BOB THIELE PROFILED (2013): At the helm of the Flying Dutchman

 |   |  2 min read

Bob Thiele Emergency: Lanoola Goes Limp
BOB THIELE PROFILED (2013): At the helm of the Flying Dutchman

On paper certain things don't seem to match up in Bob Thiele's professional life, especially in the late Sixties.

As a producer at Impulse he had steered the careers of many notable jazz artists (Mingus, Ayler, Shepp, Rollins etc), chief among them John Coltrane whom he had encouraged to follow a singular path which lead to the spiritually imbued A Love Supreme and beyond.

After Coltrane died in '67 however, Thiele -- who was heartbroken -- could be found producing Louis Armstrong on a song he (Thiele) co-wrote under a pseudonym with George Weiss.

It was What a Wonderful World, which was intended to take some of the heat out of the racial cracks appearing in America, and which became the biggest selling single of '68 in Britain.

By the following year -- after a bust-up with Impulse -- Thiele has started his own label, Flying Dutchman, which was recording fiery politicised black American artists, psychedelic rock, Ornette Coleman, Pharoah Sanders and producing a group of seasoned players (Tom Scott, John Carter, Jim Horn among them) as the Bob Thiele Emergency.

So the man who also produced BB King, John Lee Hooker and T-Bone Walker as well as Pat Boone, Jack Kerouac and Duke Ellington (and was married to singer Teresa Brewer) now had his own label and could what he damn well pleased.

thiele1And what pleased him was using his Emergency roll-call of players for the double album Head Start -- selling for only two cents more than a single album as he told record buyers on the cover --  which neatly has a foot in just about every jazz genre imaginable (and none consistently).

It also spins out in a final 16 minute side-long spoken-word piece -- with soundbites and abstract musical accompaniment -- by Thiele on the troubled times in the World (It is entitled Biafra, King, John and Robert, The American Indian).

Before that the third side of the album was dedicated to Coltrane (which included the lovely Lament for John Coltrane: Joe Farrell on flute, drummer Elvin Jones, bassist Wilbur Little), A Love Supreme read by Rosko with Farrell, and Holiday for a Graveyard written and played by Ornette Coleman. It was recorded live at Coltrane's funeral.

thiele2The second side is a jazz suite which moves from Pickin' Taters Blues through Swing Era, Be Bop and ending with Avant Garde (written by John Carter).

In this context would a Beatles ballads section (Blackbird, Julia, I Will) seem so unexpected?

Hardly. It's right there on the first side between Tom Scott's Freaky Zeke and a piece entitled Lanoola Goes Limp.

That's what you get to do when you not only have your own label, but loyal musicians whose trust you had built up over decades.

Flying Dutchman under Bob Thiele released dozens of interesting and often innovative jazz and elsewhere albums (the Spiro Agnew comedy album hasn't dated well) but few albums as out-there and diverse as Head Start.

Thiele also helmed the Bob Thiele Collective (another free-floating ensemble) which recorded for his Red Baron label.

But if it's a journey inside the thinking of Thiele -- who died in '96 aged 73 -- then Head Start, reissued on CD with good liner notes and the original cover essays included, is where you should start.

Bob Thiele was different. In a good and generous way.

For another interesting Flying Dutchman release see here.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Absolute articles index

OTIS BLACKWELL REMEMBERED (2012): Mr Otis, no regrets

OTIS BLACKWELL REMEMBERED (2012): Mr Otis, no regrets

When Otis Blackwell died in May 2002 in his adopted hometown of Nashville -- the songwriter's city -- the tributes followed, and rightly so. He might not have been inducted into the Rock'n'Roll... > Read more

PULP REISSUED (2012): Portrait of the Jarvis as a young knobhead

PULP REISSUED (2012): Portrait of the Jarvis as a young knobhead

When the Sheffield band Pulp gate-crashed the relentlessly jingoistic and self-aggrandising Britpop party in '95 with their single Common People, they were hardly a new band. The Different... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE BIRTH OF BEBOP -- A SOCIAL AND MUSICAL HISTORY by SCOTT DEVEAUX

THE BIRTH OF BEBOP -- A SOCIAL AND MUSICAL HISTORY by SCOTT DEVEAUX

Suggesting that this engrossing, historically investigative and anecdotally amusing book should be reviewed because it asked the question, "Was bebop jazz a revolution or simply a musical... > Read more

HARRY SINCLAIR INTERVIEWED (2011): Expat filmmaker talks about his life

HARRY SINCLAIR INTERVIEWED (2011): Expat filmmaker talks about his life

Harry Sinclair who has lived in the States for the past 10 years – the last four in LA, years prior to that in New York – is still well known in New Zealand. His reputation rests on... > Read more