Teddy Charles | Dances With Bulls

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Dances With Bulls

by Teddy Charles

The amazing return of vibraphonist Teddy Charles, one of the greatest jazz legends of all time. Recorded with Coltrane, Miles, and Mingus.
Genre: Jazz: Hard Bop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Dances With Bulls
7:10 album only
2. Nostalgia In Times Square
14:13 album only
3. No More Nights
8:31 album only
4. Bunni
7:25 album only
5. Arlene
10:29 album only
6. Blues Without Woe
6:04 album only


Album Notes

Teddy Charles - vibraphone
Chris Byars - saxophone, flute
John Mosca - trombone
Harold Danko - piano
Ari Roland - bass
Stefan Schatz - drums

Among the notes F. Scott Fitzgerald made in the writing of his unfinished novel was, "There are no second acts in American life," a phrase that over the years became somewhat of a cliché, used by sports writers (and other scriveners) when chronicling the exploits of a "comeback kid."

In 1995 Earl Palmer Browne suggested that what Fitzgerald possibly could have been referring to were the three-act plays of his time and that there are no transition periods, meaning second acts, in American life.

Teddy Charles has had his two acts, first as a creative musician, and also a record producer, and then as a sea captain, chartering his ships off Long Island in the summer and the Florida Keys in the winter. Now, in his third act, he has re-entered the jazz world surrounded by a new generation of musicians at the head of a sextet and has also resurrected his fabled Tentet of 50 years ago. These projects come out of a collaboration with saxophonist-flautist Chris Byars whose quartet is the basis for the sextet and who also is an important component of the Tentet.

The repertoire of the sextet reflects many aspects of Charles' long journey through jazz: coming to New York from his native Massachusetts at the time of the flowering of bebop; his association with Charlie (as he puts it) Mingus; and the pushing the envelope with Jimmy Giuffre, Shorty Rogers and Shelly Manne in Los Angeles and, later, even further out with Hall Overton, Jimmy Raney and Ed Shaughnessy in New York. Excepting some of the recordings with Overton, which were not intended as jazz, he has always shown an avid allegiance to swinging, at all levels of his subtle ways of abstracting the harmonies in his solos, ability to create variations over the course of several choruses and swing harder, without raising the tempo, in building a solo.

People marvel at how contemporary, in their own right, Charles' pieces sound. The answer may lie in the fact that from where he was in the '50s, he is riding his own hip, longevity trip right in the curve of the here and now.

Ira Gitler
November 2008

Working with Teddy Charles has been a fulfillment of a dream. He’s the man who hired Gigi Gryce to play in his band; and he’s allowed me a chance to collaborate and perform alongside him, even though he’s one of the people that formed the jazz we all know and love, and next to him, I feel like a first-year student. In addition to this musical partnership, I’ve gotten the chance to meet his dogs, jointly recreate Marx Brothers scenes with voluntary and unwitting participants, and share pastrami sandwiches with him. I have enjoyed discovering buried treasures in his music manuscript collection, eating with him at Mario’s on Arthur Avenue, and hearing stories about sailing, everything from the 5 basic knots that one must learn, to episodes of fighting off pirates that were after his cargo. It has truly been an interesting and exciting 18 months working with Teddy Charles.

While reports vary concerning just how “underground” Teddy Charles has been since the 1960s, one thing is for certain: what you hold at your fingertips is his first studio recording in over 40 years. While he indeed maintained intermittent contact with the jazz scene during his decades as a ship captain, he is only recently entering into period of activity that rivals his stint as New York’s top vibraphonist from 1949 to 1963. In 2008, Teddy led a sextet for a week at the Village Vanguard, a week at the Iridium Jazz club, re-premiered his Tentet as part of a six-event educational program entitled Bronx Jazz Series, and recorded this CD. Does this constitute a comeback? That’s subject to debate. Some would say he never left. But we do know that Teddy offers a lifetime of wisdom and a boatload of talent in each phrase he plays. Listen for his unpredictability; you’ll notice that he’s difficult to sing along with, throwing away conventional lines of thought in favor of courageous darts and dashes. He tends towards the improbable, the oblique. The weight of each note carries masterful intention; flurries of technique come as an abstraction, soliloquies that stray slightly off topic. His improvisations span the complete range of creativity, putting careful deliberation and logical choices side by side with moments of reckless spontaneity.

Teddy is generally a blast to be around at all times; but it bears mentioning that, coupled with the childlike quality that makes him crack jokes on stage, right before we perform a song, is a mature artistic sense that has always driven him to raise the quality of any project he encounters. As writer Noal Cohen brought to our attention on his excellent website, perhaps the only common element that exists in the many musical undertakings of Teddy Charles is the absence of the mundane.

In the CD Dances With Bulls, the Teddy Charles Sextet unites Teddy with his long time first-choice pianist Harold Danko, who flew in from Rochester just for this date. Rounding out the sextet is a free-standing group that calls itself the Chris Byars Quartet: myself, John Mosca on trombone, Ari Roland on bass and Stefan Schatz on drums. We perform my arrangements of four vintage Teddy Charles tunes, as well as a new composition, and a re-working of a tribute to a longtime associate.

Bunni is a reharmonization of “What Is This Thing Called Love.” Teddy casts the plaintive melody against a turbulent ostinato and result is tremendous fun for performer and listener. Teddy has a lot to say on this set of chord changes; recently he told me how jazz legend Tadd Dameron personally showed him the melody to the complex bop classic “Hot House,” which is based on the same structure. Nostalgia For Mingus is a 2008 edition of a well-known Mingus composition, also known as “Nostalgia in Times Square.” During Teddy’s long association with Charlie Mingus, this tune was played, reshaped and expanded; after years of reflection, Teddy has perfected the chordal structure into the perfect vehicle for nostalgia for his band-mate. It portrays the yearning for the days past, but adds a contrast of burlesque campiness that indicates just how wild of a time it really was. [By the way, all of the antics of today’s pop stars don’t come close to what folks like Teddy Charles, Tadd Dameron, and Charlie Mingus were up to. These stories tends to miss the pages of the jazz history books, but I’ve heard quite a selection of anecdotes from Mr. Charles during our trips across The Bronx.] The overall layout and concept of this arrangement were created by Teddy, and I filled in the horn writing. I believe that this arrangement is an epilogue to one of the most influential episodes in music history, and this band performed it with the respect an inspiration that it deserves. “Dances With Bulls” is a new Teddy Charles composition reminiscent of Teddy’s groundbreaking New Directions work from the 1950s. A loosely structured idea, Teddy had to guide us through it several times before some of us got it, offering specific suggestions as the tune unfolded. However, one musician who plunged in without hesitation was pianist Harold Danko; witness the unabashed fooling around that goes on with the piano and vibes in the beginning of the song. “Blues Without Woe” is an uptempo blues selection, originally performed by Teddy with Thad Jones, Frank Wess and Elvin Jones. Teddy comes through with an interpretation of the blues that renews his hold on the title of “Best Jazz Vibraphonist.” “Arlene" shows the more reflective side of Teddy’s composition style, reworking the structure of “All the Things You Are” into a mysterious ponderance. Musicians: try this one instead of playing Kenny Dorham’s “Prince Albert” again. “No More Nights” is based on “There Will Never Be Another You.” This is another fun tune that belongs in the repertoire of any good jazz group. As in the above songs, Teddy provided the initial concept and I furnished the horn writing.

I hope that more musicians get to know Teddy Charles through his compositions and his performances. From my own experience, I can attest to the incomparable value of both of these contributions. Enjoy Dances With Bulls.

Chris Byars
November 2008

The producer would like to give special thanks to Brandon Stranzl, without whose gracious support this project never would have been possible. Heartfelt thanks to Tom Currier, Marcy Granata, Debbie Millman, and Jeffrey Brown for their ongoing support. Thanks to Noal Cohen for introducing us to the great Teddy Charles. Thank you Teddy for enriching our lives. Thank you Chris Byars for your endless hard work and patience; you’re a true trouper. Thanks also to Ry Currier for allowing the generous use of his space.



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