Take Fifty

The year is 1960. Depending on release dates, the jazz world is one year removed from albums that will shape the way jazz and jazz musicians and even all musicians across all genres thinks, plays, composes and gains world wide acceptance.

Last year marks the 50th anniversary of 1959 – the most celebrated and written about year in jazz. Every major publication has written about the year1959 and the effect it has had on the jazz world with stories on the albums released, the artists who released them and the impact they all had on the jazz.
Everyone by now knows that Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and Bill Evan’s Portrait of Jazz (which basically set the standard for the jazz trio) and Charles Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um were all released in 1959 and have all made a significant impact on how we listen and compose jazz music, but what about 1960? What about one year later?
With the possible exception of Brubeck, who would follow-up his exploration of different time signatures in his 1962 album Countdown: Time in Outer Space and Bill Evans who did not releasing an album in 1960, most critics and jazz fans believe these albums by Davis and Coltrane are better than the predecessors. These albums draw on what they have learned in the past, explored, plotted out, displayed to your ears and are now either moving in a separate direction or are expanding on previous 1959 work.
Davis’ Sketches of Spain is often regarded as his most romantic work. With the help of arranger Gil Evans, Davis (along with Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb and Elvin Jones) explores more defined harmonic changes and romantic tonalities. If it were not for Kind of Blue and the modal tunings, there might not have been Sketches of Spain. If it were not for Sketches of Spain, there might not have been romance in jazz.
With recording dates listed as October 24 – 26th, 1960, Coltrane Plays the Blues and Coltrane’s Sound are blueprints of what would become later works like My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. These albums give Coltrane a chance to start to explore his inner voicing’s, without the constraints of Davis and others directing ‘Trane.
When asked by bassists, no matter what genre they play and compose in, who influenced them, Charles Mingus generally tops the lists (along with James Jamerson). Mingus at Antibes could possible be the “Bassist’s Bible” to how to compose and play and feature bass player without leaning on the chords from a piano player (though hard bop pianist Bud Powell sits in for one number) and supported by an-star cast of Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet, flute and alto, Ted Curson on trumpet and Dannie Richmond on drums and also in the mix is the tenor of Booker Ervin.
Will 1960 be as celebrated as the 50th anniversary in 2010 or will it just fall by the wayside like say 1987 did. Fifty years after these historical and influential 1960 releases, they still stand the testament of time and the testament of sound. Thanks to 1950 and 1960, jazz has taken giant steps and without the sketches from these artists and legends, anything album that came afterwards may not have been a few of your favorite things.

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Brenton Plourde