CD: Ernestine Anderson

Ernestine Anderson, Hot Cargo (Fresh Sound).    In these 1956 sessions, Anderson's early singing has lost none of its naturalness, musicality or appeal. Her accompaniments by Harry Arnold's big band and Duke Jordan's trio sound equally fresh. I wrote earlier that this was one of the best vocal albums of the 1950s. I am revising that assessment. It is one of the best vocal recordings of the last half of the twentieth century. Sweden's Metronome label originally released this … [Read more...]

CD: Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet, Tabligh, (Cuneiform).  stalwart of the avant garde for nearly four decades, Smith continues at the head of the pack in free jazz. In this set of four moody, barely-structured pieces, the trumpeter frequently evokes late-period Miles Davis. He sometimes takes the horn below its natural range to explore pedal-tone territory that Davis never visited. Pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist John Lindberg and drummer Shannon Jackson have developed an uncanny ability to react to … [Read more...]

CD: Alexander String Quartet

Alexander String Quartet, Retrospections (Foghorn Classics). The ASQ plumbs the seriousness, assertiveness and sense of glee in quartets 1, 2 and 3 of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Wayne Peterson. Peterson draws on inspiration from sources as varied as samba, bluegrass, the bebop of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and predecessors including Bartok and Ives. He integrates those influences in spirit, not letter. Played by the Alexander String Quartet with deep understanding, Peterson's … [Read more...]

DVD: Bobby Shew

The Bobby Shew Story (Skyhigh Films). The great trumpeter talks about his career -- stumbling into a jam session at age fifteen and discovering that he had the gift of improvisation -- deciding to give up studio work: "I realized I was on a chain like a pet monkey" -- the joy of losing his fear of playing incorrectly: "I'm not afraid of sticking my neck out any more." Interspersed with the interview segments are sequences of Shew performing at the Jazz Bakery with the Chris Walden big band. They … [Read more...]

Other Places: Cerra On Feldman

In his Jazz Profiles blog, Steven M. Cerra's stock-in-trade is thorough examinations of the careers of important jazz musicians. His current project is Victor Feldman, the late, astonishingly talented drummer, pianist and vibraharpist. Steve just posted the third of three parts about Feldman. In the first installment, he tells of going to The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California, in the late 1950s when Feldman was playing piano and vibes with the all-star group led by Howard Rumsey.  As an … [Read more...]

Book: Ted Gioia

Ted Gioia, Delta Blues (W.W. Norton). Those who think that their musical sophistication places basic blues beneath consideration are likely to benefit from Gioia's exhaustive, deeply informative study. He concentrates on Mississippi Delta blues and its heroes including Robert Johnson, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt and B.B. King. Gioia traces the evolution of the blues from the plantation work songs that were also one of the roots of jazz. He is persuasive on the role of economics in driving … [Read more...]