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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Music Album Cover Monk's Music
THELONIOUS MONK
4.90 | 10 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall Album Cover With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
THELONIOUS MONK
4.98 | 5 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
4.91 | 6 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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THELONIOUS MONK Brilliant Corners Album Cover Brilliant Corners
THELONIOUS MONK
4.80 | 9 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
4.98 | 3 ratings
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STAN KENTON Kenton in HI-FI Album Cover Kenton in HI-FI
STAN KENTON
4.98 | 3 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA Watertown Album Cover Watertown
FRANK SINATRA
4.91 | 4 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Dream Album Cover Monk's Dream
THELONIOUS MONK
4.79 | 9 ratings
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LOUIS ARMSTRONG Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy Album Cover Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy
LOUIS ARMSTRONG
4.95 | 3 ratings
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JOE PASS Virtuoso Album Cover Virtuoso
JOE PASS
4.93 | 3 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Miles Davis All Star Sextet (aka Walkin') Album Cover Miles Davis All Star Sextet (aka Walkin')
MILES DAVIS
4.77 | 7 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington

Album · 1956 · Bop
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js
“Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington” is an album that comes early in Monk’s career. He had started out at the Prestige label, where he recorded a handful of albums that featured his original compositions that were on the cutting edge of modern be-bop. These albums did not sell well as many jazz fans felt Monk’s music was too ‘difficult’, and sometimes downright foreboding. Frustrations with Prestige finally reached a head and Monk was let go, which is when upstart label Riverside entered the picture. Eager to have a known artist on their roster, Riverside gladly took on Monk and began advising him on how to expand his audience. The whole idea behind ‘Monk Plays Ellington’ was to have Monk record some familiar tunes by a well known master, and then possibly a wider audience may come to appreciate him.

Many hardcore Monk fans are dismissive of ‘Plays Ellington’, and consider it somewhat of a commercial sellout with less than top notch playing. This harsh evaluation is hardly true, although this is not one of Monk’s more outside albums, he hardly plays it safe or checks his creativity at the door. Instead these tunes carry all the trademarks of Monk’s playing; the weird rhythmic juxtapositions, the jagged phrasing and the surprise note choices, its all here, plus Ellington too. Choosing Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clark as his backup also shows that Monk was striving for more credibility and acceptance by picking two of the top and best known performers of that time. Pettiford gets a couple short solos, and also engages in some interesting interplay with Thelonious.

Monk’s playing easily fits with Ellington’s music, as they both come from this sophisticated and abstract blues perspective. Monk’s playing on here may seem somewhat restrained compared to some of his other albums, but I doubt that was due to a lack of creativity or commercial concerns, instead it seems that Monk doesn’t want to take all the ‘Ellington’ out of the music and make it too much of a Monk joint. His perceived restraint probably has more to do with Monk’s integrity and artistic respect than anything else.

Monk does not perform any major transformations on any of these tunes, probably the only noticeable change comes when “Mood Indigo” is played like a blues, instead of the languid lounge number it usually is. Possibly top tune honors could go to “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart’ , which is given a joyous romp with a dissonant solo, and ends up sounding a bit like Monk’s “Let’s Cool One”. Also memorable are “Black and Tan Fantasy” and Monk’s moving solo work on “Solitude”. Overall this is a good album, but possibly more interesting to Ellington fans than Monk fans.

SCOTT JOPLIN Elite Syncopations (vol.5)

Album · 1974 · Ragtime
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siLLy puPPy
Ragtime has the honor of being called the very first truly American musical genre and emerged in the 1890s by Ernest Hogan who traveled in minstrel shows as a dancer, musician and comedian. He was the first to add African polyrhythms to the popular march music that was popularized by John Philip Sousa. In 1895 Hogan released many published songs that he actually named ragtime. Perhaps forgotten in history due to the unsavory racial stereotypes that he used in his works and biggest hit “All Coons Look Alike To Me,” he nonetheless opened the doors to other artists who would evolve the syncopation in ragtime to the myriad forms of jazz that would emerge in the 20th century.

Although Hogan invented it, it was SCOTT JOPLIN who is indubitably the most widely known and crowned king of the ragtime sound and managed to write 44 original rags from 1899 to 1917 in his short life (born 1868 died 1917). JOPLIN hit the big time with one of his early pieces the “Maple Leaf Rag” which is perhaps the most popular rag in all of music history. JOPLIN didn’t just merely copy the form but earned his place in history by refining and elevating the style above the early forms that were associated with the vulgar and unsavory elements in the world of entertainment of the day. JOPLIN achieved this by his exposure to European polkas, 19th century European romanticism as well as the African-American styles ranging from work songs and gospels to spirituals and dances.

Out of the many compilations out that don the SCOTT JOPLIN moniker, most if not all are interpretations of his music by other artists with those by Joshua Rifkin perhaps being the most popular and widely available. On this compilation titled ELITE SYNCOPATIONS - CLASSIC RAGTIME FROM RARE PIANO ROLLS released on the Biograph label on vinyl in 1974 and then released in 1987 on CD with a different track order and four extra songs, we get one of the few releases where JOPLIN actually plays his own music, well at least on the three opening tracks “Maple Leaf Rag,” “Ole Miss Rag (written by W.C.Handy)” and “Magnetic Rag.” Unfortunately there is a huge gap because many of JOPLIN’s rags were not originally issued on piano rolls which was the storage medium of the day used to operate a player piano.

Unfortunately only about six of the original piano rolls from JOPLIN’s times survive and as a result the remaining rolls featured on this release were produced by the serious collector Hal Boulware all the way back in the 1960s who painstakingly reproduced the scores faithfully to original print with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed for authenticity’s sake. That is the purpose of this compilation - to faithfully restore the lost gaps in JOPLIN’s history and present them as originally intended. ELITE SYNCOPATIONS will not sound much different than any other compilation released by other musicians playing, but if one listens attentively there are subtle differences just as one would here in any piece of music interpreted by different performers. The main difference here is the inclusion of actually pieces by JOPLIN as well as the desire to be as faithful to the original written scores as possible. This is a perfect beginner’s album as well as one of the serious collector despite not being a fully comprehensive release of all 44 songs.

Personally i like this album as much as any JOPLIN release. It neither exceeds nor detracts from the many compilations released over the years. It simply clears the cobwebs out of the vaults and introduces the listener to some of the lesser known tracks of JOPLIN’s career. I am a fan of ragtime, but i have to admit that listening to an hour of it shows the limitations of its style and the inevitable need for its evolution into stride piano and beyond in the greater jazz world. Nevertheless a pretty good album that celebrates the very first American musical genre that took the world by storm at the dawn of the 20th century.

QUINCY JONES I Dig Dancers

Album · 1960 · Big Band
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js
With “I Dig Dancers”, Quincy Jones continued his gradual shift from a pure jazz artist to a pop artist with a jazzy slant, but with no real drop off in quality or creativity. As the title suggests, this album is geared toward dancing, but not of the rockin RnB variety, instead this is more of a throwback to jazz’s ballroom dancing days in the heyday of the swing band, but the music isn’t particularly retro, its Quincy’s fresh 60s sound all the way. The band assembled here was an all-star aggregation that was put together to support a European tour of “Free and Easy”. When that show ended, Jones took this great band, that featured Benny Bailey, Clark Terry, Phil Woods and others, on a tour of Europe and also made many of these recordings. After returning to the states, Jones made some more recordings, this time with Freddie Hubbard and Oliver Nelson on board.

Along with Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones was inventing the soundtrack for life in the 60s and the new middle-class suburban hip. This is the sound of double martinis, James Bond movies, Playboy magazine and car commercials featuring Sting Rays and Thunderbirds. Some of this music might be a bit cute for the serious jazz fan, but for those who enjoy 60s soundtracks, albums like this are the pinnacle of a distinct sound and nuance. Although much of this music leans pop, there is no lack of artistry; Melba Liston’s “Tone Poem” is interesting in its 3rd stream abstractions, “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set” is a beautiful ballad featuring one of the best Phil Woods solos you will ever hear and “G’wan Train” has some nice driving RnB horn riffs. Its also interesting to note that the version of "Midnight Sun" on here is far jazzier than the straighter version that will appear on "Birth of a Band Vol 2".

Although this music is not as pure jazz as Jones’ early albums, such as “How I Feel About Jazz”, its not near as cute and corny as the pop tunes that will surface on “Birth of a Band Part 2” or the bonus tracks on “The Complete Birth of a Band”. Instead, the music on “I Dig Dancers” walks a fine line between big band jazz and artsy pop music. I think most Quincy Jones fans will find a lot to like here, the orchestrations and recorded sound are excellent.

THELONIOUS MONK Genius Of Modern Music Volume 2

Boxset / Compilation · 1956 · Bop
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Matt
These were the last sessions that Thelonious Monk recorded during his tenure at Blue Note Records which lasted from 1947 to 1952 and they comprise as the previous Volume 1 edition the first incantations of so many of his classic compositions that he would record again throughout the later 1950’s and 60”s. If one looks at his recording dates whilst at Blue Note there is a four year gap and although he had lost his Cabaret License and was no longer able to play licensed venues and clubs, it was that his records did not sell being more the reason for his absents. Monk’s music was not the usual BeBop with its fast tempos and starring solos but more a collective with each musician required to interlink with each other to maintain those looping, jaunting, up and down notes that the majority of Thelonious Monk compositions contain. Nobody back then really got it apart from his fellow Jazz musicians and what other people termed as music odd balls. It was different music for that period in the History of Jazz and the other issue was getting fellow musicians who could grasp the times and structure that Monk used within his compositions which although the prior Volume 1 has so many of his original classic compositions contained and is a Jazz Classic in its own right due to this fact, it is just some of the musicians used in those first three sessions back in 1947, at times seemed to be out of sync with Monk. “Genius Of Modern Music Volume 2” seems to have remedied this problem with the only two musicians still included from those early sessions being Art Blakey drumming and Sahib Shihab on alto saxophone.

The album is divided into two sessions with alternate takes included with the first being a Quintet comprising Monk, piano, Sahib Shihab on alto saxophone, Milt Jackson on vibes, Al McKinnon, bass and Art Blakey is drumming. The first composition is “Four In One” with Monk opening and quickly inserting the compositions theme with Sahib on alto providing quite a distinct sound to accompany Monk’s piano, with a solo to follow each with Milt Jackson’s vibes included last. The alternate take which follows is the same for quality, as like true Jazz musicians the solos are not the same with Monks being a little longer and Sahib’s shorter. “Criss Cross” another Monk classic follows and Milt Jackson solos first on vibes in quite an up tempo composition with Sahib and Monk following. The alternate is again slightly different to the first. “Eronel” which follows has Sahib’s opening alto and the band interlinking for more wonderful original music. “Straight No Chaser” comes next, being superb in its original format and one can hear Monk playing a heavily influenced Stride piano during his solo. “Ask Me Now” has two takes included with the alternate running to 4 and a half minutes with a slightly slower tempo than the master which only ran to 3. This composition is only performed in a Trio setting with the rhythm section. I find the alternate more appealing as one can hear a 1920’s distinct touch of Stride and Dance Hall within Monk’s piano technique. “Willow Weep For Me” is the last for the session and the only Standard and is played superbly of course with Monk’s technique which brings this first session to an end.

The 2nd session contains a completely different line up and is a Sextet comprising Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone, Lucky Thompson, tenor saxophone, Nelson Boyd, bass and Max Roach on drums. The first three Monk compositions all have alternate or a 2nd take included and it is “Skippy” which comes first with a marvellous fast tempo including wonderful solos by the musicians on both takes. “Hornin’ In” which follows is pure Monk and why he never used this composition more is a mystery as it has the required kook inserted by the tunes theme. “Sixteen” another composition which he seemed to have left behind, as with the previous two compositions is pure Monk again with the structure and timing. A cover of “Carolina Moon” was also superbly done at this last session with the last Monk composition being his classic “Let’s Cool One”. The session finished recording that day playing the Standard “I’ll Follow You” in a Trio setting. A lot of the credit should go to a young Max Roach throughout the session for his superb take on the music with his drumming.

These first two Blue Note volumes contain the Exodus section from the Bible for Jazz as this where Thelonious Monk first presented his original Bop compositions which became the foundation for so many influences that permeate the music genre. Sure there has been better recordings of some of these numbers since but this is the original presentation. The inclusion of Milt Jackson on vibes laid a template for so many Avante Garde recordings which would follow in the future. The horn arrangements used more often than not as counters within his compositions themes are another influence that has forever left its mark on Jazz.

Twenty one days prior to recording the first session of “Volume 2” Monk recorded with Milt Jackson at Blue note with the material from that session appearing under Milt Jackson’s name as part of his release “Wizard Of The Vibes” with some of the material from this session recorded on July 23 1951 being also included. There also was a 10 inch (1952) and a 12 inch ( 1956) record issued under “Genius Of Modern Music Vol 2” with some of the material crossing over. Lucky for us the first cd issued in 1989 puts all of Monk’s music with his last session recorded approximately 10 months later in actual recording order. There are so many editions released since with an RVG (Rudy Van Gelder) remaster following this original cd release which I would also recommend or get the record as that is available as well these days.

QUINCY JONES The Birth of a Band Volume 2

Album · 1984 · Big Band
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js
In the late 50s, when Quincy Jones recorded his successful “The Birth of a Band” big band album, he recorded several tunes that did not make the final cut for that original release. Flash forward to 1984 and the Japanese division of Mercury decides to put out those cast aside cuts as “Birth of a Band volume II”. A quick listen to Volume II and its immediately apparent why these tracks were cast aside. Whereas Volume I is mostly high quality jazz tracks, the tunes on Volume II veer more into pop, easy listening and oddly appealing cheezy ditties of different types. Sure Volume II is light on content, but this is still Quincy Jones, and if you have a taste for this kind of orchestrated pop jazz and the swanky sophisticated side of late 50s/early 60s easy listening, you have come to the right place.

Volume II opens with the well known kitsch classic, Leroy Anderson’s “Syncopated Clock”. This one may sound familiar to some, because it was released as a single long before Volume II came out. After “Clock” we get some revved up swing revival, several corny pop RnB tracks that recall 60s dance shows like “Hullabaloo”, and a very nice pop-jazz version of “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set”. Also included in this mish-mash of tunes are a couple of out-takes of tracks from Volume I, including “Moanin” and “Happy Faces”. The final four cuts on Volume II get back into more of a jazz vein, although in a condensed pop influenced manner.

Recent re-issues of the original “Birth of a Band” have included the cuts from Volume II under the title “The Complete Birth of a Band”, and jazz fans could not be more unhappy. The pop cuts from Volume II have not set well with fans of the original Volume I. All the same, I think there is a fan base for these clever and well orchestrated pop tunes. Any fan of early sophisticated easy listening LPs and those ‘swingin bachelor pad’ type retro collections, and even fans of exotica, may find a lot to like on “Birth of a Band Volume II”. The sound Quincy presents on here went on to be a big influence on TV soundtracks in the 60s.

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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.

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