CD: Miles Davis

Miles Davis, Bitches Brew 40th Anniversary (Columbia). Here is everything you are likely to want to hear, know, ask or think about Davis' full-fledged leap into the rock ethic that informed his music in the 1970s. It is a lavish boxed package of two LPs, three CDs, a DVD, a book and a packet of posters, ticket replicas, photos, proof sheets and Columbia memos. For those willing to spend more than a hundred bucks, the memorabilia aspect is an attraction, but the music is the thing. Sidemen … [Read more...]

CD: Irene Kral

Irene Kral, Second Chance (Jazzed Media). Kral's stock in trade was perfection—of intonation, time, feeling, diction and lyric interpretation. She sang with little movement, no show biz mannerisms, nothing resembling schtick. She was so good at 25 that in 1957 Maynard Ferguson hired her on the spot after hearing one song. Alan Broadbent became Kral's piano accompanist in 1974. Until her death four years later, they performed together on a plane of empathy rarely achieved in any genre of … [Read more...]

CD: Martin Wind

Martin Wind, Get It? (Laika). The quartet's feeling of controlled abandon, symbolized in the cover shot, is notable in the title tune inspired by James Brown. There's a sense of slight danger even in the stately treatment of Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan" and Wind's atmospheric, blues-inflected "Rainy River." The chance-taking is at a high point in Thad Jones' "Three and One," with a Scott Robinson tenor sax solo that slithers, growls and wails. Wind, Robinson, pianist Bill Cunliffe and drummer Tim … [Read more...]

DVD: Johnny Mercer

Johnny Mercer, This Time The Dream's On Me (Warner Bros). Producer-director Bruce Ricker does a masterly job of integrating new and old material into a thorough biography of the great lyricist. The story of Mercer's life and artistry melds film clips and recordings of Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Mercer singing his songs. Colleagues including Johnny Mandel and Tony Bennett offer assessments of his gifts, and Mercer himself reflects on his … [Read more...]

Book: Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff, At The Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years On The Jazz Scene (U of California Press). Hentoff is our leading avatar of the proposition that jazz is a living expression of the principles embedded in the US constitution, of which he is also a scholar. He does not deal in technical analysis of music. He gives strong, informed opinions and tells stories about those he knew or knows intimately, among them Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Clark Terry. But he also writes about … [Read more...]