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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Music Album Cover Monk's Music
THELONIOUS MONK
4.90 | 10 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 With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall Album Cover With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
THELONIOUS MONK
4.98 | 4 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Brilliant Corners Album Cover Brilliant Corners
THELONIOUS MONK
4.87 | 7 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 Monk's Dream Album Cover Monk's Dream
THELONIOUS MONK
4.81 | 8 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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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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ARTURO SANDOVAL Swingin' Album Cover Swingin'
ARTURO SANDOVAL
5.00 | 2 ratings
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traditional jazz Music Reviews

QUINCY JONES The Great Wide World Of Quincy Jones

Album · 1959 · Big Band
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js
In 1959 Quincy Jones’ career was still young, but he had already established himself as the new leader in the world of big band jazz. “The Great Wide World of Quincy Jones” was approximately Jones’ fourth or fifth album (depending on who is counting) and has him featuring a sound that was becoming familiar by now. Oddly enough, Jones is only the conductor on here, but the arrangements by Al Cohn, Bill Potts, Ernie Wilkins and Ralph Burns sound very much like Jones with their bright bold sounds and shimmering optimistic energy. In the late 50s, the Quincy Jones sound was fast becoming the sound of commercials, movie, TV, Vegas and background music of any type, and his sound continued to be influential well into the 80s. These days, Quincy’s 60s sounds are often the sound of choice for those who seek retro-chic hipness.

There are so many good tunes on here, but some standouts include the high flying energy of “Air Mail Special” and the striking melancholy tune of “I Never has Seen Snow”. “Chant of the Weed” sounds like a typical theme for a early 60s sit-com, and a great example of how pervasive Quincy’s influence was/is. There are also plenty of good soloists including Phil Woods, Budd Johnson, Art Farmer and Lee Morgan. The only possible drawback is the revved up version of “Caravan”. It’s a song that’s covered too many times to begin with, and this overly charged up version pales in comparison to Ellington’s very odd and murkily exotic original. This is one tune where Jones’ extroverted sound just doesn’t seem like the right fit.

Fans of modern (post swing era) big bands will want to get this. Quincy Jones was really onto something when he first hit the scene, but unfortunately it did not last for ever, soon after this record and a couple more like it, he will leave big band jazz for the more lucrative world of pop and studio work.

MILES DAVIS The Musings of Miles (aka The Beginning)

Album · 1955 · Bop
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siLLy puPPy
Although I wouldn't call THE MUSINGS OF MILES the most essential of releases by one of the greatest musical entities of the jazz world, namely MILES DAVIS, I really love to dig deep into the vaults to hear the evolution of his music since he was one of the greatest innovators of constantly changing it up from one album to the next. At this point in his career he was not quite as eclectic as he would become a few short years down the road but at this juncture in his still fairly nascent career he still offers some well played bop of the mid-50s which finds him developing his own techniques as well as worshiping his own heroes in the form of Dizzy Gillespie on his version of “A Night In Tunisia” as well as “I See Your Face Before Me” and “A Gal In Calico” by Arthur Schwartz. In fact only the two tracks “I Didn't” and “Green Haze” were written by DAVIS.

This album finds him at the point before he would form his first classic quintet which would be created shortly after the recording of this album and this is one of the few albums where MILES is the only horn player. It is he alone on trumpet delivering the one and only horn section accompanied by Oscar Pettiford on bass, Red Garland on piano and Philly Joe Jones on drums. For this reason MILES stands out more than on his other albums where he usually trades off and weaves the brass sections together. The music here is a mix of mid-tempo bop jazz alternating with slower numbers taking you on a fairly standard jazz ride of the era but with MILES DAVIS even a standard ride has a slight edge to it that keeps my attention. Also this is one of the earliest of recordings that has found a home on a the somewhat recent Rudy Van Gelder Remasters. Although this is hardly the peak of his lengthy and diverse output I still find this a wonderful listen for its stripped down quartet sound that allows MILES to steal the limelight as sole horn master.

COLEMAN HAWKINS At Ease With Coleman Hawkins

Album · 1960 · Swing
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js
Mood music was a phenomena that arose in the 50s with the arrival of the long playing album and was designed to provide a ‘relaxing atmosphere’ for people during times of leisure. Often these albums consisted of rather faceless orchestras playing classic ballads in a rather bland and unobtrusive manner, but a not uncommon alternative to the generic orchestra would involve having a well known jazz musician play the ballads instead. Big stars from Charlie Parker to John Coltrane have recorded such albums and these sides can range from cheezy and forget-able to decent sets of jazz, albeit a bit laid back. Fortunately, Coleman Hawkins’, “At Ease with Coleman Hawkins”, falls into that latter group.

If you had to pick the nicest tone in saxophone history, Hawkins would rate at the top along side fellow reed men like Johnny Hodges and Lester Young. For those unfamiliar with his history, Hawkins, pretty much by himself, invited modern saxophone playing in the late 20s and made the saxophone a competitive solo instrument with his virtuoso solos and smooth tone that is still hard to match today. Coleman brings all that virtuosity to “at Ease”, but keeps things in a relaxed manner as required by the mood music setting.

In comparison to other jazz albums that double as easy listening, “at Ease” rates very well. One big plus on here is that there are no background strings weighting down the sound, often a big problem with other jazz mood albums. Instead, the only instruments you get on “at Ease” are a simple four piece combo with the great Tommy Flanagan on piano. A second big plus is the choice of tunes. Easy listening albums are notorious for featuring songs that have been played to death, not so on this one, apparently Hawkins picked the tunes himself, and his choices are thoughtful and unique. Fans of Coleman Hawkins don’t need to be afraid of this one, Hawkins keeps it mellow, but he doesn’t necessarily check his genius at the door, there is a lot of great playing on here, inventive and unique as always.

10000 VARIOUS ARTISTS The Smithsonian Collection Of Classic Jazz

Boxset / Compilation · 1973 · Swing
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This review is written using the original Smithsonian Collection of Jazz issued on 6 LPs that came in a box with an excellent 46 page booklet. If you are looking for a good way to get an overview of jazz history from New Orleans up to the early 60s, you couldn’t do much better than this one. Almost all of the important players are here and arranged in very logical chronological order, or sometimes grouped by genre and/or instrument. Much effort was made in assembling this package to present jazz as it grew and changed over the years. There are a few omissions and those will be covered later in this review.

This collection starts where it should, in New Orleans in the early 20s, and finally ends with John Coltrane’s “Alabama”. In between you get several cuts by major innovators like Ellington, Parker and Armstrong, and at least one cut from anyone else who was important. A top highlight of this collection comes early on when Scott Joplin’s version of “Maple Leaf Rag” is followed by Jelly Roll Morton’s, and it becomes clear what this new “jass” was all about. From the beginning jazz was a nuanced musical language whereby “hipsters” could transform pop tunes and make them personal creations in a way that was difficult to imitate and in a manner that left “squares” clueless. It’s this attempt to always stay one step ahead of the imitators that has fueled most of jazz’s innovations. Another similar juxtaposition comes when the collection follow’s Benny Goodman’s version of “Body and Soul” with Coleman Hawkin’s version. No doubt Goodman was a major talent, but no one could transform a melody like Hawkins.

Another highlight in the chronology occurs when Ellington makes his first appearance. The Basie cuts preceding Ellington are great energetic rockin swingin numbers, but when the first couple bars of Ellington’s “East St Louis Toodle-Oo” come slinking into the picture, its obvious we have entered a whole new universe. Actually the first couple bars of that tune almost sound like a ‘Knitting Factory’ band in NYC’s 21st Century, but when the tune proper kicks in, there is no doubt that this is Ellington in the late 20s, a couple centuries ahead of his time, and still so today. This whole new universe effect happens again when Parker and Gillespie show up, and once more when Cecil Taylor unveils “Enter Evening”.

This is an excellent collection, but there are some omissions. The most glaring is that nothing is included from Coltrane’s hard bop years, particularly the groundbreaking album “Giant Steps” and even more particularly, the hugely influential title track. Possibly still the most influential tune in modern jazz, the fast moving and difficult chord changes to “Giant Steps” continue to be a holy grail for young saxophone players who want to prove their skills. It was probably hard to include every major player, but if I had to pick the one most missed it would be Eric Dolphy, one of the few musicians who seemed capable of expanding on what Parker had established. Although there is an attempt to show the roots of jazz with one ragtime tune and a couple early blues numbers, it would have been nice to hear even earlier music that demonstrates the relationship between traditional African music and pre-jazz brass bands. Recordings of rural Louisiana brass bands, as late as the 1950s, playing in a very African style that preceded jazz, do exist.

There is a CD re-issue of this collection that corrects a few other omissions, particularly the Bill Evans Trio and Wes Montgomery. The CD collection also quite slyly jumps a decade and a half at the very end to feature one cut from 1979 by The World Saxophone Quartet. The implication being that the fusion/smooth jazz years were merely a diversion, the real innovations in jazz will be coming from guys like Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, Hamie Bluiett and David Murray.

QUINCY JONES This Is How I Feel About Jazz

Album · 1957 · Big Band
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js
“This is How I Feel About Jazz” was Quicy Jones’ debut LP way back in 1957. It may be hard for some to believe that this eventual king of pop was once totally immersed in the world of jazz, but listening to any of his modern pop albums will reveal the techniques he learned while he was one of the top jazz arrangers. This is an excellent album, especially for being someone’s initial effort. Choosing to open with Miles’ “Walkin” sets the tone for the LP, east coast sophisticated urban blues meets west coast laid back cool. Jones’ big band sound is rooted in the soul of Ellington and Basie, but modernized with a smart economical approach that favors light and slightly odd instrumental mixtures. It was, and in many ways still is, the essence of sophisticated hip. This sound that Jones will develop alongside fellow arrangers, such as Henry Mancicni and Lalo Schifrin, will become the sound of better TV and movie soundtracks for several decades to come. Its interesting to note that at this time in history, the role of the jazz big band had changed from dancing and entertainment to being a sort of colorful orchestra for the arranger‘s creativity, which led to the big band’s new career as a supplier for many a Hollywood soundtrack, especially in the brand new world of TV.

One of the big pluses on “How I Feel About Jazz” is the all-star cast of musicians, Mingus or Paul Chambers on bass, Art Farmer on trumpet, Zoot Sims and Phil Woods on sax and Herbie Mann on flute, plus many more. There are plenty of great solos on here, plus its interesting to listen to Herbie Mann and Mingus duet on the opening of “A Sleeping Bee”. Overall this is a fairly laid back album with no particular stand out tracks, later Jones albums will sometimes work up more of a sweat. If there is one drawback, it is the brevity of this LP. Still, this is recommended for fans of late 50s-60s jazz big bands, as well as fans of soundtrack work from that same era.

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JONI MITCHELL Shadows And Light

Movie · 1980 · Vocal Jazz
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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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