"Larry Young In Paris" From Resonance Records A Must Have

Over the past decade or so vinyl-loving jazz enthusiasts have been treated to a series of previously unreleased but significant recordings discovered under beds, in closets and in the vaults of European radio stations. Some were never before heard. Others were bootlegged from radio broadcasts.

Back in 2005 Classic Records/Impulse released One Down, One Up, Coltrane Live at the Half Note using tapes found in a Coltrane family closet. Bootlegs of these performance had for years been widely circulated among jazz musicians.

In 2009 Mosaic returned to vinyl with The Complete Thelonious Monk at The It Club previously issued on CD in the late ‘90s.

In 2012 Resonance Records issued a previously unreleased Bill Evans set recorded live at The Top of the Gate.

And for this April’s Record Store Day Sam Records delivers a previously unreleased Thelonious Monk recording that just arrived here and will shortly be reviewed.

All of this, not forgetting the new jazz on vinyl plus the reissues of Prestige, Blue Note and other classic titles, comes at a time when jazz is supposedly losing its audience. Perhaps just as Hip-Hop saved the record pressing plants in the early ‘90s, vinyl will help create a new generation of jazz enthusiasts—not that the ones already onboard and buying CDs haven’t been treated to all of these and more by Resonance and others.

Resonance is a young label started by George Klabin, who back in 1968 as a 22 year old Director of Jazz Programming at Columbia University’s WKCR-FM, engineered the Bill Evans Village Gate set. Resonance general manager Zev Feldman is the man behind many of the label’s most impressive finds and releases. Often it’s possible to find tapes but not get the necessary clearances. Mr. Feldman seems to find a way (he’s also responsible for discovering the Sam Records Monk title).

Normally I’d write that if you’re unfamiliar with an artist, perhaps you should start with one of his or her best known releases, which for post-bop B-3 virtuoso Larry Young would probably be the Music Matters reissue of Unity on Blue Note recorded before Young traveled to France and participated in these recordings. However, here I’d say get this superbly produced release both for the positively fibrillating music and for the encyclopedic annotation, the combination of which will have you ordering every Larry Young album you can get your hands on including his Tony Williams Lifetime albums and whichever one you can find that includes his May 14th 1969 Record Plant jam with Jimi Hendrix, Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell (I have it on a Japanese pressing of the posthumous release Jimi Hendrix+Nine to the Universe (Polydor MPF1311). It’s not essential but once you get started…well you know how that works!

The music on this double LP, produced for Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Francaise (ORTF) has not been heard since it was first broadcast in France beginning sometime before December 8th, 1964 and February, 9th 1965 (the “before” is because the studio recording dates are unknown (the dates given are the known editing and broadcast dates).

Mr. Feldman contacted France’s INA (l’Intitut national de l’audiovisuel) a European media archive that includes ORTF’s recordings and requesting a by-artist search, which is why this set includes performances in which Young is both leader of a small combo and a member of The Nathan Davis Quartet and the Jazz aux Champs-Élysées All-Stars—a “pick up” group of ever changing musicians who played on the Musique aux Champs Élysées radio show, a weekly Sunday night event produced and hosted by composer/pianist Jack Diéval, who was also the group’s regular pianist.

Commercially available records were rarely played on the show. Instead Diéval relied upon original recordings produced by public radio stations in other European countries, along with self-produced ones. The band was mostly made up of local talent (including among others the violinst Jean-Luc Ponty) but visiting American musicians like Donald Byrd, Sonny Stitt and Eric Dolphy also sat in.

By the fall of 1964 an octet of regulars had coalesced, all of whom are heard here, including tenor saxophonist Nathan Davis and trumpeter Woody Shaw.

Young joined them towards the end of 1964 in a brand new ORTF studio where the group recorded side “b”’s “La Valse Grise” and “Discothéque”—two loose jams—along with “Talkin’ About J.C.” programmed on the set’s side “a”.

All of this music is worthwhile though you might consider starting on side “d”—especially if you’re familiar with Unity’s opener “Zoltan”, Woody Shaw’s snazzy riff on Zoltan Kodály’s familiar “Háry János Suite”. That version smokes. This one, recorded February 9th 1965 at the annual award presentation of the French music association l’Académie du jazz with the Nathan Davis Quartet (that included Woody Shaw) positively incinerates. According to INA’s Pascal Rozat, the “electric nature” of the performance that evening may have had to do with the announcement made during the ceremony that Malcolm X, who had been scheduled to speak elsewhere in Paris, had, upon landing at Orly Airport, been put on another plane and returned to America.

. This is not to suggest you’ll be disappointed if you start at the very beginning with “Trane of Thought” also by The Nathan Davis Quartet featuring Davis, Shaw, Young and drummer Billy Brooks. Davis’s Trane-like riffs are sure to please.

If you’re not familiar with Young’s playing but have heard a Nice album or an ELP album or heard the late Keith Emerson play anything, you’ve sort of heard Larry Young. The styling similarities are unmistakable. Of course Young came first but the lower register percolating, bubbling, driving sound lives on.

Though of course the main attraction here is the music, the unusually complete and wide-ranging annotation present strong competition. The full-sized twelve page booklet includes notes by producer Feldman, a bio and career perspective by Young’s son Larry Young III, an illuminating sidestep from John Koenig (whose father Lester founded Contemporary Records) who writes about Young’s first piano teacher Olga Von Till who had been a student of Béla Bartók and the aforementioned Pascal Rozat who fills in the historical perspective surrounding the recording dates.

Feldman interviews André Francis who produced the Jazz sur scene awards event broadcasts and who we find out here was the actual producer of Bill Evans’ final Paris concert on November 26th, 1979 released in 1983 in two parts by Elektra Musician as Bill Evans The Paris Concert and just reissued by ORG on double 45rpm vinyl cut by Bernie Grundman from analog tape. The album credits list as the producer Yves Abiteboul. Not so says Francis. He was the producer. What’s more, he says, he was the promoter of Evans’ first Paris concert in 1965, which he did despite being warned by the radio station’s directors that Evans was “an uninteresting cocktail pianist.”

Michael Cuscuna (no introduction necessary) interviews Kansas City native Nathan Davis, Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw, III writes about his father and Young’s time in Paris as well as the turbulent time during which this music was created. There are also short reminiscences by John McLaughlin and the late Jack Bruce.

That’s followed by a fascinating interview Feldman conducts with organist Dr. Lonnie Smith (not to be confused with keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith). Finally Feldman talks about Young with John Medeski and then Bill Laswell. Of course the annotation includes many terrific photos. Wow!

So you have here a terrific package of music, history, personal recollections, Francis Wolff photographs (including six glossy postcard+ sized ones in an envelope) beautifully presented and all that’s left to discuss is the sound and pressing quality.

The recordings are all in excellent mono. Even the live tracks sound very good. Everything was transferred at 96/24 resolution from the original tapes—necessitated by the archival nature of the recordings plus I think the producer prefers this method for compiling tracks. Bernie Grundman cut and R.T.I. pressed.

This set is limited to 2000 copies. I urge you to get one of them. You will listen, learn and love it. .

halloween jack's picture

Incredible set. On sale for $30 over at Mosaic Records right now....

Bluejimbop's picture

For giving Organ Jazz some love.
This is a great package all the way around. I feel fortunate to have it in my collection.

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Findog3103's picture

Mono, right?

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BillBr's picture

Thank you for reporting on this title and the others above. Any quality and properly attributed release of new, historical jazz music is greatly appreciated by us listeners as well as I'm sure the families of the artists involved.
Notwithstanding the significance of these tapes and their subsequent near miraculous release in a pure analog format, I have to comment that the quality of pressings these titles receive is much less than ideal and speaks to a large problem in the current marketplace for new LP pressings. I am currently on my 2nd copy of the Larry Young in Paris title, both of which have serious defects.
Dished, off center, ghosting, nofill, and warps have made it all but impossible to enjoy listening to this set pressed at RTI. The folks at Resonance Records have been wonderful and sent the second copy immediately with assurances it would be from a different batch and inspected but to no improvement in the end.
I must throw in the labels as well with the plants if they both refuse to control the quality of their pressings. At $50 and up, sometimes way up, these issues are paramount to the continued success of premium quality vinyl in the marketplace.
Michael, would you please consider reporting on this in the future with greater frequency(and amplitude;)in your columns as we all know your voice is heard by the industry in these matters. I for one am tired of seeing the same issue raised over and again in different forums where it seems the only ones' listening are the chorus.
Thank You,
Bill Brasile