FRED BARRETT beyondcoltrane -Elton Dean/Howard Riley Quartet: All The Tradition (SLAM) The title of this album should have a question mark after it, for is it really all the tradition, or even in the tradition? Sure, there are three covers, the first being "Darn that Dream," which makes me laugh, each time I hear the version on Milesí Birth of the Cool. Thatís the voice Zappa makes fun of. What a hoot! Deanís version, however, doesnít even make me chuckle. He has breathed new life into that classic, with ten minutes of free improv to boot! Coltraneís "Crescent" and Golsonís "I Remember Clifford" round out the covers. All three "traditional" pieces are separated by two extanded improvs called "The Longest Day" and "Convivial Convocation". If that werenít enough, each of the covers is pretty lengthy and saturated with wild explorations into space. Hey, you can identify the melodies, canít you? What do you want from me? I would swear that Keith Tippett and Howard Riley have studied together, they have the same style going, it seems to me. The rapid octave slamming and Deanís distinguishable sound go great together. The two leaders have great chemistry. Itís almost like Dean knew he had something going with this type of pianist. He knows his music, and Iím getting to know it better every day. Itís some of the best Great Britain has to offer.
ELTON DEAN/HOWARD RILEY QUARTET. ALL THE TRADITION. SLAM 201 CD
Elton Dean (as, saxello); Howard Riley (p); Paul Rogers (b); Mark Sanders (d). Recorded 21 June 1990.
As a German resident, I've had no opportunity to catch this working band's performances. I hope their UK gigs are packed to the rafters: this is first-rate stuff.
All the tradition is a big claim, but there's a healthy slice of it (nearly an hour's worth, value-for-money freaks) as the music moves between standards andfree playing and lunges, mid-way, into Coltrane's "Crescent". On paper that might sound like a journey full of right-angled bends but Dean and Riley's improvisations have always been informed by a strong sense of jazz history. So much so that the music winds out of aloose, legato, unsentimental reading of "Darn That Dream" into the group improvisation of "The Longest Day" with hardly a hiccup. In other words, this is no revivalist project but a presentation of the music as a continuum. The transitions, track to track, are believable.
Dean plays Coltrane well (used to do a fetching "Naima", I recall, maybe still does), the weight of his alto tone has a tenorman's authority, and he spins out along, swerving, stirring solo. I've never heard Riley in precisely this context, and the pianist has to use considerable cunning to tackle it and stay off McCoy's patented path. He flies at "Crescent"'s into with a big swirl of piano sound, flurries at the top of the keyboard, dark rumblings in the bass notes . . .
Rogers and Sanders are a fine team I've been enjoying recently on Jon Lloyd's Syzygy, another strong record. I'm alsmost completely uninformed about Sanders, but he's a very alert, individual drummer apparently drawing on sources beyond jazz. His fif-minute entry on "The Longest Day" and his solo at the front of "Convivial Convocation" both contain, unless my imagination's working overtime, echoes of Korean ritual percussion, the bell of the cymbal (or is it a small gong?) ringing like the shaman's summons to enter, rather than darn, the dream. Sax answers the call, then bass and piano, and a scrabbling, darting music ensues . . . before we're brought full circle, reeling a little, to the world of standards with a smokey "I Remember Clifford". Quite a programme. Kudos, Slam Records, whoever you are. Steve Lake, WIRE, May 1991
ELTON DEAN/HOWARD RILEY, ALL THE TRADITION, SLAM201. Cadence, April 1992 Darn That Dream/The Longest Day/Crescent/Convivial Convocation/I Remember Clifford. 54.06 Dean, as, saxello; Riley, p; Paul Rogers, b; Mark Sanders, d. 6/21/90, London. Elton Dean has had a long and varied career but has been quiet on the recording front recently. His last release was 1985's Bologna Tape. So it's nice to see this release made available. All The Tradition finds him co-leading a quartet with pianist Howard Riley. The title is one of those wonderfully succinct statements. It would be nice to see it embossed on the foreheads of all those Young Turk beboppers with the all underlined. The program may not explore all of the tradition but the spectrum is pretty broad: a standard, a bop classic, a modal Coltrane extravaganza and two free improvisations. (Yes, there is life after Coltrane.) Dean's strongest playing comes on Coltraneís "Crescent" where he tears through the melody with a ferocity that recalls the composer. On "I Remember Clifford", his solo is heartfelt and tender. Riley also cotributes his best solo to this track, a Monkian dissection of the theme. Curiously, the weakest tracks are the free improvisations which, while they have their moments, tend to meander. Rogers and Sanders are an energetic rhythm section with Sanders contributing particulariy strong backing on "Crescent".
All the Tradition Elton Dean (saxello, as); Howard Riley (p); Paul Rogers (b); Mark Sanders (d). SLAMCD201 (54 Minutes. Recorded 1990) Dean began his careers in a variety of trad, soul and showbands. In 1967 he joined Bluesology, fronted by Long John Baldry; in 1968 he began a long association with improvising pianist Keith Tippett, playing in the latter's sextet; and from 1969 to 1972 he was a member of Soft Machine, then in their jazz-rock phase. He has subsequently played with the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and the Carla Bley Band, led or co-led a number of groups, including EDQ, Ninesense and El Skid, and established a reputation as a fiery, free-jazz player who is also comfortable in more conventional settings, where he often brings a lyrical tenderness to the proceedings. All the Tradition shows Dean in both of these contexts on a set that features three jazz standards (Darn That Dream, Coltrane's Crescent, Benny Golson's I Remember Clifford) interspersed with two long, rather claustrophobic collective improvisations. Dean's slightly sour-toned saxello (a variant of the soprano saxophone) adds a nicely keening edge to Darn That Dream and his up-front, emotive alto on I Remember Clifford is no less affecting. Crescent, however, is the standout track, a fine display of sustained intensity and group rapport topped by Dean's blistering solo Co-leader Riley is in excellent form throughout. Graham Lock - Gramophone Jazz Good CD Guide, 1997
The Tradition (SLAM CD201) . . . Only Riley's tendency to over-use a handful of favourite licks nags, but that's barely audible on a good quartet record including him, saxophonist Elton Dean, with Paul Rogers on bass and Mark Sanders on drums. Dean's tone is a little unsteady and sour on standard material (Darn That Dream) but the Coltrane tribute is excellent and the collectively improvised Convivial Conversations roars along with clattering snare percussion, graceful phrasing from Dean echoed uncannily by quick darting sounds from Riley, and all the nuts and bolts of a brilliant free performance. Guardian, 18 April 1991
Elton Dean/Howard Riley. All the Tradition This is a fine album by some of the most powerful players on the local scene. Dean, who moves between alto and saxello, plays very well. On Darn and Clifford, he is especially lyrical, on Longest he flexes his musical muscles as well as his circular breathing skills, while on Crescent and Convocations he adds a preaching quality to his delivery. Riley plays "inside" in the main, stealthy on Longest, logical on Crescent but throughout prepared to give it full rhythmic thrust. Rogers solos impressively with fingers and bow but is perhaps at his masterful best behind 'Riley's solo on Darn. Sanders ignores the sacred undertones implicit in the title Convivial Convocations with an opening drum barrage but, elsewhere is the epitome of tact, taste and sympathetic support for his colleagues. As a quartet, the four men work very well together and their choice of material is ideally suited to their collective solo styles. Barry McRae, Jazz Journal September 1991