Posts Tagged ‘Concord’

Ray Charles: Singular Genius – The Complete ABC Singles

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Complete recitation of Ray Charles’ fifty-three singles for ABC

Ray Charles long ago graduated from a hit-seeking artist to an omnipresent musical god. His iconic singles, innovative albums and sizzling live performances are so monumental as to obscure the time before they existed. It’s all but impossible to recall the excitement of a new Ray Charles release climbing up the charts to popular acclaim and immortality. But Charles’ genius was both artistic and commercial, and his growth and triumphs as a musician were paralleled by success on the charts. Concord’s 5-disc set gathers the mono A- and B-sides of all 53 singles that Charles released on the ABC label, starting with 1960’s “My Baby (I Love Her Yes I Do)” and concluding with 1973’s “I Can Make It Thru the Days (But Oh Those Lonely Nights).” Along the route the set stops at eleven chart-topping hits, numerous lower-charting A-sides and a wealth of terrific B’s. Thirty of these tracks are making their first appearance on CD, and twenty-one their digital debut.

By the time Charles joined ABC-Paramount, he’d already begun to translate his success on the R&B charts into broader crossover acclaim with the Atlantic singles “What’d I Say” and “I’m Movin’ On.” His recordings for ABC included both indelible albums (e.g., Genius + Soul = Jazz and Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music), and an incredible string of charting singles that included “Georgia on My Mind” (his first Pop #1), “Hit the Road Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Busted” and “Crying Time.” Charles repeatedly showed himself to be a master of blues, soul, jazz, gospel, pop and his own brand of country, and a musician (both as a pianist and vocalist) whose brilliance was amplified just as fully by a small combo as it was by an orchestra.

Charles had first expanded his musical boundaries with Atlantic on 1959’s The Genius of Ray Charles, augmenting his R&B band with additional players and strings; ABC capitalized on this by providing the opportunity to record with big bands and orchestras. The through line that links the two eras is the soul Charles poured into each vocal, the personal experience he wrote into his lyrics, and the imagination with which he created definitive interpretations of others’ songs. Charles’ piano playing – particularly on the electric – was as iconic as his voice, and as a bandleader he surrounded himself with exceptional instrumentalists, including tenor saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman, who developed their own notoriety and followings.

It wasn’t until Charles’ third single for ABC, 1960’s career-defining cover of “Georgia on My Mind,” that he topped the pop chart and fully exploited his crossover success. It was a feat he’d repeat with 1961’s “Hit the Road Jack,” 1962’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and with other titles on the R&B chart. Charles’ sessions often turned out enough high-grade material to stock both sides of his singles. 1962’s landmark cover of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” for example, was backed by an even higher-charting take on Governor Jimmie Davis’ “You Are My Sunshine.” But the biggest hits aren’t this set’s most intriguing material – it’s the lower-charting singles and B-sides, overshadowed by Charles’ commercial success, that are the biggest surprise.

Lesser-known highlights include Phil Guilbeau’s trumpet work on Percy Mayfield’s sly blues “But on the Other Hand, Baby,” Gerald Wilson’s moody arrangements of “Careless Love” and “Something’s Wrong,” a sizzling two-part live remake of Charles’ 1955 hit “I Got a Woman,” the Wrecking Crew’s Carole Kaye laying down a funky bass line on “The Train,” Charles’ cooking original version of Ashford & Simpson’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” Jimmy Holiday’s southern-tinged blue soul “Something Inside Me,” Billy Preston’s gospel organ on “Here We Go Again,” the bittersweet waltz-time “Somebody Ought to Write a Book About It,” the gospel testimony of “Understanding,” the Stax-styled “Let Me Love You,” and the run of Buck Owens tunes (“Love’s Gonna Live Here Again,” “Crying Time” and “Together Again”) Charles covered in 1965-6.

In the Fall of 1965, Charles began recording in his own RPM International studio, and many of the singles from this era sound pinched (Billy Vera’s liner notes say they’re “drier”), as though they were mixed and EQ’d narrowly for AM radio. As the timeline rolls into 1966 and 1967, the compressed dynamic range and mono mixes become anachronistic. As Charles’ fame grew, he became more dependent on interpreting the songs of staff writers and others. The musical invention of the early ‘60s settled into a comfortable groove, but Charles’ blend of soul, blues, jazz, country and pop never failed to offer something unique. Treats in the latter half of the collection include a superbly wrought cover of Sam Cooke’s “Laughin’ and Cryin’,” a subtle double-tracked vocal on the soul B-side “If You Were Mine,” a soulful reworking of “America the Beautiful,” and a sharp take on “Ring of Fire” that was Charles’ last B-side for ABC.

The five discs are housed in individual cardboard folders, with interior reproductions of a label or picture sleeve. The folders are packed in a heavy-duty box with a linen-textured finish and magnetic clasp. The 48-page booklet includes archival photos, detailed musician credits and release data, and new liner notes by Billy Vera. All 106 tracks are mastered in mono. This is a superb way to get acquainted with the range of Ray Charles’ recordings of the 1960s and early 1970s, combining his best-loved hits with superb B-sides and lower-charting singles that remain obscure to many listeners. It’s not a substitute for hearing his groundbreaking albums of the era, but an equally worthy profile of the Genius of Soul. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie: The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

The Chairman meets the Count

The twenty tracks collected here pull together the original line-ups of 1962’s Sinatra-Basie: An Historical Musical First and 1964’s It Might as Well Be Swing. Both albums found Sinatra in superb voice, complete command of his material and leading Basie’s band from the singer’s seat. Unlike his early days as a big band boy singer, Sinatra doesn’t have to dodge and weave around the instrumentalists; Neil Hefti and Quincy Jones penned the arrangements in consultation with the vocalist, and the band hangs on his every word. Basie may have been the band leader, but once Sinatra opened his mouth, the instrumentalists took their cues from the Chairman.

By the early ‘60s, Sinatra was in the third phrase of his career – having transformed from big band singer to crooner to ring-a-ding-ding label owner.  In his late ‘40s, the feeling of freedom in his singing was never stronger. He dances through the lyrics as if he was singing extemporaneously, expressing himself rather than the thoughts of a songwriter, and the arrangements push him to great heights. Basie’s band (and for the second album, orchestra) swung hard, ranging from jazzy piano, bass and percussion interludes to full-out horn charts. The sections play with a coherence that’s sublime, and the soloists are given space to weave their own magic, including especially fine moments from flautist Frank Wess.

Sinatra’s records at Capitol may have represented his greatest sustained period of artistic achievement, but his years on Reprise often consolidated and exploited what he’d learned. His sessions with Basie, particularly the first, were a master class in tone and phrasing. Basie’s greatest artistic growth had similarly occurred in earlier decades, but he retained nealy unparalleled talent for accompanying a singer – supporting the vocals as the primary mission, but finding room for the band to be heard. Hefti and Riddle’s contributions can’t be overstated, picking songs and writing charts that allowed Sinatra and Basie to infuse new life into these iconic selections. Sinatra deftly punches, pauses and slides through the lyrics of “(Love is) The Tender Trap,” and with a transformation from Bossa Nova to 4/4, “Fly Me to the Moon” was established as a Sinatra standard.

Some material from the second session – movie and stage themes “More” and “Hello, Dolly!” – are lightweight compared to the collection’s better titles, but Sinatra and Basie still give their all. Concord’s reissue includes liner notes from Robin Douglas-Home and Stan Cornyn (featuring an interview with Quincy Jones), and newly penned notes by Bill Dahl, but the key is Sinatra: no auto-tune, no punch-ins, no splice jobs… just a supremely talented singer letting it all hang out in front of the world’s reigning swing band. To complete your collection of Sinatra-Basie collaborations, pick up the 1966 live album, Sinatra at the Sands, featuring Quincy Jones conducting the Count Basie Orchestra. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Cannonball Adderley: Know What I Mean?

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Joyful 1961 sessions of jazz legends Adderley and Evans

This 1961 session, pairing saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and pianist Bill Evans has several interesting dimensions. Adderley and Evans, having played together as part of the 1958 Miles Davis Sextet, were familiar with one another, but initially only as sidemen. Evans had supported Adderley in a quintet setting, on 1958’s Portrait of Cannonball, and here they play in a quartet setting with the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums. Without a second horn in the combo, there’s more space for Adderley, but rather than trying to fill it, he lets the songs breathe. Evans draws Adderley into a leisurely, joyous groove, and in turn, Adderley draws a harder element of swing from Evans.

The iconic “Waltz for Debby” opens the album with Evans’ lovely, florid piano setting the stage for Adderley’s brilliantly swinging sax. Adderley keeps his tone warm, adding only a few harder-blown notes for color, and Evans returns the favor by playing a fluid solo whose swing is made in perfectly selected accents. Adderley plays a languid, late-night solo on Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye,” which Evans compliments with lyrical runs, and the leisurely “Elsa” includes some thoughtful, nearly meditative piano lines. The mid-tempo take on the Gershwins’ title track finds the rhythm section starting to drive, and by the time they hit Clifford Jordan’s “Toy,” all four players are cooking.

Evans’ legendary trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian would cut their seminal live sides at the Village Vanguard a few months after these sessions, and then disappear with the death of bassist LaFaro. Evans retreated and eventually retrenched, but those live sides and this session with Adderley capture him at a peak of musical freedom and joy to which he never seemed to fully return. Concord’s latest reissue of this Riverside title was newly remastered in 24-bits by Joe Tarantino and adds alternate takes of “Who Cares?” “Know What I Mean?” and “Toy,” from the original sessions. The first two have appeared on previous reissues, while the third is previously unissued. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Paul McCartney: McCartney II

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

McCartney’s first post-Wings solo album

A year before Wings officially disbanded in 1981, Paul McCartney followed the same path he’d trod as the Beatles fell apart in 1969: he retreated to the studio to record an album all by himself. Much like 1970’s McCartney, McCartney II was an outlet for ideas that might not have fit his band, and an opportunity for the artist to explore more contemporary sounds. The results weren’t as organic as the earlier solo album, often leaping ahead from Wings to contemporary synthesizer-influenced arrangements that, like many records from the 1980s, have aged poorly. Still, McCartney’s catchy hooks and memorable melodies were delivered with a crowd-pleasing smile. The album’s hit, “Coming Up,” scored on the UK charts and was in regular rotation on MTV, but it was a live version recorded by Wings that scored stateside. A second single, “Waterfall,” scored in the UK, but only grazed the bottom of the U.S. chart.

The experimental sides feel as if McCartney needed to prove he was more than a Top 40 hit-maker, but they aren’t particularly convincing. The repetitive, droning chorus of “Temporary Secretary” sounds like a cut-rate mash-up of Kraftwerk and Devo, the instrumentals “Front Parlour” and “Frozen Jap” sound like something scratched out on a toy Casio keyboard, and “Summer’s Day Song” is thin and unfinished. Better are the spare blues of “On the Way” and back-to-roots finish of “Nobody Knows,” trading production value for a peek behind the curtain of McCartney’s stage polish. The acoustic closer, “One of These Days,” though not one of McCartney’s greatest lyrics, does provide a moment of reconciliation with the life changes swirling about him.

Hear/Concord’s 2011 reissue offers a sharp remaster of the original album, along with an eight-track bonus disc. The new tracks include the 1979 live version of “Coming Up” which appeared as a B-side U.S. hit for the studio version. Oddly, the single’s other B-side, Wings’ “Lunchbox/Odd Sox,” is not included. Two more B-sides, “Check My Machine” and “Secret Friend,” are also included. McCartney’s non-album single “Wonderful Christmastime,” and four previously unreleased session tracks, including the orchestrated instrumental “Blue Sway,” fill out the bonuses. The all-cardboard four-panel slipcase and booklet include photos, lyrics and credits. This album has a few candid moments, but it’s not the burst of creativity found on McCartney, and represents something of a lull between Wings and McCartney’s forthcoming hit single collaborations. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Paul McCartney: McCartney (Archive Collection)

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

The first album from the last Beatle to solo

McCartney’s first solo album, recorded as the Beatles were disintegrating, and released in the April 1970 slot originally slated for Let it Be, remains the least polished record in a legendary perfectionist’s career. Many of the songs, particularly the numerous instrumentals, are sketches and jams rather than finished productions, and even some of the lyrical tunes are fragments rather complete compositions. For a lesser artist this might be uninteresting, but for someone of McCartney’s stature, the album provides a candid picture of the isolation he suffered in his break with the Beatles. McCartney played all of the instruments, overdubbing on a Studer 4-track tape recorder he had installed in his home; the opening excerpt “The Lovely Linda” was the first piece he recorded, and provides a snapshot of the love that helped pull him through the darkness.

McCartney indulges his creative impulses, experimenting with verbal rhythms on the bluesy “That Would Be Something,” adding inventively sparse percussion, and creating an eerie menagerie of vibrating wine glasses. He digs deeply into the soul of his bass and rips up some twangy blues on guitar, momentarily invoking the reprise of “Sgt. Pepper” in the middle of “Momma Miss America.” The song “Teddy Boy” was rescued from the Get Back film, and the album’s most polished jewels, “Every Night” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” became popular album cuts on FM radio. The latter, among McCartney’s greatest songs, became a hit single in live form seven years later, but the original retains an intimacy that the Wings version didn’t capture.

Hear/Concord’s 2011 reissue offers a crisp remaster of the original album, along with a seven-track bonus disc. The new tracks include two original session pieces (“Suicide” and “Don’t Cry Baby”), a demo of “Women Kind,” a 1973 performance of “Maybe I’m Amazed” from an early Wings television special, and three live tracks from an oft-bootlegged 1979 Wings show in Glasgow. The all-cardboard four-panel slipcase and booklet neatly deconstruct the original gatefold album’s photo collage, beautifully reproducing Linda McCartney’s images in viewable sizes. The album and bonus tracks would just as easily have fit on a single CD, and the Q&A which accompanied the original press copies of the album would have been a real treat, but it’s easy to second guess, and what’s here is a treat. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Tony Bennett: The Best of the Improv Recordings

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Sampling of a master vocalist’s indie sides from the mid-70s

At the turn from the ‘60s into the ‘70s, Tony Bennett – the vocalist’s vocalist – parted ways with his longtime label, Columbia. The parting dissolved their business contract, but also served as a declaration that having fruitfully co-existed with the commercial dominance of youth-oriented rock ‘n’ roll, he would not compromise his artistry by covering lightweight, contemporary pop tunes. He wasn’t alone, as Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne, Johnny Mathis and others were each having their arms twisted in the same direction. Bennett’s concert draw was increasing, and in his mid-40s, his voice offered a maturity and richness that may have been the best of his long and distinguished career. So rather than giving in to Columbia’s demands, and accepting other slights, he fled to MGM, and after failing to find success there, spent a few years without a recording contract.

His commercial fortunes wouldn’t be revived until his son Danny rebuilt his career in the 1980s, reuniting him with musical director Ralph Sharon, and, ironically, Columbia. But in the interim, Bennett founded his own label, Improv, and laid down some of the most artistically satisfying sides of his entire catalog. The label failed after only a few years (due to a lack of distribution, rather than a lack of quality goods), but without the major label bean counters breathing down his neck, Bennett was able to surround himself with the talents of Bill Evans, Charlie Byrd, Jimmy McPartland, Marian McPartland and others, and deeply explore jazz-inflections of the great American songbook. His five albums for Improv, along with a wealth of previously unreleased session tracks, were anthologized on the 2004 4-CD set, The Complete Improv Recordings; this single disc surveys many of the larger set’s highlights.

The selected tracks essay Bennett’s mastery in several different settings, including orchestral arrangements, duets with pianist Bill Evans, and a collection of Rodgers & Hart tunes recorded with a quartet led by cornetist Ruby Braff. The latter tracks show the jazziest edges of Bennett’s vocals as he dances atop John Guiffrida’s string bass and trades phrases with Braff and guitarist George Barnes. The duets are deeply thoughtful, as Bennett and Evans speak to each other through their music as much as to the listener, and the orchestral pieces have refined arrangements by Torrie Zito, including lovely bass and strings on “Reflections,” that winningly frame Bennett’s voice. Bennett vocalizes novel interpretations of several well-trod chestnuts, including “Blue Moon,” “The Lady is a Tramp” and “I Could Write a Book.”

The set ends with a pair of live tracks that includes a rousing take on Bennett’s trademark “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” From the thrill heard in Bennett’s voice, the enthusiastic playing of his all-star band and the crowd’s fevered response, you’d guess they were at the Fairmont atop Nob Hill, but in fact the recording was made at his record label partner’s Statler Hilton hotel in Buffalo, New York. It’s a thrilling end to a terrific set that gives listeners a taste of an artistic giant’s most independent statement of art. At just a little over twice the price for four-times the music, it’s hard not to recommend the full 4-CD set, but if a taste will satisfy you, this is a rich one. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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Frank Sinatra: Ring-A-Ding-Ding

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

It was Frank’s world, and we were lucky to live in it

Sinatra’s 1961 debut for his own record label, Reprise, is the product of a man who was on top of the world, with records, films, concerts and a fraternal social life each running flat out. It wasn’t, however, the sort of artistic reinvention he created on his late ‘50s albums for Capitol, nor the middle-aged discoveries he’d make on September of My Years or with Antonio Carlos Jobim. Still, Sinatra was in the pocket, and the self-confident swagger of his performances made up for the lack of a new artistic leap. Together with arranger Johnny Mandel, Sinatra pushed hard on the swing side of these tunes, eschewing balladry, and spurring his band of West Coast musicians to some sizzling performances. Mandel gained the arranger’s slot when Sinatra’s previous partners, Nelson Riddle and Billy May, were found to be exclusively contracted to Capitol. Mandel brought both jazz and film scoring experience, along with connections to some of Los Angeles’ finest players.

The song list includes a title track written expressly for Sinatra by Cahn and Van Heusen, along with standards both new to and revisited in the Sinatra catalog. Those who enjoy Sinatra’s swing records will love the unbridled verve with which he and Mandel attacked these tunes. Concord’s 2011 reissue adds insightful liner and song note from Frank Sinatra Jr. and a ten-minute session track as a bonus. On the latter, Sinatra is spied working on Rodgers & Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones,” dissecting Mandel’s arrangement in the process, digging out notes that disagreed with his knowledge of the song, and eventually discarding the tune altogether. As a ballad, it wouldn’t have fit the hard-swinging album, but as a bonus track it provides a fascinating peek into Sinatra’s intense work ethic, his leadership in the studio, the response he provokes from fellow musicians, arrangers and producers, and his tremendous ear as an artist. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Ray Charles: Live in Concert

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Expanded reissue of snappy 1964 live date

Ray Charles was not only an iconic singer, songwriter and pianist, he was also a superb band leader and entertainer. And nowhere did these talents so fully magnify one another, and nowhere did the Genius so fully indulge the breadth of his musical mastery, than on stage. This 1964 date, recorded at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles was originally released as a 12-track LP in 1965 (and shouldn’t be confused with the 1973 LP Ray Charles Live, which anthologized late-50s performances). This CD reissue augments the original album with seven previously unreleased tracks, 24-bit remastering (by Bob Fisher at Pacific Multimedia), band credits (notably missing from the original release), full-panel black-and-white photos, and extensive liner notes from Bill Dahl.

Wally Heider’s original live recording is crisp and balanced, capturing the powerful attack and fine details of Charles, his band and the soloists. The show opens with the anticipatory instrumental “Swing a Little Taste,” stoked by MC Joe Adams, solos from Charles and David “Fathead” Newman, and crackling accents and flourished rolls by drummer Wilbert Hogan. Charles plays his organ cool while the band swings a deep Latin groove on “One Mint Julep,” and switches to piano to tease the audience with a few stylized bars of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” before singing a blue, moaning introduction to kick off “I Got a Woman.” A two-part single of the latter track became a low-charting hit in 1965.

Charles offers up an emotionally charged version of Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me” and an improvised small-combo arrangement of “Makin Whoppee.” He introduces the Raelettes for “Don’t Set Me Free,” bringing Lillian Fort forward to sing imaginative responses to Charles’ lead. Alongside “One Mint Julep,” the reissue’s newly added tracks include a thoughtful take on “Georgia on My Mind” that features Bill Pearson’s flute dancing around the organ, bass and drums, a deeply felt version of “That Lucky Old Sun,” and a sassy take on the humorous “Two Ton Tessie.” The show closes with an audience-rousing “What’d I Say” and an odd sing-along of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” This is a tight, beautifully recorded performance of the genius of soul as he basked in the fame of his early ‘60s artistic and commercial success. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Frank Sinatra: Best of Vegas

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Single disc excerpt from the Sinatra: Vegas box set

Frank Sinatra and Las Vegas had a uniquely symbiotic relationship. Las Vegas helped resurrect Sinatra’s career and turned him from a big band singer into a polished entertainer, and Sinatra turned Las Vegas into ground zero for sophisticated adult entertainment. The brilliant vocal phrasings that became his trademark on his Capitol recordings of the 1950s and the ring-a-ding-ding attitude that took him into the 1960s were given their road tests on the stages of Las Vegas. The development of live sets in which every song fit into a compelling arc, also influenced his albums, which became more holistic, and in a few cases, thematic. The stage banter, and the ease with which it was dispensed, became the backbone of his film and television personality.

Sinatra played Vegas off and on for forty-four years, starting out at the Desert Inn in 1951 and bowing goodbye at the MGM Grand in 1994. In between he reigned over the Copa room at the Sands through much of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, and afterwards continued to sell out shows at Caesar’s, Bally’s, the Golden Nugget and Riviera. A number of Sinatra’s Vegas performances have been issued before, including the superb Sinatra at the Sands, the Sinatra/Martin/Davis Rat Pack: Live at the Sands, and the multidisc box set Sinatra: Vegas. This single CD is excerpted from the latter, selecting tracks from 1961 and 1966 shows at the Sands, a 1982 date at Caesar’s and a 1987 date at the Golden Nugget.

The Sands recordings are some of Sinatra’s very best. The earlier date finds him capitalizing on the success he’d found throughout the 1950s, and the later date finds him backed by the ferocious swing of Count Basie’s band. The confidence with which Sinatra sings is completely mesmerizing, whether he’s contemplating the ballad “Moonlight in Vermont,” inserting hipster lingo into “The Lady is a Tramp” or blowing away the room with “Luck Be a Lady.” These appear to be alternate performances from the takes on the 1966 live album, giving fans an opportunity to hear how Sinatra kept his act fresh every night. The set includes some of Sinatra’s stage patter and story telling, including a lengthy monologue that shows how complete an entertainer he’d become.

By the 1980s Sinatra’s voice had begun to show signs of age. But while his tone was perfect and his notes weren’t always tightly held, his artistry was intact and his ability to entertain still on full display. The jazz combo on “I Can’t Get Started” provides an intimate backing that perfectly matches the introspective tone Sinatra struck in his sixties, and the set stretches from early standards (“All of Nothing at All” in a then-new arrangement by Nelson Riddle) to latest successes (“Theme from New York, New York”). The sound quality throughout this disc is terrific, and though you don’t get the thrill of a single night’s full performance, the songs are well sequenced. Charles Pignone’s liner notes from the box set are excerpted for the 20-page booklet. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Dave Brubeck: The Definitive Dave Brubeck on Fantasy, Concord Jazz and Telarc

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Highlights from Brubeck’s pre- and post-Columbia years

By collecting early ‘50s sides waxed for Fantasy and post-70s sides laid down for Concord and Telarc, this two-disc set tells the story of pianist Dave Brubeck before and after his more famous time at Columbia. The selections taste his earliest work with an octet, trio work with Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty, and his initial liaisons with saxophonist Paul Desmond. It skips the seminal quartet formed with Desmond, Joe Morello and Eugene Wright, and rejoins Brubeck in the early 80s in a group with his son Chris on electric bass and bass trombone. Though the original versions of Brubeck hits “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo Ala Turk,” aren’t here, the distinctive elements – Brubeck’s blocky chords (magnificently played with competing hands on “Look for the Silver Lining” and chasing one another up and down the keyboard on “This Can’t Be Love”), Desmond’s brilliant tone, and the exploration of percussive arrangements and unusual time signatures – are all heard early on.

The later sessions find Brubeck rejoined by clarinetist (and original octet member) Bill Smith, and later by alto sax player Bobby Miltello. It’s hard to call this set “definitive,” given that many of the full source albums are in print, but it’s a good introduction for those who know Brubeck’s iconic Columbia releases and have never delved into his earlier catalog. His response to Tjader’s vibes is particularly interesting, as they’re both playing percussive melody instruments – something absent from the more famous quartet. This set also provides an opportunity to hear the directions Brubeck took as an elder statesman with a literal next generation of players. A selection of live tracks show how Brubeck, Desmond and the other players lit up in front of an audience (this is even more evident on  the 50th anniversary reissue of Time Out). The twenty-page booklet includes discographical data, photos, cover and label reproductions, and extensive liner notes by Brubeck’s longtime manager/producer/conductor (and this set’s curator), Russell Gloyd. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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