Various: Back In My Disc Jockey Days

AAJ Staff By

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Allow a person to reminisce. No, not me. Rather, the person doing the reminiscing, in this case, is Joel Dorn, the reticent and inscrutable producer of Label M.

I'm kidding. Joel Dorn isn't reticent, or else he couldn't have put together such legendary recordings throughout a career spanning four decades. And he isn't inscrutable. Anyone who reads the liner notes he writes certainly knows that to be true. Dorn puts into writing what's on his mind and makes those thoughts part of the product.

Back In My Disc Jockey Days represents a recorded reminiscence of—no, not recordings that Dorn produced—but tracks that had an effect on him as he held down the jazz radio announcer's chair at WHAT-FM in Philadelphia. Even though the artists who appear on Back In My Disc Jockey Days worked with different producers at the time, all of them grew to know Dorn. A few of them remain his close friends even today.

Back In My Disc Jockey Days is the bookend CD matched with the previous Label M release of vocal recordings, Songs That Made The Phone Light Up. This instrumental version arises from the same memory. Both albums were compiled from performances that resulted in call-ins while Dorn was hosting the WHAT-FM jazz show. Consequently, all of the selections on both albums center around the same time frame, the early 1960's.

What one realizes in many cases from Back In My Disc Jockey Days is the consistency of the musicians, most of whom found their voices early in their careers. If "Whispering Grass" from 1963 were played in a blindfold test, nine out of ten listeners would know that Hank Crawford unmistakably is the saxophonist. As a part of Chico Hamilton's group, and before he exploded upon the public's consciousness, Charles Lloyd, even almost forty years ago, presented the same delicacy of tone and structural comprehensiveness that his later recordings revealed.

And yet the discoveries of Back In My Disc Jockey Days are illuminating. For one, we can hear the seamlessness of Gabor Szabo's work with Lloyd, the two of the same mind. For another, The Jazz Crusaders, almost neglected in the enjoyment of groups from the sixties, enters "The Young Rabbits" with a bang, and the thrill of the performance (especially Wayne Henderson on trombone) never ceases. While we think of Gene Ammons as one of the deep, muscular voices on the tenor sax, those most tasteful of musicians—Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell and Bucky Pizzarelli—lighten him up a bit over the single-chorded percussiveness of "Ca' Purange."

And then there's Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Three For The Festival (with again, Hank Jones), perhaps the most memorable recording on the CD, as Kirk provides the inimitable harmonies from the simultaneous use of two instruments. His flute solo, complete with the guttural utterances even as he plays, proves, in refutation of his contemporary critics, how supremely musical and logical his improvisations were. The only surprise is that Jack Tracy, and not Dorn, was the producer, so intertwined had Kirk's and Dorn's careers become soon after that.

Now that much of jazz radio has been attenuated by public funding or institutionalized by Wyntonizations, Back In My Disc Jockey Days serves as a reminder of the influence and interactivity of some of the sometimes wild-and-crazy earlier disc jockeys, who were too few in number. And still are.



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