Jazz CDs Pt. 2 - October 2003

Gerald Wilson Orchestra - New York New Sound - Mack Avenue Records MAC 1009:

At age 85 Gerald Wilson is still going strong. The amazing and amazingly under-appreciated figure in modern jazz has had a career that practically covers the history of jazz. He is a composer, arranger, trumpet soloist, band leader, film scorer and educator. Plus the father of the new jazz guitar lion Anthony Wilson. Wilson the very elder studied with Buddy Bolden and worked with Jimmie Lunceford, Basie and Ellington. Strangely, as with another amazing long-time jazz pioneer, Bennie Carter, Wilson has failed to receive anywhere near his due.

Wilson’s hallmark is the use of rather thick and wide voicings which nevertheless ride over an often mesmerizing rhythmic feeling which really swings. He leaves plenty of room for his soloists; such as on this CD Jimmy Heath, Kenny Barron and Clark Terry. Two of his tunes here I fondly remember from the Monterey Jazz Festival: Theme for Monterey, and Blues for Yna Yna (his Siamese cat). Viva Tirado is one of his several Latin tunes which honor various toreadors that he adores (sorry). If you haven’t heard Gerald Wilson before you’re in for a big treat. Sonics are excellent. Tracks: Milestones, Blues for the Count, Equinox, Viva Tirado, Teri, Blues for Yna Yna, Theme for Monterey, M Capetillo, Josefina, Nancy Jo. Purchase here

- John Henry


Branford Marsalis Quartet - Romare Bearden Revealed (Marsalis, saxes; Joey Calderazzo, piano; Eric Revis, bass; Jeff Tain Watts, drums) Marsalis Music/Rounder Records 11661-3306-2:

Wynton’s bro Branford is just as talented as his sibling and has a more laid-back, easygoing style on his instrument - which generally has a more laid-back sound than the trumpet anyway. In this session he brings in the whole Marsalis family, singer Harry Connick Jr. and guitarist Doug Wamble for a musical meditation on some of the masterpieces of jazz which inspired painter Romare Bearden. Eleven of Bearden’s paintings are included with the CD. The artist grew up in Harlem and as early as 1940 jazz musicians began appearing in his paintings. Branford Marsalis put together this jam session in which he challenges listeners to see the music and hear the paintings. Seabreeze has a strong classical flair, B’s Paris Blues has Branford on soprano sax for a Bechet homage, and the same instrument for James P. Johnson’s famous Carolina Shout, with Harry Connick Jr. On piano. (Bearden spent time in North Carolina, where Branford now lives). Bearden also titled some of his collages Carolina Shout. For Autumn Lamp, guest performer Wamble gets a solo spotlight, using a loosely-strung Hawaiian-style guitar. Brother Wynton comes in on Jungle Blues, along with brother Jason on drums and father Ellis on piano. A thoroughly enjoyable nine-track jazz experience: I’m Slappin’ 7th Avenue, Jungle Blues, Seabreeze, J. Mood, B’s Paris Blues, Autumn Lamp, Steppin’ on the Blues. Purchase here

Musical memories of two great keyboardists...

Bud Powell - Parisian Thoroughfares (Powell, piano; with Kenny Clark, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, Barney Wilen, Peanuts Holland, Daniel Humair, Pierre Michelot & Eric Peter) - Pablo PACD-2310-976-2:

This is a sequel to an earlier Pablo reissue of tapes made between l957 and 1961 by the “wounded genius” of jazz. All but two of the 13 tracks are mono and Powell was not in the best of shape at this time - an alcoholic, schizophrenic and subject to epileptic fits - usually under someone else’s legal guardianship. Sometimes the mic is too close to the drums, and Powell was a “moaner” at the keyboard (like Glenn Gould) but there is on the other hand an exciting you-are-there quality with the crowd noises in the nite spots such as Club St-Germain and the Blue Note Cafe. Clark Terry shines on No Problem and Pie Eye, and tenorist Zoot Sims makes the two closing tracks a worthwhile outing. Some of these tunes appeared on the soundtrack for the original French film of Liaisons Dangereous - one of my favorite jazz soundtracks - and it was interesting to hear these different versions of them. Tracks: Yesterdays, Omicron, Anthropology, John’s Abbey, Shaw ‘Nuff, Buzzy, Just One of Those Things, No Problem, Pie Eye, 52nd Street Theme, Miguel’s Party, Groovin’ High, Blue Bud Blues/52nd Street Theme. Purchase here

Shirley Scott - Queen of the Organ - Memorial Album (with Kenny Burrell, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Haynes, Oliver Nelson, Jerome Richardson, Buddy Tate, Stanley Turrentine and others) - Prestige PRCD 11027-2:

A wonderful compendium of Scott recordings made by Rudy Van Gelder for Prestige between 1958 and 1964. Scott was just one of the long list of B3 virtuosi who hailed from the Greater Philadelphia area - “Home of Hammond B3 Soul Jazz.” Others include Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Richard Groove Holmes, Charles Earland, and John and Joey DeFrancesco. Scott was also a pianist and jazz educator. She hooked up with tenorman Eddie Lockjaw Davis and together they made 19 albums for Prestige - some excerpted for this 14-track collection. She was known for a more graceful and lighter touch on the B3 than most of her rocking compatriots, but she can still swing hotly when she puts her mind to it. Most of these tracks are mono because Prestige was one of the last labels to start recording in stereo, but being Van Gelder mono who cares?

Tracks are: It Could Happen to You, The Chef, Caravan, Fourmost, Night Time is the Right Time, Person to Person, The Moon of Manakoora, Sonnymoon for Two, Travelin’ Light, Blue Seven, Senor Blues, Soul Shoutin,’ Solar, Five Spot After Dark. Purchase here

- John Henry

A couple of oldies but goodies - neither are in the jazz mainstream but well worth hearing anyway...

Don Shirley in Concert (with uncredited cello and bass) - Collectables COL-CD-7538:

Ah, hah - another Don Shirley reissue which enables me to expose his genius to a few more ears hopefully. Not really jazz - with every note written down in advance - pianist Shirley recorded this live concert in Carnegie Hall in l968, and it is filled in at the conclusion with both sides of a single he cut for Columbia Records at about the same time. An amazing Renaissance man, Shirley not only appeared as soloist with leading symphonies, but also composed many major classical works. His quotations from classical composers are integrated beautifully into the music, not dashed off as a novelty like those “swing the classics” items of the swing era. Some of his big hits are here, but with an immediacy that only the live concert situation can often provide. Tracks: I Can’t Get Started, I Feel Pretty, My Funny Valentine, Yesterday, I Cover the Waterfront, Georgia on my Mind, Lullaby, Water Boy, One Mans’ Hand, By Myself, Happy Talk, From Eden to Canaan, Stiletto. Purchase here

Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys- 2 LPs on 1 CD - “The Great Bob Wills” & “Remembering... The Greatest Hits of Bob Wills” - Collectables COL-CD 7551:

Bob Wills is regarded as the father of Western Swing. Back in 1935 when all country music groups were string ensembles only, he assembled a big band including horns and reed instruments and integrated country into big band swing. He did a lot of recording over his long career and these selections actually come from 1938 thru l947, though the two LPs in question were issued in l965 and 1976. About half of the 20 tracks are instrumentals, which is nice because Tommy Duncan’s vocals are fun but there can be too much of a fun thing. Interesting guest stars show up here and there, including some who would probably be more familiar to country music fans than they are to me: Leon McAuliffe, Merle Travis, Harley Huggins, even Wayne King joining in on the concluding The Waltz You Saved for Me. The frequent steel guitar and fiddle solos are always a gas with the Playboys. Tunes like Fat Boy Rag and Roly-Poly suggest that Wills had a weight-ist bias. The transfers from the 78s are good enough. If you haven’t gotten into western swing this CD would be a good place to start.

Tracks: You’re There, New Texas Playboy Rag, Misery, Fat Boy Rag, A Sweet Kind of Love, Bob Wills Schottische, I’m Feelin’ Bad, Bob Wills Boogie, Staccato Waltz, Bob Wills’ Special, Corrine Corrina, Time Changes Everything, New San Antonio Rose, Twin Guitar Special, Steel Guitar Rag, Roly-Poly, Spanish Two Step, Maiden’s Prayer, Mexicali Rose, The Waltz You Saved for Me. Purchase here

- John Henry


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