Book: Terry Teachout On Ellington

Teachout Duke Book

Terry Teachout, Duke: A Life Of Duke Ellington (Gotham) Teachout takes readers as close as it may be possible to come to Ellington’s thought processes about his music, about himself and about other people. A charming deflector of inquiry into his compositional techniques, his opinions and his motivations, Ellington was his own most closely guarded secret. Teachout applies his formidable research and narrative skills to parallel stories: Ellington’s relationships with family, friends, sidemen, … [Read more...]

CD: Warren Wolf

Warren Wolf Wolfgang

Warren Wolf, Wolfgang (Mack Avenue) In a succession of vibraphonists that began with Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo, Wolf has come into his own. His new album finds him with one rhythm section of veterans—pianist Benny Green, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash—and another of young musicians from his own quartet. He and the increasingly impressive pianist Aaron Diehl play duets on two pieces. With Wolf on marimba, the two defy categories in variations on the 19th century … [Read more...]

CD: David Friesen

Dave Friesen Brilliant Heart

David Friesen, Brilliant Heart (ITM Archives) In this collection of chamber music improvised on original themes, bassist Friesen commemorates an adult son who died in 2009. His “Scotty” is an unaccompanied bass solo incisively intoned and infused with a deep sense of loss. In much of the rest of the album, the pleasure of discovery dominates as Friesen interacts with pianist Greg Goebel and drummer Charlie Doggett and, on some tracks, guitarist Larry Koonse. The piano trio piece “Purple … [Read more...]

CD: Lester Young

Lester Young 1950

Lester Young, Boston 1950 (Uptown) If it has been too long since you've listened to Lester Young, say a couple of weeks, this collection of club performances could be just what you need. The tracks are from radio broadcasts when Young’s quintet was appearing at Boston’s Hi-Hat in the spring of 1950. He may not have been the Lester of the late 1930s Count Basie band, but the exuberance and ingenuity of his playing counter claims that after WWII he was a burnt-out case. Young was always capable … [Read more...]

DVD: Anita O’Day

Anita O'Day, Tokyo '63

Anita O’Day Live In Tokyo ’63 (Kayo Stereophonic) The singer equals the heights she reached in her 1958 triumph at the Newport Jazz Festival. In this television broadcast there is no audience cheering her on, as at Newport, but O’Day shows that she needs no crowd to generate energy and enthusiasm. She has the backing of her pianist and musical director Bob Corwin and a superb big band of Japanese musicians led by Takao Ishizuka playing Buddy Bregman arrangments. Among the 15 songs, she … [Read more...]

Book: Gary Burton

Gary Burton LearningToListen

Gary Burton, Learning To Listen (Berklee Press) At the outset of his autobiography, as he turns 70 Burton makes it official again (the first time was in 1994): he’s gay. The vibraphonist then delivers an entertaining, informative and well-written account of his career, returning occasionally but not obsessively to his gayness. He is even-handed about the difficulties and rewards of working with Stan Getz, full of admiration for Duke Ellington, generous but clear-eyed in discussing colleagues … [Read more...]

CD: Keith Jarrett

Jarrett Somewhere

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, Somewhere (ECM) The first release in four years by Jarrett’s Standards Trio captures interaction among the pianist, bassist Peacock and drummer DeJohnette that is like the activity of one mind. Their exploration of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” melds into “Everywhere,” a mantra that builds hypnotic fascination. In the quirkiness of his fragmented first bars of “Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and his unaccompanied ruminations leading … [Read more...]

CD: Bill Potts

Potts Porgy & Bess

Bill Potts, The Jazz Soul of Porgy & Bess (Fresh Sound) In jazz, 1959 was a watershed, milestone, landmark (choose your cliché). Clichés embody truths; that’s how they become clichés. The truth is that this all-star recording of Porgy & Bess was one of the most important of the final year in a golden decade of jazz in New York. Potts’s arrangements are his most celebrated, for good reason. There is passion and commitment in the playing of the 19-piece ensemble and in solos by Art Farmer, Bill … [Read more...]

CD: Cécile McLorin Salvant

Savant Woman Child

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Woman Child (Mack Avenue) In this November post, I observed that it was going to take a while to catch up with Cécile McLorin Salvant. It will take a while longer because she is moving fast, but her first CD portrays a singer who has emerged in her early twenties full of talent, versatility, taste and rare artistic judgment. With pianist Aaron Diehl’s trio, Salvant is unfailingly on target interpreting a collection of 12 dissimilar songs. She is equally affecting in … [Read more...]

DVD: Erroll Garner

Garner DVD

Erroll Garner, No One Can Hear You Read (First Run Features) This compact, well-made documentary leaves the viewer a puzzle: only 36 years after his death, how can memories of a stunningly original, universally admired pianist have grown so dim? Many, perhaps most, young listeners don’t know about Garner. The film’s abundant performance clips provide reasons that he should be an icon —his spontaneity, his irresistible swing, the witty deceptiveness of his introductions; the joy he took … [Read more...]

Book: Marc Myers

whyjazzhappened

Marc Myers, Why Jazz Happened (University of California Press) A respected jazz critic and blogger with a masters degree in US history, Myers assesses the effects of social, political and business forces on the development of the music. He provides context in chapters on the influences of recording technology, radio, race relations, the G.I. Bill, the musicians union and rock culture, among other phenomena. Myers confines discussion of jazz’s first two decades to the introduction, but he is … [Read more...]

CD: Ron Miles

Ron Miles Quiver

Ron Miles: Quiver (enja yellow bird) Miles’s playing on “There Ain’t No Sweet Man Worth the Salt of My Tears” draws 21st century Denver and 1928 Chicago close. Some of his flurries of wildness on this album are as daring as the work of any modern trumpeter, but the Bix Beiderbecke lyricism in Miles’s soul extends into everything he plays. With just Bill Frisell’s guitar and Brian Blade's drums, Miles may seem to be operating lean. No, there is richness in their harmonic inventiveness and … [Read more...]

CD: Heather Masse And Dick Hyman

Masse and Hyman

Heather Masse And Dick Hyman: Lock My Heart (Red House) With The Wailin’ Jennys and the Wayfaring Strangers and appearances on radio’s Prairie Home Companion, Heather Masse has attracted a following among folk and bluegrass fans. This album of duets with master pianist Dick Hyman discloses the jazz foundation that has long been evident in her singing. Their treatments of Strayhorn’s “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” and Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell For You” are ballad perfection. In their … [Read more...]

CD/DVD: Miles Davis

milesdavisquintet_bootegseriesvol2-liveineurope

Miles Davis Quintet Live In Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 (Columbia/Legacy) This three-CD, one-DVD set finds the trumpeter fomenting even more dramatic change than usual. The first volume in the so-called bootleg series of Davis concert recordings found his primarily acoustic 1967 quintet already tending toward electronic music and rock. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter remains from that band. Here, the transition intensifies. Electric pianist Chick Corea, bassist Dave Holland and drummer … [Read more...]

DVD: Bill Frisell

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Bill Frisell, The Disfarmer Project (La Huit) Belgian filmmaker Guillame Dero captures the eclectic guitarist Frisell, violinist Carrie Rodriguez, guitarist Greg Leisz and bassist Viktor Krauss in a live performance set to portraits by the 1950s Arkansas photographer Mike Disfarmer. Some of the music was on a 2009 CD mentioned in this Rifftides post. Hearing it in new versions with Disfarmer’s eccentric and vaguely disturbing photos looming over the band is an adventure. Watching interaction … [Read more...]

Book: Paul de Barros on Marian McPartland

deBarros McP

Paul de Barros, Shall We Play That One Together? The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland (St. Martin’s Press) The nonagenarian pianist presented de Barros with every biographer’s hope, unrestricted access to his subject’s personal papers and nearly unrestricted access to her private thoughts. He made the most of it, turning exhaustive research and hundreds of hours of interviews into a true story with the sweep of a novel. From the early discovery of McPartland’s musical gift … [Read more...]

CD: Gerry Mulligan

Mulligan Santa Monica

Gerry Mulligan and the Concert Jazz Band, Santa Monica 1960 (Fresh Sound) Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band had three fewer musicians than most big jazz outfits. Its size permitted precision, flexibility and subtlety, yet the band had the power of sprung steel. In this concert from a half century ago, the CJB is as fresh as yesterday. Arrangements by Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, Al Cohn and Johnny Mandel set standards to which big band writers still aspire. Bassist Buddy Clark and drummer Mel Lewis … [Read more...]

CD: JD Allen

Allen Matador

JD Allen Trio: The Matador And The Bull (Savant) The tenor saxophonist has changed record labels but not sidemen or his conciseness. While many of his contemporaries’ solos demand endurance by player and listener alike, Allen expresses himself in short bursts of creativity; the longest track here runs 4:45, including pauses that induce reflection. The CD and tune titles suggest the bullring. If such thematic dressing attracts an audience, so much the better, but the drama and passion of the … [Read more...]

CD: Scott Robinson

Robinson Savage

Scott Robinson: Bronze Nemesis (Doc-Tone) Robinson unleashes his imagination and a substantial cross section of his instrumental arsenal to pay homage to the 20th century pulp fiction adventure hero Doc Savage. He uses the colossal contrabass sax to great effect, but his otherworldly theremin wins the weird-atmosphere sweepstakes. Novelty aside, the music is entertaining and high in quality. Pianist Ted Rosenthal, drummer Dennis Mackrel, bassists Pat O’Leary and— on one track—the late Dennis … [Read more...]

DVD: Woody Herman

Herman Blue Flame

Woody Herman, Blue Flame: Portrait Of A Jazz Legend (Jazzed Media) Producer Graham Carter traces Herman’s career from a vaudeville childhood through leadership of a succession of big bands that made him a formative influence in jazz for more than 50 years. Photographs, film and early television trace development of the Herman herds. There are rare scenes of sidemen including Stan Getz, Serge Chaloff and Bill Harris in action, and complete sequences of performances by later editions of the … [Read more...]

CD: Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Cover

Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform) The trumpeter and composer’s four-disc work is a monument to Black Americans’ struggles for freedom. The names of the 19 movements summon up key episodes in the story, among them “Dred Scott,” “Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs. Board of Education” and “The Freedom Riders Ride.” With his free jazz quintet’s unfettered improvisation Smith blends skilled writing, including passages for a nine-piece ensemble of strings and winds. The tempers of the … [Read more...]

CD: Ben Webster, Joe Zawinul

Webster-Zawinul Cover

Ben Webster and Joe Zawinul: Soulmates (Riverside OJC) Long after Ben Webster became famous and when the pre-Weather Report Joe Zawinul was laboring as a sideman, the immigrant Austrian pianist and the seasoned tenor saxophonist became pals. In 1963 they made this album, a product of their friendship and a reminder of what a splendid mixing bowl for jazz New York was in those days. Philly Joe Jones is the drummer, Sam Jones and Richard Davis split the bass duties, Thad Jones plays cornet on … [Read more...]

CD: Diana Krall

Krall Cover

Diana Krall: Glad Rag Doll (Verve) Krall takes a side trip into the 1920s and shows a bit of thigh on the album cover. Evidently, that’s all it takes to get the music business stirred up and the tweets and sales figures flying. How’s the music? Not bad. On some tracks, she has fun. On others—well, how much uplift could anyone get from “Here Lies Love?” The harmonies, if not the lyric, of “Let it Rain” inspire animation in her voice. Glad Rag Doll won’t replace Live In Paris, but the … [Read more...]

DVD: Johnny Griffin

Griffin Cover

Johnny Griffin Live In France 1971 (Jazz Icons) One of the greatest second-generation bebop tenor players, Griffin (1928-2008), was also one of the fastest. He is often remembered for speed and excitement , but here his ballad playing is an equal attraction, notably on his “When We Were One” and “Soft and Furry.” In a concert performance with Dizzy Gillespie sitting in on two pieces, and filming in a studio, the man known as The Little Giant is in superb form. His colleagues are veteran … [Read more...]

Book: Ted Gioia

Gioia Cover

Ted Gioia: The Jazz Standards: A Guide To The Repertoire (Oxford) In nearly 500 pages, Gioia covers 254 songs that he considers the core of the jazz repertoire. They include compositions by jazz musicians as well as standard songs. Duke Ellington, of course, fits both categories. In a typical essay of perhaps 500 words, Gioia discusses a song’s and its writer’s history, its musical form and construction and, often, its social and cultural significance. He also recommends important recordings … [Read more...]

CD: Branford Marsalis

B. Marsalis, Four MFs

Branford Marsalis, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music) The Marsalis quartet achieves openness without abandoning harmonic guidelines, hipness without complex chord permutations. A saxophone soloist who manages to meld aggressiveness and wryness, Marsalis is at his peak here. The delight that he, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and young drummer Justin Faulkner find in supporting and surprising one another is likely to also affect the listener. The tunes are by members of the … [Read more...]