Liner notes by Ira Gitler
Since jazz is a social music, the prevailing atmosphere has much to do with shaping the direction it takes. Jazz is representative of its time and conversely the time must be right for a particular type of jazz expression to receive a thorough and enthusiastic hearing.
When an innovation seems to burst full-blown in our midst, it is actually the result of a long process ofplaying by one or more musicians. Jazz is constantly undergoing change in a dynamic pattern that includes regression and retrenchment as well as progress. It is merely that we often do not perceive change until it is upon us.
If Ornette Coleman has done nothing else since arriving to cause a furor in jazz circles, he has helped to open the way for others who, in their own way, are presenting different ideas. Two alto saxophonists who bear some peripheral similarities to Coleman, although basically taking a more formal approach, are Ken McIntyre and Eric Dolphy.
Coleman discards chord sequences even when he is not playing his own compositions with his own group. I heard him sit in with Clark Terry at the Village Gate one afternoon. They played Charlie Parker's Donna Lee, which is based on the chord sequence of Back Home Again In Indiana. Coleman played Parker's line but his solo choruses were as far from Indiana as Nome, Alaska. McIntyre and Dolphy, while exploring new patterns, stick to the chords, although many of the notes they choose do not relate to a chord in the manner of say a Parker-orientated player. All three saxophonists are concerned with new, freer means of expression and as a result have investigated further possibilities of their common instrument's vocal aspects.
Kenneth Arthur McIntyre was born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 7th 1931. His first musical studies were on piano with a Mrs. Finegold from ages 9 to 14. Then a friend sold him an alto sax for $45.00. Another friend, saxophonist Rodney Smith, showed him the C major scale and Ken was on his way.
McIntyre first heard Charlie Parker in 1946. "Three friends played some Bird records for me. After two and a half weeks I got the message. The greatest lesson I learned from Bird was originality."
Although he could and did whistle Bird's solos by heart, Ken didn't try to copy Parker. His desire to play his own ideas eventually led to his rejection by fellow musicians. He was only accepted on the ground of his extensive musical knowledge.
McIntyre's alto saxophone instruction was given by Andrew McGhee (a former Lionel Hampton sideman), Gigi Gryce and Charlie Mariano. In 1953 he went into the army and while in Japan used his spare time for practice and writing. He also took up the flute and clarinet at this time.
Ken returned to Boston in October 1954. By 1958 he had received a Batchelor of Music in composition and a certificate in flute from the Boston Conservatory of Music. The next year he earned his Master's as a scholarship student and in 1959-60, with the benefit of two more scholarships, he studied at Brandeis University toward a Master of Fine Arts degree.
After a succession of bad gigs, played for the purpose of feeding his face, clothing his back, etc., McIntyre made a tape and tried to interest some companies in recording him. Withstanding some rejections elsewhere, he found an enthusiastic welcome at Prestige. It was suggested that he record for their New Jazz label with another saxophonist who had already made his own New Jazz debut - Eric Dolphy.
Ken was immediately in favor of this plan, as he knew Dolphy from a meeting in March of 1960 at the Playhouse on 118th Street in Manhattan. Eric had invited him up on the stand to play alongside himself and trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Blue Mitchell. After they finished, Eric had nodded approvingly to Ken and said, "You've got your own little bag you're playing out of."
McIntyre appreciated Dolphy's own individuality too and although they have stylistic differences, there is a basic musical compatibility that almost guaranteed this recording to be a successful venture down new paths.
I first heard Dolphy when he came east as a member of Chico Hamilton's group. Before that he had been based mostly in Los Angeles where he was born in June of 1928. Before he was even nine, Eric had started on clarinet. Next he took up the alto sax. The flute and bass clarinet were later accomplishments. Before joining Hamilton, his main professional playing experience had been with Gerald Wilson, Buddy Collette and Eddie Beal.
That first occasion I had to hear him was at an after hours session at Newport during the course of the 1958 jazz festival there. This particular session was still going at 7.00 a.m. when I left but I had absorbed enough of Eric's alto to convince me that here was a talent that would be heard from in the future. After leaving Hamilton, he settled in New York and became part of the Charlie Mingus group(Mingus had been the leader of his first professional job in Los Angeles) until late in 1960.
The rhythm section is strong and dependable. Walter Bishop, an important pianist around New York during Bop's heyday in the late '40's, has made a fine comeback in'59-60 after several years of sporadic activity. His personally inflected version of the Bud Powell style has been tempered by some of the more recent piano trends. Bish knows how to express himself in a modern blues dialect very well.
Sam Jones has established himself as one of the top bassists in jazz through his work with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet and numerous recordings with other groups. He is more than merely steady; his drive and choice of notes are inspiring.
Arthur Taylor may be called "Mr. Cool" but when at the drums he always has "the pots on." A.T. believes that a drummer should play for the group and swing at all times. He practices what he preaches.
Of the six selections in this album, five are originals by Ken McIntyre.
Lautir, which opens side A, is basically a 12-bar blues with altered changes. McIntyre solos first on alto, displaying the personal vocal characteristics of his style. Dolphy's flute features a swift attack, much like his personality on his other instruments. Bishop has a short solo before the return of the theme. Lautir was written around '57 or '58.
Curtsy, which dates from '55, has a tag at the end of each chorus, hence the title. Here both Ken and Eric are on alto and the contrast in their styles is evident. Ken who is the first soloist also leads off the exchanges. His cascading runs and shifting ascents and descents are delivered in a relatively softer tone than Eric who displays a harder attack with harshness that is vital but never unpleasant. Bishop cooks strongly with the rhythm section laying it steadily down behind him on this basically happy tune.
Geo's Tune was written for George Howard, a dancer in Boston. "He wanted an Afro beat," explains Ken. "I added the bridge later." McIntyre's lead-off solo is extremely expressive and an exciting example of his personal voice. The use of the word voice here is especially apt since he evokes many sounds akin to laughing and singing. When I asked him about the "laughing" he did, Ken said, "I like to laugh. I laugh because I'm happy. I used to censor my playing - I was inhibited but I threw all that out of the window." After Bishop's solo, Dolphy enters and here the similarities between Ken and Eric show up. Shortly, Ken arrives to make it a threesome with drummer Taylor.
McIntyre's laugh is well applied to the old standard, They All Laughed. Here, "they" are Eric and Ken. The latter has the bridge in the first chorus and the first solo. Eric follows. Both do some starling things with phrasing and tonal possibilities. After Bishop's solo, the two alto men return to have the last laugh.
The two extended selections on side B find McIntyre switching to flute. His conception is more conventional here. Ken says one reason for this is that you cannot do as much with an individual note as you can on alto.
Bishop gets Head Shakin' into a good blues groove with his opening solo, his longest of the set. Dolphy then plays an alto solo that is truly a blues of the '60s with its roots in the '30s, '40s and '50s as well.
McIntyre's flute sound is a pure one but as he develops his solo he flies in the direction of a jungle bird and does some stretching out on the changes too. Then Sam Jones walks everyone back into the theme.
The pretty Dianne was written while Ken was in Japan in 1953. His flute states the melody of the lovely waltz while Eric, on bass clarinet supplies a counter line underneath. McIntyre's solo is fragile, but unbreakable, in places, tough and tender in others. Dolphy's virile conception on bass clarinet is highly charged with emotion; one of the most exciting sounds I've heard in a long time magnifies this. Bishop swings comfortably and melodically against the 3/4 with Jones and Taylor underlining beautifully. After some moving exchanges between the two main players, they combine to close the piece as they began it.
Life marches on and jazz, which expresses some of the verities of life, also does some walking forward of its own. With Ken McIntyre as the left lens and Eric Dolphy as the right, here is a pair of binoculars to be used for Looking Ahead.