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Various: Jazz: Live From New York

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Improvisationally fed, jazz more often than not connects with the listener more effectively in live performances than in the studio. Even with the acoustical limitations of live recordings, not to mention such "annoyances" as crowd talk and the clinking of drink glasses, the to-the-heart communicative nature is instantly perceived.

Such is the strength of Jazz: Live From New York.

Telarc, being perfectionistic in sound reproduction, takes such inspirational power a step higher by clarifying solos, subduing the crowd's shouts and blending the unity of the bands into a mix honoring the significance of the recordings.

Not only are they significant because of the stature of the musicians: legends like Lionel Hampton, Oscar Peterson, James Moody, Ray Brown, Slide Hampton, Dave Brubeck, Jim Hall, Louis Bellson, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Curtis Fuller, Jim Hall and Jon Hendricks.

But also, the recordings are significant because some of the legends, one of whose tracks on this CD was recorded as recently as 1998, are no longer with us. Legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Buddy Tate, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Al Grey, Stéphane Grappelli, Mel Tormé and Milt Hinton.

Even on some of their last recordings, these musicians' abilities to excite audiences remained undiminished.

From the very start of "A Night In Tunisia," Slide Hampton's band, JazzMasters, ignites the patrons of the Village Vanguard. Faddis-led seemingly impossible, quick-fire and unison sixteenth-note runs leave the crowd gasping and oo-ing and ah-ing in a club where the proprietor usually hushes the crowd. (I know. I've been hushed.) The thrill of "A Night In Tunisia" on that night in New York was irrepressible.

And that's the way it is throughout both of the companion CD's in the compilation.

Dizzy plays a muted "Con Alma" at the Blue Note a year before his death, allowing us to absorb a final chapter that presents younger Danilo Pérez and David Sanchez in one of their opening chapters of public recognition. Al Grey's "Diz Related" reinforces the immeasurable impact of the incomparable trumpeter during the first half of the first CD.

What one realizes midway through the two hours of Jazz: Live From New York —perhaps sooner for listeners less dense than myself—is that the album represents a celebratory recognition of the extroversion of musicians whose talent grew through big-band touring. Their fine-tuned attunement to an audience's expectations—and exceeding those expectations always—found its perfect venue in the New York club, those presumably jaded patrons releasing their inhibitions through the power of jazz.

The "Moody's Party" album is approrpriately named, for each performance on Jazz: Live From New York creates a controlled party atmosphere. Even though Grover Washington, Jr. introduced "It Might As Well Be Spring," the satisfaction of the crowd's expectancy crackled as Moody comes in, urgently catering to the room's receptiveness. Jon Hendricks plays the crowd too, defying the expectations for tongue-twisting vocalese, by delving into a love-defining blues that is more akin to Joe Turner than to Eddie Jefferson.

And how fortunate were the young musicians to have received the torch passed on by these innovators of the genre! Geoff Keezer, in particular, excels in the midst of Benny Golson, Jim Hall, Art Farmer and Curtis Fuller as he confidently supports them with intuitive delicacy before breaking loose into imaginative solos. Imagine how Karriem Riggins felt drumming for the triumvirate of Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Milt Jackson on "SKJ," which was recorded at the Blue Note.

Appropriately, Jazz: Live From New York closes with a powerhouse Louie Bellson arrangement as Bellson drives his band through its paces, crisply and richly voiced, at Pace University. Bellson concludes the live jazz with a master's ability to capture an audience's soul with just two sticks and two pedals.


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