The history of the Albums - n’239
As in the previous episode, here is a new example of a little known jazzmen/composer from the 60's, who nevertheless managed to bring a new energy to Post Bop: Grachan Moncur III. Although he is building a long career, most of his work is from the 60s and 70s. Moreover even if we gather all his works as a frontman and also as a Sideman, he is not known to have been very productive. However Grachan Moncur managed in the space of about 3 years (from 1963 to 1965) to leave his mark, not least thanks to his first 2 albums Evolution and Some Other Stuff and especially because he is known to have been one of the first to integrate the trombone in the Avant-Garde Jazz, Free Jazz and Post-bop, marking an important change.
Before looking a little more precisely on the subject of the day, let's take the opportunity to make a small historical parenthesis. The trombone is a wind instrument from the brass family. Very much associated with classical music, the instrument goes through time before becoming used in brass bands or other symbolic events. When it was first integrated into jazz at the beginning of the 20th century, the trombone was mainly a supporting instrument, often accompanying. It then sometimes acquired a more important status as a solo instrument, but it has always been mostly played in large orchestras, the big bands in the swing period. Among the most important trombonists before the emergence of Grachan Moncur III, we find logically J.J Johnson, Jack Teagarden, Frank Rosolino, Slide Hampton, Glenn Miller or Curtis Fuller. I think that Granchan Moncur succeeded in giving another dimension to his instrument, offering him other opportunities, a little like the legend J.J. Johnson did in his hour of glory. Unfortunately his lack of popularity, his lack of recognition and also the fact that he was not appreciated by everyone were probably the reason why Grachan Moncur did not take full advantage of this reputation.
Born in 1937 in New York City, GM III grew up in a family of musicians, which also led him to make it his passion and then his profession. He very quickly became integrated into the New York jazz scene while still a student. He became friends with Art Blakey and Jackie McLean. When he began his career at the very end of the 1950s, he started as an orchestra musician for Ray Charles, Benny Golson and Art Farmer, which gave him a good start to his career. He also extended the adventure with Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Jackie McLean and Herbie Hancoks by recording for the first time as a sideman over several sessions from 1961 to 1963. But it must be said that the best was finally about to begin when he decided to make his debut as a leader then signed Blue Note.
Although there may be a debate about the best record between Evolution and Some Other Stuff, personally I have a preference for the former, especially because it seems to have been thought about for so long, as if Grachan had already planned everything. It must also be said that Evolution is more complete. As a Sextet, composed of the very talented Lee Morgan, Jackie Mclean, Bob Cranshew, Bubby Hurtcherson and Tonny Williams, the whole album was recorded in a single session in November 1963. Evolution will only be released 6 months later once it has built up sufficient notoriety. The album consists of only 4 long, ambitious and complex original compositions by Grachan. At the crossroads between an Avant-Garde Jazz and Free Jazz aesthetics and a structure closer to Post Bop, Evolution is hard to understand without a first time, but it hides an exceptional work. In fact it gives off so much technicality which is articulated on compositions which seem to live in constant and anguishing weightlessness that it is also difficult to connect all the pieces of the puzzle with all this multitudes of details and improvisations. Evolution expels you through a dark and overwhelming atmosphere that seems to show you that there is no hope left. The slightest texture, the slightest note and the slightest tortured and cold harmony will continue to plunge you into the depths of the experience. Yet the last composition sounds like a more soothing awakening as a metaphor expressing a difficult progression that seems to be finally taken for granted leading to evolution. Despite all its difficulties it is important to underline the genius of each of the participants and also the alchemy of the sextet complementing each other. Personally the contribution of the trombone remains something that I like, because it knows how to wonderfully transmit human and bodily feelings and emotions. This is also why I loved Curtis Fuller. Although he did not get the fame he should have had, there is still time to pay tribute to Granchar and this phenomenal work.