Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Octets

The Later Works

Spring 2010 sees the release of a new studio album of two of Stan's suites that have never before been recorded.

Commissions to write works for special occasions have come to Stan Tracey in various shapes and sizes over the years. In particular, Stan has had several commissions for his octet over 30 years or so and this double CD features two of them, recently recorded with Stan's latest line up. This is a follow up release to “The Early Works”, RSJ107.

The Hong Kong Suite
This suite was commissioned by Lord Christopher Patten, to mark the British handover back to China in 1997. We had been performing at the Hong Kong Jazz Club in 1996 and (the then Governor) Chris Patten approached Stan after the performance with the proposal. A year later the octet performed the new music in Beijing and Guangzhou in China with the premiere at the last official concert held at the Governor's private residence in Hong Kong under British sovereignty.

The Amandla Suite
Slightly less glamorous perhaps, this suite was commissioned in 1993 by NALGO on its merger with other trade unions COHSE and NUPE, becoming UNISON. NALGO proffered the title “Amandla”, a Zulu word meaning "Power" and a battle cry that became associated with the anti-apartheid movement. The titles, chosen by Stan, allude to events and relationships forged around the world by NALGO.
The humble premiere of this suite was held at a hotel on the outskirts of Newcastle, hosted by UNISON and two of the pieces, “The Cuban Connection” (also released on “Stan Tracey - Live At The QEH”) and “Humberto's Dream”, have remained as regulars in the pad ever since.

Clark Tracey, January 2010 (extract from cd sleeve notes)

The line up is

Simon Allen - tenor saxophone
Mornington Lockett - tnr & sop saxophones
Sammy Mayne - alto saxophone
Guy Barker - trumpet
Stan Tracey - piano
Andrew Cleyndert - double bass
Clark Tracey - drums

available from

The Early Works

In the early Seventies, Stan had left his long tenure at Ronnie Scott's Club as house pianist and found himself physically exhausted, slightly disillusioned, broke and musically somewhat isolated after years of unique experience and having spearheaded the British jazz movement since the early Fifties. Through interaction on a 'grass roots' level in London, he began moving into a musical area inhabited by the less mainstream 'new kids on the block', forming duet associations with the likes of Mike Osbourne, Keith Tippett and John Surman as well as leading his own larger ensembles, "Splinters" with Trevor Watts, Kenny Wheeler, Peter King, Danny Thompson and John Stevens and "Tentacles", which included Henry Lowther, Harry Beckett, Malcolm Griffiths, Paul Nieman, Trevor Watts, Art Themen, John Surman, Harry Miller and Louis Moholo. These line ups incorporated a great deal of free improvisation, marking a radical step outside for Stan.
In 1974 he was commissioned to write three pieces for a festival in Fishguard. The size of the band was more or less dictated by the fee available and so the octet was born. For this band he chose Harry Beckett, Malcolm Griffiths, Trevor Watts, Alan Skidmore, Don Weller, Harry Miller and John Stevens. While it retained a spontaneous urgency in its improvisation, Stan's music was turning towards a more structured view of composition again, drawing from previous decades of scoring for big bands, often having his octet classified as a "small big-band".
There were some personnel changes by the time of the first octet release on Steam, "The Bracknell Connection", two years later in 1976: Art Themen for Skidmore, Dave Green for Miller, Bryan Spring for Stevens (representing Stan's then regular quartet) and Peter King for Watts. This was a commissioned work for the most popular British jazz festival throughout the Seventies, held at South Hill Park in Bracknell. The recording on this first disc was from a subsequent live performance at the 100 Club in London. In the same year, Stan was the subject of a BBCTV documentary in the prestigious arts series "Omnibus" in which the octet featured, raising Stan's public profile considerably.
Another personnel change came in late 1976 as Jeff Daly replaced King and the following year Stan was offered a commission for the Salisbury Arts Festival. "Chiffik" is from that premiere performance and has not been heard before. It's an off the cuff improvised piece which was the encore of the concert, to me superbly typifying the free spirited qualities of Stan's previous groups. On a personal note, this track has been a particular golden nugget since first hearing it and it's a delight to be able to make it available at last. An encore from the octet was always a rare treat, always improvised and therefore usually untitled (one exception being a certain concert when Stan felt moved enough to tellingly announce an unexpected new work, "Concerto For An Out Of Tune Piano"). The tape is from my private collection and has been restored lovingly to today's standards for its release here. The second disc of our double reissue, "The Salisbury Suite", was taken from a concert towards the end of a UK tour opposite Gil Evans' Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in 1978, released on Steam later that year.

Clark Tracey, 2009 (extract from cd sleeve notes)

Stan Tracey Octet - The Early Works. Remastered double CD of 'The Bracknell Connection / Salisbury Suite' plus unissued track 'Chiffik'.
Original recording 1975 / 1978. reissued on Resteamed Records (RSJ107)
Released in 2009

available from

Portraits Plus.

Portraits Plus was recorded in March 1992 and originally released by Blue Note on vinyl LP. It was commissioned by Jazz Services and The Arts Council of Great Britain.

Piano: Stan Tracey
Alto Sax: Pete King
Tenor Sax: Don Weller
Tenor & Soprano Sax: Art Themen
Trombone: Guy Barker
Bass: Dave Green
Drums: Clark Tracey