What's new? Not the dozen songs on this enchanting trio album. Most of them have been around for well over fifty years and people will likely still be enjoying them in another fifty. The composers include Duke Ellington, Richard Rodgers, Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Van Heusen, Michel Legrand and Leonard Bernstein. Musically sophisticated and lyrically literate, the allure of their songs seems to grow, not fade, with age.
What's New was recorded by vocalist Ian Shaw and tenor saxophonist Iain Ballamy, two of the brightest stars of Britain's class of the late-1980s jazz generation. They are accompanied by hot young London pianist Jamie Safir. No bass, no drums. Frequent collaborators, Shaw and Ballamy first recorded together in 1992; chiming with particular resonance to What's New is the pair's work on Shaw's drummerless-quartet album, In A New York Minute (Milestone, 1999). Like Shaw and Ballamy, Safir is well known to London audiences, either leading his own trio or as an accompanist. He pays the rent by playing with pop megastar Will Young.
The longevity of the songs on What's New might well have surprised their composers (of whom only Bacharach is still with us in 2020). They were conceived, after all, as commercial pop songs and were not necessarily expected to last. But they have continued to delight succeeding generations of musicians and listeners. Take the title track as an example. Originally an instrumental called "I'm Free," it was written in 1938 by Bob Haggart for Bob Crosby's Dixieland band. Lyrics were added later by Johnny Burke. Numerous vocal versions include landmark ones by Helen Merrill (with Clifford Brown) and Billie Holiday (with Benny Carter). Erroll Garner, Ahmad Jamal and John Coltrane are among the many who have recorded instrumental versions. It appears on live albums by Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, the Modern Jazz Quartet and even.... Cecil Taylor. In 1983, the song was the title track of a collection of standards released by Linda Ronstadt. How long have you got?
What's New was recorded live in the studio in spring 2019 and the three-day process was, says Shaw, "pure joy." So is listening to it.
What’s New?; You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart); Prelude To A Kiss; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; Once Upon A Summertime; If You Never Come To Me; I Wish I Were In Love Again; Some Other Time; It Might As Well Be Spring; Alfie; Come Sunday; I’ll Only Miss Him When I Think Of Him.
Title: What's New
| Year Released: 2020
| Record Label: Silent Wish
FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.
In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.