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THELONIOUS MONK With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall Album Cover With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
THELONIOUS MONK
4.90 | 11 ratings
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CAB CALLOWAY Hi De Hi De Ho Album Cover Hi De Hi De Ho
CAB CALLOWAY
5.00 | 4 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Misterioso Album Cover Misterioso
THELONIOUS MONK
4.89 | 7 ratings
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LOUIS ARMSTRONG Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy Album Cover Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy
LOUIS ARMSTRONG
4.86 | 7 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Rich in London (aka Very Alive at Ronnie Scott's aka At Ronnie Scotts) Album Cover Rich in London (aka Very Alive at Ronnie Scott's aka At Ronnie Scotts)
BUDDY RICH
5.00 | 3 ratings
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DUKE ELLINGTON Ellington At Newport Complete Album Cover Ellington At Newport Complete
DUKE ELLINGTON
4.98 | 3 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Music Album Cover Monk's Music
THELONIOUS MONK
4.74 | 21 ratings
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DOC CHEATHAM Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton Album Cover Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton
DOC CHEATHAM
4.96 | 3 ratings
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BEN WEBSTER The Consummate Artistry of Ben Webster (aka King Of The Tenors) Album Cover The Consummate Artistry of Ben Webster (aka King Of The Tenors)
BEN WEBSTER
4.95 | 3 ratings
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ROBERTA FLACK First Take Album Cover First Take
ROBERTA FLACK
4.93 | 3 ratings
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ARTURO SANDOVAL Swingin' Album Cover Swingin'
ARTURO SANDOVAL
4.92 | 3 ratings
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OLIVER NELSON The Blues and the Abstract Truth Album Cover The Blues and the Abstract Truth
OLIVER NELSON
4.74 | 8 ratings
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Through the Passages
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NANCY ERICKSON LAMONT
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Relentless
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FERNANDO HUERGO
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Unheard Bird
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King And I & Around The World In 80 Days
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Quintet, Sextet And Octet Ensembles
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Freedom Jazz Dance
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The Rules Don't Apply
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Finesse
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At PizzaExpress Live - In London
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early jazz Music Reviews

WILLIAM PARKER The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield: Live in Rome

Live album · 2007 · Vocal Jazz
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snobb
Fans of a legendary jazz bassist William Parker know that he has a long lasting collaboration history with singers on some his projects and Texas-born Leena Conquest is one of his most regular vocalist. Still, Parker's "The Inside Songs Of Curtis Mayfield" project is quite unusual since his all-star combo plays a soul star Curtis Mayfield songs here.

Recorded in Rome, Italy during 2004 New York IS Now! Festival and released by Rai Trade, a publishing division of national public broadcasting company of Italy three years later, "The Inside Songs Of Curtis Mayfield - Live In Rome" is a real rarity. Parker leads the band, containing his regular drummer Hamid Drake, pianist Dave Burrell, capable reeds section of Sabir Mateen, Darryl Foster and Lewis Barnes, plus renown in 70s poet and voice artist Amiri Baraka on support of singer Leena Conquest. Music itself is a bit quirky mix of straight-forward r'n'b with Leena vocals, with rich brass arrangements, plenty of Amiri Baraka politically sharp recitatives and free jazz sax soling over it. Most probably, Curtis Mayfield songs never sounded this way.

Recording sound is clear, but the mix is odd, most probably taken from initial video recording. Vocals are on the very front, with drums sounding extremely flat with loud brass arrangements beside. Leena Conquest singing is OK, but Baraka's participation is a bit out of place - in a first decade of New Millennium his lyrics sounds really dated. The editing could be better as well - in all the release sound as average quality bootleg from the era.

Being a rarity, this album is mostly a collectors' item. There is another, not so rare album, recorded by same Parker's project and containing similar material, recorded by almost the same band on US and European tours, "I Plan To Stay A Believer: The Inside Songs Of Curtis Mayfield", released in US by AUM Fidelity.

DARDEN PURCELL Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood

Album · 2023 · Vocal Jazz
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Carmel
Darden Purcell's album, “Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood,” unfolds as a project that is a meticulous assembly of jazz artistry. The eleven tracks finely exhibit Purcell's mastery as a vocalist and the collaborative spirit that jazz embodies. With arrangements and an original by Shawn Purcell, they present a vocal jazz set that reflects jazz's past elegance while carving out a contemporary program in sound and texture.

“Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood” is an album that captures the essence of vocal jazz's power as Darden's vocal contributions bring strong melody singing and her ability to use her voice as an instrument. Darden's agile voice serves as the guiding light through this journey, with a warm and commanding tone. Her ability to navigate the complexities of jazz singing, from the blues-infused narratives to the lyrical delicacies of the Great American Songbook, is delightful. Her interpretations of the melodies are grounded in the lineage of jazz, with a strong West Coast vibe, but all with a keen ear for precise jazz rhythms and articulations.

The album starts with "Willow Weep for Me," where Shawn's cleaver arrangement immediately sets a tone of rhythmic exploration. Joe Locke's vibraphone and Shawn's guitar both add texture and energy to the music, which is lyrical and forward-moving. Darden's vocal delivery on this track demonstrates her unique and organic jazz phrasing and emotive storytelling of the lyrics, capturing the listener's imagination and setting the stage for the album's narrative arc. In "Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood," we are treated to Darden's vocal versatility as she imbues the song with a sense of effortless grace, while navigating its angular intervals with a deep understanding of jazz's expressive jargon.

The rendition of "A Cottage for Sale" is a moment to enjoy Darden's grace as a balladeer. Her breath control and emotive accents add to the song's narrative essence and melodic flow. The arrangement supports her every step, allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves in the storytelling as the harmonic support from Shawn's and Todd Simon's piano cradle every nuance.

"Estrada Branca (This Happy Madness)" stands out with Purcell's fluency in the Latin jazz genre. Her vocal agility, combined with the Brazilian groove laid down by Jeff Reed's bass and Todd Harrison's drums, creates an enchanting musical moment. The bilingual delivery adds layers of texture and depth, further showing Purcell's extraordinary range and sensitivity.

"Chatterbox," an original composition by Shawn with lyrics written by Darden, is a perfect balance of Darden acting as an instrumentalist and vocalist. The style of this vocalese has its spirit in the hard-bop tradition. Here, Darden's lyrical ingenuity shines, supported by the ability to sing these bop lines with a compelling 'horn-like' approach with clear diction, which is excellent. The track is a vibrant celebration of jazz's enduring vitality, with each musician bringing their unique voice to the collective conversation.

"Taking a Chance on Love" encapsulates the album's essence, blending the historical with the contemporary. The arrangement's nod to the iconic styles of George Shearing and Marty Paich, combined with Purcell's playful and sophisticated vocal interpretation, serves as a fitting culmination to this musical odyssey.

“Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood” has a balance of vocal jazz tradition and innovative exploration, highlighting the evolving role of a vocalist within the genre. Darden Purcell's exceptional vocal artistry, combined with a symbiotic relationship with her ensemble, weaves a compelling narrative that honors and expands vocal jazz's boundaries. Through inventive arrangements and a carefully curated selection of songs, the album invites listeners to delve into vocal jazz's many textures and complexities, seamlessly integrating past and contemporary elements. “Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood” propels the conversation of the role of a jazz vocalist, ensuring its relevance and vitality in the jazz canon.

TONY BENNETT Duets II

Album · 2011 · Vocal Jazz
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Matti P
Tony Bennett (August 3, 1926 – July 21, 2023) made an impressively long career of high quality. He is, in my opinion, the only major male vocalist in the entertainment category to rival Frank Sinatra in importance. Sad to say he hasn't been reviewed here before. My choice is his decond "Duets" album. In his later years he was keen on performing together with well-known contemporary artists. In addition to the albums with a wide selection of duet partners on a song by song basis, he made whole duet-oriented albums with k. d. lang, Lady Gaga and Diana Krall. Undoubtedly Amy Winehouse, featured on this set, would have been on his Wanted list, but she died in 2011.

This is the second Tony Bennett duet album I've listened to completely, the first one being Love Is Here to Stay (2018) with Diana Krall, which I quickly ran through some time earlier and didn't like at all. I do appreciate Krall highly, too, but their mutual album had such a worn-out set of George Gershwin standards (e.g. 'Nice Work if You Can Get It', 'I Got Rhythm', 'They Can't Take That Away from Me' and so on) performed in an old-fashioned, light-hearted way.

Therefor I was all the more happily surprised to realize I had a pretty good time with Duets II. Undoubtedly the biggest kudos goes to the producer maestro Phil Ramone -- who passed away in 2013. The production of each well chosen song is perfectly tailored for the singers with various backgrounds and styles, and also the cast itself is delicious in its variety: from other elder legends such as Aretha Franklin and Willie Nelson to the fairly young popular artists such as Lady Gaga, Michael Bublé, Cheryl Crow or Norah Jones.

Tony Bennett himself was indeed an ideal duet partner, always capable of creating a warm and happy atmosphere with whoever he was singing with. 'One for My Baby' feat. John Mayer suitably resembles a spontaneous bar stool dialogue. One of my faves is 'Blue Velvet' featuring the fantastic deep sensualism of k.d. lang. 'Stranger in Paradise' features Andrea Bocelli whose passionate, operatic approach suits the song.

This 63-minute set is definitely representing the cream of Various Artists oriented duet albums, and an excellent work from a legendary artist in the age of 85. R.I.P., Tony Bennett.

LEE MORGAN Introducing Lee Morgan (aka Hank's Shout aka Lee Morgan / Hank Mobley – A-1)

Album · 1956 · Bop
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Rexorcist
OK, having a debut album backed by Hank Mobley's band? Sounds like a good idea on paper, right? But the thing is... do Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley blend together? In all honesty, I'm going to have to say no in this case. Now jazz albums are something that heavily populated the music scene of the entire 50's, so by the time this came out, we had everything from '50-'56 to compare this to. This album doesn't really seem to have a lot of imagination. While everyone's technically playing well, the band doesn't really seem to have any sort of rhythmic or emotional focus. Every song either feels like it's a heavily extended version of a radio jingle, or a serene lullaby that should've gone longer. This all feels incredibly standard for a couple of greats in the jazz field. Underwhelming debut album.

CÆCILIE NORBY First Conversation

Album · 2002 · Vocal Jazz
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Matti P
This is the fourth album of the Danish vocalist Caecilie Norby (b. 1964). Before her jazz-oriented solo career that started in 1995, she was a member in two recording bands, Frontline (jazz-rock) and One-Two (rock). Upon this first listening of a complete album of hers, I have a happy feeling I've found a new vocal jazz favourite to listen to further. First, she is such an elegant singer with a natural and effortless expression filled with warmth and emotion. Slightly reminiscent of MARILYN SCOTT whose album I've reviewed here. And second, this finely produced album is a great set of songs from various pop and jazz sources, showcasing also Norby's own competence at songwriting.

The general mood is smooth, relaxed and sophisticated. Perhaps the phrase "more on the bright side" might give somewhat false connotations, but yes, even at the most melancholic moments this album stays easy-going and romantic in a timeless way. Imagine a classy cocktail bar to spend a lovely evening with your sweetheart, forgetting all your troubles. The arrangements are very lush and smooth, at times hearkening back to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Julie London backed by a string orchestra and top-class leaders/arrangers such as Nelson Riddle, but with a good variety and a modern touch incorporating synths, although this music does sound pretty organic.

There are some jazz standards in the set but none of them too worn-out. The first four highly pleasant tracks were not familiar to me as compositions. 'Hallelujah' is the much interpreted Leonard Cohen song, and Norby's version is easily among the strongest I've heard. 'Here's to Life' is a gorgeous ballad I've grown to love as Marilyn Scott's version -- which I still prefer, but there's an emotional grandness in this one, too.

'Gentle on My Mind' is best known as a GLEN CAMPBELL number. This version sounds delightfully bright. Like a few other pieces too, 'Kyrie' is by Norby and the album's producer Lars Danielsson, and a welcome deviation from the English language. An excellent example of handling a standard is 'Midnight Sun' (Mercer/Hampton/Burke), where the smooth and nuanced orchestral arrangement is marvelous. When I first saw the album's track list, my curiosity was at its strongest towards 'Tea in Sahara', Sting's composition originating from the last POLICE album Synchronicity (1983). I love the echoey original, but this smooth jazz version surely has its own merits such as the trumpet solo.

Indeed Caecilie Norby with her producer and fellow musicians seemingly can take any song and make it sound like it was made for her/them. This album may be a bit too sweet on the long run, but it's very, very easy to enjoy right from the start.

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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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JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

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Albums with 30 ratings and more
A Love Supreme Post Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
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Kind of Blue Cool Jazz
MILES DAVIS
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The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Progressive Big Band
CHARLES MINGUS
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Blue Train Hard Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
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My Favorite Things Hard Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
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