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Resonance Records: The Art of the Sampler

Geno Thackara By

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Resonance Records is a refreshing success story in the modern jazz world, still happily defying the norms of the streaming age with unflagging class and style. Even familiar listeners can lose sight of what a catalogue of material they've gathered, which is where 2019's handful of budget samplers come in. Co-president Zev Feldman declares that he's "always looking for ways to introduce the world to Resonance's records—both historical issues and also our tremendous current artists." With a snazzy set of covers reminiscent of classic New Yorker drawings or Jeeves and Wooster TV titles (courtesy of artist/publisher Takao Fujioka), these offer a most inviting way to dip a figurative toe into their broadening pool.

Bill Evans
Smile with Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance

Four top-notch Bill Evans archival releases stand among the label's flagship offerings, and though each one is solid all the way through on its own, this sequence combines some of each into a beautifully mixed standalone set. The late-career material in question spans 1964-1974: some studio and mostly live, some sedate and others sprightly, briskly swinging or gorgeously contemplative, all with the one-of-a-kind Evans romantic touch. Smile with Your Heart is a phrase that might have given the sometimes-troubled pianist some mixed feelings himself, but for listeners the title couldn't be more apt.

Various Artists
Jazz Piano Panorama: The Best of Piano Jazz on Resonance

This one skips through a whole course of stride, swing and bop, from figures old and new. A blistering "There Is No Greater Love" from the late Gene Harris makes an immediate centerpiece highlight, though the shorter and subtler offerings can all serve as tempting appetizers for their respective sets. Evans and Tommy Flanagan provide a couple thoughtful ballads, Marian Petrescu and John Beasley bring the swing, and it's a generally brisk and cooking affair all the way through.

Wes Montgomery
Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance

Most of Resonance's Wes Montgomery material comes from his developing phase, which makes it something of a mishmosh in some ways. It couldn't have been easy to make a couple stray odds-and-ends from the In the Beginning early-years collection slot alongside some blues and samba from the live Smokin' in Seattle, which shows the guitarist's voice in full bloom years later. Those well-mastered recordings also make a sonic contrast with the rougher tape quality of One Night in Indy, while the instrumental wanderings are also interrupted in the middle with a Debbie Andrews vocal on "Down to Big Mary's." Rough around the edges or not, Montgomery's spectrum is on full display—the slick-flowing chords, the flowing lines and innate sense of fun. Overall cohesion for such a disc was probably impossible, but Wes's Best succeeds anyway by embracing the kitchen-sink jumble of its subject's colorful career instead.

Various Artists
Sing a Song of Jazz: The Best of Vocal Jazz on Resonance

More so than the various-artists piano compilation, Sing a Song of Jazz showcases Resonance's stable of new and current recordings to delightful effect. The sequencing takes special care to juxtapose past and present, such as sandwiching a smoky Polly Gibbons performance in between some crazy Sarah Vaughan scatting and a smoothly crooned Latin piece from Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz. It's all about variety here: sedate and classy from Kathy Kosins, sassy like Greta Matassa or soulful as Aubrey Logan, all vastly different sides of vocal jazz feel like the best of partners after a good whirl or two across the lounge floor.

It's best to just disregard that phase "Best Of" here. It's a common enough title for such collections and the tracks are indeed all top-shelf, but no less so than the full sets from which they come. Hopefully they'll only help Resonance bring more well-deserved newcomers to their expanding table.

Tracks and Personnel

Smile with Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance

Tracks: Someday My Prince Will Come; Yesterdays (version 1); Mother of Earl; You're Gonna Hear from Me; Baubles, Bangles and Beads (trio); My Funny Valentine; Nardis; Very Early; Turn Out the Stars; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; Re: Person I Knew; Waltz for Debby.

Personnel: Bill Evans: piano; Eddie Gomez: bass; Marty Morell: drums (1-3, 10-12); Jack DeJohnette: drums (4-9).

Jazz Piano Panorama: The Best of Piano Jazz on Resonance

Tracks: Ghanian Village; You Never Tell Me Anything!; Come Rain or Come Shine; Cakewalk; Something to Live For; Girl Talk; Positootly!; There is No Greater Love; Send One Your Love; Jenny's Waltz; Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams; A Little Jazz Exercise.

Personnel: Dado Moroni; Donald Vega; Bill Evans; Marian Petrescu; Tommy Flanagan; The Three Sounds; John Beasley; Gene Harris; Jaki Byard; Mike Garson; Tamir Hendelman.

Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance

Tracks: Jingles; Mr. Walker; West Coast Blues; Four on Six; Once I Loved (O Amor em Paz); Wes' Tune; Li'l Darling; Going Down to Big Mary's; Diablo's Dance; Nica's Dream; Give Me the Simple Life; 'Round Midnight.

Personnel: Wes Montgomery: guitar; Eddie Higgins: piano; Wynton Kelly: piano; Buddy Montgomery: piano; Ron McClure: bass; Jimmy Cobb: drums; Walter Perkins: drums.

Sing a Song of Jazz: The Best of Vocal Jazz on Resonance

Tracks: The Man I Love; Ability to Swing; É Preciso Perdoar; Just for a Thrill; Slow Hot Wind; Daydreaming; (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman; Chan's Song; I Should Care; November Twilight; So Good; Ligia.

Personnel: Sarah Vaughan; Polly Gibbons; Stan Getz/João Gilberto; Shirley Horn; Angela Hagenbach; Cathy Rocco; Aubrey Logan; Greta Matassa; Wes Montgomery; Debbie Andrews; Kathy Kosins; Claudio Roditi.
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