorded jazz, but at the beginning he got an advice from Art Farmer after playing some bars "Get that edge off...."

 

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I just watched the LOW DOWN, feature film based on A.J. Albany's biographical book, and co-scripted by her. I'm still under the influence [no sad pun intended] of the movie, but at this instant I declare it the best jazz movie and movie on drug addiction that I've seen. Everything works: the acting, the direction, the sound; the cinematography is just right. It's almost 2 hours long, but it doesn't drag on.
Glenn Close is a surprise winner. She should've been nominated for the best supporting actress.

Film is available for free on Amazon Prime. I have not heard of this movie before reading Joe Albany's Wikipedia article.

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39 minutes ago, Dmitry said:

I just watched the LOW DOWN, feature film based on A.J. Albany's biographical book, and co-scripted by her. I'm still under the influence [no sad pun intended] of the movie, but at this instant I declare it the best jazz movie and movie on drug addiction that I've seen. Everything works: the acting, the direction, the sound; the cinematography is just right. It's almost 2 hours long, but it doesn't drag on.
Glenn Close is a surprise winner. She should've been nominated for the best supporting actress.

Film is available for free on Amazon Prime. I have not heard of this movie before reading Joe Albany's Wikipedia article.

Elle Fanning is pretty good too.

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Gotta watch that film.  I bought a jazz photography book at Dutton's in North Hollywood many years ago and the young woman  at the checkout  (whom I had seen there often) said that there was a picture of her dad in it. I asked who and she said "Joe Albany" to which I replied "You mean the legendary Joe Albany."  She laughed and took my money.  I guess it was A.J. 

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1 hour ago, jlhoots said:

Elle Fanning is pretty good too.

She should've been nominated also, and they both should've won...

Flea, the bass player from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, did very well playing a Chet Baker-influenced trumpeter. I didn't recognize him at first. He was also one of the executive producers, along with Anthony Keidis, the singer from that band. What does the executive producer do? 

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Sometime ago I saw Low Down...a bit dull (and too long I think), but still good biopic.  Elle Fanning really shines.

On the role of executive producers, it depends...sometimes that's what show runners do, sometimes pure name lending, or star actors sometimes become executive producers so he/she will not be treated badly in the film, TV show, etc. I think Flea raised the fund or was the funder himself for that film so he owns part of it.  Flea is an avid Jazz fan, and seems Low Down is in a way his own childhood story https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/bad-influence-flea-on-jazz-drugs-and-his-role-in-low-down-42923/

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mhatta, thank you very much for the Flea interview link! You are right, Flea appears to be a genuine jazz man.

Were you familiar with Joe Albany before this movie?
No. I knew his name, but I didn’t know much about him. When I got together with Amy, I went and got a recording of his. I grew up with those same types of guys. My house was full of these L.A. jazz guys at the time, always coming in and out. My stepdad was the one who hung out with them. It was like a weird little cult, a subset of a culture. It was all these guys who grew up in the Forties and the Fifties loving Bird, Fats Navarro, Mingus, Lester Young – jazz was the coolest thing on earth and they dedicated their lives to this incredibly sophisticated, deep art form. Come the Seventies, no one gave a fuck and these guys they just really couldn’t catch a break. They had shitty jobs. My stepdad would fix cars in a backyard. He was a great bass player, man, playing hotel lobbies, playing bullshit. He was a fucking serious bebop player.

 

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I bought Amy’s book a while ago - enjoyed it. Need to watch this movie !

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