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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mort Weiss: Raising the Bar: The Definitive Mort Weiss

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In late 2006, clarinetist Mort Weiss told his unusual story to R. J. Deluke in an exclusive interview for All About Jazz, appropriated titled “Mort Weiss: Sets Sail with Clarinet." His narrative is the timeless, archetypal journey of the hero's circular route to hell and back--much like that of Homer's legendary mariner, Ulysses, except that in Weiss' case, the outcome was far from known. With Raising the Bar, Weiss completes his journey, and provides impressive if less than definitive closure to his story. Despite all of the qualifiers which, in Mort Weiss' case, could be advanced to issue ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Coleman Hawkins: The High and Mighty Hawk

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Recorded in England in 1958, this little-known session, originally released on the obscure Felsted label, is an inarguable gem. Perhaps even the word “masterpiece" is not too much of a stretch. It's doubtful that the putative “father of the tenor saxophone," Coleman Hawkins, made a better recording in the age of long-playing records, and it's just as unlikely that a better example of the impeccable touch and melodic inventiveness of the prolific Hank Jones can be found on any other recording featuring the versatile, style-resistant pianist.

Jazz history books frequently use Hawkins to exemplify the “harmonic" approach to ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Myrna Lake: Yesterdays

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Another album by a female vocalist, another familiar playlist. But hold the assumptions. This is the first and only commercial album by septuagenarian singer Myrna Lake, but that's not the real story here. The recording is noteworthy above all because it refuses to mistake youth for vitality, slickness for substance, or newness for originality.

Myrna Lake's Yesterdays (Jazzing Music, 2008) is less a trip down memory lane than an exploration of the power of memory itself, a musical narrative yielding the discovery that memory, like the songs that are eventually designated “standards," is a moment in the present, ...

RECORD LABEL PROFILES

Resonance Records: Non-Profit Jazz Label with a Mission

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It's a story often heard before: musically, these are the best and worst of times. Only this time, in 2010, it seems different. Even as the pool of fresh talent expands, jazz continues to witness a dearth of venues along with the slump in CD sales. Uncounted numbers of talented musicians, young and otherwise, are reduced to playing in venues--if they can find one--for the door and pocket change. Simultaneously, they are recording, producing and hawking their own CDs; often using them like calling cards, to swap with other musicians or to drop off at nursing homes and civic centers ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Artie Shaw: Classic Bluebird and Victor Sessions

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Artie ShawClassic Bluebird and Victor SessionsMosaic Records2009Shortly after its critically acclaimed box set comprising clarinetist Benny Goodman's essential recordings-- The Columbia and Okeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions (2009), which was released to coincide with the centenary of the “King of Swing"--Mosaic Records has done it again. The Classic Artie Shaw Bluebird and Victor Sessions arrives in time for the 100th birthday (May 23, 2010) of the clarinetist who was the instrumental bobby-soxer equivalent of singer Frank Sinatra and arguably jazz's first rock star, a musician capable of attracting Hollywood screen sirens like ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Patti Page: Patti Page with Pete Rugolo and His Orchestra

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The Classic Jazz Calendar 2010, with photographs by Chuck Stewart--a full-page devoted to each of 12 jazz greats--includes a striking photo of Patti Page, representing the month of May. While her inclusion may strike many as unexceptional, for jazz followers who remember the best-selling female singer of the 1950s, her name would seem a problematic fit. Yet she is the only vocalist and female among the chosen dozen (which includes Wayne Shorter, James Moody, Jimmy Cobb, Red Garland, and Grant Green).

Having collected nine gold records with lightweight fare such as “How Much Is That Doggie in the ...

DVD/VIDEO/FILM REVIEWS

Clint Eastwood Presents Johnny Mercer: The Dream's On Me

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Johnny Mercer Clint Eastwood Presents Johnny Mercer: The Dream's On Me TCM 2009

Film director Clint Eastwood's love of jazz and American popular song is far from a secret, especially following his feature-length biopic about alto saxophonist Charlie Parker (Bird, 1988), during which the ever restless Eastwood got the idea to produce a feature-length film about pianist Thelonious Monk, released somewhat later during the same year as Straight No Chaser. Hence, it should surprise few that Eastwood will introduce viewers to a month-long 100th birthday celebration of American lyricist Johnny Mercer on Turner Classic ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Roberta Gambarini: Learning to Love Jazz

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Not long ago a veteran Chicago jazz disc jockey played a track from a female vocalist's new CD only after complaining on the air about the seemingly unending stream of new recordings by female singers sent to his notice each week. The exception to his policy not to play them was due, he explained, to the sender's being a close friend and loyal listener of the show.

From the evidence, the radio announcer's observations about the number of vocal recordings by women would appear valid, but the decision not to play them is regrettable if not without merit ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Jack Reilly Trio: Live at Dean Clough

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Jack Reilly Trio Live At Dean Clough Dean Clough Unichrom 2007

After composing, performing and recording a work motivated by and patterned after a struggle with a life- threatening illness (Innocence: Green Spring Suite, Unichrom, 2007), Jack Reilly might be expected to lighten up on his sequel. Recorded in March 2007, even the cover of Live at Dean Clough, depicting the pianist in an English pub apparently enjoying a leisurely game of pool with his bassist and drummer, might suggest a more playful approach this time out. But Reilly's is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Patricia Scot: Once Around the Clock

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This reissue has at least two pleasant surprises: first, the revelation that, before discovering and promoting the gold mine that came to be known as smooth jazz, Creed Taylor was a musician of impeccable taste and discrimination; second, the rediscovery of an original vocalist/pianist who once toiled in piano bars in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor as well as New York City but who, though still active, has fallen from sight-- unfortunate for discerning listeners.

It was Taylor who decided to present Patricia Scot as a “stand-up" vocalist. Based on this early-'60s recording, his faith was not misplaced, even if ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Toshiko Akiyoshi - Lew Tabackin Big Band: Mosaic Select

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Toshiko Akiyoshi & Lew Tabackin Toshiko Akiyoshi - Lew Tabackin Big Band: Mosaic Select Mosaic Records 2008

Jazz was never more schizophrenic than in the 1970s. On the one hand, musicians equally savvy about mixing genres and running mixing boards were selling out arenas and producing lucrative, widely played albums, with bass-heavy danceable beats or soothing instrumental sounds tailor-made for air play on FM radio. At the other extreme, many of the jazz masters who came up with, or slightly before and after, saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and pianist Thelonious ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Victor Feldman: Good Vibes (and Great Piano) from Britain

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In the mid-1950s, Victor Feldman was among the first British musicians successfully to relocate to the US, when he settled in Los Angeles. Becoming an outstanding “West Coast" pianist, Feldman was also a memorable vibraphonist. Reissues of three albums recorded in the US from 1957-61 showcase his abundant talent.

Victor Feldman The Arrival of Victor FeldmanOriginal Jazz Classics 1998 (1958)

Although it might have been even better with fewer tunes and longer solos, count this recording a win-win. Les Koenig's Contemporary label made beautifully “imaged" recordings--not the dimensionless, “flat," in-your-face Van Gelder ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Peggy Lee: Basin Street and Beyond

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Six classic albums from the vocalist Peggy Lee catch her at the height of her powers. One or two of these discs may be hard to find in 2009, but the effort of tracking them down, if successful, will be amply repaid.

Peggy Lee Basin Street EastBlue Note 1995

Like the LPs Ellington at Newport 1956 and Beauty and the Beat (in reference to singer Peggy Lee and pianist George Shearing), Basin Street East was a simulation of the live event and, moreover, a flagrant misrepresentation. Only two of the tunes on ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Horace Silver: Finger Poppin'

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Finger Poppin' (1959) followed Silver's most under-appreciated (and perhaps most ambitious) Blue Note date, Further Explorations (1958). The cast is different (though the fiery Louis Hayes remains on drums), but the compositions and arrangements by Silver are no less artful and the soloists as inspired as the frontline of Art Farmer and Clifford Jordan from the preceding album. This time it's Blue Mitchell and Junior Cook negotiating the fast tempo and tricky stop-and-go melodies with precision and ease, with Mitchell impressively setting the pace with the first solo on the date. He's crisp, lyrical, inventive, melodic--reminiscent of Kenny Dorham with ...



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