Friday, April 07, 2006

Odd Spin 4/7: Bob Freedman’s Journeys of Odysseus

Journeys of Odysseus
Arranger, conductor, leader: Bob Freedman
Cornet: Marvin Stamm
French horn: James Buffington
Reeds: Jerome Richardson or Hubert Laws, Robert Tricarico or Walter Kane, Romeo Penque, Philip Bodner or Walter Lavinsky
Guitar: Jay Berliner or "Bucky" Pizzarelli
Bass: Ron Carter or Richard Davis
Vibes: David Carey
Narrator: Terry Currier
Strings: Gene Orloff, George Ricci, Aaron Rosand or Paul Gershman, Alfred Brown
Label: Skye/Cobblestone Records

The epic story: Bob Freedman did some arranging for Gary McFarland’s Skye Records, and recorded this suite inspired by the story of Odysseus. Just in case you forget you’re listening to a serious work of art, some pretentious narration from Homer precedes each movement. The music its self is appealing Third Stream jazz, uneven but with some nice playing from artists like Marvin Stamm, Hubert Laws and Jerome Richardson.

The unfortunate narration is a textbook example of Third Stream music’s Achilles Heel of pretentiousness. There are plenty of Third Stream recordings without such flaws, but jazz-classical fusions sometimes fell prey to the lofty themes meant to emphasize the seriousness of the composer’s artistic ambitions.

Many sub-genres of jazz have drawn inspiration from classic literature. Arild Andersen for instance, has recently recorded ECM-style minimalist music composed for a production of Elektra. Johnny Dankworth however, could be considered the Allan Bloom of jazz, for his commitment to great books. He has recorded albums like Shakespeare and All that Jazz, What the Dickens, and Windmill Tilter obviously inspired by Shakespeare, Dickens, and Cervantes. He also recorded The $1,000,000 Collection, an album length suite inspired by great works of art. Although there were Third Stream elements in Dankworth’s literary work, he always keeps in-touch with his late-swing/early-bop roots.

The bottom line: Skye albums are somewhat collectable, and this is one of the scarcer one, not yet reissued on CD. Figure $15-20.