It is only six short weeks into the new year and I feel I have heard the best jazz recording of 2013. But that sense of time dislocation is okay because the album I am talking about was recorded and released thirty-two years ago, in 1981.

Live at PBSFM 1981 by the Ted Vining Trio was originally released as an LP by Bill Hawtin of Jazznote Records. Long known, and discussed in reverent – and not so reverent – whispers, this legendary recording has been reissued by Newmarket Music on remastered CD. The sound quality is good, not great; the performances are sky-high motherlovin’ fantastic.

Ted Vining - pic Laki Sideris

For a music such as Jazz – which celebrates ‘the moment’ by its very definition – the live recording has to be the apex. MilesFour and More, Bill Evans’ and John Coltrane’s separate Village Vanguard live masterpieces, Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert – their living-in-the-present immediacy has made for some of the form’s greatest performances.

Live at PBSFM 1981 deserves to be up there with these iconic albums. Drummer Vining, pianist Bob Sedergreen and bassist Barry Buckley – together with guest percussionist Alan Lee – whip up the excitement from note one and never let up. We hear it said all the time, but this gig truly sounds like the last one they will ever play, they play with such abandon – an abandon somehow reckless yet measured, the players simultaneously inside and outside the music.

Sedergreen’s McCoy-Tyner-flavoured piano intro to Trane’s ‘Impressions’ is physical, brutal and tangibly heated – he shows that poor piano no mercy throughout the entire recording; he rocks that box. And suddenly the band is there under him, flying breakneck down the freightTrane track. Buckley (who sadly passed on in 2006) has that compellingly raspy stringy bass tone here that is full of exclamations and percussive snaps popping out of his driving line. Vining of course is joy-in-drumming personified – his freedom is never at the expense of groove and vice versa – his short solo is a journey in and out and round again.

Blossom Dearie’s ‘Sweet Georgie Fame’ is three-quarter-time Gospel-soul that magically turns, at the coda, into a driving four-four, and back again into some fun play between the three. Live at PBSFM 1981 is brimming with these ultra-musical, extra-musical conversations between Vining, Sedergreen and Buckley – the three play, in every sense of the word. Peppered with vocal exhortations, affirmations and joyful egging-on between the musos, the album is as raucously cap-L Live as you can want.Ted Vining 2

Even Dizzy’s latin-Bop chestnut ‘A Night In Tunisia’ is exhumed, dressed in sharp new clothes and sent spinning round the block in a fast car. Dizzying stuff indeed, with Sedergreen’s elongated solo piano coda a particular high. ‘Little Sunflower’ is a 15:49 thrill-ride that has the trio and Lee taking every drop of musical material in Freddie Hubbard’s simple latin-jazz tune and twisting it, melding it and alchemising it into strange and sometimes alien alloys. It is a masterclass in making much out of very little – which is what jazz should be, n’est pas?

In fact, Live at PBSFM 1981 should be required listening for anyone studying piano-trio jazz at present and well into the future. As with John Coltrane’s best later work, it is an object lesson in what you get if you lose all inhibitions, stop thinking with the front-mind and just play and play and play – the result is something beautifully human, giddyingly spiritual and deliciously fullblooded.

Of course it does help to be Ted Vining, Bob Sedergreen and Barry Buckley – a trio that will live on through this remarkable album.

For more information visit: http://newmarketmusic.com

Published February 2103 on australianjazz.net 

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