Grachan Moncur III is definitely not a household name. A shame really, since he is without a doubt the innovator of avant-garde and free jazz on the trombone. He does have a cult following, but a musician and composer of this caliber should be well known and celebrated by everyone. He is still alive and active, which is cause for even more attention to his work. I would hate for him to become another jazz great that people discovered postmortem.
Music Matters, the premier Blue Note audiophile vinyl reissuing company feels the same way too. They will be releasing his masterpiece, Evolution in December. For this session, Moncur III was joined by Jackie McLean on the alto sax, Lee Morgan on the trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson on the vibes, Bob Cranshaw on the bass and the 17 year old wunderkind, Tony Williams on the drums.
“The first avant-garde jazz trombonist, Grachan Moncur III. recorded two dazzling classics for Blue Note during 1963-64: Some Other Stuff and Evolution. In the 1950s J.J. Johnson’s boppish trombone style was dominant, resulting in scores of young trombonists sounding quite a bit like Johnson. Moncur, who picked up experience with Ray Charles and the Jazztet, was a very different case. While very familiar with Johnson, Moncur expanded the emotional range of the trombone, and led to its acceptance in free jazz. By 1963, Moncur was fully formed and sounding unique on Jackie McLean’s famous One Step Beyond album. Nearly the same group (with McLean, Bobby Hutcherson and a teenaged Tony Williams) is on Evolution plus the great trumpeter Lee Morgan. The four Moncur pieces are dramatic, lengthy, episodic and full of surprises. The titles (“Air Raid,” “Evolution,” “The Coaster” and especially “Monk In Wonderland”) give listeners hints as to the wild, innovative and unpredictable nature of this dynamic music which is unlike anything heard anywhere else. The wit and colors, along with the brilliant playing, make Evolution a very memorable set even during the extremely fertile period of the mid-1960s.” – Music Matters
The 45rpm version of Evolution by Music Matters will be available in December. It will no doubt go out of print within a few months. While you wait, here are the brilliant cuts from the album. Truly riveting.