Monday, 21 June 2010

Gillespiana: Beware of Finding What You're Looking For

Lalo Schifrin is my first musical hero. I came to know his name, the way millions of others did, through the credits on Mission Impossible. I sought out his records and the first one I discovered was Mannix, another 1960s television score and a classic. Virtually all the other music I was listening to in that period of my life (including 'Pixie and Dixie and Mr Jinx the Cat', a 45rpm single on orange vinyl) has fallen by the wayside but Mannix still rewards listening decades later. Hip surging big band crime jazz, it deserves a post of its own. Suffice to say here that it was the beginning of a fine collection of Lalo Schifrin albums which would go on to include the surging heartfelt Cuban rhythms of Che, the sweet psychedlic jazz of There's a Whole Lalo Schifrin Goin' On and the magnificent Bach-goes-to-Brazil bebop of Marquis de Sade (another post for that beauty). As a kid growing up in Canada, these were a major part of the background music to my life. When we moved to England I discovered Schifrin's soundtracks for Bullitt (a west coast cool masterpiece of thriller jazz) and Cool Hand Luke (plangent bluegrass and the classic song Down Here on the Ground) along with his recordings with Dizzy Gillespie (allow me to recommend New Wave on Phillips, a laid back bossa nova groover produced by Quincy Jones. Jose Paula on guitar is great). Thanks to Magpie Records, a little soundtrack shop in Worcestershire, I'd even managed to track down rarities like Murderers' Row (a stereo copy but a bit scratchy). By the time I went to university my holy grail of Schifrin albums was Gillespiana, his most famous collaboration with Dizzy, and his most hard to find. I moved into a student hall of residence in Russell Square and discovered that just around the corner was Mole Jazz, the finest jazz record shop in Britain. I went there frequently. I picked up records by everybody from Oscar Peterson to James 'Blood' Ulmer. But I always made a particular point of looking see if there was any Schifrin and — especially — hoping for the grail, the cynosure, the mother lode — Gillespiana. It never turned up. What did turn up, on my first visit there, was a lovely album by Stan Getz. It was called Reflections and it featured arrangements by Lalo Schifrin including a lyrical version of Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. The only thing that spoiled it was that three of the arrangements (Moonlight in Vermont, If Ever I Would Leave You and an ill advised cover of Dylan's Blowing in the Wind) were not by Schifrin at all but by a fellow called Claus Ogerman. Now, the odd thing is that soon after I got the record I met the guy who lived in the next room in my hall of residence. He was an affable ginger haired engineering geek with a large record library of his own. And it transpired he was a fanatical devotee of Claus Ogerman. I thought, who is this joker with his obsession for this oddly named foreign jazz-cum-pop musician? And presumably he thought the same about me. I don't recall him ever coveting my Stan Getz album, though. Perhaps he already had it. But over the years it's occurred to me that thanks to the presence of that LP, the wall between our rooms could be said to be the interface between two universes of obsessive record collecting. (In fairness to Ogerman, that version of Blowin' In the Wind was quite catchy.) Anyway, to cut a long story short, one day I wandered into Mole Jazz and there it was. Gillespiana. I bought it and took it back to my student room. If that account seems a little flat and anti climactic, then that's all to the good. There was nothing wrong with the record. It was a British mono copy on Verve/HMV, in immaculate condition. After playing it once I filed it away. The excitement was over. Move along folks, nothing to see now. It had become such a big deal, tracking that record down, that the mere act of acquiring it had nullified my interest in it. This was my first encounter with the way that the collecting mentality can interfere with the aesthetic experiece. Gillespiana had just been swallowed up in my shelf full of Schifrin records (about fifty of them by that time). So that's what I mean when I say beware of finding what you're looking for. But the story has a happy ending. Dusty Groove recently provided a sweet copy of the original US Verve pressing of Gillespiana and when I unpacked it last week and played it, I was rapt. I'm listening to it properly now. Finally, years later, the record is yielding its delights.

1 comment:

  1. smooth jaz thats some classics there and you are from canada ?