An Australian Jazz Anthology


There are few Australian originals in jazz, but vibraphonist Alan Lee surely ranks among the best. Australian jazz is and always will be an interpretation of the American art form, but throughout his long career Lee has ploughed his furrow undaunted; as he puts it, "What I want is the fire! Whether it's John Coltrane's 'Blues Minor' from Africa/Brass or 'Backwater Blues' by Leadbelly, I want the emotion, the gut wrenching pain, the cry from within!" A musician and bandleader who cut a number of jazz sides for small independent Melbourne labels from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, Lee has always searched for this fire, evident in the broad styles he's covered throughout his career. From '60s soul jazz to the deep modal sounds of the early '70s and cross-genre experiments exhibited in his chamber jazz, the tracks included in this anthology -- the first of Lee's music -- were recorded by various incarnations of Lee's band and are taken from three albums recorded in 1973 and 1974 -- Lee's sole albums as a bandleader and collectors' items in their own right. The deep modal version of "Love Song" and Freddie Hubbard's perennial spiritual jazz standard "Little Sunflower" are both taken from the 1973 LP The Alan Lee Jazz Quartet. The 1973 album Gallery Concerts 1973, which was recorded for Bruce Clarke's jazz sub-label Cumquat Records, provides us with a fierce electric-jazz version of Igor Stravinsky's "Dance of the Adolescents" from The Rite of Spring, plus the plaintive chamber jazz of John Lewis's "Sketch" as well as two tracks featuring vocalist Jeannie Lewis -- "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5" and the beautiful "Bailero." Completing this compendium is a cover of the Milt Jackson-penned "Enchanted Lady" taken from the 1974 follow-up recording for Jazznote, The Smilor. This anthology is filled out by Lee's stories, including his correspondence with fellow vibraphone player Gary Burton on how to achieve advanced extended techniques for the vibraphone (resulting in pages of technical diagrams) and a story about travelling across the US to purchase an original 1940s Deagan Imperial vibraphone from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra "just to get that Milt Jackson sound." There are moments of deep introspection and intellect in Lee's playing; this is emotional music that contains and shares a common spiritual oneness, seeking the thrill Lee experienced after first listening to Lionel Hampton and The Benny Goodman Quartet. CD includes four extra tracks.