The Revival of the Impulse! Record Label and a Review of 3 offerings for your Jazz Desires
Article and Review by Joseph Timmons: Xombiewoof Magazine
- Self-Titled Album: Charlie Haden & Jim Hall
- Henry Butler & Steven Bernstein – Viper’s Drag
- Kenny Barron & Dave Holland – The Art Of Conversation
First, a History…
** Impulse! Records, American jazz record label, originally established in 1960 by producer Creed Taylor as a subsidiary of ABC-Paramount Records, was based in Santa Monica. John Coltrane was among Impulse!'s earliest signings and thanks to the consistent sales and critical kudos generated by his recordings, the label came to be known in retrospect as "the house that Trane built.
Being almost exclusively an album-based label, Impulse! was able to exploit the new format to the fullest and its LPs are noted for their distinctive visual style. During the 1960s, Impulse! covers and disc labels featured variations on this their color scheme (a notable exception to this scheme is the John Coltrane album A Love Supreme, possibly the most iconic release of the label's catalogue, which uses the usual design in black and white only); for most of the 1960s the front cover of Impulse! albums typically featured the Impulse logo, usually (but not always) in orange letters in a white circle, with black-and-orange exclamation marks above it and the album catalog number below it. The classic design of the disc label, used for most of the 1960s, featured alternations of the Impulse name and the "i-and-exclamation-mark" logo in white-and-orange, set in a black ring, which encircled the label details, most of which was printed in bold black lettering on an orange circle, with some details printed in white.
Like its contemporaries Blue Note and Verve, the front covers of Impulse's LPs often featured stylish large-format photographs or paintings, usually in full color, which were typically 'bled out' to the edges of the cover and printed on glossy laminated stock. Many of the best-known Impulse! covers were designed by photographed by a small group of talented artists. The distinctive, sparse black and white back cover designs bore the slogan "The New Wave of Jazz is on IMPULSE!"; most Impulse! LPs were issued in a gatefold sleeve with photographs and liner notes or an essay inside or, in some cases, multi-page insert booklets.
Impulse!, a label rich in musical history was soon to become part of the Universal Music service brand, unfortunately, in my opinion it was not featured enough, and even though it stood tall as a Jazz Music powerhouse in Europe, it’s American following felt somewhat disappointed by the lack of marketing and promotion, until recently (within the past 3 years) when Universal Music, which also controls both Verve and Blue Note, the present major Jazz supporting Labels, as well as a full gambit of title holdings, rebuilding the Impulse! Brand to full glory. **
Now in its “Renaissance” the Impulse! Record Label is once again a major label for artists that have Jazz flowing through their bodies and out into our ears. In a recent New York Times article “Reviving the House Coltrane Built”, writer and critic Nate Chinen was quoted to say “Impulse’s reactivation reflects a larger turnaround for major-label jazz divisions, most of which had struggled or been shuttered within the past decade or so.” - continuing on in this article to tell of Impulse!’s revival and of good things forth coming. It is safe to say that Jazz is Back, and with labels like Impulse!, Verve and Blue Note, we have many great artists to discover.***
We will now discuss the 3 albums we reviewed to coincide with this lesson of longevity and renewal, we contacted Impulse!, about a review and they sent 3 impressive albums for us to enjoy and report to you.
The self-titled Album: Charlie Haden & Jim Hall, much like the black cats on the cover is a whimsical yet seething and mysterious trip through the senses. Well-rehearsed and performed Haden and Hall make a masterful pair, performing with an ease that would make one think the pieces were fully improvisational. My faves on this album is the opening track Bemsha Swing, followed by Down From Antigua, Skylark and In The Moment. Recording this album must have been, as would be said “A Gas”, just great fun to hear. In Jazz, timing Is Everything, and Charlie Haden & Jim Hall is on the cut, well done gentleman, well done.
Henry Butler & Steven Bernstein’s album Viper’s Drag is upbeat, high tempo and has an Orleans feel, mix of Dixie swing and the of time tempos that make Jazz so exciting. The piece Henry’s Boogie is piping hot and snappy, just imaging some sweet hot creole gumbo on the tip of the tongue, that crazy need a drink of a tall cool glass of water, yeah, that’s it. While pieces like King Porter Stomp have a Sultry & Smokey speakeasy feel, this takes you down to Bourbon Street.
The final album is an open audio dialog, an exchange of ideas and communication without words. The Art Of Conversation by Kenny Barron & Dave Holland take the marriage of Piano and Double Bass beyond the equality of strings, taking turns in the lead and pointing out the truth in the notes. If people spoke in notes, this would be the debate of the century. Kenny Barton’s playing is superb, wistful and spritely, while Dave Holland’s Bass carries power in even its softest notes. Though The Art Of Conversation is their first album together, this Duo has the makings of 2 cut from the same sheet of the finest silk known, smooth and intricate, bold and expressive, while having a softness and demure quality that makes you perk up your ears and listen intently to each hammer fall and pluck.
With the advent of modern technology you can get the inside scoop on these and all of the Impulse! Artists at the Impulse! Web Site and on their Facebook Page. Visit the Impulse! YouTube Channel and witness the greatness, expand your mind, your horizons and your collection with these and more great Impulse! Artists.
** - Taken from Wikipedia, checked for accuracy via research
***- Quote taken from article present on NY Times web site, printed as stated from public source.