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"I think Jimmie is one in a million"-Stan Getz
My lifelong love affair with the music of pianist extradonnaire, racconteur, and tone artist of human emotion, Jimmy (some spell it Jimmie) Rowles began with the song and the album, The Peacocks, released by CBS in 1977.
The title tune is a singular statement of beauty. The Peacocks, a late night lament, a soaring melody, and a wistful rememberance is American music of the highest form. In this case, It’s the angelic beauty and the fragile tone of Getz’s Tenor interspersed with the rhythmic underpinnings of Rowles that creates as memorable a duet as you are likely to ever hear.
The Peacocks has since become a jazz standard, and was featured prominently in arguably the finest film about the jazz art, Bernard Tavier’s masterpiece, Round Midnight, based loosely on the life of expatriot pianist Bud Powell and starring Dexter Gordon. (A must see for any jazz fan or cinema buff). The tune has been recorded several times by Rowles, by the late Bill Evans, by Herbie Hancock in Round Midnight and others.
Here you have the definitive version. Getz and Rowles are telepathic throughout the entire session. But it’s the artistry and persona of Rowles that captivates.
Koch has just reissued this gem, which when released on Columbia in 1977 seemed doomed from the get-go. Sure Rowles had created a buzz by bursting from the obscurity of his native LA to conquor the New York club scene to the critics delight. But there was only one major problem. The record industry itself, specifically, The Bee Gees, and CBS Records.
The Bee Gees because the brothers Gibb and other disco mavens were dominating the charts and the biz, and CBS because they had released the record as a Stan Getz album ! CBS introduced the album as the first and probably last of The Stan Getz Presents series. CBS knew that they had no chance to sell a Rowles album in any quantity, so they positioned it as a Getz led session. (they had no chance to sell his records during this curious time-period either) And on top of that, they misspelled his name ! (Jimmie) Of course this tactic only served to confuse retailers, consumers, and CBS, and solidified the cult status of the album.
But those who listen closely are in for a treat. And thank god, Koch has chosen to make The Peacocks available again.
Comprised of Six Getz and Rowles duets, five small group sessions, and two solos, The Peacocks reveals the genius of Jimmy Rowles. The great writer Whitney Balliett described Rowles in a sterling New Yorker piece, Chanting with Buster- “His singular harmonic sense governs his attack. He use strange, flatted chords that seem to leave his phrases suspended and unresolved. They are questioning chords.”
During the course of his chat with Balliett, Rowles pulled out a leather-bound loose leaf book-“my book, it has all of the tunes in it I play, maybe a thousand or so”. A thousand tunes !!!
On the Peacocks you get a mere 13 of them featuring Rowles’ deep Love and admiration for Ellington, on the gems “What am I Here For’ and “Serenade to Sweden” (described in the liners as “more slow dancing in the dark, with a twist of lemon this time. Sublime. “)
Getz is showcased on the Wayne Shorter masterpiece “Lester left Town” featuring the great Elvin Jones on the traps and bassist Buster Williams. Jimmie’s smokey vocals are front and center on the obscure “I’ll never be the Same” and the World War Two classic “My Buddy”.
Hoagy Carmichael’s(happy 100 Hoag) beautiful “Skylark” is another Getz/Rowles duet described as a “final twilight twirl before last call".
Jimmy Rowles passed at the age of 77 in May of 96. But you can find him everywhere if you look around- with Billie Holiday, Duke, Ben Webster, Charlie Parker and the many guys who were Stan Getz. He was always on the scene, a musicians musician if there ever was one, and he still is.