Queen Talk Live at the Left Bank
Format: LP, Vinyl
RSD 2023 – Available from 22 April 8am in store and on-line from Monday 24th April 8pm
Shirley Scott – Queen Talk: Live at the Left Bank, Baltimore MD (Reel to Reel)
For Record Store Day 2023, Reel to Reel have issued a rare live recording of Shirley Scott playing with her trio at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore, a venerable centre for jazz in Maryland and Baltimore’s first interracial music venue that had hosted a litany of jazz greats by the time Scott graced the stage with her trio on the 10th August, 1972. Back in ’21, Reel to Reel released a live recording of Roy Brooks from the same venue, put on by the Left Bank Jazz Society, an emotive and brooding live experience and critically acclaimed release, a triple LP which squeezes in around 2 hours of material. This new set is of equal standing, a rootsy, soulful experience, heightened by quicksilver playing from a thoroughly adept personnel—George Coleman on tenor and Bobby Durham on trap kit are a scintillating pairing, the former attracting numerous comparisons to Coltrane and the latter a percussive powerhouse with a razor sharp sense of time and a refined vocabulary. It is a dynamic and authentic display of soul jazz led by Philadelphia native Scott, an expressive and emancipating set received by a jazz loving audience. The crowd are audibly engaged in the music, hootin’ and hollerin’, exalting the musicians to reach higher heights and encouraging Scott, whose confidence shines at the organ is evident. The setting would have been optimal for this live recording, Baltimore’s jazz cognoscenti would not only have set high expectations for the standard of musicianship, but would have provided passionate crowds who understood and truly valued the music. The Left Bank Jazz Society were at the heart of the Baltimore jazz community, a cooperative not-for-profit body run by jazz afficionados and volunteers who would give their time for free, an organisation that prioritised jazz music and artistry over financial margins and according to prominent member John Fowler, would always pay their musicians upfront and make sure that they were well fed and watered before they left town. What the Left Bank might have lacked in money, they certainly made up for in feeling and love for the music, most of their concerts taking place on Sunday nights—when many working musicians would have been off duty—between five and nine. Jazz musicians would play at the Left Bank not to command exorbitant fees, but to feed off the energy and thrall of audiences who gave the music their full and undivided attention.
Scott, the pioneering soul jazz organist, steps up to the plate here, positively incinerating the bandstand with her flaming organ and burning chops, adeptly soulful and swinging where necessary, the recorded music giving justice to her versatility and outstanding talent as a bandleader and instrumentalist. The absence of a bassist impresses further: in her comping and soloing, she simultaneously performs walking bass lines with her feet, a serious display of coordination. The warmth of Scott’s organ plasters in the cracks in the recording like sonic spackle, an instrument that has a ubiquitous tone and generous range, from the throbbing, subby pulse of her basslines to her balletic right hand which unlocks mercurial soloing and screeching melodies. Her Hammond B3 emits a soulful, potent sound, an instrument which at times can be overpowering, handled here by Scott expertly, a tactful player with a distinguished touch. Set highlights include the Coltrane composition Impressions, a searing, up-tempo rendition featuring blasting tenor from Coleman amid a cannon volley kit workout from Durham who swings far out with fortified resolve, while Scott’s organ is muscular and groovy. An all-out assault on the senses and, as the first track of the set, a powerful entrance which careers into the audience at 100 miles an hour—not a subtle way to begin, somewhat of a pleasant aural throttling! Scott’s take on the Clifford Davis penned Jackson 5 track Never Can Say Goodbye is a cooler moment in the set which just about gives you time to gather your breath, featuring some samba infused drum patterns from Durham with plenty of syncopated rim work and breezy ride cymbal, alongside deep pocket from Scott and majestic soloing from MVP George Coleman, a reedman who I would include in my list of the top five greatest saxophonists of all time.
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