Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Duo's

Stan's first duo recordings begin in the 1970's.
In this era (and in the 1960's before it as well) improvised and free jazz music was being seen as an important development for jazz in Europe and the USA. Free or improvising composers in the UK were growing in number with newcomers and established musicians experimenting with the form.
Stan's first recording in 1972 was with Mike Osborne, an uncompromising soloist who in the previous decade had been with the Mike Westbrook Orchestra and was now with Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath. Stan and Mike recorded again as a duo in 1976, releasing the renowned 'Tandem' album.
The next two years were to see recordings of the explosive double piano duo of Stan and Keith Tippet.
Finally in 1978 came a set with John Surman, who described the meeting: "all the music on the album came about as a result of Stan and myself improvising together without any prior arrangement". On the resulting album 'Sonatinas' they were even experimenting by adding synthesizers to their piano and saxophone.
By the end of the 70's free music was beginning to have less of an importance to many players. Disillusioned with how it had evolved, Stan was involved with no more free-form duos after this and by 1978 had virtually abandoned free jazz.
To quote Stan:
"I started playing with Mike Osborne and y'know the free players who were around at that time because I wanted to bring into the free music the experience I've had with the straight-ahead music. I thought I could make a marriage of the two in some way but I never succeeded so eventually I returned to my first love which was structured."
It wasn't until 2001 that a duo performance reappeared, this time with Andrew Cleyndert his regular bass player through the 90's. This album was live and covered music by Elllington, Monk etc.
In 2004 an album with drummer percussionist Louis Moholo was a further exploration into improvising - "no prior discussion - the music just took care of itself".
Later during the 2000's to quote Stan again: "The only time I play free music now is with Evan Parker and that's once a year up in Appleby for the festival".

...until, that is, 2011 and SOUNDCHECK
In many ways it's what makes the latest recording all the more remarkable.
As Clark says in the album liner notes:
"My mum, ever an influence on Dad's musical output, first proposed that we should record this album. She was emphatic that our soundchecking duets should reach fruition in a recording one day so, in her honour, this is it."
Clark, who, as most fans of Stan's music will know, has been on the drum stool for the many groups of Stan's since the 80's has never been recorded or played live in free or improvised jazz form.
John Fordham's 5 star review in the Guardian said "It's a wonderful improvised dialogue, and reveals percussion resources not all of Clark Tracey's observers might have appreciated he has."
"But it's the impromptu duo encounter featuring simply the two Tracey's on piano and drums – a warmup exercise they've often privately explored but never recorded – that really marks this venture out."

So after 3 decades or so, Stan has returned this time with Clark to produce something of a redefining album. Their performances mark the importance of truly exemplary improvising.
And if back in the 1970's Stan thought he could make a marriage of the two forms of 'free' and 'straight ahead' jazz in some way but never succeeded, in 2011 with the release of SOUNDCHECK the two Tracey's have produced a recording of that very marriage which is possibly as good as it gets.

SOUNDCHECK available from

video : Stan Tracey Clark Tracey Duo. - album launch and debut performance of 'Soundcheck'. The Vortex Jazz Club. London. 30th January 2011.

Stan Tracey Duo recordings

Khumbula [Remember]. October 2004.
Stan Tracey - piano
Louis Moholo-Moholo - drums, percussion.

Crevulations. Recorded July 2004.
Stan Tracey - piano
Evan Parker - tenor saxophone

Suspensions and Anticipations. September 2003
Stan Tracey - piano
Evan Parker - tenor saxophone

Just You, Just Me. October 2003
Stan Tracey - piano
Danny Moss - tenor saxophone

Live at the Savage Club London. January 2001.
Stan Tracey - piano
Andrew Cleyndert - double bass

Sonatinas. April 1978.
Stan Tracey - piano & synthesisers;
John Surman - baritone & soprano saxes, bass clarinet, tenor recorder & synthesisers.

Supernova. January 2008.
Stan Tracey - piano
Keith Tippett - piano
Previously unissued Live concert. 1976.
ICA. London. RSJ 105 (cd) on ReSteamed Records

Tandem. July/November 1976
Mike Osbourne - alto saxophone
Stan Tracey - piano

TNT. December 1974.
Stan Tracey - piano
Keith Tippett - piano
Emanem (3307). Reissued on Steam
Reissued as "Duets" on Blue Note

Original. April 1972.
Stan Tracey - piano
Mike Osborne - tenor saxophone
Cadillac LP