Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|J.R. Monterose & Tommy Flanagan|
A Little Pleasure
Genres: Jazz, Pop
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A Little Pleasure? No, pleasure without limit.
A Music Fan | san jose, costa rica | 09/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Think of great sax and piano duets. From my own by no means universal knowledge of the genre, two classic examples come to mind: Art Pepper-George Cables and Stan Getz-Kenny Barron. To that list I would add JR Monterose-Tommy Flanagan. Flanagan, of course, needs no puffing from me. For a half century he was one of the top five (of a changing cast) of jazz pianists, a prized accompanist and a brilliant, stylistically versatile soloist. JR, however, belongs to the ranks of great players who somehow never gained the acclaim that was due them, players like Lucky Thompson, Brew Moore and Frank Strozier to name just a few. In a small, but distinguished discography, he proves over and over again his worth as a player and a composer. Respected critics (Feather, Hentoff) uniformly praised his work, his first date as a leader was produced by Alfred Lion , and the caliber of musicians-the Buddy Rich and Claude Thornhill big bands, Flanagan (a life long friend), Kenny Dorham, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver and Teddy Charles-with whom he played attests to his musical ability. But a curious restlessness afflicted his career, marked as it was by long stints in places as far out of the jazz mainstream as Belgium, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Albany, New York. And in the end, he became the definitive forgotten man, his death in 1993 going unnoticed by the jazz press, as the liner notes to one of his re-issued recordings sadly recounts.
I am still assembling what I hope will ultimately be the entire JR catalogue, but I cannot imagine when I have finished the task any of his work will please my ears more than "A Little Pleasure." It was recorded in 1981 when JR came over from his Albany gig to sit in with his old friend who was playing a solo stand in Schenectady and the two ended up going into the studio together. The result is some of the most beautifully empathetic music-making I have ever heard. With the added bonus of hearing JR's masterful and only recorded work on soprano (on his own composition "A Little Pleasure," Coltrane's "Central Park West" and the standard "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square"). It is a duet in the truest sense of the word, two voices complementing each other perfectly while simultaneously blending into a mutually respectful and (how else to put it) genuinely affectionate whole.
There is not a single cut among the eight offerings (seven ballads and one up tempo JR original, "Vinnie's Pad," which sounds a bit like a reworking on the chord changes of an earlier composition of his entitled "Waltz for Claire") that I would forego, so well integrated are the performances. Still I would single out for special mention the pair's work on "Central Park West." This balladic variation on the "Giant Steps" theme by John Coltrane, a musician JR admired without reservation, was one he would record again in 1988 as a live date for Danish radio in Copenhagen's Jazzhus, fronting a quartet with his tenor. (And with his name unfortunately misspelled as "Montrose," making this excellent re-issue entitled "T.T.T" all but impossible to find on the Amazon website). Indeed, it is both instructive and rewarding to compare the two performances of this work by way of getting a handle on JR's versatility, both technical and interpretive.
I've lived in New York City for more than forty years and know CPW in all its diurnal and seasonal guises, but even if I didn't it would be plain from just listening that in the two separate readings JR has painted two very different tone portraits. With Flanagan's subtle, impeccably nuanced support, his soprano captures that stately boulevard on a crisp, bright and bracing early morning in late autumn, its cobblestoned walkway strewn thick with fallen parti-colored leaves. On tenor, however, he evokes the promenade in the glow of arc lamps after midnight on a sultry summer night, stretching out with his quartet so we can hear the strains of bop floating uptown from the fabled (but long vanished) clubs on 52nd Street.
As a writer, I constantly listen to music as background while I work, subliminally digging the sounds as I peck away on my keyboard. But there are the occasional discs that simply refuse to accept the role of soundtrack, that demand my complete and undivided attention, that bid me pause in my own self-indulgently mundane doings and partake of the transcendent. "A Little Pleasure" is one of these.