Sunday, 01 October 2017

A Tribute to Duke Ellington, Vol. 1

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  • Published on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 10:16
  • Written by Super User
  • Hits: 261
 

Take The A Train - 9.52 
Satin Doll - 6.35 
I'm Beginning to See the Light - 3.43 
It Don't Mean a Thing - 5.46 
In My Solitude - 7.33 
Don't Get Around Much Anymore - 10.29 
Satin Doll - 4.56 
The Jeep is Jumping - 5.40 
Blue Light - 4.32 
Sophisticated Lady - 5.55 
 


This first of two volumes in tribute to Duke Ellington features a mix of artists recorded on stage, in a club or the studio. Tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet is accompanied by organist Milt Buckner and drummer Tony Cromble for a 1971 date at Ronnie Scott’s featuring an extended workout of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train.” Jacquet’s robust, big-toned solo is fueled by Buckner’s rhythmic and punchy organ, with Cromble providing steady support. Pianist Jay McShann has a long career and these two selections from a 1974 solo concert at Montreux are among the highlights of this portion of his career. His glistening take of “Satin Doll” mixes in a bit of stride, lush chords and superb pedal technique. McShann’s jaunty take of “Im Beginning to See the Light” is also a spirited affair, with a few Art Tatum-like runs added to his stride. Violinist Stephane Grappelli and guitarist Barney Kessel made a series of albums together in the late 1960s and early 1970s, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” is filled with fireworks. Earl Hines was one of the giants of piano. His solo piano concert from a 1974 Montreux set showcases a moving, richly-textured “In My Solitude” and a rollicking medley that goes from Mercer Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” (actually penned by Johnny Hodges but lost to Duke’s son in a card game!) to a brief detour into Ann Ronell’s “Willow Weep For Me.” Then he switches things up by incorporating one of his trademarks from his interpretation of “Boogie Woogie on the St. Louis Blues,” a sustained tremolo in his right hand as he improvises with his left. Brief snatches of several melodies rouse the crowd, ranging from “Summertime” to “The Volga Boatman” and beyond. Tenor sax giant Ben Webster and fellow expatriate American trumpeter Bill Coleman join forces with an English rhythm section for a swinging treatment of “Satin Doll.” Webster utilizes a Danish band for his big and brassy take of “The Jeep is Jumpin’,” with his signature tenor sound complimented by trombonist John Darville. The same band tackles an overlooked Ellington blues, “Blue Light,” suggesting a late evening/early morning all-nighter, with Webster’s solo blending a weary air with punchy outbursts. Finally, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin is joined by an outstanding rhythm section (pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Niels Pedersen and drummer Tootie Heath) for a lush, expressive treatment of Ellington’s ever-elegant “Sophisticated Lady.”

 

A Tribute to Duke Ellington, Vol. 2

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  • Published on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 10:16
  • Written by Super User
  • Hits: 253
 

Hi Ya Su - 4.42 
In a Sentimental Mood - 2.28 
Black and Tan Fantasy - 5.53 
I'm Satisfied - 3.52 
Something to Live For - 3.27 
Mood Indigo - 4.43 
Black Butterfly - 4.11 
What am I Here For? - 5.47 
East St. Louis Toodle-Oo - 4.57 
C Jam Blues - 6.06 
I Got it Bad and That Ain't Good - 7.16 
Rockin' in Rhythm - 8.04 
 


Ray Nance and Paul Gonsalves make a great partnership for their salute to their boss. Nance had left Duke Ellington’s band not long after the return of Cootie Williams in 1962, the trumpeter he had to replace 22 years earlier when Cootie went to work with Benny Goodman, though he made intermittent guest appearances with Duke through 1973. Gonsalves, well-know for his twenty-seven chorus tenor saxophone solo at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival had a long tenure with Ellington, arriving in 1950 and still on hand for the pianist’s final concert in 1974. “Hy’a, Sue” is an obscure blues from the late 1940s that was periodically revisited by Ellington. This snappy swinger features the famous sidemen with pianist Raymond Fol (who once toured Europe with a group of Ellington all-stars led by Johnny Hodges), bassist Al Hall and drummer Oliver Jackson. Nance was present for its debut and appears on most, if not all, known recordings to exist. Gonsalves was hardly unfamiliar with it, since he was on hand for almost as many versions. After the head, Fol takes a brief jaunty solo, followed by Nance’s gritty choruses and the always-expressive Gonsalves, as the piece works its way to a swinging conclusion. Art Tatum had great respect for Ellington and recorded “In a Sentimental Mood” a number of times for transcription services and in the studio. His rapid-fire arpeggios and brilliant improvisations continue to amaze jazz fans today, like this circa 1938-1939 take for Standard Transcriptions. The dramatic “Black and Tan Fantasy” was penned in the late 1920s and this 1963 version by British bandleader and trombonist Chris Barber pays great respect to Ellington’s early recordings of it. Vocalist Helen Humes is joined by tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate and pianist Earl Hines for a boisterous rendition of “I’m Satisfied,” a forgotten gem written for Ellington vocalist Ivie Anderson, recorded in 1933 and never again played. Humes’ big voice carries the day in this triumphant concert performance at the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival. Many jazz fans forget that Andre Previn was already working professionally as a jazz pianist in his teens. His thoughtful solo piano take of “Something to Live For” was recorded at the age of sixteen, already showing his budding talent as an arranger and improviser. “Moody Indigo” is interpreted by a group of British musicians, including clarinetist Dave Shepherd, tenor saxophonist Danny Moss, cornetist Freddy Randall and pianist Brian Lemon, none of whom became household names in North America, though they more than do justice to their traditional setting of this standard, adding a tasty bass solo by Kenny Baldock. Two more Brits, trumpeter Digby Fairweather and pianist Fred Hunt, do justice to “Black Butterfly,” offering a graceful yet swinging treatment of this neglected ballad, with Fairweather first soloing with a mute, then on open horn. Paul Gonsalves returns for a 1970 meeting with Earl Hines, with both men playing intricate variations on “What Am I Her For,” backed by bassist Al Hall and the great drummer Jo Jones. Another excerpt from a British all-star session showcases trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton and trombonist Roy Williams playing another dramatic early Ellington composition, “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo,” highlighted by Lyttleton’s conversational muted solo in the tradition of Bubber Miley and later Cootie Williams. Alto saxophonist and bluesman Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson shines fronting a European band at the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival, playing a gritty take of “C Jam Blues.” On the same day, pianist Sir Roland Hanna recorded a superb solo piano set, from which this elegant rendition of “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” in which the audible squeak of the pedal adds extra meaning to the performance. “Rockin’ in Rhythm” blends old and new styles in a live version recorded by reedman Terry Lightfoot in 1977 in Leipzig.

 

Bud Freeman - Meet Me in San Juan

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  • Published on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 10:16
  • Written by Super User
  • Hits: 240
 

Beale St. Blues - 5.09 
Basin Street Blues - 6.12 
School Days - 5.02 
One for the Money - 5.49 
Saturday Night Fish Fry - 5.50 
All by Myself - 3.19 
Meet Me in San Juan - 4.04 
Chicago - 2.02 
Somebody Stole My Gal - 2.44
Last Night When We Were Young - 4.36 
Please - 3.19 
Something to Remember You By - 3.27 
The Girl Friend - 2.23 
It's Only a Paper Moon - 2.22 
You're a Sweetheart - 3.17 
Sweet Sue - 3.20 
Satin Doll - 3.02 
 


Bud Freeman was part of the so-called Austin High School Gang that the music of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Born in 1906 in Chicago, Freeman was initially a C-melody saxophonist, though he switched to playing tenor saxophone in 1925. With Coleman Hawkins’ hard-blowing sound dominating the world of tenor, Freeman opted for a lighter tone, finding his own way with intricate, often challenging solos. He was still finding his way when he made his first records with fellow Chicago natives Red McKenzie and Eddie Condon, though he wound up working often with Condon throughout much of his career. Freeman worked or recorded with Tommy Dorsey, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Bunny Berigan, Jelly Roll Morton, Jack Teagarden and many others between the 1930s and 1950s. Later in his career, he often recorded with pickup groups or as a guest with a working band, though he was a member of the all-star World’s Greatest Jazz Band in its early years. Freeman was also known for his humor and recorded a narrative track for Commodore Records that parodied Noel Coward's "Private Lives." He was still a fairly active player in his later years, and wrote several books about his life as a musician. His memoir Crazeology: The Autobiography of a Jazz Musician was published in 1989, just two years before his death, a few weeks before his 85th birthday. The first several tracks come from a 1962 session with a group led by guitarist and banjo player Elmer Snowden, who had founded The Washingtonians, a forerunner to the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The band includes two swing musicians of Freeman’s era, trumpeter Roy Eldridge and drummer Jo Jones, along with emerging pianist Ray Bryant and his bassist brother Tommy Bryant. The spirited performance of W. C. Handy’s “Beale Street Blues” features Eldridge’s exhilarating, a rollicking bluesy solo by Ray Bryant and a swinging effort by the leader on tenor, with Snowden’s gritty electric guitar providing a great foil for the soloists. Snowden takes the melody with the band responding to his call in the introduction, then he solos with the band playing harmony behind him, until turning it over to Ray Bryant, followed by Freeman and Eldridge. “School Days” has a rhythm & blues flavor to it, with Freeman and Eldridge playing a unison line, then the saxophonist offering a playful line behind the trumpeter’s vocal. “One For the Money” also has an R&B feeling, with Eldridge’s humorous vocal. Louis Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry” is a third Eldridge vocal feature, with Freeman making a late entrance following Snowden’s solo. The remaining tracks come from a session with veteran bassist Bob Haggart, drummer Don Lamond and a young pianist named Dave Frishberg, who was just starting his career. The standard “By Myself” starts with a “Manteca”-like vamp, fueling an inspired Freeman solo in a breezy setting. The saxophonist’s “Meet Me in San Juan” is a brisk blues, with some tasty playing by the leader and Frishberg. Haggart’s delicious walking bass in a highlight of the breezy setting of “Chicago.” The quartet takes quite a few liberties with “Somebody Stole My Gal,” transforming it from classic jazz fare into a modern swinger. Freeman displays his rhapsodic side in the easygoing treatment of “Last Night When We Were Young,” though his improvising is as adventurous as any track from this session. Frishberg uses a very similar introduction to Ralph Rainger’s “Please” and Jimmy McHugh’s “You’re a Sweetheart,” though they diverge when Freeman states the melody in each song. The saxophonist captures the sense of longing in the lyric to “Please,” even with the brisk setting. In “You’re a Sweetheart” the mood is more upbeat as Freeman’s expressive vibrato glides over the rhythm section. One can hear a member of the rhythm section make a comment in the background to the breezy setting of Rodgers & Hart’s “The Girl Friend,” showcasing both Freeman and Frishberg to good effect. Harold Arlen’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon” is easily one of his most beloved works. Freeman’s brisk setting of this standard transforms it from a sentimental ballad into a swinger. “Sweet Sue” was quite popular in the 1930s among jazz musicians. This version features more swinging Freeman, a snappy Frishberg solo and Haggart’s inventive walking bass. “Satin Doll” has been recorded so many times (just considering the many versions by its composer, Duke Ellington) that it is perpetual danger of wearing out its welcome. But Freeman opts for a faster clip than typical for the song, while his brilliant reworking of the melody in his superb solo helps it to stand out from the pack. These sessions represent some of Bud Freeman’s finest work from the later years of his long career.

 

New Orleans Blues, Vol. 1

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  • Published on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 10:16
  • Written by Super User
  • Hits: 254
 

Texas Moaner Blues - 8.00 
Immigration Blues - 6.46 
Tishomingo Blues - 4.06 
Meet Me Where They Play the Blues - 4.53 
Basin Street Blues - 6.15 
Saturday Afternoon Blues - 4.45 
Royal Garden Blues - 6.12 
St. James Infirmary - 5.15 
West End Blues - 5.57 
Blues for a Black Girl - 3.59 
Careless Love Blues - 5.57 
 


New Orleans Jazz has sometimes been deemed old-fashioned or out of date, but bands continue to specialize in this lively music decades after its heyday. The brilliant interplay and group improvisation while maintaining a listenable melody keeps it very much alive. This collection features a number of British bands, all of whom prove that one doesn’t have to be American to swing New Orleans Jazz. Trombonist Chris Barber, trumpeter Pal Halcox, clarinetist John Crocker and alto saxophonist Sammy Rimington begin with a spirited slow drag interpretation of Clarence Williams’ masterful “Texas Moaner Blues” makes only one alteration for the modern era, adding electric guitar and electric bass, though they are played tastefully. Next is their take of Duke Ellington’s long forgotten “Immigration Blues,” which the pianist recorded for Brunswick in 1926 and left it behind. Barber’s muted solo and Crocker’s infectious clarinet are the high points. Another British band lead by clarinetist and soprano saxophonist Pete Allen delivers a down home version of Spencer Williams’ “Tishomingo Blues,” engaging in musical conversation with trombonist Mickey Cooke and clarinetist Ronnie Drake. Rob Mason leads his band with a playful Louis Armstrong-like vocal in Steve Allen’s “Meet Me Where the Play the Blues,” written with the spirit of New Orleans in mind. The band isn’t identified, though Allen’s muted trumpet solo is a joy. They also have fun with “Basin Street Blues,” a Spencer Williams standard that was a favorite of Armstrong, Jack Teagarden and so many greats. Johnny Hodges’ penned “Saturday Afternoon Blues” for a record date costarring Ben Webster. This riff tune is a foot-tapping swinger featuring some Webster-inspired tenor sax by Ronnie Drake and Alan Elsdon’s gritty trumpet. Clarence and Spencer Williams (no relation) had an early hit with “Royal Garden Blues” and the excitement hasn’t dulled with many new recordings appearing in the decades after its debut. This brisk version by trumpeter Alex Welsh’s band showcases a rollicking alto sax solo by Pete Allen and Roy Williams’ expressive trombone. Rod Mason’s somber take of “St. James Infirmary Blues” changes its mood with his campy vocal, with little asides reminiscent of New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker. Clarinetist Terry Lightfoot and trumpeter Ian Hunter-Randall capture the essence of King Oliver’s “West End Blues,” another timeless piece that is unlikely to disappear so long as New Orleans music is played. Clarinetist Dave Shepherd, trumpeter Digby Fairweather and trombonist Mickey Cooke saunter their way through “Blues For a Black Girl.” Clarinetist Monty Sunshine, with a vibrato-filled sound reminiscent of Sidney Bechet, leads his band through W. C. Handy’s “Careless Love” to wrap this excellent compilation.

 

Johnny Griffin Quartet - Live at Jazzhus Montmartre

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  • Published on Sunday, 17 August 2014 11:45
  • Written by Super User
  • Hits: 217
Total Length: 51:39

Old Folks - 11.59 
Wee - 5.45 
Leave Me Alone Blues - 1.08 
Rhythm-A-Ning - 5.42 
Blues for Harvey - 12.38 
Wee (Theme) - 2.17 


Johnny Griffin, known as the “Little Giant,” was a formidable tenor saxophonist regardless of the setting. The Chicago native was known for his big tone and rapid-fire runs on his instrument, while remaining at a creative peak throughout his improvisations rather than resorting to mere honking and showboating. He worked with Lionel Hampton’s big band early in his career and briefly spent time with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Thelonious Monk’s quartet. A Blowing Session, Griffin’s recording debut as a leader, included both John Coltrane and Hank Mobley, showing that he was unafraid of competition on his horn. His series of record dates with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis proved to be one of the great pairings of tenor saxophonists in the history of jazz. But Griffin is best remembered for his records as a leader. Moving to Europe for good in 1962 to join the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Band, Griffin worked and recorded often, occasionally returning to the U.S. for brief engagements and record dates. He died in France in 2008, not long after his eightieth birthday. These sessions come from two nights at the Montmartre Jazzhuis in Copenhagen, where Griffin frequently played. Accompanying him are fellow American expatriates Kenny Drew on piano and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, along with the young Danish virtuoso bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. Griffin’s ballad mastery is apparent in his loping, humorous setting of the chestnut “Old Folks.” The set includes a pair of up tempo romps, including Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning” (one of many reworkings of the changes to the Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”) and Denzil Best’s “Wee.” “Blues For Harvey” starts out in a subdued manner, then gradually evolves into an expressive hard bop vehicle that is full of sudden twists, adding a delicious bluesy solo by Drew. Even better is Griffin’s improvised “Leave Me Alone Blues,” which features the leader playing unaccompanied for several choruses before the rhythm section rejoins him to wrap the set in blazing style, with a brief recap of “Wee” added as a coda.

 
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