Crimson Jazz Trio


Happy New Year! I had this idea to put together a year-end-of-decade something, but really the decade we just finished was the worst of the six I’ve been alive in so far. Okay, the ’80’s fucking sucked, too. And it’s not just music we’re talking about. I was going to say something about the good times from 1967-1977, and then I remembered that whole Vietnam war thing.  Then I thought I’d go on about how great all the new technology is. In fact this blog would have been a fanzine I never would’ve bothered to cut and paste together, get printed, and assemble. All the music I don’t buy anymore. I used to spend over $1500 per year on recorded music. A fair amount of what I post came magically from the web. I love my cell phone, and digital camera. And then I’ll be out in public somewhere hearing what is ostensibly music, and there it is: autotune.  So as usual everything’s a decidedly mixed bag.

I also thought about a Vic Chestnutt memorial, but I’ve hardly heard any of his music.  A friend sent me a version of his “Kick My Ass” by Garbage, which is great.   Frankly, the minute I heard about Vic Chestnutt and his tragedy, I was so saddened that I couldn’t bear to seek out his music.  Life is hard enough without a wheelchair.  That he was out fighting the good fight was all I needed to know.  I listened to part of one of his albums once, and hearing him struggle to breathe and sing was enough for me.  I felt like I was suffocating. I hope he’s found peace.

Instead I’ve decided to post a recent discovery, thanks again to sakalli (see blogroll).  The Crimson Jazz Trio was lead by Ian Wallace, King Crimson drummer for one of their least loved periods.  He played on the decent, and kind of low-key Islands,as well as the truly horrible EarthboundRobert Fripp has done much to rehabilitate the reputation of this particular incarnation by releasing other live documents much superior to the aforementioned travesty.

The Crimson Jazz Trio will favorably remind many of The Bad Plus, as they are a jazz piano trio playing an interesting repertoire.  In this case it is the music of King Crimson. They cover a fair amount of the Belew territory, although you would not know it from this post.
I’ve spent a lot of time with this music over the years, so hearing it in a jazz context is really fun.  Maybe I’d enjoy more jazz if I knew the old tunes those bop guys were deconstructing in the 50’s and 60’s.

In researching this post I also found out that Ian Wallace passed onto the great gig in the sky on February 22nd, 2007, a few months after some of these recordings.  Even though he was a top session drummer for over 40 years, he is still best remembered for the year and a half he spent in King Crimson.

Ian Wallace 1946-2007

21st Century Schizoid Man
Pictures Of A City
Cat Food
Ladies Of The Road

5 thoughts on “Crimson Jazz Trio

  1. I’ve spent a lot of time with this music too. I guess I don’t see the point with this kind of treatment unless to satisfy personal musings if you were involved in the making of it in the first place…which this sort of qualifies as. These selections are almost a hit list of King Crimson for me…where’s The Night Watch and The Great Deceiver? We have a “Smooth Jazz” station here, The Wave, and it’s a Kenny G wash of innocuous ineffectual nothing. If some of this farty fretless and flanged electric bass with Keith Jarrett style piano noodling Crimson crept into their play-list I would be very bummed indeed. Then there’s this chump named Brad Mehldau who does Beatles and Radiohead covers in much the same Piano Trio fashion…you would hate it but he’s making all the old folks happy by not hurting their worn out ears and turning them on to edgy music that they don’t care about in the first place. There are very few examples of covers that are even close to the original versions. Nilsson’s “Without You” works really well but this is King Crimson we’re talking about. Some of the most definitive performances ever put to vinyl. Should great visual or literary art be subject to cover versions?
    It’s like the schlock lounge versions of Nirvana tunes that were so cute and infecting the populous conscious a few years ago…to me most of this kind of stuff is not much more than a novelty. I’m sorry, I wouldn’t want to hear this more than once…The thing I love about jazz is that I don’t need to know the songs or the melody ahead of time to enjoy it. Good jazz operates on a fiery edge, a constantly slippery slope, not a taming down of familiarity to make it easily palatable. It’s kind of funny, I came home from a trip yesterday and thought about a great NY radio station I love and listened via the Internet to some great jazz all morning while I unpacked my bags…WKCR…it was a show featuring John Lindberg, a bassist/composer I didn’t know about. It was great, I had no clue about the music but it drew me in deeper the more I listened. I ain’t no snob. I like Iggy. I like Eric Dolphy. I like The Residents. Oops! Now I just put my foot in my mouth! The Third Reich And Roll record is nothing but the best covers record of all time! No, this ain’t really all that bad…just not my cuppa tea I guess. Good post nonetheless…Happy New Year & Thanks for this great bloggy blog!

  2. When I listen to this I’m mostly hearing the drums which are a pleasure to experience. Ian Wallace was really excited to be in King Crimson, only to suffer the disappointment of playing without a real bass player, and to be in the unfortunate position of following the original band and preceding my favorite incarnation with Bill Bruford and John Wetton. Ian contributed very funny liner notes for some of the live boots Fripp has released. If doing this gave him some kind of satisfaction, or closure, I’m happy for him, and the music is not so dull that I don’t give it a pass. I figured any King Crimson fan would get a kick out of it. The Great Deceiver, and Lark’s Tongues were going to be on Volume 3, along with Indiscipline, but the bandleader died. For me, these songs are so familiar that the perspective of hearing them in this format allows me to hear the songs with fresh ears without 35 years of baggage surrounding the original recordings.
    I’ve been into covers ever since Bryan Ferry started making solo albums. I would argue that many reggae covers surpass the originals, and at least they highlight the sturdiness of the songs themselves. For instance, I think Nick Cave’s interpretations of “Long Black Veil”, and “In The Ghetto” not only capture the feeling, but add elements only implied in the originals.
    One night I was in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, and saw this really terrible band whose moment of transcendence was their lone cover of one of Lou Reed’s worst songs, “I Wanna Boogie With You”. So I can’t agree with you on the covers angle.
    Now That’s What I Call Bullshit is a pretty big tent, and is glad to stick in your craw. Iggy, Eric Dolphy, and the Residents are exactly the accepted pantheon I’m trying to avoid, assuming everyone knows it too well already.
    Note: One of my all-time favorite covers is the Residents take on “Satisfaction”.
    I haven’t heard it since 1979. That’s a download I’d love to find.

  3. I intended to wax ecstatic about Ian Wallace (Alan, you failed to list KC Live at Summit Studios, Denver CO with the Wallace band —-it has to be heard to be believed). Instead, I am compelled to share my formative Muzak moment. It must have been around 1972 and it was in a Montgomery Wards : i was frozen with shock and disbelief when I registered exactly what the overhead speakers were pumpin’ out—-the happiest, jauntiest Muzak arrangement you can possibly conceive of——for Sympathy for the Devil. There was something profoundly unsettling about the experience which I don’t believe I have ever really shaken off…

  4. I didn’t mention KC Live at Summit specifically, but it’s an example of what I meant when I said the Robert Fripp has done much to rehabilitate the reputation of this particular incarnation of the band. I have that, as well as Live in Detroit, and a Live In Boston, where King Crimson opened for Yes. Backstage that night Robert and Bill agreed to link up after they finished the current commitments.
    All are far superior to “Earthbound”.

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