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Culture Clubs: A History of the U.S. Jazz Clubs, Part II: New York

Karl Ackermann By

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Duke Ellington's orchestra was hired as the house band for the Cotton Club in 1927, and though Cab Calloway and his orchestra assumed that role in 1931, Ellington continued to perform at the venue. The performances on ...at The Cotton Club were culled from shows in 1937 and 1938. Ellington's formats varied from solo piano through orchestra and many of the pieces on the album were those that were commercially popular at the time.

"In a Sentimental Mood," "Mood Indigo," "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," "If Dreams Come True," "You Went to My Head" and "Solitude" are among the classic compositions represented here. Lesser known pieces such as "Harmony in Harlem," "Scrontch," "Downtown Uproar," "Carnival in Caroline" and "Riding on a Blue Note" occupy equal space. Ellington's orchestra including many of the top name artists of the time including Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Harry Carney and Ivie Anderson, who took on many of the vocals.

Keith Jarrett at the Blue Note (ECM, 1995)

With his Standards Trio of bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett released this six-CD box set documenting one set per disc from a three-night engagement at the Blue Note in the spring of 1994. It was Jarrett's return to New York following a ten-plus year absence. The tenth release from a group that eventually compiled twenty recordings, the Blue Note sessions were also offered commercially as a single CD release featuring the first of the sets.

Primarily performing a collection of standards, both well-known and obscure, Jarrett's trio may have been justifiably linked with the Bill Evans model but their buoyant melodies and bare suggestions of the same are enhanced with Jarrett's extended improvisations. He leaves notes hanging in the ether and when they evaporate, he seems to savor the silence for just long enough. For all Jarrett's demands of his live audiences, he rewards them with unequalled showmanship.

Live at the Jazz Standard—Days of Wine and Roses (ArtistShare, 2000)

Maria Schneider's always expressive orchestra takes on more power and swing in a live setting. With a group largely intact from her Coming About (Enja, 1996) release, there is an easiness in the working relationship between Schneider and the group. The quintessentially proficient ensemble takes their cue from Schneider's tightly punctuated conducting style while strategically placed solos leave plenty of space for restrained improvisations.

A multiple "Best Composer" winner in annual polls, Schneider's live recording reaches back to older sources for much of Live at the Jazz Standard—Days of Wine and Roses. A mix of standards and original music, Schneider culls material from as far back as twenty years for her own compositions. Her "Lately" was written more than a decade before the recording; it had been earmarked for Mel Lewis but remained on the back burner. Schneider's "Bird Count," "Last Season" and "My Ideal" are dispersed among standards such as "That Old Black Magic," "Over the Rainbow" and the title track. Saxophonists Tim Ries (tenor and soprano), Rich Perry (tenor) and Scott Robinson (baritone) have excellent solos throughout as does pianist Frank Kimbrough.

New Orleans, Chicago and New York were the hubs in the development of jazz in the U.S. but there were many spokes that sped the dissemination of the genre. In Part III of Culture Clubs we look at Kansas City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston.

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