[Dixielandjazz] Al and Joe Modernist-Cohn

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Sat Jan 5 13:22:20 PST 2013

Hi All,

There's been a bit of correspondence on the list between my two pals, Robert R Calder and Marek, about Al and Joe's stylistic leanings. I had the good fortune to work with both of them, particularly Al, who used to finish his UK tours at the Black Bull Jazz Club in Milngavie, near Glasgow, since he was always assured of an enthusiastic audience and a lively rhythm section. In a club setting with a trio for backing, his playing was generally inclined to a hard-swinging, post-Lester Young, bop-influenced approach, however his career had included spells with Joe Marsala and a number of first-class big bands, so he was very aware of earlier styles and could play comfortably in all of them. He played with tremendous energy and swing, so he could fit in with any band in any style as long as it swung. I'm not keen on pigeon-holing bands or musicians - I recognise the existence of different jazz idioms, but also recognise that bands and individual musicians can cover a range of different idioms without sounding out of place. I reckon Al would have fitted into an Eddie Condon band without any great difficulty.

Al obviously had a great deal to do with shaping Joe's musical education, in particular the need to tell a story when soloing. Joe has formidable technical ability, but it's always subservient to the need for a coherent, evolving musical narrative, and, like his father, he's able to play convincingly in a variety of styles. His work with Harry Allan is firmly in the mainstream jazz tradition and that's how I heard Al's playing too: hot, swinging, punchy at up-tempo, passionate and driving in the blues, and tender and sensitive in ballads. What's not to like about that?


Ken Mathieson  

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