In the 1960s, San Francisco Chronicle music critic, Ralph J. Gleason, hosted a thirty minute program entitled "Jazz Casual" for National Educational Television (the precursor to the Public Broadcasting System) featuring a variety of musicians. Koch Jazz has reprised these recordings using two thirty-minute sets including interviews by Mr. Gleason.
"Jazz Casual" continues to prove as an informal forum to introduce audiences to different forms of jazz and blues. Without audiences to react or much time to stretch out on tunes, the performances can feel a bit arid. Even though Mr. Gleason's short interviews sound like a flat-toned Mr. Science of the era, he does manage to warm up the bands to make them feel comfortable in these abbreviated concerts.
In the initial set performed in October 1961, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet starts with strong rendition of Joe Zwainul's "Scotch and Water" followed by a very informative exchange about the variations of the blues. Adderley proves be an easy interview and an articulate, down-home educator of the relationship of the blues and contemporary jazz. It is followed by another blues piece, "Arriving Soon," that is thoroughly delightful and perfectly responds to Adderley's mini-lecture. It's rough at times followed with some exquisite passages. "Unit Seven" is yet another slant of the on the basic twelve-bar blues format. The short lessons of Adderley perfectly set up and, lest I say, educates the listener to the pieces.
The second set, performed by the Charles Lloyd Quartet in June 1968, is a marked contrast to Adderley's Quintet. The Quartet isn't as user-friendly. There are no interviews explaining and introducing the music. The Quartet seems perfectly at ease just to play their cutting edge pieces. Gleason is nowhere to be found. They eschew the patter. They are in their own world, but almost as if they are turning their backs to the audience. However, this does not at all take away from the music. The Quintet educates in its own take-it-or- leave-it approach. Further askew from the blues, the music veers on the avant-garde. It is simple and complex, lush and dissonant. While "Love Ship" is passionately beautiful, the triumph of the set is the twenty minute "Tagore/Passin' Thru." It is a radical piece that begins with Keith Jarrett strumming piano strings seems to be the beginning of a weird Indian raga bent on chaos and disorientation with insistent percussion provided by DeJohnette and McClure. The piece eventually culminates with a melancholic, nervy saxophone duet between Lloyd and Jarrett. As they begin their third piece, they are cut off after nearly two minutes. Their thirty-minute allotment is over. The show is over. Cut to the credits. But, you just know the band must have continued for another extended run. They are just getting started.