November 2017: Geri Allen, Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Big Band, Thelonious Monk

Patrick Burnette BY

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Welcome to our monthly look at what's happening on the Jazz Bastard podcast! November is packed, so let's get to it:

Episode 127 (live November 1, 2017) looks at the early career of pianist Geri Allen, who died June 27 of this year. Neither of us had listened extensively to her recordings before, so Ethan Iverson's discussion of her early music from his "Do the Math" blog provided helpful guidance. We discuss Geri as an in-and-out player and decide that her playing really thrives when she is paired with compatible and stimulating fellow musicians. (This may sound like a truism applicable to every player, but think of musicians like Coleman Hawkins who play at the same level no matter the context). Releases covered include Geri's albums The Printmakers, Twylight, and The Life of a Song, along with a session led by Charlie Haden, Etudes. In pop matters, we briefly discuss Strange Desires by Bleachers, as well as releases by the Black Keys, Donovan, and Belle & Sebastian, wrapping things up with a look at Mads Mathias, the Swedish Buble.

Listen to episode 127

On a very special episode 128 (live November 15, 2017) we meet with Eric Allen, co-author of 50 Years at the Village Vanguard—Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. We discuss that fine coffee-table history of the band, which is filled with careful historical narrative, facts and figures about the group, interviews, and lots of wonderful pictures. Then we look at early music by the band, including the recently released All My Yesterdays, which boasts a recording of the band's first public appearance in quite acceptable sound. We also bring in a couple other avatars of big band in the 1970s, with Maynard Ferguson's MF Horn and Toshiko Akiyoshi's European Memoirs (an album from the early eighties, but who's counting?). Eric is an expert on the Jones/Lewis/Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and provides listening suggestions as well as lots of insights into how the band made music.

Listen to episode 128

Finally, episode 129 (live November 29, 2017) celebrates Thelonious Monk's centennial. We being by discussing Monk's recently released 1959 soundtrack to the film Les Liaisons Dangereuses . Mike is especially fascinated by the long rehearsal of "Light Blue" included as a bonus, but the album as a whole finds Monk in fine fettle. We then discuss a trio of albums paying tribute to Monk's compositions, including the eponymous (Plays Monk), John Beasley's , and pianist Dave Zoller's Evidence—Music of Thelonious Monk. Is Monk the most celebrated jazz composer of the post-bop era? Does he need any more tributes? Is good intonation optional when you play clarinet? Inquiring bastards want to know. Pop-wise, the focus is on female performers with quick takes on Judee Sill, Amy Winehouse, and Miranda Sex Garden.

Listen to episode 129

Thanks for listening and see you next month!

Photo credit: Frank Rubolino

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