Nat Birchall: Alone In The Music
Count Ossie Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari, Grounation (Ashanti, 1973). Count Ossie was the man who developed the burro or nyabhingi style of drumming that is played by rastas at grounation meetings. People like Tommy McCook and [trombonist] Rico Rodriguez would go to his musical gatherings and play jazz horns with the drums. This triple LP is a cornerstone of both my record collection and also my musical world. Many of the tracks feature Cedric "Im" Brooks on tenor saxophone. Big jazz influence on this album, there's even a version of a Charles Lloyd tune, "Passin' Through."
John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964). I think one of the reasons that the first part of Love Supreme, "Acknowledgment," has a resonance beyond the regular jazz audience is because of the bass-line. What is termed an ostinato in jazza repeated bass figureis a mainstay of other music, like reggae or funk, and people react to it. There's also the vocal refrain which is something that's very rare in jazz.
Marvin Gaye, What's Going On (Tamla Motown, 1971). The first side of the record is spell-binding. The way the songs segue into one another is a masterful thing in itself, and the sequence of the songs is perfect too. The writing, arranging and, of course, Marvin's vocals are magnificent. A masterpiece.
Albert Ayler, Nuits De La Fondation Maeght Vol. 2 (Shandar, 1970). This was, I think, [saxophonist] Albert Ayler's last recorded work. He reaches heights of intense yet joyous expression here, although in a more reflective way than in his 1960's work. It's incredibly passionate yet very stately at the same time. Cosmic poetry.
John Coltrane, Creation (Blue Parrot, 1965). This LP has 2 tunes from a Coltrane appearance on a San Francisco TV show, "Alabama" and "Impressions" from 1964, and one tune, "Creation," from the Half-Note club from 1965. "Alabama" was the first piece of music that I heard that really seemed suggestive of something far beyond the actual sound of the music. It was the way that Trane held each note and inflected it, as if he was talking directly to you about something very deep and importantthough I only learned about its actual inspiration later. And the intensity of the title track is mind-blowing. Trane could keep that level of intensity up for long periods of time but always managed to stay completely articulate and soulful all the way through. To see that band in person at that time must have been unbelievable!
Prince Buster All Stars, The Message Dubwise (FAB, 1974). This is the very first dub that I heard. I was completely taken with the way the instruments were in the mix and then out of the mix, with tape echo and all that spaceand spaciness. It was a revelation, an unforgettable moment. Probably this is still my favourite dub LP. The first cut is the deepest.
Frank Wright, One For John (BYG, 1969). The title track of this is still one of my favourite pieces of music. It's very free but hangs together in a very loose way and has a very passionate, soulful expressiveness that had a big effect on me back in the day.
Pete LaRoca, Turkish Women At The Bath (Douglas, 1967). This has one of my all-time heroes on tenor sax, John Gilmore. His solo on the title tune was a big early influence on me, it seems so perfectly logical and impeccably developed and delivered. The album itself has a big Turkish, or at least Eastern, influence to it. Years after discovering it I played for a while with a Turkish drummer, Akay Temiz, and I was struck by the similarity in the arrangements of the traditional tunes we played and the arrangements on this album. I played him the LP and he was knocked out by it. A lot of different music was being done in the 1960s and not all of it was followed up and explored further.
John Coltrane, Afro Blue Impressions (Pablo, 1977). Music from Coltrane's 1963 European tour. This version of "My Favorite Things" is my absolute favorite. Trane plays things on this that I haven't heard him play anywhere else. His statements convey such exceptional joy and beauty that I used to get tears in my eyes listening to it. The band hits such a perfect uplifting groove and sustains it for the full 21 minutes. The tension and inventiveness, from everyone in the band, never lets up.
Nat Birchall, Guiding Spirit (Gondwana, 2010)
Matthew Halsall, Colour Yes (Gondwana, 2009)
Nat Birchall, Akhenaten (Gondwana, 2009)
Matthew Halsall, Sending My Love (Gondwana, 2008)
Nat Birchall, The Sixth Sense (Sixth Sense, 1999)
Elevator, The Crunch (Hot Dots, 1991)
All photos courtesy Nat Birchall