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Music: Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus

Though he lacked the improvisational fire of John Coltrane or the restless curiosity of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins played with a rich, round tone that complemented his melodic inclinations, making him the most accessible of the postbop musicians. Saxophone Colossus is the most successful of the late 1950s albums that made his reputation. Rollins’s playing never falters; he’s backed by the redoubtable Max Roach on drums, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Doug Watkins on bass. Rollins is equally at home with the lilting Caribbean air of “St. Thomas,” standards (“You Don’t Know What Love Is”), blues (“Strode Rode,” featuring a driving Flanagan solo), and a smoldering version of Brecht-Weill’s “Moritat” (better known as “Mac the Knife”). If you are new to jazz, there is no better place to start than Saxophone Colossus.
Saxophonist Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins solidified his claim to the top tenor spot of the late 1950’s with albums like, “Way Out West” and this one. His tone is warm, full, and flawless as he swings his way through this set with Max Roach on drums, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Doug Watkins on bass. The calypso flavored “St Thomas” opens the disc and is a textbook example of what makes Rollins great. His playing is effortless, relaxed, and flawless. He displays his talent for uncovering unconventional material with a selection from a German musical here titled “Moritat”. The final track is the jazz masterpiece “Blue7”. Featuring masterful solos by Roach and Rollins this track leaves one feeling Sonny is cooler than most people could hope to be. Saxophone Colossus is one of those rare albums that is packed with legendary performances and future standards, flawless from top to bottom.

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Sonny Rollins , considered by many to be the quintessential live performer, admittedly felt restricted in a studio. However listening to his masterpiece Saxophone Colossus it is clear that he was on this occasion able to capture some of the energy of a live performance on vinyl. The record is a tour-du-force of Rollins musical vision and mastery of improvisational inventiveness within a melodic and harmonic form that draws the listener in chorus after chorus.

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Sonny Rollins is one of jazz’s great innovators, arguably the most influential tenor saxophonist, along with John Coltrane, in the history of modern jazz. He began his musical career at the age of eleven, and within five short years he was playing with the legendary Thelonious Monk. In the late forties, before his twenty-first birthday, Rollins was in full swing, recording with jazz luminaries such as Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Miles Davis, and he was hailed as the best jazz tenor man alive in the mid-fifties. Still active today, Rollins and his compelling sound reach a whole new generation of listeners with his eagerly anticipated live appearances.


Music: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Time Out” A Timeless Classic

Boasting the first jazz instrumental to sell a million copies, the Paul Desmond-penned “Take Five,” Time Out captures the celebrated jazz quartet at the height of both its popularity and its powers. Recorded in 1959, the album combines superb performances by pianist Brubeck, alto saxophonist Desmond, drummer Joe Morrello and bassist Gene Wright. Along with “Take Five,” the album features another one of the group’s signature compositions, “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” Though influenced by the West Coast-cool school, Brubeck’s greatest interest and contribution to jazz was the use of irregular meters in composition, which he did with great flair. Much of the band’s appeal is due to Desmond, whose airy tone and fluid attack often carried the band’s already strong performances to another level. Together, he and Brubeck proved one of the most potent pairings of the era

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“Time Out” is one of my favorite jazz album. I never get tired of hearing it. I also dig the painting which serves as the album cover. The superb pianist Dave Brubeck is the nominal leader of the group, frantically kicking off the opening classic track “Blue Rondo A La Turk.” Drummer Joe Morello amazingly keeps perfect time during all of the tempo shifts. He particularly shines on the appropriately named tune “Pick Up Sticks.” Saxophonist Paul Desmond takes center stage on the most famous track of all, “Take Five.” This song has rightfully taken its place among the greatest instrumentals of all time. Rounding out the quartet, Eugene Wright’s bass deftly anchors the beat on the melodic “Kathy’s Waltz.” The song “Everybody’s Jumpin'” would be right at home on an album of sophisticated swing music. I’m no jazz expert who can expound on exotic time signatures, but I know what I like. I love “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet!

Biography

Dave Brubeck was one of the most active and popular musicians in both the jazz and classical worlds. With a career that spanned over six decades, his experiments in odd time signatures, improvised counterpoint, polyrhythm and polytonality remain hallmarks of innovation.

Born into a musical family in Concord, California– his two older brothers were also professional musicians–he began piano lessons with his mother at age four. He was 12 when his father moved the family to a cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierras. Dave’s life changed dramatically. Piano lessons ended and cowboy life began. He worked with his father on the 45,000 acre cattle ranch. When he was 14, he started playing in local dance bands on weekends. When he enrolled at the College of the Pacific, in Stockton, California, his intention was to study veterinary medicine and return to the ranch. While working his way through school as a pianist in local nightclubs, the lure of jazz became irresistible and he changed his major to music. Graduating in 1942, he enlisted in the Army, and shortly thereafter married Iola Whitlock, a fellow student at Pacific. While serving in Patton’s Army in Europe, he led a racially integrated band. After his discharge from military service in 1946, he enrolled at Mills College in Oakland, California to study composition with French composer, Darius Milhaud. Milhaud encouraged him to pursue a career in jazz and to incorporate jazz elements into his compositions. This cross-genre experimentation with like-minded Milhaud students led to the formation of the Dave Brubeck Octet in 1947. In 1949, Brubeck with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty, fellow Octet members, cut their first award-winning Dave Brubeck Trio recordings. After suffering a near fatal diving accident in 1951, Dave formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who was also a member of the Octet. The legendary Brubeck-Desmond collaboration lasted seventeen years and beyond.

The Dave Brubeck quartet’s recordings and concert appearances on college campuses in the ‘50s and early ‘60s introduced jazz to thousands of young people. The quartet’s audiences were not limited to students, however. The group played in jazz clubs in every major city and toured in package shows with such artists as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzerald, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz. The Dave Brubeck Quartet repeatedly won top honors in trade magazines and critic’s and reader’s polls. In 1954 Dave Brubeck’s portrait appeared on the cover of Time Magazine with a story about the jazz renaissance and Brubeck’s phenomenal ascendancy.

In 1958 the Quartet made their first of many international tours. The U.S. State Department sponsored the Quartet’s performances in Poland, India, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. Exposure to many different cultures was reflected in the group’s repertoire that sometimes incorporated exotic elements. The 1959 recording “Time Out” experimented in time signatures beyond the usual jazz 4/4. To everyone’s surprise “Time Out” became the first jazz album to sell over a million copies and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” and “Take Five” (now in the Grammy Hall of Fame) began to appear on jukeboxes throughout the world.

Early in his career Brubeck wrote primarily for this Quartet, and some of those pieces, such as “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “The Duke” became part of standard jazz repertoire. His first orchestral composition, “Elementals”, written for an improvising jazz combo and symphony orchestra was premiered and recorded in 1962. Choreographed by Lar Lubovitch, “Elemental Brubeck” is currently in the repertoire of the San Francisco Ballet and several other dance companies.

Throughout his career Brubeck experimented with integrating jazz into classical forms. In 1959 his Quartet premiered and recorded his brother Howard’s “Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra” with the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein conducting. In 1960 he composed “Points on Jazz” for the American Ballet Theatre, and in later decades composed for and toured with the Murray Louis Dance Co. His musical theater piece “The Real Ambassadors” starring Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae was recorded and performed to great acclaim at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival.

The “classic” Dave Brubeck Quartet (Paul Desmond, alto sax from 1951; Eugene Wright, bass from 1958; Joe Morello, drums from 1956) was dissolved December 1967. Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan joined a newly formed Dave Brubeck Trio (with Jack Six, bass and Alan Dawson, drums) the following year. This group recorded and toured the world together for seven years. In this period Brubeck also performed with three of his musical sons, Darius, Chris and Dan billed as “Two “Generations of Brubeck” frequently with Gerry Mulligan or Paul Desmond as guest artists.

In the ‘80s Brubeck led a quartet that featured clarinetist Bill Smith, a former Octet member, with his son Chris on electric bass and Randy Jones on drums. This group toured the Soviet Union in 1987 and along with former bassist, Eugene Wright, accompanied President Reagan to Moscow to perform at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit in 1988. Since the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s first appearance at a State Dinner for King Hussein of Jordan during the Johnson administration, Brubeck has performed at The White House on several occasions and for many different Presidents.

Shortly after the dissolution of the “classic” Quartet, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, with Erich Kunzel conducting, premiered Brubeck’s oratorio,” The Light in the Wilderness” (February 1968). The following year Brubeck’s second major work “The Gates of Justice”, a cantata based on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Old Testament, was also premiered by Kunzel in Cincinnati. It has since been re-recorded by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Cantor Abraham Mizrahi, tenor and Kevin Deas, bass-baritone, for the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, Russell Gloyd conducting.

Throughout his career Brubeck continued to experiment with interweaving jazz and classical music. He performed as composer-performer with most of the major orchestras in the United States and with prestigious choral groups and orchestras in Europe and America. Dave cited as some of the highlights of his career the premier of his composition “Upon This Rock” for Pope John Paul II’s visit to San Francisco and the performances of his mass “To Hope! A Celebration” in St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna and in Moscow with the Russian National Orchestra and Orloff choir.

Dave Brubeck’s compositions include a popular Christmas choral pageant “La Fiesta de la Posada”, oratorios and cantatas, ballet suites, a string quartet, chamber ensembles, pieces for solo and duo-piano, violin solos and orchestral works. His mass “To Hope! A Celebration” has been performed throughout the English speaking world, Germany, Russia and Austria and was recorded in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. In 2002 the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices recorded in “Classical Brubeck” his Easter oratorio “Beloved Son”, “Pange Lingua Variations”, “The Voice of the Holy Spirit” and a composition for string orchestra, “Regret”, all under the baton of Russell Gloyd, who since 1976 has been associated with Brubeck as conductor, producer and manager. A mini-opera based on Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” was presented at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2006.

Throughout his long career Dave Brubeck received national and international honors, including the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Medal, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He held numerous honorary doctorates from American, Canadian, English and German universities, including an honorary degree in Sacred Theology from Fribourg University, Switzerland. Recently, Brubeck received the Distinguished Arts Award from the Ford Honors program of the University of Michigan and in 2006 received from Notre Dame their highest honor, the Laetare Medal. He was a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University, and was presented with the Sanford Medal by the Yale School of Music

In the year 2000 the National Endowment for the Arts declared Dave Brubeck a Jazz Master. He was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2007 he received a Living Legacy Jazz Award from Kennedy Center and the Arison Award from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts.

His international honors include Austria’s highest award for the Arts, a citation from the French government, and the Bocconi Medal from Italy. The London Symphony Orchestra, acknowledging their long association, presented him with their prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

The most recent honor from his alma mater, the University of the Pacific, is the President’s Medal of Achievement presented by Donald V. De Rosa. He served as chairman of The Brubeck Institute that the University of the Pacific established in his honor.

Dave Brubeck’s most recent recording is a highly praised solo piano album “Indian Summer” that was named 2007 Album of the Year by Douglas Lytle, of blomberg.com.

Dave Brubeck passed away on Wednesday, December 5th, one day short of his 92nd birthday.

Music: Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, Pure Genius

In the Fifties, jazz artists like John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk were among a handful of musicians who shaped the future of modern American music for several decades. The fact that they played together and that their sessions at The Five Spot Cafe were recorded is nearly a miracle, since they were under contract to different record labels. They both appear on another record ( Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants- Prestige LP 7150 ), but they don’t play together! So this disc is the sole representation of their musical collaboration.

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Ruby My Dear shows the young ‘Trane playing mostly in the upper register of his tenor sax, with much vibrato, punctuating the sentiment in the tune. We can hear instantly the facility with which he deals with Monk’s harmonic structure in this poignant ballad. Ironic piano solos are commonplace for Monk, but here he is more straighforward, with a half chorus that veers away from the polysyllabic phrasing of ‘Trane’s tenor. Monk’s comping under Coltrane’s restatement of the melody is unobtrusively perfect! On Nutty, Monk’s solo echos lines that ‘Trane has drawn, showing that the conversation between sax and piano is between equals. The high point of this disc is that Monk and ‘Trane clearly speak each other’s musical language. Over and over, you can hear the attention they pay to the phrasing of one another, such that they complement rather than compete.

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Two of the tunes add several other horns, including Coleman Hawkins, who gives forth with a taut chorus on Off Minor. The drummer here is Art Blakey, whose touch is very different from Shadow Wilson, more cymbal oriented, except for the characteristic press rolls that add exclamation points to solos.
The disc ends with an unaccompanied piano solo — Functional — by Monk. It’s very sad that there isn’t a cellar in Lower Manhattan with a box of tape from other Five Spot session waiting to be discovered. This is the sort of music I never tire of hearing.

 

 

Buy Poster Online: Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane

Buy CD Online: Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane

 

Music: Great Ladies of Jazz – Ella, Billie, Lena, Dinah, Sarah, Nina, Abbey and Shirley

9881c060ada0d39721e88110.LGreat Ladies of Jazz is a very solid CD that features some really great songs performed by some of the very best female jazz singers ever. The quality of the sound is fantastic; and the artwork is very well done as well.

“It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” is a live track of the great Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady Of Song; and Ella swings this out like the pro she always was! The piano arrangement is stunning and Ella really throws herself into this number. If you listen it’s immediately apparent that Ella enjoyed a great rapport with her audience, too–she usually did! Ella was the best of them! Ella returns for “Our Love Is Here To Stay;” I love that horn treatment and the overall musical arrangement works wonders for “Our Love Is Here To Stay.” I love it! Ella’s voice is in excellent form; it’s rich, warm and extremely vibrant. Great!

 

Listen also for the great Billie Holiday to perform a sublime rendition of “Come Rain Or Come Shine.” Billie sounds more mature on this recording; but make no mistake about it–her voice is still in excellent form. Billie’s uncanny sense of timing and her excellent diction bolster her ability to sing this ballad with panache, heart and all her soul. In addition, Billie’s treatment of “God Bless The Child” strikes me as being especially pretty and moving; Billie Holiday was always one of my very favorite female vocalists and just one listen to this will tell you why! “Ain’t Misbehavin'” by Dinah Washington features Dinah squarely front and center–and that’s where she belongs! The big band arrangement enhances “Ain’t Misbehavin’;” this Fats Waller tune shines brightly when the great Dinah Washington delivers it flawlessly.

 

Sarah Vaughan sings “‘S Wonderful” with her usual style and grace; and the horn stands out in the music that accompanies her fine singing! “‘S Wonderful” by Sarah Vaughan is easily a major highlight of this album. Listen for Sarah a second time around as she performs “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” with yet another big band arrangement. Sarah’s voice is clear as a bell and her voice is very rich and full.

“Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” gets a fine jazzy interpretation from Abbey Lincoln; Abbey’s voice sounds better than ever and this Depression era ballad is greatly enhanced by Abbey’s interpretation. The CD even ends strong with Shirley Horn delivering “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good” flawlessly; the piano arrangement is very elegant as well. Shirley does this one up right!

Fans of the great female vocalists on this album are bound to want this CD in their collections. #SGDG 

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Music: Muddy Waters – The Anthology, 1947-1972

Muddy Waters is one of the greatest blues singers of all time, if not the greatest. His classic 1950’s tracks had a profound influence on music as we know it today, particularly rock and roll. If your music collection has no Muddy Waters, then there’s a huge hole that needs to be filled. If you really want to get into this classic music, Muddy Waters’ Anthology is a great place to start. I personally don’t own it. I have the two Chess collections His Best: 1947-1955 and His Best: 1956-1964, both of which are excellent.

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However “The Anthology” would be a much better choice because it has nearly everything that’s on those two CDs, plus many more songs that aren’t on them. Particularly from the early years, there are many more songs here that aren’t on 1947-1955. Anthology has 50 songs total, and the two His Best collections combined have 40, so you get ten more songs with Anthology. Those additional tracks may not exactly be classics, the most essential stuff is contained on the His Best collections, however any Muddy Waters music is worth hearing and the more, the better.

Muddy’s early songs are mostly raw and stripped down. Muddy plays an awesome slide guitar which is all over the early stuff. There’s very little harmonica and also no bass and very little percussion. The songs are significantly less melodic than the later stuff. It’s simply electrified delta blues. Then the stuff later has a more prominent rhythm section and the songs tend to be more catchy and not quite as raw. Unfortunately, Muddy’s slide guitar also disappears for the most part as Jimmy Rogers takes over guitar duties. However, the great Little Walter plays an excellent harmonica on many of the tracks which is always a welcome addition. Sit back with a fine beverage,  light your favorite cigar and listen to some blues. #SGDG

Biography

In the late 1940s and early ’50s, Chicago was the epicenter of the blues explosion; all the roads led there, from Mississippi Delta, the Midwest and the Southeast. It all began in 1948 with the release of a 78-rpm single by a singer-guitarist called Muddy Waters. Aristocrat 1305 bore a pair of traditional Mississippi Delta-styled pieces “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and “I Feel Like Going Home”, and on them, Waters powerfully syllabized mighty singing. It was exactly what moved the musicologist Alan Lomax who, on behalf of Library of Congress, traveled through Stovall’s to find and field-record new talents performing original, pure blues at its very source. He found Muddy or McKinley Morganfield as he was known at the time. At the age of thirteen Muddy took up the harmonica and four years later he made the switch to guitar. “You see, I was digging Son House and Robert Johnson.”, the two absolute masters of that typical “bottleneck” guitar style. This technique made the sliding ?bottleneck? guitar a perfect extension and a mimer of a bluesman voice, matching the dips, twists, glissandos and all the shady tonal skips within its12-bar score. Pianists Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd and guitarist Blue Smitty played with Muddy on the very beginning of his Chicago’s South Side fame.

Sunnyland was especially involved in Muddy’s career take-off; he invited Muddy to participate in his 1947 Aristocrat session (?Johnson Machine Gun?) and immediately after, Muddy had his own Aristocrat debut with his ?Gypsy Woman?. But, nothing compares to the ? I Can’t Be Satisfied? clamour that became Muddy’s first national R&B hit in 1948. When Muddy Waters put together his own band with Little Walter on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers as the second guitar and Baby Face Leroy Foster on drums (and guitar), all of them powerful singers, he knew their superiority among the South Side performers and beyond, was ubiquitous. By 1951 Waters was already the R&B charts king producing one hit after another. ?Louisiana Blues?, ?Long Distance Call?, ?Honey Bee?, ?Still A Fool?, ?She Moves Me? and ?Mad Love? are just a few titles that marked the epoch.

His 1950 classic ?Rollin’ Stone? didn’t chart, but it brought a good fortune to young, emerging British band. With Willie Dixon, the veteran bassist and a talented songwriter, the band was finally complete, enabling Waters to achieve even wider success through the many songs he wrote (?I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man?, ?Just Make Love To Me?, ?I’m Ready?). Another major change occurred when James Cotton replaced Little Walter in 1954. With rock & roll making its way through and the modernism of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, the Moonglows and the Flamingos, Muddy was changing too.

After 1958 his titles are totally urban, like ?Walking Thru The Park? “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” and the anthemic “Got My Mojo Working,” and ?She’s Nineteen Years Old? among others. Muddy’s blues survived the big changes of the ?60s (think of B.B. King on one hand and all mass phenomena like James Brown on the other) and became a world-known classic in the ?70s. When his fire burnt out quietly in his sleep on April 30, 1983, in Westmont, Illinois, a human life was outlived by a spirit that had reshaped the course of the blues, reaching deep in the heart of all modern popular music.

Music: Buena Vista Social Club Rich and Full of Style

“Buena Vista Social Club” is a collection of music done with true feeling, talent and spirit. Great music never gets too old and here is evidence the great music from Cuba is still vibrant today as it was 40 years ago. The film based on the group had a special message about how age doesn’t matter in the area of the great artists. One of the musicians here is in his 90s and look at how alive and energetic and moving this music is! The vocals, the music, the lyrics are all rich and full of style. These are real musicians playing real music.

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Like Santana’s “Supernatural,” “Buena Vista Social Club” is more of an experience than just good music. Songs like “Chan Chan” are really deep and move you in a nice way, others like “Candela” just excite you with the energy and fun feeling of it all. I’m grateful to Ry Cooder for bringing back these incredible musicians who play some of the best Cuban music ever.

The simple arrangements and instumentation are powerful. A guitar, trumpet, conga, saxophone, and vocals that sound as if they are from another time are often all there is to make this gem come alive. The disc is beautifully recorded, yet still sounds as if you have stepped back into the 1950s in Cuba.

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I wish I spoke fluent Spanish so I could REALLY enjoy this wonderful recording, but it’s not necessary. The music speaks for itself (please checkout the YouTube video) and the meaning of the songs are fairly obvious. But to satisfy your curiosity there is a translation included with the Spanish lyrics so you can read along and get the gist even if you aren’t Cuban.

This is certainly an essential recording to add to your collection. I expect I will be giving this to several people I know for gifts. No holiday required. It will add texture to any party you choose to play and it will take the edge off a work day from hell paired with a cigar and neat drink. Cook dinner for yourself and put this on while you chop and sauté. You might even find yourself dancing a bit.

Music: Lady Sings The Blues 1972 Soundtrack – Diana Ross

The year 1972 is dear to my heart, it was the year of my birth and the year an excellent movie and soundtrack was created. I heard this CD again this week after a long time. I must say this CD still stands the test of time, even after 40 years. Diana Ross is to be commended for her superb interpretations of these Billie Holiday standards — all classics. It must have seem daunting for Diana Ross to tackle the role of Billie Holiday in “Lady Sings the Blues”. True, the movie took many knocks for sensationalizing the seedier aspects of Billie’s drug use and promiscuity, but no one can knock Diana’s performance in that movie.

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My only quibble with this soundtrack is that Berry Gordy decided to instill snippets from the movie’s dialogue into the soundtrack, which seems jarring when listening to the entire CD. But this is a soundtrack CD after all, so I guess Berry Gordy and Motown wanted it to be as authentic as it could.

All the songs are standouts, but Ms. Ross really shines in “Good Morning Heartache” (Motown released this as a single back in 1972) and probably her finest track “God Bless the Child”. This is no mean feat since those songs are forever identified with Lady Day, but Diana manages to instill her own character into the song without robbing its essence. Certainly very, very praiseworthy.

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Ms. Ross also was in great voice during this period as a recording artist. Having gone solo a few years earlier from the Supremes, her voice is warm and supple with just the right amount of lilt, which makes interpreting these Lady Day classics a bonus to hear. Again, much praise indeed to “Lady Diana” for a great singing and acting job.

These are the type of recordings where you’ll want to get your favorite cigar and drink sit back to enjoy such jewels as “Mean To Me”, “Fine And Mellow”, “You’ve Changed”, “Don’t Explain”, “God Bless The Child” (And others). For the most part you’ll get to explore one of Diana Ross’ most successful attempts at blues & jazz. Since that time she revisited this Genre several times.

Lady Sings The Blues remains one of Diana Ross’ most accomplished pieces of work and was a major triumph in her career showcasing her unlimited talents. Highly Recommended – both soundtrack and the movie itself!

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Music: Caliente – Gato Barbieri Smooth Jazz Experience

The more I venture into smoking different cigars my music selection and means of relaxation grows. The song Europa grabbed my attention and I had to learn more to share this amazing musicians work with people who enjoy SGDG Magazine. There has certainly been a lot of discussion over the years between jazz purists and “smooth jazz” aficionados about the merits of Caliente, but it can’t be denied that it is probably Gato Barbieri’s most commercially successful album to date. Nearly 30 years after its original issue, it still ranks near the top in sales of any Barbieri album, and the cut Europa garners more airplay than any other Barbieri song.

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The album on which a fire-breathing revolutionary transformed himself into a smooth Latin love man, under the guidance of producer Herb Alpert and associate producer Michelle (Mrs. Gato) Barbieri. The rhythm tracks are tight and funky in a facile ’70s fuzak sort of way, and Jay Chattaway’s CTI-inspired orchestrations sound dated and corny. The arrangements conspire to stifle the Third World scream in Barbieri’s raw and impassioned tenor sax tone. Yet he still manages to mate the steamy temperament of the tango with upscale funk on covers of Santana’s “Europa” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You.”

I like the entire CD and my only real complaint is that it could stand remastering since I am always obliged to raise the volume on my player whenever I want to hear it. If I had to choose, my favorites would be Fireflies, Europa, Don’t Cry Rochelle, I Want You, and the Herb Alpert composition, Behind The Rain. Those who say that Barbieri’s Latin fire has been squelched should listen again, it is not squelched, it is merely modulated. And his band? Look at the list, they are many of the who’s who of jazz session men in the mid-seventies. And yes, many are CTI veterans.

People in general want their favorite musicians to trod familiar paths and feel disappointed or betrayed when faced with a recording sharply different than what they are used to. But some fans are content to follow that musician through the highs and the lows and allow them to stray occasionally. By straying from their original path, they are growng for better or worse. Musicians who repeatedly try to mine the same musical vein end up in facing oblivion rather sooner than later.

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Barbieri never returned to where he once was, but neither did he end up mired in commercialism. He continues to follow his muse and despite the occasional disappointing album, I’m cool with that. Prodded by his wife and producer and fellow musician Herb Alpert, Barbieri made a masterful and highly successful grab for a larger audience with Caliente.  Let’s not begrudge him that, let’s celebrate his success.

Music: Soneando Trombon by Jimmy Bosch

Trombonist Jimmy Harrison electrified 1920’s Harlem audiences by demonstrating that Louis Armstrong’s style could be adapted to his own instrument. The subtle slide adjustments and breath control of Tommy Dorsey created a legato stylethe envy of most singers and the model for an obscure saloon singer from Hoboken, New Jersey named Frank Sinatra. Jack Teagarden’s facile slide technique was complimented by his blue-inflected melodic style; J.J. Johnson’s technical innovations made it possible to play bop on the trombone with a minimum of faking. The musician most responsible for re-creating these styles in the context of Afro-Cuban music is Barry Rogers.; his explosive solos and brilliant arrangements for Eddie Palmieri’s La Perfecta unit made an unmistakable impact on the 1960’s Latin dance music that eventually became known as Salsa.

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Jimmy Bosch is the heir to these traditions through talent, temperament and choice of role models. Anyone who’s good enough to hang in with Manny Oquendo y Libre expands their knowledge of rhythm and learns to use a minimal number of note for maximum expression through cunning placement within the two measure framework of clave. As a twenty year veteran Jimmy is one of the outstanding alumnae of the Oquendo Conservatory. One of his great regrets is that he didn’t get to work more with Barry Rogers;nevertheless, he’s learned the Gospel According to Barry and preaches it every time he picks up his horn. It’s to Jimmy’s great credit that he plays with Barry’s conviction and drive without slavishly copying the stridency that characterized the Rogers sound during the early years of La Perfecta. Much of Jimmy’s individuality of sound is due to his natural ease of playing. This ease is evident just from watching him;a photograph of his face while playing could be used in any instrumental textbook as an example of perfect natural embouchure setting for playing any brass instrument. Jimmy looks at his natural aptitude for the trombone as an unexplainable gift. In 1996 he told me “I never really learned to practice with discipline and do the daily things like most musicians who practice four or five hours a day.

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I’ve basically put the horn up to my face and my whole attitude, my whole scope and thinking is that I just get to play with passion and love and it comes out and that’s what happens”. What comes out includes some of the hottest trombone solos being played today-and not just in the salsa field. His riffs build intensity through repetition and through subtle interaction with fellow musicians; his repeated note figures can sound like a divinely inspired telegraph operator. He can easily push his naturally beautiful sound to a sizzling edginessa la Generoso “Tojo” Jimenez; his articulation runs the gamut from clean precision through many funky inflections available to trombonists through manipulation of the slide and tongue. Jimmy is as happy playing background figures with his fellow horn players as he is taking solos; he fronts his own group with a leader’s ability but without a leader’s ego.

Uniquely in tune with his instrument, Jimmy Bosch is uniquely able to respond to its heritage. As we near the end of the century of the trombone’s first real flowering it’s clear that played by the likes of Bosch it’s in very good hands for the next. Bernard Shaw’s music hall clown was right; the trombone was destinedto play the Music of the Future. Listening to Jimmy Bosch-Soneando Trombon gives a very good glimpse of the trombone’s future. 

 

Jimmy Bosch

An expressive playing style, marked by flaring melodies and soulful rhythms, has made Jimmy Bosch one of the leading trombone players in contemporary Latin music. Known throughout the Latin communities as “El Trombon Criollo,” the New Jersey-born Bosch has strengthened the music of such top-notch Latin groups as Ruben Blades and Son Del Solar, Mark Anthony, Eddie Palmieri, Perfecta Combinacion, Manny Oquendo Y Libre, Cachao, Celia Cruz, La India and Ray Baretto. Bosch has led his own group, the Masters, since 1996.

Soneando TrombonBosch, one of 11 children raised in a poor family, began playing trombone in school at age 11. Two years later, he made his professional debut with a Hoboken-based merengue band, Arcoires. In 1978, Bosch enrolled in the classical music department at Rutgers University and became a member of the influential Salsa band Manny Oquendo Y Libre. He continues to perform and record with the group occasionally. Bosch’s debut album as a bandleader, Soneando Trombon, features guest appearances by Cuban trumpet legend Chocolate Armenteros and vocalist Pete Rodriguez. Salsa Dura followed in 1999.

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Music: Money Jungle – Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus & Max Roach

You know, there are some albums that you pretty much think have to be good, and you have these enormously high expectations for them. And more often than not, they don’t quite live up to them.

“Money Jungle” is one of the exceptions to that rule. A dream meeting– bandleader Duke Ellington sits at the piano, generously supported by his compositional heir in bassist Charles Mingus and sublime bop drummer Max Roach. With this backing, Ellington is inspired in a far more assertive light than he is usually found as Mingus and Roach push him along. Mingus is downright aggressive and perhaps even angry throughout the proceedings– check his playing “Money Jungle”, where he occasioanlly switches from his swing to an aggressive repetitive figure, as if daring his collaborators to drift outside of the swing (they don’t), or his fierceness on “Wig Wise” in sharp contrast to Ellington’s light and bouncey touch. Somehow, Roach, often considered the most lyrical of drummers, finds a way to negotiate through this and keep the tension between Ellington and Mingus to a boil.

duke money jungle

The entire record is pretty much a highlight– from the fluttering bass of “Fleurette Africaine” (echoed by Ellington and Roach) to Ellington’s beautiful re-visitation of “Solitude” (in my favorite reading of the piece) to the straight blues of “REM Blues”, there’s not a bad cut on here, although I suspect anybody deeply rooted in the swing tradition will find the playing a bit out of character, and certainly Ellington is inspired into a different light by his younger protegees.

duke money jungle 02

It’s not surprising that Mingus, in the presence of Ellington, plays as well as he ever has. No matter how far Mingus reached, no matter how experimental he got, he came from Duke, and worshiped Duke (even though he was the only man Duke had ever fired), and this anxiety is palpable all through this record. And Duke? What can one say… In addition to being a wonderful soul, he was a very smart man, and knew quite well that he was not Bud Powell or Oscar Peterson, and he doesn’t try to be, he doesn’t need to be.

He didn’t sign up with Mingus and Roach for a gag, to dip his toes cautiously and quickly into the bebop waters. He wanted–like all great artists–to challenge and to be challenged. So it is not terribly surprising that he sounds at times like Thelonious (another who was deeply touched by Duke)–angular, sparse, very rhythmic. This is above all else a confrontation of styles and ideas and personalities. It is musical interplay at its most complex because it plays off of what we know and what we expect from these musicians, reaching and eventually exceeding those expectations.

Nonetheless, as far as jazz records go, this one is pretty much indispensable. Highly recommended.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington recorded for so many labels and went through so many stylistic phases, any attempt to boil down his “essence” will inevitably come up short. So it goes with this two-disc collection. While containing a wealth of gems from Columbia’s huge Duke catalog, as well as some early efforts for Brunswick, it does not represent such defining works as the late-’30s/early-’40s songs gathered on RCA’s Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band and The Far East Suite, Prestige’s Carnegie Hall Concerts, January 1943, Blue Note’s super trio album Money Jungle, and Fantasy’s The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse. That said, this 37-song set offers a great ride through the ages, powered by such classics as “Black and Tan Fantasy,” “Creole Love Call,” “Caravan,” “Mood Indigo,” “Cotton Tail” and “Come Sunday” featuring such immortal soloists as Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart and the never-to-be-underrated Ellington. Even after all this time, the transcendent genius of “Ko-Ko” still manages to spin you around the room in delight.

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