I’ve been sampling CDs by singers. For the most part, the CDs are new, but not all of the singers are. As an example, take Jimmy Rushing…please.
Jimmy Rushing, The Scene: Live In New York (High Note). Rushing became famous with the Count Basie band of the late 1930s and was with Basie until 1950. The cliché most often applied to him is “blues shouter,” and he was a magnificent one. The designation sells him short, though. Rushing was also a superlative singer of standard songs, particularly of what used to be called rhythm ballads. In the 1960s and nearly to the time of his death in 1972, He sang frequently with tenor saxophonists Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. They appeared in other places, but most often at the Half Note in lower Manhattan. One of my imperishable memories is of Rushing, Sims, Cohn, pianist Dave Frishberg and a bassist and drummer jammed onto the Half Note’s little bandstand having the time of their lives, spreading joy. Most often, the drummer was Mousey Alexander. Frequently, the bassist was Major Holley. Alexander and Holley are on this album. Frishberg is the pianist throughout, although the liner notes and the tray card indicate that there is an additional pianist.
Alan Grant of New York’s WABC Radio regularly broadcast from the Half Note in the mid-sixties. His shows often featured Rushing and company. There is little question that these tracks come from those remote broadcasts, but the record company avoids identifying the club or the source of the tapes. That is of small moment, perhaps, except that this album is not only entertaining, it also documents a time and place in jazz history and should provide the facts. The CD includes two instrumentals by the Sims-Cohn group, Zoot’s “Red Door” and Al’s “The Note,” the latter misidentified as “It’s Noteworthy.”
Discographical inaccuracies aside, music is the name of the game, and the game is played no better than Rushing and his companions play it here. Rushing is in great voice and high spirits. Cohn, Sims and the rhythm section reciprocate. The rescue and release of these performances is good news.
The Scene is a fitting companion to Rushing’s last recording, The You And Me That Used To Be, an 1972 RCA Bluebird album with Sims, Cohn, Frishberg, Budd Johnson, Ray Nance, Milt Hinton and Mel Lewis playing Frishberg’s perfectly tailored arrangements. The bad news about The You And Me That Used To Be is that it’s out of print and selling for as much as $88.45 on Amazon. The good news is that It’s available for $1.65 as an MP3 download. Maybe there’s something to this digital commerce stuff after all.
Here is Jimmy Rushing in the 1960s accompanying himself in one of his favorite blues. This is from Ralph J. Gleason’s Jazz Casual public television series.
Briefly: Other Vocal CDs
Connie Evingson: Little Did I Dream (Minnehaha Music). The subtitle is Songs By Dave Frishberg. He traveled to his native Minnesota to record with Evingson, a fine vocalist. Their Twin Cities colleagues include his old St. Paul pal Dave Karr, an accomplished saxophonist. Evingson brings her individuality and spark to fourteen of Frishberg’s songs. Among them are “Zoot Walks In,” “My Attorney Bernie” and a touching treatment of “Listen Here.”
Retta Christie with David Evans and Dave Frishberg (Retta). Christie is a country singer who leads her own band in Oregon. Here, however, she teams with Frishberg and Evans in a strange-bedfellows set of greater- and lesser-known songs that work surprisingly well together. Her voice is light, her delivery straightforward. Frishberg gets plenty of solo time, as does Evans, one of the great undercover secrets among tenor saxophonists. There’s no drummer. Christie, Frishberg and Evans don’t need one. If you’ve always wanted to hear “The Thrill is Gone” and “Ridin’ Down the Canyon” under the same cover, this is the one for you.
John Pizzarelli with The Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra, Dear Mr. Sinatra (Telarc). What, another Sinatra tribute? Yes, and beautifully executed by the Clayton-Hamiltons and Pizzarelli being his musical self singing songs associated with Sinatra. He also plays satisfying guitar solos, incorporating that voice-single string unison voodoo that he does so well. The arrangements, mostly by John Clatyton, are subtle, only now and then hinting at Nelson Riddle. This has been sitting in my CD stacks unheard for a couple of years. I wish that I had put it on sooner.
Lisa Sokolov, A Quiet Thing (Laughing Horse). Intriguing in her eccentricity, Sokolov takes flying leaps at time, diction, intonation and interpretation. She usually lands right side up. She’s a vocal actress and a chance-taker well matched with adventurous musicians including bassist Cameron Brown, pianist John DiMartino and drummer Gerry Hemingway.