All compositions by Stan Tracey
Tempo De Trout - Stan Tracey Quartet
Now - Stan Tracey Solo
Mr. Stud - Stan Tracey Sextet
A Rose Without A Thorn - Stan Tracey/Tony
Spectrum No.2 - Stan Tracey Octe
Quartet: Art Themen - tnr. Stan Tracey - pn. Roy Babbington
- d.bs. Clark Tracey dms.
Sextet: Tony Coe - tnr. Art Themen - tnr. Don Weller - tnr. Stan Tracey - pn. Roy Babbington - d.bs. Clark Tracey - dms.
Octet: Art Themen - sop. Peter King - alto. Don Weller - tnr. Harry Beckett - tpt. Malcolm Griffiths - tmbn. Stan Tracey - pn. Roy Babbington - d.bs. Clark Tracey - dms/perc.
Recording produced by Stan and Jackie Tracey for Steam Record Company. Notes: © John Fordham
The release of this album, and an anniversary concert featuring all the musicians on it, is Stan Tracey's way of celebrating 40 years 'in the business'. No expression could better personify the forthright and practical approach of one of this country's most inventive jazz artists. Tracey comes from the kind of school for which - despite Arts Council grants, bouquets from the posh papers, festival commissions, 'serious' acclaim and all the rest of it - life is always 'the business'.
This off-handedness about artistry neatly complements the idiosyncratic, muscular and vital musical style that is the Tracey trademark. His work has been both an absorption of the piano techniques that were dominant in the jazz of the '40s and '50s and a synthesis of bold, percussive effects, shunting boxcars of clanging chords, drama, humour and eccentricities entirely Tracey's own. He is able to function as a spikily boppish swinger in a small group (listen to Tempo De Trout on this album, a typical Tracey tune in which all the phrases end on notes hanging crazily in space), as a composer of unexpectedly glossy and purring miniature orchestral themes for outfits from sextets to big bands, and as an open and resourceful improviser. All his favourite devices as a soloist are present in the unaccompanied piece Now, particularly the audacious use of activity and silence, the richness of melodic contrasts between the left and right hands (a legacy of both Monk and Duke Ellington), the insinuation of the chord progression so that it appears to be forming slowly as the tune progresses, like a photograph in development, and an irresistable swing.
Despite the fact that he's a great keyboard innovator, Stan Tracey has never been simply preoccupied with playing the piano according to some conveniently inherited idiom, particularly since a large chunk of bop was founded on the precept that every instrument in the band ought to sound like Charlie Parker's saxophone. Monk's way of working at the piano - a tough, fractious, gritty and unvarnished procedure - was more about the instrument than the idiom, and it was this common sense about pianistic virtues that appealed to Tracey. What was important, he once said, were 'the things that the piano can do better than anything else'.
Already equipped with a distinctive technique and independence of mind, Tracey then absorbed an extraordinary wealth of jazz ideas from some of the greatest players at work in the 1960s. As the house pianist at Ronnie Scott's Club for seven years, he worked with Sonny Rollins, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Lucky Thompson, Don Byas and many others, and exposed himself to influences at first hand that galvanised his knowledge and his creativity. It was during this period that Sonny Rollins, after a stint with Tracey, was moved to enquire: 'does anybody here know how good he really is?'
'Forty years in the business' makes Stan Tracey sound older than he is, but he's one of those lucky souls whom the years touch lightly - a product of his curiosity and openness to variety and new developments.
The sidemen on this album reflect it, being of many different musical persuasions - from the lyrical and sensitive improvisers like Harry Beckett and Tony Coe, to tough, Rollins-like performers such as Art Themen and ingenious mixers of the sublime and the fearsome like Don Weller. A younger generation still, hard on the pianist's heels, is present in the shape of Tracey's son Clark on drums.
This album is a fine invocation of the breadth of Stan Tracey's talents as a pianist and a jazz composer. Not only will it give you a lot of pleasure, but it will also help you to recall that Tracey's 40 years as a pro have included years in which he helped put British jazz on the map. For that, no tribute can be fulsome enough.