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20 May 2012

Elton Dean's Ninesense - 'Happy Daze' (Ogun)

They're called Ninesense cause there's 9 of them, get it? Elton Dean was in Soft Machine but here's a place to show off his jazzy side. This is from '77 and the liner notes, laid in out a lovingly hand-written manner, talk extensively about the history and composition of the band. I like this record lots, but I have a major soft spot for the South African expat/Chris McGregor axis, of which Louis Moholo and Harry Miller are present here. That's a hell of a rhythm section and they really start off with a warm inviting ball on 'Nicrotto', and then into a propulsive, slow swing on 'Seven for Lee'. The other 7, led of course by Dean's confident if slightly indistinct alto, never overplay. This is a who's-who of 70s British jazzbos, with some names I sort of recognize and others that I don't at all. The duo of Marc Charig and Harry Beckett are the high points for me, who play trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn and tenor horn (though I'm not one to really distinguish these). They give the ninetet a bright and brassy assonance that cuts through the repetitive themes laid down by the saxes and trombones.  The opening cut 'Nicrotto' is such a beautiful start to a record - such a gentle swell of harmony - and yet it also starts pulling away from itself about halfway through, where Keith Tippett's piano revs the whole band towards a discordant mess. It comes crashing back down into some nice, smouldering ashes, and the record never actually gets better. 'Seven for Lee' maybe gets a bit too Apollonian for my tastes, but it works well against the more outrĂ© sounds heard elsewhere, and it has an excellent start, lurching out of the aforementioned ashes. The flipside is a bit more traditional, opening with 'Sweet F.A.', I assume a paen to the football association of England. This is where Dean and Tippett really get their freak on; long, dizzying solos fill the 11 minutes of this song, over Harry Miller's repeating bass chords. It's jazz-by-numbers, but Tippett's solo in particular is stunning, sounding like he has 4 hands. The closer, 'Three For All', is not as wild as it's title might suggest, falling into a hard-bop groove that works because of the confident rhythms behind it. Tippet's piano chords punctuate all the right moments, giving this a nice momentum. Happy it is, a daze it's not, but it's a successful outing for sure.

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