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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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THELONIOUS MONK Brilliant Corners Album Cover Brilliant Corners
THELONIOUS MONK
4.85 | 8 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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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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traditional jazz Music Reviews

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.

PINETOP SMITH Pine Top Smith Boogie Woogie Piano

Album · 1943 · Boogie Woogie Piano
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siLLy puPPy
Clarence “PINE TOP” SMITH came from nowhere after being raised in Alabama and teaching himself how to play some of the most influential piano to emerge in the early 20th century. Taking a cue from Scott Joplin ragtime he was one of the earliest players to create the boogie woogie style. He spent his youth performing at house parties and eventually played with Ma Rainey as well as Butterbeans & Susie. He relocated to Chicago in 1928 and only managed to record 11 tracks in his short life before passing on at the tender age of 25 from a gunshot wound in a dance-hall fight. He is a bit of mystery as no known photographs of PINE TOP are known to exist but his legacy lives on as one of the most influential players in the nascent jazz scene of the 1920s. This album came out in 1943 and is really just a mere sampling of the few recordings that exist.

“Pinetop's Boogie Woogie” is his most famous composition which incorporates a gallant galloping of the finger breaking antics driven by a fast tempo and is the track that made PINETOP famous. It incorporates the rhythmic breaks that were the backbone of the whole ragtime sound. Totally outstanding playing that must have turned some heads during the day.

“Pinetop's Blues” is a more typical mid tempo bluesy piano rag with vocals that lament about the woes of love and abuse in the attempt to woo a woman

“Jump Steady Blues” is a dialogue between PINE TOP and the bartender lamenting about not making money like other piano players. Boogie woogie bass line with freestyle improvised upper register in a blues style

“I'm Sober Now” is another mid tempo bluesy rag with a spoken narrative dialogue between two characters debating about if the music is too sentimental and that it should be more blues and Pinetop declares that he doesn't play the blues any more since he is sober now

Hard to judge this as an album since it's really just a collection released posthumously but every song is really a classic and the influential factor alone means this deserves a 5 star rating. Boogie woogie is an extremely addictive style as well being the perfect gateway drug for anyone interested in a deeper appreciation for the huge wealth of jazz music that follows.

QUINCY JONES The Birth of a Band (aka Fab!)

Album · 1959 · Big Band
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js
The Birth of a Band (Volume 1)” is one more excellent big band album by Quincy Jones recorded in the early part of his career when he was still a full time jazzer, but it will be one of his last pure jazz studio recordings. At the same recording session that yielded the ten songs for “Birth”, Jones and his band also recorded eleven kitsch pop/easy listening tunes that will show up many years later as “Birth of a Band Vol 2”. A recent CD re-issue of “Birth” has combined both volumes under the name ‘The Complete Birth of a Band’, which is unfortunate because the inclusion of the cheezy pop songs has tarnished the name of this album. The informed buyer needs to know that the music on the two original volumes of “Birth” are quite different from each other, and you may not want to purchase a set that includes both volumes.

If you are familiar with Jones’ albums that preceded “The Birth of a Band”, then you know what to expect here; colorful modern big band arrangements with super tight ensemble playing and an economical approach to jazz that shows Jones’ pop sensibilities. There are plenty of great soloists on here; including Phil Woods, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry and Benny Golson. All of the tunes are good, but the best is album opener and title song, “The Birth of a Band”, a super hot uptempo bop number with a couple of great sax solos.

If you seek Quincy’s jazz side, this is another good one to get, but if don’t care for his pop side, watch out for the ‘complete’ versions that include volume 2.

CAB CALLOWAY Hi De Hi De Ho

Album · 1960 · Big Band
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Matt
It all kicked off for Cab Calloway back in 1931 even though his Orchestra previously known as The Missourians started going in 1930 when Cab took over the reins, it was the release of that all time song which today is still played and listened too by many, being “Minnie The Moocher” . Cab’s Orchestra had been opening for Duke Ellington around the same time as well performing with him in the most famous Jazz Club in history, The Cotton Club. Duke and his Orchestra often toured and had time off which was no problem for Cab as he then headlined at that Club which also broadcast it’s shows over the radio live, so many Americans were exposed to this wonderful style and approach Cab Calloway possessed. He was man of so many talents, not only did he sing, lead the orchestra, he danced like no other except for maybe Bojangles. Cab showed Michael Jackson how to do it with “The Buzz” because Cab was going backwards looooooong before Mike with his “Moonwalk”. Not only that Cab was wonderful on stage and nobody played “Sportin’ Life” from “Porgy and Bess” like Cab, after all having sung “Reefer Man with his Orchestra in the thirties, playing a dope peddler was right up Cab’s alley “so to speak” (the part was written with Cab in mind for the role), which he played on Broadway and toured throughout the time of the production during the fifties.

“The Hi De Ho Man” is another one of those Calloway songs that is instantly recognisable and many a different take Cab recorded with the tune, ( “Hi De Ho Miracle Man, Hi De Ho, Romeo and Juliet, and Hi De Ho Serenade”). “Kickin’ The Gong Around” was another Minnie, “Wah-Dee-Dah” ,” Zah Zuh Zah” were a couple more songs from many and all had one thing in common with the singing, being Scat which derived from Louis Armstrong’s influence. There was a term used by Cab Calloway to describe his music being Jive and there is plenty of that here, with a few ballads thrown in with the release of his 1960 album “Hi De Hi De Ho”. They all said at the time with the album’s reception, ”the originals were better” from his Big Band period in the thirties but once again, time has proven those critics wrong. They should of read from Cab’s “Hepsters Dictionary” which Cab to put together so all could speak or understand Jive talk. Some people are born with a gift commonly called charisma and Cab used this to great effect in all facets of his artistic skills which turned him into one hell of a showman.

The album backed by Cab’s Orchestra comprises many of his most famous song’s and all today are Jazz Standards with two song selections included that are from the Gershwins’ “Porgy And Bess” but it is the title “Hi De Ho Man” which opens the album with scat from beginning to end, delivered with plenty of that Cab gusto and one must realise the song’s opening scat is almost impossible to put in writing. Throughout the album the Orchestra’s backing vocals esp. during these Jive tracks provide a wonderful repetition throughout the Chorus’. “I’ll Be Around” is a beautiful Alec Wilder ballad being sung in a slight formal manner which just seems to make it even sweeter. “Summertime” the old chestnut of a tune from “Porgy and Bess” is given the perfect touch from Cab and although his character did not sing this one in the Production, Cab sure delivers it beautifully. Sportin’ Life (Porgy and Bess, Cab’s character) sings the next of the album’s tracks being “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and with a beautiful low verse and muted trumpet backing, co- joined by a much different raucous take of a chorus and even a bit scat thrown in by Cab for good measure and is another of the album’s delights. “Kickin’ The Gong Around” is the answer for “Minnie The Moocher” . The last track on the record’s first side is an absolutely full swing approach to that old Jazz classic “You Rascal You”. “Minnie The Moocher” opens side two with a wonderful rendition, followed by another beautiful ballad “I See a Million People”. Another all time Jazz classic is next, given a wonderful touch as well being one of Cab’s old hits, “Saint James Infirmary”. Cab had worked with Al Jolson and often when I hear “Stormy Weather” I sense Al’s influence but Cab had that Black American touch bringing a wonderful interpretation to this beautiful Jazz standard and even though it is hard to find an album highlight due to the fact all the songs are within, “Stormy Weather” just seems to always bring me a smile. “The Jumpin’ Jive” finishes up with “The Jim Jim jump is a jumpin’ jive, makes you hip hip on the mellow side, oh hop do do di, etc”

Classic Jazz from one of the original masters. Believe it or not, this is not currently available on cd but the record has been reissued. “Grab one before they all go” No matter how old you are, you will be smiling after.

FLETCHER HENDERSON A Study in Frustration

Boxset / Compilation · 1961 · Big Band
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js
“A Study in Frustration” is an oddly titled four LP collection of the music of Fletcher Henderson put out by Columbia in 1961. It was also re-issued on CD in the 90s. Its an odd title because Henderson is one of the most important and successful figures in jazz. Although his name may not be as well-known as Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong and Charlie Parker, he probably ranks only behind that big three when it comes to his importance in innovations that furthered the development of jazz. The excellent booklet that accompanies this box set spends some time speculating that Henderson could have been more successful with better marketing, hence the rather harsh and undeserved title for this production.

Fletcher Henderson is the big band leader who has been given the most credit for taking jazz from its rough hewn and mostly group improvised New Orleans beginnings, to being a music performed by a big band reading complex written arrangements that featured hot soloists such as Louie Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins. This entire collection spans from 1924 to 1937, but its that period from the 20s to the early 30s that makes up most of this set, and that's the period with the most interesting music as well. Fletcher Henderson was the master of 1920s jazz (also called ‘Classic Jazz‘), a style of jazz that exists in a world all its own, markedly different from the New Orleans jazz that preceded it, and the swing jazz that will follow in the mid-30s. 1920s jazz has a rapid flow in which ideas appear and are quickly discarded, sometimes in almost comical flippancy. The hectic herky-jerky rhythms are very urban in nature and reflect the constant bustle of city life, which was a new environment to many in the US at this time. Many a 1920s jazz arranger, such as the great Don Redman who worked for Henderson in the late 20s, was proud of their ability to experiment in their arrangements, often borrowing the latest harmonic developments coming from the leading concert hall composers of the time. Finally, this was a music for hipsters and wannabe gangsters, modernistic in its appeal, there was nothing sentimental about this music. With its comprehensive 64 tracks, “A Study in Frustration” makes for an excellent way to explore this very vibrant and fast moving period in jazz history.

If this review stopped here you would be correct to think that this is an easy 5 star collection, but there are some problems. At this point I have to credit a certain Steve Espinola who has taken the time to uncover editing problems in this collection. Apparently there are two main mastering sources for these old Henderson tunes. One source of masters is by an engineer for Columbia who decided to edit out any ticks by actually removing that part of the tape, a horrible idea that makes the music spasmodically lurch forward in some places. Some of these edits are more noticeable than others, and several tunes may pass before you notice, but when you do hear it, it sounds like the whole band just had a collective hiccup. This same engineer also tried to remove surface noise with severe eq techniques as well. These, of course, are the masters that were used for “Frustration”, as well as some other Henderson collections. Apparently there are some better masters by a John R. T. Davies, that are used in other collections (such as the Timeless label).

To sum all this up, despite the problems, this is an incredible collection and if you find it on vinyl for a very good price (as I did) then you have a good deal. But, if you are looking at the CD collection, because of the bad mastering, it seems there are probably better CD collections to be had.

traditional 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.

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