Monday, February 10, 2014

Time spent in Connie Kay's room

(Note: An explanation of what I'm hoping to accomplish with this post is here. Similar entries can be found here and here.)

Connie Kay played drums on four of Astral Weeks' eight tracks: "Sweet Thing," "The Way Young Lovers Do," "Madame George," and "Ballerina." Kay played with influential jazz saxophonists such as Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins, but was most celebrated for his long tenure with the Modern Jazz Quartet.

The above track is the Modern Jazz Quartet's "I'll Remember April" (off 1955's Concorde). It's a song that's wholly nostalgic, that tugs at memory without being excessively sentimental. (I suppose it's like Astral Weeks in that regard.) Kay matches the blistering pace Milt Jackson sets on the vibraphone. They're like a pair of sprinters zipping toward an unseen finish line, arms and legs pumping, their velocity never ebbing.

Kay's performance is subtle but assertive; he takes the lead, he plays a support role—at particular moments it even feels like he's doing both at the same time. He brings balance to the song even while challenging Jackson's authority. If one likened the vibraphone soloing on "I'll Remember April" to the vibrant luminosity of sunshine, then Kay's drumming is grey, driving rain. Scratch that—grey, driving, Belfast rain.​

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