The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for November 17th, 2010

Review: The Apple Records Remasters, Part 3 – Esoteric to the Core

leave a comment »

In Part 3 of our five-part Apple Records series, we look at a number of the non-rock recordings released under the Apple umbrella.

As the home of Apple Records, 3 Savile Row, London, saw many of rock’s greatest musicians pass through its doors. But Ron Kass, the American expatriate headhunted from Liberty Records to be Apple’s first head, knew the importance of building a diverse catalogue across many genres. In its short years as an active label, Apple certainly took Kass’ belief to heart, and we’re lucky that the current reissue campaign has seen fit to release some of the most acclaimed, least commercial albums released under the Apple banner.

Kass was a fan of The Modern Jazz Quartet, the venerable group founded in 1952 by Milt Jackson (vibraphone), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums). Due largely to the unique instrumental combination with no horns, and the virtuosity of each individual member, the MJQ sounded like no other jazz group. In 1955, Connie Kay had replaced Clarke on drums, but Milt Jackson was the MJQ’s star performer. Jackson was a bebop star discovered by Dizzy Gillespie, and went on to play with many of music’s greatest figures. In between lauded tenures at Atlantic Records, the MJQ set up shop at Apple where they released two albums, Under the Jasmin Tree (SAPCOR 4, 1968) and Space (SAPCOR 10, 1969).

Under the Jasmin Tree was recorded in New York and then delivered to Apple. It consists of four long pieces, ranging from around five minutes’ length to over fourteen.  The title track, “The Jasmin Tree,” was written by John Lewis, the group’s musical director, for a documentary film about the people of Morocco, and is suggestive of an exotic milieu. For Space, the MJQ was teamed with “supervisor” Peter Asher, who had already produced James Taylor’s debut for Apple.

In Andy Davis’ liner notes, Asher recalls a harmonious relationship with Lewis and the quartet, and his major contribution was recording the group closely like a rock record rather than a jazz one, i.e. without a “distant” bass or “woolly” drums. Whereas Lewis had composed Jasmin Tree himself, other composers’ work joined his two compositions on Space, “Visitor from Venus” and “Visitor from Mars.” The group revisited an American standard in Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Here’s That Rainy Day” from the musical Carnival in Flanders. The album’s standout track is “Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez” by Joaquin Rodrigo, on which the group married jazz with classical. This is a piece the MJQ would revisit throughout their lengthy career. One bonus track from the Space sessions has been appended here, and it couldn’t be more appropriate: the group’s unusual, organic jazz take on The Beatles’ “Yesterday.” It makes a fitting closer to these two boundary-breaking Apple albums. Hit the jump to catch up with John Tavener, George Harrison and the Radha Krsna Temple! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 17, 2010 at 10:15