Jazz CDs, Pt. 2 - November 2002

Two pleasing piano trios herewith...

Bill Mays Trio - Summer Sketches (Mays, piano; Matt Wilson, drums; Martin Wind, bass) - Palmetto PM-2070:

Sensitive pianist Mays has selected ten tunes having to do with summer, and embues all of them with his fine sense of tone color and impressionistic mood-painting. Such attention to subtleties doesn't preclude rhythmic turns such as the strong blues on one tune and the Brazilian samba on another. There's even a few crickets and other summer sound effects mixed in briefly along the way to set the scene. Tracks: Summer Night, Estate, Fireflies, Indian Summer, Summer Sketch, Summer School, Early August, The Things We Did Last Summer, Summer Serenade, Once Upon a Summertime.

Kerry Politzer Trio - Polisonic 01:

In the first of her self-published CDs pianist Politzer focused on Brazilian music and was compared to the great Elaine Elias. On this her second album, she presents 11 of her own tunes plus Gershwin's A Foggy Day in a more standard jazz piano trio format. Her tunes are melodically inventive and demonstrate a versatile range of styles and moods. Her playing is economical and sensitive, as was Bill Evans'. The lyrical Silent Morning boasts a lovely solo, but on tunes such as Sparks Politzer can swing with the best of them, and with fine support from her rhythm section. Tracks: Watercolor, Sparks, Early Spring Chill, A Foggy Day, Whim, Waiting, Woodpecker, Silent Morning, Waltz for Charlie, Identity, Simmer, Green Light.

- John Henry


The Genius of Oscar Peterson - very early and mid-period...

This is Oscar Peterson at the Piano - Bluebird First Edition 09026-63990 2 (2 CDs):

This is nothing like the Oscar Peterson most of us might have in our collections. These are his first recordings, made in Toronto, before his debut at Carnegie Hall. RCA Canada wanted him to do boogie woogie and stride piano styles and Peterson applied his genius to it even though this wasn't exactly his thing. Nevertheless he's just as rollicking a boogie woogie player as the big names like Albert Ammons. He plays solo and in trio and quartet formats in sessions that were recorded in l945 thru 47 and also l949. About the last one-third of each of the two CDs is devoted to Alternate Takes. Occasionally a bit of strong record noise comes thru but mostly the restoration job on these old masters is highly successful in bringing the sonics into modern times. Among the 49 tracks are such favorites as I Got Rhythm, Blue Moon, East of the Sun, C Jam Blues, Sweet Georgia Brown and A Ghost of a Chance. The front cover is a reproduction of the original Victor 45-rpm set and later of the 10 inch LP version.

Oscar Peterson, solo - Pablo PACD-2310-975-2:

Performing solo without a rhythm section puts the pianist out there without a safety net so to speak. Some of the best piano playing has come in this situation from such performers as Ellington, Brubeck and Basie. These tracks were all recorded live during l972 at jazz concerts Peterson gave in both Baalbek, Lebanon and Amsterdam. His breathless virtuosity is in the spotlight 100% in this setting. The notes go into the constant challenge touring pianists have of finding a decent instrument. When they are stuck with one that isn't - as with the piano in Lebanon - the creative pianist has to come up with a choice of repertory that doesn't exacerbate the particular instrument's worst faults. Tracks: Yesterdays, Makin' Whoopee, Who Can I Turn To, Take the A Train, Body and Soul, Blues of the Prairies, Corcovado, Blues Etude, Autumn Leaves, Here's That Rainy Day, Sweet Georgia Brown, Satin Doll, Mirage, Hogtown Blues.

- John Henry


A pair of terrific historic recordings in terrific updated sonics...

The Benny Goodman Quartet - Together Again! (Goodman, clarinet; Teddy Wilson, piano; Lionel Hampton, vibes; Gene Krupa, drums) - RCA Bluebird 09026-63881-27:

These are a good deal more recent discings than the Goodman Sextet recordings in the Charlie Christian set. The original quartet only existed for two years in the late 30s and recorded 40 tunes for RCA. But in l963 they reunited to record this new album, with all four original members, and recording this time in stereo. The restoration is a delight - sounding like it was taped yesterday. In this case the CD probably surpasses the 1963 LP since that vinyl featured the ill-fated Dynagroove gimmick that made such processed discs sound better on lousy phonographs and lousy on quality playback systems. Only one of the tunes came from the quartet's 1930s repertory - this was a fresh and spontaneous collaboration, not an exercise in nostalgia. Tracks: Seven Come Eleven, Say It Isn't So, I've Found a New Baby, Somebody Loves Me, Who Cares?, Runnin' Wild, I Got It Bad, Dearest, I'll Get By, Four Once More.

Eric Dolphy - Far Cry (Dolphy, alto sax/bass clarinet/flute; Booker Little, trumpet; Jaki Byard, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Roy Haynes, drums) - Prestige/Fantasy PRCD-8270-2:

This was one of the best-known trumpet/sax duos in modern jazz, and it lasted such a brief time because of the untimely deaths of both musicians shortly after this recording session. It took place in December of l960 and is one of the first stereo discings from the Prestige label, which was one of the last jazz labels to go stereo. Engineer Rudy Van Gelder has put Dolby on the left channel and Little on the right for dramatic exchanges throughout the session. The tapes were skillfully remastered at JVC studios using some of the same processing chain as the famed xrcd audiophile series. (There is an apology in the album notes about the source suffering from inherent tape flaws, but they must only be audible on headphone listening.) I had previously thought of Dolphy as being more avant than heard on these eight tracks, although I enjoyed his unique flute solos. These tracks are explorational in nature but their harmonic bearings are always there along with many lovely lyrical moments. Dolphy's bass clarinet work is especially captivating. The first four tracks form a sort of suite, and each tune features Dolphy on a different instrument. The 23-year-old Little was a perfect partner for Dolphy, sharing his feelings that more emotion could be expressed outside the conventional diatonic way of playing. Pianist Byard is an important factor in this great recording. He too is described in Nat Hentoff's original notes as "a non conformist but...a cohesive experimenter." Tracks: Mrs. Parker of K.C., Ode to Charlie Parker, Far Cry, Miss Ann, Left Alone, Tenderly, It's Magic, Serene.

- John Henry


Two reissues from the 60s and 70s that will kindle some instant nostalgia for many readers...

Hubert Laws, flute - The Rite of Spring (Arr. By Don Sebesky, with large ensemble & strings) - CTI/Epic Legacy EK 61628:

One of producer Creed Taylor's more famous efforts, this popular album of the early 70s featured four familiar classical works in contemporary versions by one of the most creative arrangers in the business, Don Sebesky. The works are Faure's Pavane, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Debussy's Syrinx, and two movements of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. Hubert Laws is the soloist, taking flight over a large orchestra and guest personnel including Bob James on keyboards, Ron Carter on bass & cello, and a percussion section consisting of Airto, David Friedman and Jack DeJohnette. The originals are not "jazzed up" but presented in a new light intended to bring them to new ears - not to replaced the originals. Only 30 minutes - the original LP's length - and one doesn't get the lovely 12-inch-size album art of the original, but if you don't have the original this is next best. What would be even better is if Legacy went back to the four-channel masters of The Rite of Spring, which was released as an SQ surround disc in another CTI classic, The Giant Box, and released it and everything else on both those LPs on multichannel SACD!

Count Basie Orchestra - Basie Meets Bond - Capitol Jazz /Blue Note 7243 5 38225 2 1:

Somehow Basie and Bond strike me as an unlikely juxtaposition, and this album concept as a sort of jazzploitation, but those who are both Basie and Bond fans will wig out over this CD. Chico O'Farrill and George Williams created the 11 arrangements and they do all have the familiar Basie sound. Wonder how the Bond movies would be with these tracks accompanying them instead of the original John Barrys and others? The original four-track tapes were remastered using 24 bit digital and famed reissue producer Michael Cuscuna was in charge. Tracks: 007, The Golden Horn, Girl Trouble, Kingston Calypso, Goldfinger, Thunderball, From Russian With Love, Dr. No's Fantasy, Underneath the Mango Tree, The James Bond Theme, Dr. No's Fantasy (alt. Version).

- John Henry


Two European jazz guitarists of note here...

Bereli Lagrene - Gipsy Project & Friends - Dreyfus FDM 36638-2:

Lagrene started out in adolescence following in the footsteps of Django Reinhardt. Today he is one of the top talents in the constantly expanding legion of performers world-wide who are preserving and further developing the wonderful gypsy jazz originated by Django in the l930s. There are even gypsy-jazz festival now in both Europe and the U.S. Bireli not only has the authentic gypsy emotional feel, but his virtuosity probably surpasses even that of Django. And the recording quality of the album taped earlier this year is tops. Many of the tunes are by Reinhardt or popularized by him, and there is one composed by his son Babik. Tracks: Djangology, When Day Is Done, Bei Dir War Es Immer So Schon, Babik, Ou Es-tu Mon Amour?, Les Yeux Noirs, Envie de Toi, Minor Swing, Laura, Artillerie Lourde, Place de Broukere, Songe d'Automne, Une Histoire Simple, My First Guitar.

Philip Catherine, guitar - Summer Night (with Philippe Aerts, bass; Joost van Schaik, drums, Bert Joris, trumpet & Flugelhorn) - Dreyfus 7 64911 66372-2:

Catherine has been a major name in the European jazz guitar world for some time now. He has played with many major soloists, and in this quartet sets up many interesting duo/exchanges with trumpeter Joris. The pairing of guitar and trumpet is somewhat unusual and results in a new view of the standards included in this album of 13 tracks. They are; Tiger Groove, Letter from my Mother, Summer Night, Francis' Delight, Birth of Janet, Janet, Time After Time, Laura, If I Should Lose You, 'Round About Midnight, All Through the Day, Le Jardin de Madi, Gilles et Mirona.

- Jean Henri


A pair of world-music-influenced discs next...

John Stetch, solo piano - Ukrainianism - Justin Time JUST 187-2:

While there is no actual bio on pianist Stetch, from the notes for the individual tracks it appears he comes from a settlement of Ukrainians in western Canada. He has taken folksongs and dances of the Ukraine and surrounding areas and "deconstructed" them into modern swinging versions imbued with the fascinating rhythmic figures of this Slavic music. Blues and folk melodies blend surprisingly well and Stetch shows himself a true virtuoso to do these nine tunes completely solo. He even touches in his notes on some serious concerns such as the Chornobyl catastrophe and Stalin's man-made famine of l933 in the Ukraine. Tracks: Rye Not Wheat!, Kolomeyka Fantasy, Harmony in the Family, Zabava, Famine, Carpathian Blues, Sitting by the Window, Savella, Children of Chornobyl.

Takillacta - Music of the People (Andean Songs) - Naxos World 76036-2:

OK, it's not jazz but we don't have a world music section and this pan pipes-based music of the Andes is so glorious to hear you should know about it, and perhaps have it at a bargain price too. A dozen all instrumental tracks, with titles having to do with llamas, the pampas, the earth and Lake Titicaca. Fresh and sunny-sounding melodies, beautifully recorded to take the listener to the South American highlands.

- John Henry


We close out now with two more oldies but goodies from the 50s...

Dave Brubeck Quartet - Jazz at the College of the Pacific, Vol. 2 (with Paul Desmond, Ron Crotty, Joe Dodge) - Fantasy OJCCD-1076-2:

One of the famed early albums from Brubeck was Jazz at the College of the Pacific (in Stockton, CA), the jazz pianists alma mater. This CD is about an hour of previously unreleased material from that same concert which had earlier been reissued on another CD. 1953 is the date and this is of course mono, but the sound is serviceable. Brubeck was 33 when he cut this 33 and in a dozen years his face would be on the cover of TIME. Great stuff for Brubeck fans! Tracks; Crazy Rhythm, Let's Fall in Love, Stardust, How High the Moon, The Way You Look Tonight, Love Walked In, Give a Little Whistle, I Found a New Baby. That final track is a snippet of Dave practicing in one of the college's rehearsal rooms.

Terry Gibbs Dream Band Vol. 6 - One More Time - Contemporary CCD-7658 2:

Volume 6? If the first five were anything like this one, I really missed out! These came from live tapings at a Hollywood jazz club in l959 but sound like they were recorded yesterday, and are in excellent stereo. They came about as a result of the l994 Northridge earthquake, which badly damaged Gibbs house and he had to move out. On moving back in everything got put in different places and purely by accident he came across 25 boxes of open reel tapes he had forgotten about. The best performances from those tapes constitute this CD and they really are a dream. Gibbs chose takes often made toward the end of an evening, so everyone was relaxed and really swinging. Among the dream soloists are Pete Jolly on piano, Mel Lewis on drums, Bill Holman on tenor sax, and the trumpet section included Conte Candoli. Gibbs' vibes are front and center in some but not all tracks, and the superb Irene Kral contributes two vocals. One of the most fun big band albums I've heard in a long time. Tracks: The Fuzz, The Subtle Sermon, Opus One, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Slittin' Sam, Prelude to a Kiss, Flying Home, I Remember You, The Fat Man, Just Plain Meyer, Sometimes I'm Happy, Moonlight in Vermont, Love Come Back to Me, Jumpin' at the Woodside.

- John Henry

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