Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nothing New under the (Spring) Sun

Last Wednesday on I wrote a preview piece for the coming Jazz series of San Francisco Performances. I made it a point to observe that, when the Bad Plus opens the series in October, their performance will feature their take on Igor Stravinsky’s score for the ballet “The Rite of Spring.” I even included a video tape to provide some expectations for the curious.

I thought that this would be a pretty unique act. I seem to remember a track by Gerry Mulligan where he tacked on the opening theme from “The Rite” at the end; but this was in the same league as Charlie Parker closing out with a few bars of “Country Gardens.” (Mulligan also ended “Sweet and Slow” with Richard Strauss’ horn motif for Till Eulenspiegel.) I figured that taking on the whole ballet would be the jazz equivalent of climbing Mount Fuji.

However, this morning I discovered that, around the same time I was writing my piece, Ben Ratliff was releasing his obituary piece for guitarist Pete Cosey, who had died on May 30. While Cosey was involved with many of the recordings released by Chess Records, he is probably best known for the weird sounds he brought to Miles Davis’ electric band of 1973–75. However, it turns out that, in his post-Miles period, he played with the band Burnt Sugar, which was led by Butch Morris for an album entitled The Rites, which was (you guessed it) an improvised version of “The Rite of Spring.”

For the record, while Alex Ross explicitly acknowledged Bad Plus member Ethan Iverson in his The Rest of Noise book, there is no mention (at least through an Amazon LOOK INSIDE! text search) of either Mulligan or Burnt Sugar.

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