Following the reissue of Lenny Breau's Complete Living Room Tapes, Art of Life Records has released another CD of historical import and musical excellence. Recorded in 1961, The Hallmark Sessions are the heretofore unreleased first studio recordings of this guitarist who most capably fused classical, flamenco, and country finger picking with contemporary jazz. Seven of the thirteen unique cuts feature a trio consisting of 20-year-old Breau, 17-year-old bassist Rick Danko and 21-year-old drummer Levon Helm. The sound quality, aside from a few minor rough spots, is excellent and the six re-presented stereo versions of the trio pieces sparkle. Breau in a word is awesome and to think that his playing was this developed at such a young age is mind boggling.
The fast runs, the polyrhythms, his adeptness at accompanying himself while playing lead and his proficiency at slipping from country to jazz to flamenco and back are all here. Jazz trio pieces such as "It Could Happen To You," with its extended chordal opening and self accompaniment, or the delicately presented "My Old Flame," are evidence that Breau had already conceived, to a large degree, his singular approach to the jazz genre. "Oscar's Blues" and "D Minor Blues" also attest to his ability to artfully blend styles while maintaining a traditional form. Likewise, there are solo originals and covers that allow the listener to better understand how Breau grew into the powerfully transcendent artist that he became. "Lenny's Western Blues" and "Cannonball Rag" are country finger pickin' gems that complement three flamenco pieces, while "Brazilian Love Song" is an exciting version of "Batacuda" by guitarist Luiz Bonfa, who, like Breau, played melody, rhythm and bass all at the same time. The Hallmark Sessions are the first piece of the Lenny Breau legacy.
Track Listing: 1. It Could Happen to You (Burke/VanHeusen) - 5:42
2. Oscar's Blues (Breau) - 3:38
3. I'll Remember April (DePaul/Johnston/Raye) - 4:25
4. Undecided (Robin/Shavers) - 3:34
5. My Old Flame (Coslow/Johnston) - 5:29
6. 'D' Minor Blues (Breau) - 5:10
7. 'R' Tune (Breau) - 3:20
8. Lenny's Western Blues (Breau) - 2:33
9. Cannonball Rag (Travis) - 2:13
10. Solea (Traditional) - 4:01
11. Taranta (Traditional) - 3:58
12. Arabian Fantasy (Traditional) - 2:51
13. Brazilian Love Song (Batucada) (Bonfa) - 2:07
14. Oscar's Blues [*] (Breau) - 3:39
15. I'll Remember April [*] (DePaul/Johnston/Raye) - 4:24
16. Undecided [*] (Robin/Shavers) - 3:34
17. My Old Flame [*] (Coslow/Johnston) - 5:29
18. 'D' Minor Blues [*] (Breau) - 5:08
19. 'R' Tune [*] (Breau) - 3:17
Personnel: Lenny Breau - Acoustic and Electric Guitar;
Rick Danko - Bass;
Levon Helm - Drums.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.