The 1970s were a no-man's land for acoustic jazz. The rise of album rock, arena concerts and electronic instruments led to the growing popularity of psychedelic jazz-rock fusion and funk, especially on college campuses. As a result, many jazz labels during this period followed the money, devoting much of their budgets to the new forms. The siphoning of dollars and producers to the electric side resulted in a glut of thinly supervised acoustic jazz recordings that lacked much vision and were often little more than rambling bop and hard-bop revival releases.
There were plenty of acoustic exceptions, of course. One of them was was drummer Pete Magadini's Bones Blues. Recorded in August 1977 in Toronto for the Sackville label, the album featured tenor saxophonist Don Menza, pianist Wray Downes, bassist Dave Young and Magadini on drums.
Much of the excitement comes from the interplay between Menza's fierce attack on uptempo numbers and Magadini's driving rhythms. On the ballads, the quartet grabs your ear with biting depth and passion.
The album's songs are Old Devil Moon, Freddie Freeloader, Poor Butterfly, Solar, I Remember Clifford, What A Time We Had, Bones Blues and an alternate take of Freddie Freeloader. Each track delivers a different side of Menza's articulation and Magadini's personality. Downes is a splendid Canadian pianist with formal training, and Young provides woody support throughout.
Born in Great Barrington, Mass., in 1942, Pete Magadini moved with his family to Palm Springs, Calif., when he was 6. In 1960, he studied drums at New York's Henry Adler Drum School and then attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1965. He soon formed a trio with keyboardist George Duke. In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles and played with Don Menza. Then he worked with pop artists Bobbie Gentry and Diana Ross before heading off to the University of Toronto, receiving his Master of Music degree in 1973. By the late 1970s, he was playing routinely with Menza, Downes and Young.
Magadini and Menza began recording together on Polyrhythm in 1975, and this quartet would record again in 1991at Claudio's in Montreal.
Someone should get these guys back together again.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Bones Blues (Sackville/Delmark) here.
JazzWax clip: Here's Old Devil Moon...
A special thanks to Mike Milner and Doug Paterson.