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DVD/VIDEO/FILM REVIEWS

Tenor Sax Legend: Live and Intimate

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Ben Webster Tenor Sax Legend: Live and Intimate Shanachie 2009

Although he looked like a frog or a bullmastiff (hence his nicknames Frog and The Brute), saxophonist Ben Webster was splendidly photogenic, his emotions nakedly on his face. This DVD brings together three concert performances and one documentary from his last decade in Europe. He purrs, snarls and moans with a rhythm trio, a big band, a string section, in a casual club jam session, surrounded by congenial young players: violinist Finn Ziegler, bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, trumpeter Charlie Shavers and pianist ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bing Crosby: The Bing Crosby CBS Radio Recordings (1954-56)

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When contemporary culture acknowledges Bing Crosby at all, it is as a relic of ancient pop, his musical conservatism epitomized by “White Christmas." Happily, a new seven-disc Mosaic Records set reminds us that Crosby always swung without strain. In the mid-1950s, when he had apparently been eclipsed by Sinatra, then by Elvis, Crosby was still singing splendidly. The often high-level melodrama of his early records had given way to a masterful casualness.

The 160 tracks in this set were recorded on tape for his daily radio show and find Crosby fronting pianist Buddy Cole's easy-going jazz quartet (anchored ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Oscar Peterson: The Complete Clef/Mercury Studio Sessions of the Oscar Peterson Trio (1951-1953)

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Oscar Peterson The Complete Clef/Mercury Studio Recordings of The Oscar Peterson Trio (1951-1953) Mosaic Records 2008

The late Oscar Peterson was technically dazzling, harmonically sophisticated and indefatigably rhythmic. His virtuosic command of the piano has never been questioned. Because of Norman Granz' enthusiasm for his work, Peterson recorded prolifically as soloist and sideman as well as the leader of his own trio. Patterned after Nat Cole's trio, this group featured bassist Ray Brown, guitarists Barney Kessel (eight of the sessions presented here) or Irving Ashby (only one from January 1952) and later, ...

DVD/VIDEO/FILM REVIEWS

Trying To Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon

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Jack Sheldon Trying To Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon Bialystock & Bloom, Inc./February Films 2009

Born in 1931, the near-legendary West Coast jazzman Jack Sheldon--trumpeter, singer, comedian, actor--has played and recorded with Stan Kenton, Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman, Red Norvo, Bill Harris, Art Pepper, Anita O'Day and Tierney Sutton, as well as leading his own groups. His horn has been heard on movie soundtracks, he was featured on the Merv Griffin Show and had his own short-lived television series, Run, Buddy, Run. Sheldon has a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Webster: Ben Webster: The Brute & The Beautiful

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Ben Webster (1909-73), perhaps the least acknowledged of the great jazz tenor saxophonists, was fortunate enough to have a varied 40-year recording career. His ballads were immensely tender and his blues and faster tunes could be nearly violent in their intensity. Hence the title of this two-disc set, a centennial issue that celebrates this musical duality. Webster's career found him in so many contexts (accompanying Billie Holiday, early and late; an integral member of the classic 1940-41 Ellington orchestra; leading 52nd Street small groups with Big Sid Catlett, Al Haig, Tony Scott and others; recording with strings; starring in Jazz ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Louis Armstrong: Integrale Vol. 5 & Live in Australia 1964

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Louis ArmstrongIntegrale Vol. 5 (CD) Fremeaux & Associes2008 Louis Armstrong Live in Australia 1964 (DVD) Medici Arts 2008 Some might assert that the Fremaux label's triple-CD set, containing almost everything Louis Armstrong recorded between December 1928 and April 1931, presents him at his creative peak and that Medici Arts' DVD (actually from 1963) is an occasionally sad document of a man who had achieved international fame but was no longer innovative. And this much ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Wein: George Wein Is Alive And Well In Mexico

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Impresario George Wein has given the music he loves invaluable support for more than half a century and no one would dare question that. But Wein also insists on being taken seriously as a jazz pianist and bandleader of the Newport All-Stars. His taste in musicians is excellent and his groups have provided gigs and record contracts for superb mainstream players. His long advocacy of Ruby Braff and Pee Wee Russell has been particularly commendable. This Mosaic reissue captures the Newport All-Stars at 1967 concerts in Mexico and offers irreplaceable playing by the horns (Braff, Russell and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Various: The Influence of Bix Beiderbecke - Vol. One (USA)/ Vol. Two (Europe)

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Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, perhaps jazz's most mythic figure, continues to receive much deserved attention. This beautifully-documented CD set, full of rarities, shows how deeply Beiderbecke affected musicians in the United States and Europe before his death in 1931. The first disc offers tributes by well-known players (Red Nichols, Manny Klein, Sterling Bose and Jimmy McPartland), as well as solos once thought to be Beiderbecke's. On every track, someone explodes out of the ensemble or creates wistful sound-castles in true fashion. The repertoire is wonderfully varied, including “Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine" and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

David Berger Octet featuring Harry Allen and Joe Temperley: I Had The Craziest Dream: The Music of Harry Warren

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David Berger's credentials are wide-ranging and impeccable: transcribing 500 Ellington recordings, leading the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, teaching at the Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard. I Had the Craziest Dream is precise, hot and lively, honoring Harry Warren, a deserving 20th-century popular composer less well known than Berlin, Gershwin, or Porter. In addition to the 12 songs on this CD, Warren created “You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me," “There Will Never Be Another You" and over two dozen melodies that continue to offer fine material for jazz improvisation. Berger's flexible octet seems wholly original ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Membran: Jammin' At Condon's & From New Orleans to London/New Orleans Joys

Eddie Condon Jammin' at Condon's Mebran 2008 Ken Colyer/Chris Barber New Orleans to London/New Orleans Joys Mebran 2008

Misled by their retro packaging, a listener might unintentionally dismiss both Jammin' At Condon's and From New Orleans to London/New Orleans Joys as irretrievably archaic Dixieland. To do so would be a mistake. Not only do both discs offer fervent, well-played jazz, but also they are valuable reminders of a time, within living memory, when ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Dan Levinson and his Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra: Steppin' Around

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In a jam session or reading an arrangement, the gifted reedman Dan Levinson summons up noble ghosts--Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, Frank Trumbauer and Rosy McHargue. But he is his own man with his own ideas. In spirit, he resembles Dick Hyman, creating historically accurate but radically lively music. Although Levinson is called “traditional" by those who revel in labels, his approach to the past is energetic, with a mission to rescue otherwise obscure American music, pop and jazz. His second CD with his own Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra, might seem a stylish museum piece but is anything but archaic.

Levinson ...

BOOK REVIEWS

The World Of Jazz Trumpet: A Comprehensive History & Practical Philosophy

The World Of Jazz Trumpet: A Comprehensive History & Practical Philosophy Scotty Barnhart Softcover; 246 pages ISBN: 0634095277 Hal Leonard 2005

This book is doggedly ambitious, but its ambitions are its undoing. It begins promisingly, with a historical survey of jazz trumpet that, for a change, devotes a chapter to female players. But although Barnhart writes excitedly about the trumpets found in King Tut's tomb and the “lost" (if it ever existed) Buddy Bolden recording cylinder, his overview jumps straight from Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillespie, a startlingly limited trajectory. ...

BOOK REVIEWS

Sittin' In With Chris Griffin

Warren W. Vache Sittin' In With Chris Griffin: A Reminiscence Of Radio And Recording's Golden Years Paperback; 116 pages ISBN: 0-8108-5001-X Scarecrow Press 2005

Seated next to Harry James and Ziggy Elman, trumpeter Gordon “Chris" Griffin was a less-heralded member of Benny Goodman's brass section from 1936 to 1939 and for short stints thereafter. He soloed rarely and was overshadowed by his colleagues; he received, for instance, only one eight-bar solo during Goodman's iconic 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert. On the basis of just one 1935 Mildred Bailey session where he ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Oscar Pettiford: The Complete Big Band Studio Recordings

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Whether playing bass or cello, Oscar Pettiford was an extraordinary soloist and ensemble player with a singlar sound and focused attack who levitated sessions with Coleman Hawkins, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, among many others. In '56 and '57, when Swing Era big bands had given way to small groups and singers, it may have seemed defiant to assemble a jazz orchestra of well-known and presumably costly soloists, but the OP assemblage made two records and appeared at Birdland. This newest reissue, following on the heels of the studio tracks released in '94 as Deep Passion, adds three Birdland tracks ...



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