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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

From the Inside Out

Five Classics Plus One

By Published: May 10, 2004

The Greatest Garner represented the end of an era for Garner, who signed with Columbia Records in 1950 and subsequently recorded one of the biggest hit songs (“Misty”) and albums ( Concert by the Sea ) in jazz history.


Pete Christlieb / Warne Marsh Quintet
Apogee
Warner Bros. Jazz Masters

Apogee plays in a hard-bop format you almost never hear any more: Saxophonists Marsh and Christleib screaming twin tenors in a quintet with piano (Lou Levy), bass (Jim Hughart) and drums (Nick Ceroli) immensely aided by several loose yet tight arrangements by Joe Roccisano. Of course, you almost never heard this format when Apogee was originally released in 1978, either.

Christleib “worked the saxophone” in “Deacon Blues” for Steely Dan on their pop breakthrough Aja ; co-leaders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen returned the favor by contributing “Rapunzel” and producing Apogee. Levy recalls: “Without their juice, the record would have never come out on a major label. They were hip patrons.”

It is impossible to distinguish one man’s tenor from the other: Sometimes they swing in unison, sometimes harmonizing, sometimes in duet or counterpunching, but they are always strong, meaty and powerful. They play as if musically ravenous, with pianist Levy somehow managing to feed them chords to gnaw on while the bass and drum rock on. Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee” sure sounds like a spirited ol’ gal, especially when she dances and twirls with Levy, who takes other sparkling solo turns in “I’m Old Fashioned,” “317 E. 32nd” by Lennie Tristano (Marsh’s mentor) and “Rapunzel.”

An old-fashioned cutting contest complete with a frantic saxophone “chase scene,” “Tenors of the Time” is taken at an almost ridiculous, blistering tempo, and from the band’s collective energy and intelligence turns into music quite timeless.


Bill Evans
You Must Believe in Spring
Warner Bros. Jazz Masters

After more than a decade as one of the pianist’s most sympathetic bassists, this was Eddie Gomez’ last recording with Evans, a trio set with drummer Eliot Zigmund recorded in 1977 and released after Evans’ death in 1980.

Evans never stopped searching for new ideas. He might be faulted for repeatedly looking for them in the same tunes, but this program is quite varied, including Johnny Mandel’s “Suicide is Painless” (the theme from M.A.S.H. ); Michel Legrand’s title track; Gary McFarland’s waltz “Gary’s Theme,” complementing Evans’ own “B Minor Waltz (For Ellaine),” composed for Evans’ wife; and “We Will Meet Again (For Harry),” Evans’ tribute to his brother.

In Evans’ hands, melodies and time signatures are often more whispered, more shadowed, than stated, as in the opening “B Minor Waltz (For Ellaine)” and the somber, reflective title track, which blossoms, after Gomez’ mid-song solo, like dogwoods on a mid-May morning. Evans boasted such a unique, unmistakable touch – emotional and beautiful and even soft, but never sweet. (Gomez is pretty amazing himself in “M.A.S.H.,” laying down the foundation rock solid yet pushing the music forward, too.)

Among this reissue’s bonus tracks, “Without a Song” is about as ebullient as you’ll ever hear this pianist, and “Freddie Freeloader,” the one track on Miles Davis’ landmark album Kind of Blue on which Evans did NOT play, presents the rare sound of Evans on electric piano.

As a rule, Evans could pick up the program from an elementary school chorus festival and play it inventively and beautifully. This set is no exception.


Yellowjackets
Yellowjackets
Warner Bros. Jazz Masters

Most contemporary jazz or instrumental pop albums released over the past 25 years owe one thing or another to the style and sound advanced by this 1981 debut.

When keyboardist, composer and arranger Russell Ferrante pulled drummer Ricky Lawson and bassist Jimmy Haslip into his fledgling swarm, he also called on guitarist Robben Ford, who he played with in Jimmy Witherspoon’s band, to inject a hard rock edge into the music. “It wasn’t like the earlier fusion of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever, which was a very chopped kind of rock sound,” recalls Ferrante. “We were influenced by fusion that was more melodic and compositional.” Though Ford’s electric axe surely grinds and howls, this is jazz almost completely divorced from the blues – up-tempo, quick-rhythmed jazz presented with a shiny happy face.



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