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Dan Gould

George Cables RUINS Dexter Gordon's Night Ballads

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There. I said it.

I held off a long time before getting the Uptown issue Night Ballads: Montreal 1977, because of Cable's presence. Nights at the Keystone had actually been disposed of because of George's performance on those discs, and I did that even though I am a proud Dexaholic!

So for my birthday I asked for this disc ... guess I wanted to hear some 'new' Dex. And Dex sounds fantastic, more support (as if he needed it) to his reputation as a master of the ballad.

Then comes Cables. Too-clever-by-half embellishments of the melody (on the opening track he works the melody in, in between his aggravating whatever. Clangy runs up and down the keyboard.

Most of all: He doesn't play ballads like they're ballads! Like Sil Austin said, play pretty for the people.

I was listening to this CD for the second time on the way to work and he was just aggravating the hell out of me, and what surprised me is that Cables was in the piano chair for the Jimmy Heath/Benny Golson/Javon Jackson concert in December in Fort Lauderdale, and I had very few problems with his solos. (Although I have to say that I told my wife on the way to the concert what my concerns were, and afterwards she actually stated that there was one tune, again a ballad, where she understood exactly what I had described.)

</rant>

Does anyone else hear where I am coming from? Anyone else agree? I'd love to hear someone explain why what Cables is doing to these songs somehow uplifts the music. Dex caresses these beautiful melodies. Cables sounds like he's got hoofs for hands and goes clanging up and down the keyboard.

OK, now my rant is really over. Fire away, or tell me I'm right. :cool::w

Edited by Dan Gould

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Interesting opinion. I actually really like Cables' work with Dex. Dex did too. But we all have our own taste and preferences. I seem to recall that you are a Kenny-Drew-with-Dex man, and, yea, that was a different ballgame.

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Cables is a bit brittle; I think Barry Harris would have been a perfect accompanist.

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I have this CD and enjoy it, and with all due respect don't agree. I think Cables' playing is just fine here, quite amazing actually. But I like his playing in general, anyway.

Edited by John Tapscott

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Dan, I see your point, but don't think Cables ruined the record. The booklet notes discuss Cables solo approach quite clearly.

He plays many cadenza's influenced by both Art Tatum and Coltrane. And he credits Dexter for encouraging him to play however he likes.

Cables is a piano player I generally like very much. On this particular session from 1977 (over 35 years ago), Cables seemed to be

trying out a stylistic approach. Over the years Cables playing has evolved quite a bit. He plays beautifully on many recordings.

Though Cables playing on Night Ballads is by no means my favorite example of his piano solo work, the album still is a success.

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And he credits Dexter for encouraging him to play however he likes.

Yeah, this whole thing is a bandleader issue, not a George Cables issue. Dexter could've let him go or told him to not do that, this is my gig, ok, here's what I want, what you're doing is starting to bug me, can we make this work?

The one time I saw Dexter live was with Kirk Lightsey, but every number was this epic "symphonic" thing, nothing was just "a tune" if you know what I mean. Hell, sometimes the codas were, like, all new compositions themselves, or so it seemed. So Dexter had this panoramic thing that he wanted, obviously.

One of the (many) things I like about George Cables is that he seems to be into play different leaders' gigs as individual experiences, not a generic show up and play jazz piano thing. So I really think that if he was going someplace Dexter wasn't happy with, it would have ended sooner than it did.

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I think "RUINS" is a little harsh ... but you're entitled to your opinion.

I've seen Cables quite a bit - both with Dexter and more recently with The Cookers. He always seems very accomplished and professional. Maybe not the most innovative player on the planet, but he never "ruins" a performance, either.

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Dan, I totally agree with you about Cables with Dex. I hear the same pattern on most tunes: Dex gets a nice thing going, then when Cables starts to solo, the whole tune stops and tries to turn into a George Cables showcase. So many arpeggios, and it seems less about the tune than about Cables. This pattern also mars much of Live at Carnegie Hall, though Dex always redeems it.

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Well, I can understand some of your opinions about George Cables playing ballads on Dexter´s albums/shows.
George got his own style, maybe he is not always my first choice, but I can recognize him after just a few bars. Too many arpeggios, yes, but it obviously was part of the "show". Look, it was latterday Dex, and like most artists torwards the end of their career they got a special standard program how they manage to get through a show.

I saw so many artists torwards the end of their career, and whatever style or generation or stage manner, they have a standard routine. And part of the show is the showcase for one special band member. It could be Foley doing his stuff on "New Blues", which always was the 2nd number of the show, from the early 80´s until 1991, it could be 20 or more chorusses of John Hicks´ piano on Pharoah´s up tempo showcase "Dr. Pitt", it could be Don Pullen doing everything from stride to Cecil Taylor on Mingus´ Sue´s Changes, it might be the organ solo during Lou Donaldson´s "Midnight Creeper", ........

.....and it is George Cables when his "ballad" turn comes. Anyway, as much as I remember, there where 2 or 2 ballads he played, "More Than You Know", "As Time Goes By", and sometimes as an encore Body and Soul.

Well, George Cables, seeming endless arpeggios, and part of the show was during the end of his rubato solo, when they play a few bars in time until Dexter comes back for the theme and his long solo candenza....., you bought the tickets and knew exactly what will happen.....

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Well, I can understand some of your opinions about George Cables playing ballads on Dexter´s albums/shows.

George got his own style, maybe he is not always my first choice, but I can recognize him after just a few bars. Too many arpeggios, yes, but it obviously was part of the "show". Look, it was latterday Dex, and like most artists torwards the end of their career they got a special standard program how they manage to get through a show.

I saw so many artists torwards the end of their career, and whatever style or generation or stage manner, they have a standard routine. And part of the show is the showcase for one special band member. It could be Foley doing his stuff on "New Blues", which always was the 2nd number of the show, from the early 80´s until 1991, it could be 20 or more chorusses of John Hicks´ piano on Pharoah´s up tempo showcase "Dr. Pitt", it could be Don Pullen doing everything from stride to Cecil Taylor on Mingus´ Sue´s Changes, it might be the organ solo during Lou Donaldson´s "Midnight Creeper", ........

.....and it is George Cables when his "ballad" turn comes. Anyway, as much as I remember, there where 2 or 2 ballads he played, "More Than You Know", "As Time Goes By", and sometimes as an encore Body and Soul.

Well, George Cables, seeming endless arpeggios, and part of the show was during the end of his rubato solo, when they play a few bars in time until Dexter comes back for the theme and his long solo candenza....., you bought the tickets and knew exactly what will happen.....

You make some good points. Of course, in any given Gordon set there would have been one ballad feature. On this CD it's all ballads, all taken from various sets. So while someone may not like George's playing on this set (I do), it's certainly wasn't like this on every tune, not by any stretch. And I heard this band live. It was great.

Your post also reminded me of something that I think John Lewis(!) once said - to the effect that though jazz is an improvised music, there is usually far less real improvisation going on than we think. There's generally a standard routine which is mostly worked out ahead of time (even before the tour begins) and for the musicians at least, there are few surprises. And he wasn't just talking about the MJQ.

Edited by John Tapscott

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Yes, I agree with John that this CD in particular concentrates the elements of Cables' playing that aggravates me so much.

Of course it is true that Dex felt no need to tell George to change, and kept him in the piano chair for a period of time. I just prefer ballads to played as ballads and what George does to them is not remotely ballad-like IMHO. So when I say "ruins" the record it's not really hyperbole. When I got in the car last night and listened to the rest of the CD, I realized that if I take this one out again, it's only going to be in the car, where the 'seek' button is just an arm's length away, and I can make it as if George was hardly on the bandstand at all.

Actually, listening to him in seek mode, it almost sounded like music. :P

Kidding. Sort of.

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So here we are in late ’77, and this famous great quartet with Dexter and Rufus and Eddie Gladden.

Night Ballads : Dexter Gordon Quartet : Dexter Gordon (ts) George Cables (p) Rufus Reid (b) Eddie Gladden (d) Live "The Rising Sun", Montreal, PQ, Canada, November 9, 1977

GC: Yeah!

EI: Now what was Eddie Gladden’s story, where was he from?

GC: He was from Newark, and I don’t think he left there a lot, but boy, could he play! I think at first Billy Hart played a gig or something, then Victor Lewis played, but Victor I think was playing with Woody. I don’t know who sent Eddie Gladden, maybe it was Woody because they were both from Newark, but man, when Eddie Gladden came, he lit a fire under that rhythm section, that was it.

Because there were different personalities. Rufus would play up on top sometimes, he’d play all over the bass, you know. And I think everybody had their role, but we all fit somehow. We all got in there and fit. And Eddie was a key guy. But everyone was key in that, everyone filled a role, and did stuff that to me was really amazing. And then Rufus started some stuff, he’d stop playing, it’s a ballad and it becomes solo piano. I decide to play and Rufus stops, and then Eddie stops, and then it’s solo piano. So I said, well I’m just going to play some stuff, so I’d play in, out of time, and then brought the time back in. And Dex was probably like “What the hell are they doing? What the hell’s going on now?”

But Dexter was really good that way, he would really encourage and allow you space to do your thing. So we did that once, and then we did it the next time, and that became a part of the deal. So Dexter was instrumental in doing it, letting me play a little more solo piano. Because I was afraid of playing solo piano in those days, you know. Because as I said, I’m thinking about being a part of the rhythm section, not solo piano. But little by little, I got more joy out of it. Even when I’m playing solo piano at home, I’m thinking about playing with the band, but now I just get a lot of joy out of playing piano, you know, not playing this style, that style, having to play solo piano. Just playing the piano, not missing anybody, I’m just going to play the piano.

EI: Right, beautiful.

GC: That’s the way I think about it, and Dexter had a good part in that.

http://dothemath.typepad.com/dtm/interview-with-george-cables-2.html

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This thread inspired me to pull out Night Ballads again, which I've been meaning to do anyway. As I hear it, the group had a certain concept of playing ballads that was refreshingly different, and George's comments in the liner notes are pretty illuminating regarding his and the group's approach. I quite enjoy listening to his Tatum-esque (and melodic) solos juxtaposed next to Dexter's more relaxed playing. George Cables always adds something special to an album, and Night Ballads is further proof of that.

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This thread inspired me to pull out Night Ballads again, which I've been meaning to do anyway. As I hear it, the group had a certain concept of playing ballads that was refreshingly different, and George's comments in the liner notes are pretty illuminating regarding his and the group's approach. I quite enjoy listening to his Tatum-esque (and melodic) solos juxtaposed next to Dexter's more relaxed playing. George Cables always adds something special to an album, and Night Ballads is further proof of that.

I have to say I disagree with this, unless you really mean 'the trio'. As I listened to the CD yesterday I was struck by the fact that Cables' comping behind Dexter's lovely playing didn't aggravate or distract. He supported Dexter's conception, as he's supposed to. But when Dexter stops and George starts blowing, it's something different entirely and IMHO it's unmelodic and un-ballad like.

Mileage varies, Dex must have liked it, blah blah blah. Doesn't mean everyone has to approve. At least me and Mjzee don't.

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Well, I can understand some of your opinions about George Cables playing ballads on Dexter´s albums/shows.

George got his own style, maybe he is not always my first choice, but I can recognize him after just a few bars. Too many arpeggios, yes, but it obviously was part of the "show". Look, it was latterday Dex, and like most artists torwards the end of their career they got a special standard program how they manage to get through a show.

I saw so many artists torwards the end of their career, and whatever style or generation or stage manner, they have a standard routine. And part of the show is the showcase for one special band member. It could be Foley doing his stuff on "New Blues", which always was the 2nd number of the show, from the early 80´s until 1991, it could be 20 or more chorusses of John Hicks´ piano on Pharoah´s up tempo showcase "Dr. Pitt", it could be Don Pullen doing everything from stride to Cecil Taylor on Mingus´ Sue´s Changes, it might be the organ solo during Lou Donaldson´s "Midnight Creeper", ........

.....and it is George Cables when his "ballad" turn comes. Anyway, as much as I remember, there where 2 or 2 ballads he played, "More Than You Know", "As Time Goes By", and sometimes as an encore Body and Soul.

Well, George Cables, seeming endless arpeggios, and part of the show was during the end of his rubato solo, when they play a few bars in time until Dexter comes back for the theme and his long solo candenza....., you bought the tickets and knew exactly what will happen.....

You make some good points. Of course, in any given Gordon set there would have been one ballad feature. On this CD it's all ballads, all taken from various sets. So while someone may not like George's playing on this set (I do), it's certainly wasn't like this on every tune, not by any stretch. And I heard this band live. It was great.

Your post also reminded me of something that I think John Lewis(!) once said - to the effect that though jazz is an improvised music, there is usually far less real improvisation going on than we think. There's generally a standard routine which is mostly worked out ahead of time (even before the tour begins) and for the musicians at least, there are few surprises. And he wasn't just talking about the MJQ.

That´s it ! It´s a ballad album. Maybe the next set should be an album just with medium tempo tunes. Medium tempo, thats George Cables at his best. Tunes like Cheese Cake, Fried Bananas, and above all "The Panther". I heard George playing fantastic things on that stuff. The way how he´s more laid back , more loose at the beginning of his solo, and then how he creates the tension, how he builds his solo . full of surprises. The audience went nuts, they loved it..... Make an album just with medium tempos, and people will praise it.

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Well, I can understand some of your opinions about George Cables playing ballads on Dexter´s albums/shows.

George got his own style, maybe he is not always my first choice, but I can recognize him after just a few bars. Too many arpeggios, yes, but it obviously was part of the "show". Look, it was latterday Dex, and like most artists torwards the end of their career they got a special standard program how they manage to get through a show.

I saw so many artists torwards the end of their career, and whatever style or generation or stage manner, they have a standard routine. And part of the show is the showcase for one special band member. It could be Foley doing his stuff on "New Blues", which always was the 2nd number of the show, from the early 80´s until 1991, it could be 20 or more chorusses of John Hicks´ piano on Pharoah´s up tempo showcase "Dr. Pitt", it could be Don Pullen doing everything from stride to Cecil Taylor on Mingus´ Sue´s Changes, it might be the organ solo during Lou Donaldson´s "Midnight Creeper", ........

.....and it is George Cables when his "ballad" turn comes. Anyway, as much as I remember, there where 2 or 2 ballads he played, "More Than You Know", "As Time Goes By", and sometimes as an encore Body and Soul.

Well, George Cables, seeming endless arpeggios, and part of the show was during the end of his rubato solo, when they play a few bars in time until Dexter comes back for the theme and his long solo candenza....., you bought the tickets and knew exactly what will happen.....

You make some good points. Of course, in any given Gordon set there would have been one ballad feature. On this CD it's all ballads, all taken from various sets. So while someone may not like George's playing on this set (I do), it's certainly wasn't like this on every tune, not by any stretch. And I heard this band live. It was great.

Your post also reminded me of something that I think John Lewis(!) once said - to the effect that though jazz is an improvised music, there is usually far less real improvisation going on than we think. There's generally a standard routine which is mostly worked out ahead of time (even before the tour begins) and for the musicians at least, there are few surprises. And he wasn't just talking about the MJQ.

That´s it ! It´s a ballad album. Maybe the next set should be an album just with medium tempo tunes. Medium tempo, thats George Cables at his best. Tunes like Cheese Cake, Fried Bananas, and above all "The Panther". I heard George playing fantastic things on that stuff. The way how he´s more laid back , more loose at the beginning of his solo, and then how he creates the tension, how he builds his solo . full of surprises. The audience went nuts, they loved it..... Make an album just with medium tempos, and people will praise it.

Don't know whether such a compilation will ever be released, but there's this one which is more along those lines, not entirely, but closer.

MI0000611340.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

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This thread inspired me to pull out Night Ballads again, which I've been meaning to do anyway. As I hear it, the group had a certain concept of playing ballads that was refreshingly different, and George's comments in the liner notes are pretty illuminating regarding his and the group's approach. I quite enjoy listening to his Tatum-esque (and melodic) solos juxtaposed next to Dexter's more relaxed playing. George Cables always adds something special to an album, and Night Ballads is further proof of that.

I agree. I'm listening to it currently, and I very much like Cables' playing here. In fact, it's often quite amazing. To me it's not a distraction at all, but yet another attraction of this fine group.

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It would be most likely too harsh stating that George Cables ruins a performance/recording. Nevertheless, as me being a dedicated Art Pepper follower, comparable impressions come to my mind like expressed in the openening post. George Cables was Art`s pianist for a number of recordings and tours and so for instance on his much heralded "Live at the Village Vanguard" records for Contemporary. I never felt comfortable with this and credited it inter alias also to Elvin Jones (running his own thing ?)......more than a year ago Laurie Pepper made available a tape showcasing Art Pepper @The Village Vanguard a couple of weeks before the Contemporary recordings

http://artpepper.bandcamp.com/album/first-night-at-the-village-vanguard

with a rhythm section consisting of Onaje Allen Gumbs (p) Gene Perla (b) and Joe LaBarbara (dr). Gumb`s playing is sensitive, imaginative but challenging for Pepper at the same time and the Perla/LaBarbara tandem grant an excellent backbone. For my taste it`s a pity, that the Contemporary recording didn`t feature these musicians at work.....

Cables was Pepper`s pianist on most of the Galaxy recordings, but alternatively Pepper played with his love/hate relationship Milcho Leviev and IMO the recordings with the later ("Live at Ronnie Scott`s"...) are reflecting the tension beetween both artists, bringing the best out of them...an impression i don`t get from Pepper`s Galaxy recordings.....

So probably this is also about George Cables...just my 5 cent worth...

Edited by soulpope

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Paul Desmond used to call pianists, 'assassins', because he'd feel like he was being shot at when he was trying to solo, especially on ballads.

That's why he only used guitarists like Jim Hall and Ed Bickert on his small group records, when he finally broke free from that master assassin of all, Dave Brubeck

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I always feel bad criticizing jazz musicians who are still alive.

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On 2/15/2015, 3:52:21, soulpope said:

It would be most likely too harsh stating that George Cables ruins a performance/recording. Nevertheless, as me being a dedicated Art Pepper follower, comparable impressions come to my mind like expressed in the openening post. George Cables was Art`s pianist for a number of recordings and tours and so for instance on his much heralded "Live at the Village Vanguard" records for Contemporary. I never felt comfortable with this and credited it inter alias also to Elvin Jones (running his own thing ?)......more than a year ago Laurie Pepper made available a tape showcasing Art Pepper @The Village Vanguard a couple of weeks before the Contemporary recordings

 

http://artpepper.bandcamp.com/album/first-night-at-the-village-vanguard

 

with a rhythm section consisting of Onaje Allen Gumbs (p) Gene Perla (b) and Joe LaBarbara (dr). Gumb`s playing is sensitive, imaginative but challenging for Pepper at the same time and the Perla/LaBarbara tandem grant an excellent backbone. For my taste it`s a pity, that the Contemporary recording didn`t feature these musicians at work.....

 

Cables was Pepper`s pianist on most of the Galaxy recordings, but alternatively Pepper played with his love/hate relationship Milcho Leviev and IMO the recordings with the later ("Live at Ronnie Scott`s"...) are reflecting the tension beetween both artists, bringing the best out of them...an impression i don`t get from Pepper`s Galaxy recordings.....

 

So probably this is also about George Cables...just my 5 cent worth...

Picking up an old conversation...

I've been on a bit of an Art Pepper kick lately, and I can't imagine a better match for Pepper than Cables.  Along with the Vanguard recordings, there's No Limit -- with those raw ballads, "My Laurie" and "The Ballad of the Sad Young Men," and -- most especially -- the two final Pepper/Cables duet records, Goin' Home and Tête-à-tête.  So I don't have don't have any trouble understanding why Pepper called Cables "Mr. Beautiful."

I like Cables with Dexter too, especially Manhattan Symphonie.  But I'm not nearly as familiar with those recordings as I am with the Pepper/Cables stuff.

That said, I love reading all these disparate responses. Just goes to show: Beauty really is in the ear of the behearer. :)  

Lastly, on a slightly related note: I love the mid-70s Woody Shaw/Louis Hayes band, and I especially dig that band's pianist, Ronnie Mathews. I think he's WAY under-regarded. But I don't think that group -- and especially Mathews -- gel with Dexter. Too much rat-a-tat-tat-tat busy-ness. Dexter's at his best when he's got room to breathe. ...That's probably how many of you feel about Cables, eh?!?!?! ;) 

Edited by HutchFan

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I would have preferred Stanley Cowell.

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Cowell sounds good with Pepper on this record:

MI0001666673.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

Or were you referring to Cowell with Dexter? :) 

Edited by HutchFan

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4 hours ago, Chuck Nessa said:

I would have preferred Stanley Cowell.

could be assessed via

bdebe07f9d.jpg

 

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