Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 5/29/11

More new stuff in the pipeline than we can keep track of: classical party music in the West Village and a wild night in Dumbo, among a million other things. In the meantime, as we do every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #611:

Sarah Vaughan – Sarah +2

To a generation of fans, Sarah Vaughan is divine; another camp (guess which one we’re in) thinks she could have done more with less. On this 1962 album she does exactly that, backed magically and tersely by Barney Kessel on guitar and Joe Comfort on bass. Kessel absolutely owns this album, reminding why he was was one of the most sought-after (and today, underrated) guitarists ever. No effects, no frills, no overplaying, just richly counterintuitive syncopation, surgical precision and a dynamic chordal attack, and Comfort’s even more minimalist bass is just as cool. The spacious arrangements mean that much of the time it’s Vaughan solo, or with the bass, or the guitar. The big hit here was The Very Thought of You. Just in Time starts out like Peggy Lee’s The Fever until the guitar finally comes in; When Sunny Gets Blue doesn’t have the intensity of Jeanne Lee’s version, but what does? All I Do Is Dream of You works surprisingly well with such a cosmopolitan arrangement, as does the stripped-down Ray Noble big band hit Goodnight Sweetheart. The early Ellington hit Just Squeeze Me nails the coyness of the theme. There’s also a wary reinterpretation of Bessie Smith’s Baby Won’t You Please Come Home and a dreamily surreal, bossa-tinged version of Key Largo. Here’s a random torrent.

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May 29, 2011 Posted by | jazz, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CTI Records Reissues Include Gems by Paul Desmond, Milt Jackson and Ron Carter

Lately Sony Jazz has been emptying out the CTI vaults they inherited: it’s amazing how much good jazz is in there, and how well it’s aged. Conventional wisdom is that Creed Taylor’s California label was primarily a source for fusion, and there’s some truth to that, but not completely. Three delicious new reissues attest to that. First and foremost is Paul Desmond’s exquisite Pure Desmond: it’s such a good album that it would be a contender for the year’s top ten pretty much anytime in the last couple of decades. Desmond was rarely comfortable in the role of bandleader for many reasons, but he seems so on this 1974 gem, and even though it’s a mix of standards by Duke, Jerome Kern, Django and Cole Porter, the group here reinvents them. Desmond never overpowered anybody with his martini tone, and here he gets the chance to let it breathe over some of the smartest jazz rhythm guitar ever recorded, courtesy of the vastly underrated Ed Bickert. Meanwhile, Connie Kay plays an almost invisible beat with brushes, Ron Carter alongside on bass. Lyrical and unselfconsciously poignant, it’s truly Pure Desmond, very close, both tune and vibe-wise to his 1954 quintet session featuring another brilliant guitarist, Barney Kessel.

Another welcome rediscovery is vibraphonist Milt Jackson’s lush, psychedelic 1972 Sunflower album with Herbie Hancock on piano, Carter on bass, Billy Cobham on drums, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and Jay Berliner on acoustic guitar plus a string orchestra. It’s got the flamenco noir sweep of Jackson’s For Someone I Love, a vividly cosmopolitan version of Michel Legrand’s What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life, an understatedly funky, cinematic take of the Stylistics’ People Make the World Go Round plus the absolutely hypnotic title track, a Freddie Hubbard composition, its dreamlike pulse augmented by the strings. Gorgeously otherworldly, it deserves to be better known than it is.

Last but not least, Ron Carter’s All Blues – taking its title from a judicious, practically ten minute version of the Miles classic – is a refreshingly terse session featuring Joe Henderson on tenor, Sir Roland Hanna on piano and Billy Cobham swinging like crazy behind the kit. It sounds little like the kind of stuff Cobham would be playing later in the decade, and much the same applies to Carter: it’s all judicious funk and melody, no rat-on-a-treadmill walking scales. This title in particular stands out for how intelligently it’s been remastered (although that could be said of all of them): the bass, already amplified courtesy of a Fender amp, gets a welcome boost, although the drums remain comfortably back in the mix just as they were on the original vinyl. Highlights include the beautifully modal piano/bass ballad Light Blue, the gentle funk theme 117 Special – a classic showcase for understated Henderson soulfulness – and the playfully tricky Rufus, a shout-out to Rufus Reid.

Also available in the reissue series is George Benson’s White Rabbit – and for fans of long-forgotten synthesizer film scores from the 1970s, Eumir Deodato’s Prelude. All links here are to itunes, although cds are available as well.

February 8, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment