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Various Artists: Priceless Jazz Collection Sampler

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Okay, so your officemate, or your son, for goodness' sake, comes up and asks you, "What is this 'jazz,' anyway?" Time to haul out GRP's Priceless Jazz Collection Sampler. You get Billie Holiday sounding a trifle detached ("Good Morning Heartache"); Ella Fitzgerald scatting with as much verve as ever ("Oh, Lady Be Good"); Louis Armstrong playing no trumpet at all but singing as paradoxically sweetly as his famously grainy voice ever managed to allow ("What a Wonderful World"); Johnny Hartman lending his lushest of voices to the lushest of tunes ("Lush Life" — and yes, that's John Coltrane playing that yearning, brilliantine tenor saxophone); 'Trane in a sunny and straightforward mood ("Bessie's Blues"); Sonny Rollins sounding bright, rich and adventurous ("Three Little Words"); Pharoah Sanders in one of the most compelling of his avant-jungle early Seventies workouts ("Thembi"); Charles Mingus swinging extra hard ("Better Get Hit In Yo' Soul"); Duke Ellington showing the world where Mingus learned his stuff ("The Jeep is Jumpin'"); Gato Barbieri taking us way down South-and I mean way down ("Milonga Triste"); and Chick Corea in a delightful trio spin from 1989 ("Spain").

What more could you ask for? Almost everyone is shown to good effect. The cuts are all good. The question would be, Who needs a sampler like this? Well, T. S. Monk was in Jazz Times not long ago decrying jazz's "welfare mentality" and calling for better marketing of this music. Perhaps this is a step in the right direction. Now if every jazz fan would buy a copy to give to a jazz-hating friend, maybe, just maybe...

Record Label: GRP Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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