Relaunched FiveFour Label Offers Rare Jazz Classics from Ornette Coleman, Luis Bonfá, Gary Burton
FiveFour, the jazz-oriented sister label of Cherry Red’s él imprint, had lain dormant since 2008 following releases by some of the genre’s greatest artists including Bill Evans, Buddy Rich and Milt Jackson. Founder Mike Alway has just reactivated FiveFour, however, and the label has just relaunched with three long out-of-print titles drawn from the Sony Music archives: Ornette Coleman’s Chappaqua Suite (1965), The Gary Burton Quartet’s In Concert (1968) and a two-fer from Luis Bonfá: The New Face of Bonfa (1970) and Introspection (1972).
The most demanding of the three titles, and perhaps the most rewarding for some listeners, is doubtless Coleman’s Chappaqua Suite. Free jazz pioneer Coleman was commissioned by director Conrad Rooks to compose a score to his film Chappaqua, a soon-to-be underground classic exploring Rooks’ drug addiction. The motion picture, released in 1967, featured appearances by Coleman (as the Peyote Eater) alongside other icons like William S. Burroughs (Opium Jones), Allen Ginsberg (Messie) and Ravi Shankar (Dieu de Soleil). But Rooks ultimately decided against using Coleman’s score, fearing it would overpower the film itself. Chappaqua’s music was provided in the end by Shankar and The Fugs; Fugs leader Ed Sanders also appeared in the movie. Columbia Records went ahead and issued Coleman’s intended score as Chappaqua Suite in 1965, before the actual film was completed and released.
Chappaqua Suite consists of four lengthy pieces of music, each one which actually took up one full side of the original double-LP set. Coleman, on alto saxophone and trumpet, is joined by David Izenson on bass and Charles Moffett on drums, plus Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone (on the fourth segment) as well as a studio orchestra arranged by Joseph Tekula. (The liner notes credited “eleven studio musicians.”) Taken as a whole, Chappaqua Suite certainly is a rather overpowering composition, typical of Coleman’s free jazz style but with a unique sound thanks to the presence of the orchestra. It can turn on a dime from pastoral to clattering, disturbing to swinging. Though heavily improvised and light on traditional melody and changes, Coleman’s control is never in question. It’s fierce and unrelenting, and if it’s not for everybody, it’s an expression of the saxophonist/composer’s singular, and influential, vision. FiveFour quotes Coleman: “I didn’t need to worry about keys, chords, [or] melody if I had that emotion that brought tears and laughter to people’s hearts.”] The original Columbia album was withdrawn from the catalogue shortly after its release, and has not been widely available since then, making FiveFour’s reissue most worthy, indeed!
After the jump: Bonfa’s bossa nova and Burton’s good, good, good vibes! Plus: track listings, pre-order links and more!
Today, vibraphonist Gary Burton is recognized as one of the pioneers of jazz fusion as well as an innovative stylist (with his four-mallet technique rather than the more typical two-mallet) and an influential educator. Signed to RCA Victor in 1961 as “the new vibe man in town” (as the album cover went!), Burton launched a new quartet in 1967 to explore new avenues in jazz. He was joined by bassist Steve Swallow, drummer Roy Haynes (shortly replaced by Bobby Moses) and perhaps his most key collaborator, guitarist Larry Coryell. Coryell’s rock guitar proved the perfect foil for Burton’s vibes on early fusion albums like 1967’s Duster (with Haynes) and Lofty Fake Anagram (with Moses) and 1968’s In Concert, now receiving its first-ever CD release outside of Japan.
In Concert was recorded for RCA and would prove to be Burton’s penultimate album for the label. It preserved the quartet’s performance of February 23, 1968 at New York’s Carnegie Recital Hall, today known as Weill Recital Hall. Its seven compositions include three by Burton solo, one by Burton and Coryell, one by Coryell solo, one by Michael Gibbs, and one, most intriguingly, by Bob Dylan: a cover of “I Want You,” from Dylan’s seminal Blonde on Blonde LP. The Burton-composed “Dreams” was actually improvised on the spot, an unaccompanied, free-form solo for the vibraphonist. “One, Two, 1-2-3-4,” credited to Burton and Coryell, was reportedly also a free-form exercise, this time involving the entire quartet. The sound is often quite jubilant, and a unique document of fusion’s early days. Coryell brings a rock influence to the proceedings, and there are even country and folk-esque flourishes throughout the set.
Finally, FiveFour drops two RCA Victor albums from the great guitarist, songwriter and bossa nova pioneer Luis. Bonfá (1922-2001). Along with Antonio Carlos Jobim, the Brazilian composer was on the ground floor of the bossa nova style when he contributed songs to the 1959 Portuguese-language film Black Orpheus including his most famous composition, “Manhãde Carneval.” (Its most famous English lyric may be “A Day in the Life of a Fool,” written by Carl Sigman.) Both before and after Joao Gilberto’s hushed vocals and breezy guitar style evolved samba-canção into bossa nova, Bonfá was at the vanguard of Brazilian music and culture. He had his songs performed by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Perry Como, and recorded songs or even complete albums with Tony Bennett and Stan Getz, as well as the husband-and-wife duo Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Yet Bonfá has frequently lingered in the shadows of the great Jobim. FiveFour’s new two-fer of the all-instrumental albums Introspection and The New Face of Bonfá allows him to stand on his own.
Introspection (1972), recorded in New York City, is sequenced first on the single disc, but was actually the second of the two albums included, chronologically speaking. Every sound on the album has been produced by Bonfá on a guitar, whether the nylon-string acoustic, the electric six-string or his custom-made twelve-string. Its eight compositions are dreamy but deeply felt, accessible, and generally brief, with only one track exceeding five minutes and most hovering around the three-minute mark. Haunting and with a stately, classical-influenced air that is alternately gentle and somber, Introspection shimmers thanks to the guitarist’s crisp and virtuosic playing.
The New Face of Bonfá, his 1970 RCA debut, is a very different animal. Recorded both in New York and Rio de Janeiro, the LP was a conscious effort to gain “crossover” success to a pop audience. To that end, it features Marty Manning’s orchestral arrangements (described in Jerome Reese’s new liner notes as “intrusive,” with “cheesy” strings) on some of the tracks. Though the album is much more a product of its time than Introspection, fans of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, Astrud Gilberto, Claus Ogerman and Eumir Deodato will doubtless find it quite rewarding.
The breathy female vocals and bright flugelhorns on “Window Girl” make for an album opener that could provide the soundtrack to a late-sixties New York fantasy; the waltz “Sofisticada” is in the same vein, again with those wordless vocals supported by horns and flutes. “Helicopter 274” further shows off the composer’s sweeping, cinematic style (even if the sound effects are a bit much!). “For a Distant Love,” swathed in strings, still showcases Bonfa’s fluid guitar as its yearning melody would have been tailor-made for Tony Bennett, Steve Lawrence or Frank Sinatra to have interpreted vocally. It’s altogether one of the loveliest melodies on the album.
Other tracks such as the bluesy, insinuating “Macumba,” the invitingly romantic “Savanarole” and the up-tempo, insistent “Africana” represent a more “pure” Bonfá sound, with the guitarist accompanied by just a small ensemble in his home base of Rio de Janeiro. Male and female voices even join him on “Piexe Bom.” Still other songs were first recorded in Rio with overdubs somewhat uncomfortably added later, in New York, though the art still shines through on the darkly evocative “Medieval” and the aforementioned “Helicopter.” The songs wholly recorded in New York with the orchestra in mind (“Window Girl,” “For a Distant Love,” “Sofisticada”) are actually quite successful pop-bossa numbers and among the album’s most memorable. New Face proves that “commercial” needn’t be a dirty word, as the pop setting simply affords another way to enjoy the man’s music.
Welcome though they are, these reissues are largely no frills, with remastering credits absent and simple design: austere packaging, and simple white labels with uniform design. Jerome Reese provides new liner notes for the Gary Burton and Bonfá discs, while Rafi Zabor writes about Coleman. Original LP notes have been included, as well.
All three FiveFour titles are available now, and can be ordered just below!
Luis Bonfá, Introspection/The New Face of Bonfá (FiveFour 30, 2012)
- Enchanted Mirror
- Summertime Love
- Concerto for Guitar
- Missal (Estudo)
- Adventure in Space
- Window Girl
- For a Distant Love
- Helicopter 274
- Man Alone
- Peixe Bom
Tracks 1-8 from Introspection, RCA Victor FSP-297, 1972
Tracks 9-19 from The New Face of Bonfá, LSP-4376, 1970
The Gary Burton Quartet, Live in Concert (RCA Victor LSP-3985, 1968 – reissued FiveFour 31, 2012)
- Blue Comedy
- The Sunset Bell
- Walter L
- Wrong is Right
- I Want You
- One, Two, 1-2-3-4
Ornette Coleman, Chappaqua Suite (Columbia 66203, 1965 – reissued FiveFour 29, 2012)
- Part I
- Part II
- Part III
- Part IV