by Graham L. Flanagan
People rarely recognize the state of Alabama as the birthplace of some of the most important American celebrities of all time such as Truman Capote, Willie Mays and Joe Louis. Since it remains unclear as to whether the great Lionel Hampton was born in Alabama or Kentucky, the title of reigning Alabama jazz champion belongs to trumpeter/composer Erskine Hawkins, who died 15 years ago in November, 1993. Hawkins began his career in Montgomery as a member (and ...read more
by Graham L. Flanagan
One autumn day in 1978, a sprightly 69-year-old Benny Goodman decided on a whim that he wanted to 'book' Carnegie Hall for a gig commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the landmark performance held and so famously-recorded there for the Columbia label in 1938. That show registered as the first official full-length jazz program ever held at the hallowed venue. Tickets for the anniversary gig sold out in a matter of hours, with no advertising or even a formal announcement. Goodman's ...read more
by Roger Farbey
Vocalion has done it again, with a long overdue reissue of Ray Russell's first album Turn Circle (originally released in on the CBS Realm series), and superbly remastered by Michael J. Dutton. Russell is probably the most heinously undervalued jazz guitarist in the world, which is ironic because he is undoubtedly one of the best. His style is his own, sounding like no other guitarist.This album, recorded in 1968, is quite beautiful and the rather quaint cover art ...read more
by Hrayr Attarian
Although Europe has produced many an accomplished and innovative jazz musician, a great number of ultra-talented ones remain in obscurity. Vocalion puts the spotlight on one such forgotten genius, British trumpeter Harry Beckett. The double CD combines the latter two of his three sessions for RCA; which were not only his debut recordings as a leader but also remain the most critically acclaimed of all his work. Each CD is, in fact, a straight reissue of each album: 1971's Warm ...read more
by John Kelman
While woodwind multi-instrumentalist John Surman's eponymous debut was a strange mixture of everything from free improvisation to calypso, his second date, 1970's How Many Clouds Can You See?, is a much more focused affair. Surman clearly references one of his roots, John Coltrane, albeit on an instrument that the legendary saxophonist never played.
Surman plays bass clarinet and soprano saxophone, but the baritone has always been his main axe. Here he uses it to put a personal spin on music ...read more
by Jack Bowers
The two albums on this CD reissue from Vocalion were recorded during trumpeter Maynard Ferguson's English period (1968-72). It was a time when Ferguson was trying a number of new things, some of which worked, and some of which didn't. The first eight tracks are from MF Horn 2, the others from The Ballad Style of Maynard Ferguson.
As one can readily hear on MF Horn, Ferguson had turned away from more traditional jazz and popular standards and toward such ...read more
by Jack Bowers
Pete Cater is arguably Great Britain's foremost big-band drummer, and The Right Time is yet another album--this would be the third, and second on Vocalion--of swinging, straight-ahead jazz by Cater and his ebullient ensemble from across the pond. As for the title, it should go without saying that any time is the right time to kick back and enjoy a pleasurable hour of top-of-the-line music by one of the UK's most proficient bands.
Cater's unequivocal approach, modeled after the standard ...read more