This earnest homage to New York City, recorded in concert during the city’s 1999 JVC Jazz Festival, opens charmingly with half a dozen great old Ellington tunes, each of which depicts musically an aspect of life in Harlem. After that, trumpeter Randy Sandke’s never–quite–a–big–band embarks on a whirlwind tour of the city with stops at Chinatown, Washington Square, Broadway, Park Avenue, 42nd and 52nd Streets, Times Square and Grand Central Station before climbing aboard the celebrated “‘A’ Train.” The opening medley is enhanced by Eric Reed’s sparkling piano, Joe Ascione’s brash yet tasteful drumming (including a Buddy Rich–inspired workout on “Harlem Speaks”) and marvelous solos by almost everyone else, with Joe Temperley’s warm baritone featured on “Sugar Hill Penthouse” and Warren Vaché’s agile trumpet on “Blue Belles of Harlem.” The warhorse “Chinatown” frolics to a Dixie beat with Mark Shane at the keyboard and the Vaché brothers, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and guitarist Howard Alden providing the solo punch. After a second medley (“Rose of Washington Square,” “Broadway Rose”) with enterprising solos by Sandke, Shane, Alden, bassist Rodney Whitaker and Gordon’s growling trombone, the band steps aside while Alden and Ken Peplowski take their urbane guitar and clarinet, respectively, “Slumming on Park Avenue.” Sandke and Warren Vaché are the marquee headliners on “42nd Street,” reprising Harry Warren’s show–stopping tune from their Warren Meets Warren album. Proving its versatility, the ensemble moves from swing to bop on Charlie Parker’s impulsive “Scrapple from the Apple,” to the blues on Charles Mingus’s whimsical “Nostalgia in Times Square,” to the contemporary era with John Coltrane’s busy “Grand Central” (enlivened by blazing solos from Gordon, Reed and tenor Scott Robinson), returns to bop with Thelonious Monk’s perky “52nd Street Theme” (more ferocious drumming by Ascione) and exits swinging on Billy Strayhorn’s irrepressible “‘A’ Train.” A luminous, well–designed concert date with something to please almost any Jazz enthusiast.
Track Listing: Harlem medley (Echoes of Harlem / Drop Me Off in Harlem, Jungle Nights in Harlem, Boys from Harlem, Sugar Hill Penthouse, Blue Belles of Harlem, Harlem Speaks); Chinatown; Rose of Washington Square / Broadway Rose; Slumming on Park Avenue; 42nd Street; Scrapple from the Apple; Nostalgia in Times Square; Grand Central; 52nd Street Theme; Take the
Personnel: Randy Sandke, music director, arranger, trumpet; Warren Vach
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.