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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Music Album Cover Monk's Music
THELONIOUS MONK
4.84 | 13 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Misterioso Album Cover Misterioso
THELONIOUS MONK
4.95 | 4 ratings
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STAN KENTON Adventures in Jazz Album Cover Adventures in Jazz
STAN KENTON
4.99 | 3 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA Come Dance With Me! (with Billy May And His Orchestra) Album Cover Come Dance With Me! (with Billy May And His Orchestra)
FRANK SINATRA
4.81 | 7 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA Watertown Album Cover Watertown
FRANK SINATRA
4.91 | 4 ratings
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CHARLIE PARKER Bird And Diz (aka The Genius Of Charlie Parker #4 aka Une Rencontre Historique) Album Cover Bird And Diz (aka The Genius Of Charlie Parker #4 aka Une Rencontre Historique)
CHARLIE PARKER
4.89 | 4 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Big Swing Face Album Cover Big Swing Face
BUDDY RICH
4.95 | 3 ratings
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LOUIS ARMSTRONG Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy Album Cover Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy
LOUIS ARMSTRONG
4.87 | 4 ratings
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JOE PASS Virtuoso Album Cover Virtuoso
JOE PASS
4.93 | 3 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Brilliant Corners Album Cover Brilliant Corners
THELONIOUS MONK
4.70 | 12 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Dream Album Cover Monk's Dream
THELONIOUS MONK
4.69 | 12 ratings
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ARTURO SANDOVAL Swingin' Album Cover Swingin'
ARTURO SANDOVAL
5.00 | 2 ratings
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Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings
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MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING
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Intégrale Volume 13, I remember you, 1953-1954
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LE BANG BANG
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ELIJAH ROCK
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RON BOUSTEAD
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early jazz Music Reviews

THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

Album · 2017 · Swing
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js
The Microscopic Septet is one of those eclectic downtown NYC combos that got their start in the early 80s during the so-called ‘knitting factory scene’. The band disbanded in the late 80s, only to reappear a few decades later for today’s NYC scene that still leans toward eclectic influences and a quirky sense of humor. Microscopic has always favored a swing feel in their music, but not in a nostalgic or museum sense, instead, they often infuse their music with bits of the avant-garde, as well as polkas, tangos, cartoon music, punk rock and whatever else may be laying about. On their latest album, “Been Up So Long it Looks Like Down to Me”, the Septet leans heavily on their swing roots as they present eleven originals, plus two covers, that sound like they could have come from a swing dance club in the 40s. All the same, don’t confuse this album with that whole bothersome ’swing revival’ that came out of San Francisco in the post grunge mid 90s. Microscopic’s music is way more informed about what swing was, and can be in the future, than most of the heavy handed dull trend followers that made up the fortunately short lived ‘revival’.

The basic makeup of the Septet is a four piece saxophone section backed by a three piece rhythm section. Right off the bat this gives the band a sound similar to the Four Brothers, the famous spin off combo from Woody Herman’s big band. Other comparisons to the Microscopic sound could be found in the smaller combos led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sun Ra. The fact that most of the members of the Septet are dedicated to this one band gives their horn section a nice cohesion and flow that is often missing from many modern ensembles whose players have to play in many bands just to pay the bills.

There are lots of great cuts on here. “Dark Blue” has a ‘talking’ bari solo that gets into some call and response with the other horns, “PJ in the 60s” opens with a fierce free solo before settling into some excellent Duke flavored riffs, “Migraine Blues’ features some hard driving Count Basie riffs topped by another wild bari solo, and “Quizzical’ has an interesting arrangement that seems to modulate through many keys in a sort of Don Ellis meets Ellington effect. If there is one song that doesn't seem to fit, it would be, "When its Getting Dark", a campy RnB number that sounds similar to the the theme from the old Batman TV show. I guess its only similarity to the other numbers is that, like the rest, it uses blues changes for its chord progression. The song does redeem itself towards the end when it builds up to four saxophones soloing frantically at the same time.

It seems lately that it has become somewhat hip for avant NYC bands to take another look at the possibilities in pre-bop jazz. The result has been some interesting ’hot’ music that gets away from the dry intellectual sound of modern post bop. If this re-examination of early jazz results in imaginative and swinging albums like “Been Up So Long…”, then it can only be a good thing.

RON BOUSTEAD Unlikely Valentine

Album · 2017 · Vocal Jazz
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js
It would seem that jazz instrumentalists are far more expected to come up with original material than their vocal counterparts. Many new vocal albums will come out this year with the expected collection of well known standards, which isn’t such a bad thing, but it would be nice to hear more original tunes now and again instead of an umpteenth version of “You’ve Changed”, which is why “Unlikely Valentine”, the new CD by Ron Boustead, is such a treat. Of the first five songs on here, four are originals, and on the remaining cuts Boustead presents re-workings of known tunes, plus one more original.

One of the first things you will notice about Boustead is his sharp rapid fire diction. Boustead has a voice that would work great in voice-overs, as a radio DJ, or maybe even as a middle-aged rapper. When Ron wants to, he makes words fly by at a rapid rate like a be-bop saxophonist, but every word is always crystal clear. The next thing you’ll pick up from his originals is that this guy is very witty, with some occasional laugh out loud lyrics, particularly on the satirical “I Won’t Scat”, on which Boustead pokes fun at more indulgent jazz singers. Boustead is proud to point out that the main influence on his vocal style is Mark Murphy, but in his clever lyrics you will hear traces of Mose Allison and Bob Dorough. It comes as no big surprise that Dorough’s, “Love Comes on Stealthy Fingers” closes out this album.

In addition to being a vocalist, Ron is also a sound engineer, which might explain why this CD sounds so crisp, clean and well balanced. Boustead is backed on here by a soulful rhythm section that includes a Hammond B3, plus three horn players which gives the songs a swinging big band flavor. Many singers who are more well known than Boustead will release albums this year, but “Unlikely Valentine” is already one of my top picks for male vocal performance in 2017. Hopefully Ron will be releasing more albums in the future, he is a singer who deserves much wider recognition.

THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

Album · 2017 · Swing
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kev rowland
The complete title of this album is ‘Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues’, and was recorded in just two days last May. The Micros were originally formed in 1980, but split up in 1992 after releasing four albums. These were then reissued as two double CD sets by Cuneiform in 2006, which were so successful that it prompted the band to reform (with only one line-up change). Since then they have released three other albums, and are now back with their fourth. There is only one problem, now that I’ve heard this one I’m going to have to go back and get all the others! When playing jazz recorded before 1960, something I’ve been doing a lot of over the last few years, there are some bands that come close to the boundary with blues, providing a swing and feeling that interweaves the two genres, and that is what I am listening to right now.

This is class Golden Age jazz being taken into blues and creating music that is incredibly accessible, enjoyable, and just so damn soulful all at the same time. My father introduced me to jazz when I was young, encouraging me to listen to Jack Teagarden, Gene Krupa, Bunk Johnson and others, and I know he would get a real kick out of this release as it is right up his alley. They’ve listened to the orchestrations of Duke Ellington, and the way that Thelonious Monk played piano, and brought all this into an incredible album that I can listen to all day. Strangely enough, the song that made the most impression on me is not a blues number as such, but instead is a rather well-known carol. I can honestly say I’ve never heard “Silent Night” played like this before. It starts with just piano, but there is dissonance and chords that don’t quite fit, but actually do very well indeed. This moves into a full band piece that is always recognisable but is taking the song into very new directions indeed. This is a wonderful album, and for details on this and many more invaluable releases visit the label

BEATA PATER Fire Dance

Album · 2017 · Vocal Jazz
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js
Beata Pater’s first five albums could be called ‘typical’ vocal jazz albums, as they featured the usual mix of standards and originals. That’s not to say her vocal approach has not been inspired, instead, she has received high marks for her flexible and fluid style, but no previous album she has made could prepare her followers for her latest, “Fire Dance”. On this new one, Pater employed Alex Danson to write eleven new originals, which Pater then arranged for multiple wordless vocal overdubs supported by a saxophone trio and a four piece electric rhythm section. The end result is a sort of modern big band made up mostly of Pater’s voice multi-tracked up to sixteen times on some cuts. The multi-tracked vocals sometimes have a classic vocal jazz ensemble sound that may remind some of The Swingle Singers or Manhattan Transfer, while the overdubbed wordless sounds may remind some of Bobby McFerrin, but for much of “Fire Dance“, Pater has crafted a sound that is unique to this album.

Musically this album pulls from a variety of styles including modern RnB, post bop and fusion from the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe. The end result is sometimes similar to Weather Report in the late 70s, or any of Joe Zawinul’s bands since WR. Imagine the Swingle Singers covering classic Weather Report material and you might have a clue as to what is going on here. Along with Pater’s lead vocals, the saxophonists occasionally take short solos, and even exchange in free three way interplay on a couple cuts.

The make or break on here is Pater’s approach to wordless vocals. No doubt this was a very risky record to make, many have a right to fear what an album based around wordless vocals might sound like, but “Fire Dance” is a success due to a very careful use of vocal sounds that never become annoying or embarrassing. Pater is also careful to never overuse the so-called ‘scatting’ technique, a decision that saves this album from potential indulgence. Instead, all of the multi-tracked vocals on here are carefully arranged, much like a complex big band chart. Top tracks include two beautifully abstract numbers that appear in the middle of the CD, title track “Fire Dance” and “The Princess”. Both feature soaring vocals that recall a pre-Renaissance European style, as well as a classic Middle Eastern sound.

ILLINOIS JACQUET Illinois Jacquet (aka Banned In Boston)

Album · 1963 · Bop
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js
Illinois Jacquet may no longer be a household name, but in the 40s and 50s he was considered one of the top saxophonists of the early bop, and later swing eras. His sound was often purposefully brusque and rough with a tendency toward piercing extreme’s in register that foreshadowed the strong over the top approach of 60s free jazzers like Albert Alyer and Archie Shepp. When 1963 rolled around, bop was becoming somewhat of an anachronism, in fact Illinois spent the first part of the year with a foray into the new soul jazz sound, but when he cut the self-titled “Illinois Jacquet” for Epic later in 63, it was for playing classic be-bop with some influences from the new hard bop sound and crowd pleasing jump blues. This record may have been somewhat out of step with 63, but removed from its time period, it now sounds like another classic bop record recorded by the originators of the sound who knew how to play it right. Like most musical genres, from country to punk, be-bop sounds best when played by those who made it up, modern players just don’t capture that enthusiastic, somewhat flippant and informed sly attitude that gives the music its main appeal.

“Illinois Jacquet” (later titled “Banned in Boston”) opens with the jump blues of “Frantic Fanny”, and then proceeds through a variety that includes bluesy swing grooves, ballads and some up-tempo be-bop fire. The ballads range from the lovely “Stella by Starlight”, to the borderline corniness of “Imagination”, but possibly the top ballad number is Jacquet’s direct and understated reading of Ravel’s “Reverie”, one of the finest versions of this popular classic that you will find. Of the be-bop numbers, nothing tops the high energy of “Indiana (Back Home Again)”, once again played by folks who know how to play this right, making this album less of an anachronism in today’s world, but more of an important time capsule. This album does not contain some of the more exuberant and fierce playing of Jacquet’s early career, but its still a good solid bop recording, albeit recorded in 1963.

early jazz movie reviews

JONI MITCHELL Shadows And Light

Movie · 1980 · Vocal Jazz
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Slartibartfast
Joni Mitchell meets The Pat Metheny Group.

What can I say? This was my real introduction into the music of Joni and what a place to start! She had really entered a new phase and the tracks offered span from Court And Spark up to Mingus (and of course, the song Shadows And Light, exclusive to the live album).

The concert was an outdoors affair at the Santa Barbara County Bowl. The liner notes say that "this concert catches Joni at the height of her artistic excellence." Having explored her albums after and before this era, I can wholeheartedly agree with that. Jaco Pastorius, who had a reputation at that point of being erratic in live situations, seems to be in a good mode. The camera work is good and the concert is now available on DVD with 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio all of which make for a show worthy of revisiting from time to time.

Artists with Early Jazz release(s)

JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Kind of Blue Cool Jazz
MILES DAVIS
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A Love Supreme Post Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
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The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Post Bop
CHARLES MINGUS
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Miles Davis Quintet : Miles Smiles Post Bop
MILES DAVIS
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Bite of the Orange Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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Generations Progressive Big Band
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