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Various Artists: MPS: 50 Years

Chris M. Slawecki By

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In 2018, MPS—Musik Produktion Schwarzwald—Records, Germany's first jazz label, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Pianist Oscar Peterson recorded the first release for MPS after his contract with Verve expired. Its catalog expanded to feature George Duke, Red Garland, Wolfgang Dauner, Horst Jankowski, George Shearing, Monty Alexander and many other pianists. Violin became the label's second most featured instrument through releases by established masters such as Don "Sugarcane" Harris and Stephane Grappelli, and emerging ones such as Didier Lockwood and Jean-Luc Ponty.

Have you ever been in the mood when you turned on the television not to watch anything specific but to scroll through the channels to see what different things were on? Jazz compilations are great for that kind of mood. Because it offers an abundance of jazz styles—from Brazilian to hard-bop, from large ensembles to solo guitarists—this one is better than most.

You can spin through MPS: 50 Years to catch first-rate performances by first-ballot jazz hall of famers. Joe Henderson sears "Blues for Liebestraum" from the inside out and from the outside in, trailing some amazing rhythm aces (pianist Chick Corea, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Billy Higgins) in tow. Elvin Jones Jazz Machine's "Little Lady" showcases soprano and tenor sax soloists Michael Stuart and Pat LaBarbera through a tender blues that wraps her in mysterious oriental veils, strongly suggesting John Coltrane's fascination with eastern scales and spiritualism. Speaking of Coltrane, "Afro Black" from Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy seems to honor/counterpoint his classic version of "Afro Blue."

As his trumpet plays cat and mouse with its opening lines, you get a pass if you mistake Freddie Hubbard's "Blues for Duane" for a late-1950s Miles Davis track. Drawn from Hubbard's exceptional 1969 acoustic recording The Hub of Hubbard with Roland Hanna (piano), Richard Davis (bass), Louis Hayes (drums) and Eddie Daniels (tenor sax), "Duane" presents Hubbard at the peak of his powers as he soars to the top of his range as if gravity doesn't exist, then swivel-hips back down to dance once more with the melody.

Spin again to hear different approaches to the guitar, from "Piano na Mangueira" (played on the Brazilian choro [mandolin] by Hamilton de Holanda) to Baden Powell's airy "O Astronauta" to Joe Pass' surprising Latin rock romp with bassist Eberhard Weber through "Ode to Billy Joe."

Keep spinning. You might discover artists you wish you knew more about. I sure did.

Track Listing: Blues for Liebestraum (Joe Henderson); Suspicious Child, Growing Up (Volker Kriegel); The Devil Made Me Write This Piece (Don Ellis); I Love You (The Oscar Peterson Trio); Running (China Moses); Au Right (George Duke); Little Lady (Elvin Jones Jazz Machine); Gleißende Helle (Erik Leuthäuser); O Astronauta (Baden Powell); Stina (Django Deluxe & NDR Bigband); Brown Skin Girl (Monty Alexander); Unfolding (Malia); Blues for Duane (Freddie Hubbard); Ode to Billy Joe (Joe Pass); Afro Black (Nicola Conte Spiritual Galaxy); Piano na Mangueira (Hamilton de Holanda); Sconsolato (Mark Murphy); Body and Soul (Rolf Kühn).

Personnel: Joe Henderson (Blues for Liebestraum); Volker Kriegel (Suspicious Child, Growing Up); Don Ellis (The Devil Made Me Write This Piece); The Oscar Peterson Trio (I Love You); China Moses (Running); George Duke (Au Right); Elvin Jones Jazz Machine (Little Lady); Erik Leuthäuser (Gleißende Helle); Baden Powell (O Astronauta); Django Deluxe & NDR Bigband (Stina); Monty Alexander (Brown Skin Girl); Malia (Unfolding); Freddie Hubbard (Blues for Duane); Joe Pass (Ode to Billy Joe); Nicola Conte Spiritual Galaxy (Afro Black); Hamilton de Holanda (Piano na Mangueira); Mark Murphy (Sconsolato); Rolf Kühn (Body and Soul).

Title: MPS: 50 Years | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: MPS

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