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My Blue Note Obsession

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Leo Parker: Rollin' With Leo – 1961

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What if I told you there's a saxman who was there at the birth of bebop--literally, he played on the very first bebop recording--and you've never heard of him? And what if I told you his life story is the very archetype of the tragic, drug-addicted jazz musician? Would you still want to hear his music? Listen anyway. Rollin' With Leo by baritone saxman Leo Parker is an obscure pleasure. Lately, I've been listening to it ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Newport Jazz Festival 1959

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The collector asks: When is it OK to say, “I have enough, thanks. I don't need the live version, too." Consider the dilemma of Wolfgang's Vault, a musical treasure trove of old jazz and rock performances. If you've never been there, go now. The site is stunning. It is an enormous collection of long-lost jazz shows, mostly from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. For the fan and collector, it's a must see. But is it also ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Grant Green: The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark – 1961-62

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Imagine if someone discovered a stash of unreleased Beatles records 15 years after they broke up. Then imagine Apple Records released all that music in a 2-CD set. That's what Grant Green: The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark is like. I exaggerate, but not by much. Grant Green wasn't the Beatles of jazz. But for about five years in the early-to mid-1960s, he was arguably the best jazz guitarist around. He was in the same class ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Louis Smith: Here Comes Louis Smith – 1957

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I'm not a musical snob. I'm not a guy to drop obscure musical names to impress friends and hipsters. But when I come across a name that is undeservedly obscure, I don't mind shouting it out the window. So here's my shout for today: Louis Smith! Chances are you've never heard of Louis Smith. You should. He put out exactly two albums as a Blue Note bandleader, in 1957 and 1958, then disappeared for the next ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Horace Silver: The United States of Mind – Revisited

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At what point did Blue Note Records jump the shark? Is there a single moment when Blue Note stopped being the world's greatest purveyor of jazz and instead became an irrelevant producer of schlock? Truth is, it was a long, slow slide. In the 1950s, Blue Note was the greatest source of hard bop. In the 1960s, it produced the best soul-jazz on earth. And then, one day in the 1970s--poof! It was all gone. Where did it ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Charles Mingus: Mingus in Wonderland – 1959

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In 1959, there were two Charles Minguses: the Mingus you knew and the Mingus you didn't. In May 1959, Mingus recorded his very best album ever: the incomparable Mingus Ah Um. And I mean incomparable in the literal sense. There is, literally, no other record quite like it. It's a big band, but not a Big Band. It's progressive but approachable. It's a tribute to the past that is also forward-looking. It is simply a tour de force. ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Art Blakey: A Night in Tunisia – 1961

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Dizzy Gillespie's “A Night in Tunisia" has been done almost to death. Wikipedia says it has been recorded at least 500 times and it is the title track to at least 30 albums. It might be the most recorded bop tune of all time. Who did it best? Take your pick. Dizzy himself recorded many hot versions. All are good and some are great. Charlie Parker and Miles Davis can claim one of the earliest and ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Horace Silver: Serenade to a Soul Sister - 1968

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Is it possible to love an album for just one song? I think I do. Serenade to a Soul Sister is the happy marriage of jazz's funkiest pianist (Horace Silver) with its most soulful saxman (Stanley Turrentine). Throw in a fabulously underrated trumpeter with a big fat tone (Charles Tolliver) and you've got one of the best soul-jazz classics of the 1960s. Serenade features six original compositions by Silver, and every one is a gem. One, ...


All About Vince Guaraldi!

An exclusive opportunity for All About Jazz readers to participate in the celebration of a jazz legend.