Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Boy Named Charlie Brown

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

VinceGuaraldi_ABoyNamedCharlieBrown2014 reissue adds bonuses to Guaraldi’s first Peanuts release

In animating the Peanuts comic strip for television, the music of Vince Guaraldi was as important a voice as that of the child actors who played the characters, as critical a story element as the plot and dialog, and as colorful a setting as the drawings themselves. The music of A Charlie Brown Christmas remains every bit as iconic as Charlie Brown’s zig-zag sweater and Linus’ blanket, and the soundtrack to that first-to-be-broadcast Peanuts special remains every bit as beloved as Peanuts itself. What many probably don’t know is that Guaraldi had first engaged with Charles Schulz, producer Lee Mendelson and the Peanuts gang a year earlier with this soundtrack for the documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown (not to be confused with the 1969 film of the same name).

Not only did the original 60-minute program fail to find an outlet, but neither did the surviving 30-minute edit (which is available on DVD from the Charles M. Schulz Museum), which was not broadcast at the time. Unusually, Guaraldi’s record label, Fantasy, had him re-record the soundtrack material and went ahead with a lavish gatefold release, initially titling it Jazz Impressions of A Boy Named Charlie Brown to echo Guaraldi’s earlier breakthrough with Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. Across the album’s eleven tracks, Guaraldi and his trio (which included bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey) laid down both the template and many of the specifics that would blossom commercially in the following year’s Christmas special.

Guaraldi’s mastery of Latin rhythms underpins several tracks, but it was the mood of his earlier hit, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” that originally grabbed Lee Mendelson’s ear. As Ralph Gleason’s original essay points out, Guaraldi created something both original and empathetic to another artist’s work. His playing is at turns sly, joyous, lyrical, confident, thoughtful and most of all, playful. Budwig provides a melodic foil with his bass, and Bailey swings his drums without ever intruding on Guaraldi’s own rhythmic phrasings. Among the specifics first released on this title are two of two of Guaraldi’s best-known compositions, “Charlie Brown Theme” and “Linus and Lucy.” The rest of the album isn’t as memorably tied to specific animated sequences, but the music is just as pleasurable and stands sturdily on its own. The 2014 reissue adds an alternate take of “Baseball Theme” to the previously included bonus track “Fly Me to the Moon.” [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb: In Session

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

1988 live pairing of singer and songwriter

Recorded in 1988, this CD/DVD set brings together the singer-and-songwriter pair who broke through in 1967 with “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” The duo would score several more hit singles, including the multi-chart topping “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston,” along with lower charting singles “Where’s the Playground Susie” and “Honey Come Back.” Each partner had tremendous success on their own, but the combination of Webb’s emotionally evocative lyrics and Campbell’s country-tinged pop vocals created something unique. Though they continued to work together off and on, including a full-length 1974 album Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb, their collaborations never again struck the chart gold of their late ‘60s run.

Campbell and Webb continued to perform together at select events over the years, but commercially released recordings of their pairings are few. This set, recorded for the Canadian television show In Session, is released here for the first time. The duo reprises their biggest hits, and adds other songs from both their collaborative catalog and Webb’s own rich collection of compositions.Campbell remains deeply engaged with the hits, taking “Galveston” at a slow, mournful pace, and adding thoughtful touches to “Wichita Lineman,” including a fetching acoustic guitar solo; he also rescues “MacArthur Park” from the drama laid into Richard Harris’ original hit, singing the song lyrically rather than performing it as a dramatic script.

The arrangements are relatively simple, with Campbell on guitar facing Webb on piano, and backing of bass, drums and synthesized strings that leaves the focus on the vocals and the songs. The duo’s personal and musical chemistry is evident in the between-song banter and the knowing looks they exchange. The DVD opens at the end of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and unfortunately, that fragment is all you get. Webb is also included in interview segments inserted between (and, distractingly at times, overlapping and during) songs. The segments are banded as separate tracks on the DVD, but not on the CD, where they distract from the set’s flow. This is a nice artifact of Campbell and Webb’s 45-year partnership and friendship, and the musical fruit they’ve nurtured. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Glen Campbell’s Home Page
Jimmy Webb’s Home Page

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Ultimate – Greatest Hits and All-Time Classics

Monday, November 19th, 2012

3-CD overview ofAmerica’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band

As a band whose albums, singles and live performances were equally exciting, it can be argued that Creedence Clearwater Revival remains the greatest group in American rock ‘n’ roll history. Whether stretching out a psychedelic jam of “Suzie Q” or “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” or packing everything they had into the 2:21 of “Bad Moon Rising,” their synthesis of rock, country, blues, and southern soul was riveting. Their hit singles still leave listeners reaching to turn up the volume, and their albums harbor dozens of lesser-known, but no less terrific covers and Fogerty originals. In a six-album stretch from 1968’s eponymous Creedence Clearwater Revival through 1970’s Pendulum, the quartet never faltered – dropping dozens of hit singles and revitalizing well-selected covers with iconic guitar riffs and vocal turns that hook your ear as readily today as they did forty years ago.

The CCR catalog has seen its fair share of reissues, with a box set in 2001, individual album remasters in 2008, and in 2009 a mono singles collection, vintage live concert and a covers collection. And then there are numerous tributes and an endless array of karaoke discs. Fantasy’s latest reiteration of the core catalog is a three-disc set that goes beyond the hit singles, but not as far as the box set. It’s a better introduction than a single disc, and with the inclusion of album and live tracks, a broader look than the two volume Chronicle set. The set is delivered in a tri-fold cardboard sleeve with extensive liner notes by Bay Area music historian, Alec Palao. Among his insights is the astonishing fact that CCR never scored a chart-topping U.S. single; Green River and Cosmo’s Factory each topped the album chart, but their peak singles, “Proud Mary,” “Green River” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” topped out at #2.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the longevity of the group’s legacy is broader than hit singles. The set’s first two discs sample from the group’s seven original studio albums, including four Fogerty-piloted tracks from the swansong, Mardi Gras. Disc three collects live performances from 1970-71, recorded in the Bay Area and across Europe; all were previously issued on either The Concert or as bonus tracks to the 2008 album reissues. The live mixes are necessarily rawer than the studio recordings, but they’re full and punchy, show off the band’s tight ensemble playing and demonstrate how well CCR’s material translated to the stage. This is a great set for listeners who haven’t upgraded their Chronicle LPs to CDs, those not ready for the box or album reissues, or younger listeners that need to have the waxy buildup of contemporary pop removed from their ears. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Dave Brubeck: The Very Best of the Fantasy Era – 1949-1953

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Sample of Brubeck’s pre-Columbia work on Fantasy

When fans think of Dave Brubeck’s golden era, they usually focus on the quartet of Brubeck, Desmond, Morello and Wright that solidified in 1958 and began a string of memorable albums with 1959’s Time Out on Columbia. Brubeck’s earlier work on Fantasy had set the table with a trio that included Cal Tjader (heard here on drums and bongos, but not vibes), and later with a quartet that introduced Paul Desmond on alto sax. The pre-Desmond pieces are pleasant, though mostly uneventful, sounding a bit like the jazz-inflected easy-listening prevalent in the 1950s. Even here though, the contrast between Desmond’s alto sax and Brubeck’s heavy hands was immediately compelling. The time changes that would become the later quartet’s calling card can be heard in early form on “Frenesi” and other tracks, but not yet with the free swinging joie de vivre later brought to “Take Five” or “Blue Rondo Ala Turk.” Brubeck’s use of classical motifs is also in evidence early on. Concord’s reissued Brubeck’s Fantasy material in a number of forms, including original albums such as Jazz at Oberlin, and compilations that include The Definitive Dave Brubeck on Fantasy and Concord and Telarc. This single disc collection is a good introduction to Brubeck’s pre-Columbia sides, but not the place to start your appreciation of his catalog. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Vince Guaraldi: The Very Best Of

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Much more than just “Linus & Lucy”

San Francisco jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi would have been remembered in the popular music conscience for his 1962 hit “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” had he not redefined his legacy three years later with the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. The animated special’s annual broadcast turned Guaraldi’s score, particularly the instrumental “Linus and Lucy,” into an indelible musical signature. The two bouts of popular acclaim obscured the rest of Guaraldi’s career, which began in the 1950s backing Cal Tjader, blossomed into his own trio and first struck pay dirt with his tribute, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. It was from this latter album that the Guaraldi original “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” sprung onto the airwaves as the B-side of his cover of Luiz Bonfa’s “Samba de Orfeu.” Though the latter isn’t included here, another of the film’s themes, “Manha de Carnaval,” shows off Guaraldi’s interest in Latin rhythms, as well as the contemplative side of his playing.

Brazillian music played an on-going role in Guaraldi’s repertoire, as he covered the bossa nova “Outra Vez,” and collaborated with guitarist Bola Sete on the gentle “Star Song,” the rush-hour “Ginza” and a live recording of “El Matador.” The latter shows how easily Guaraldi transitioned back and forth from straight to swing time, much as he does in “Linus and Lucy,” his left hand beating out boogie-woogie as his right hand picks out melodies. 1964’s “Treat Street” attempted to follow-up on the commercial success of 1962, but the swinging, Latin-tinged single failed to click with fickle radio programmers and record buyers. It wouldn’t be until the 1965 Peanuts breakthrough that Guaraldi’s music would again seep into the broad public’s consciousness. Even then, it didn’t make a mark on the singles chart, though the soundtrack albums have been perennial sellers.

In addition to writing originals, Guaraldi, like his contemporaries, also reinterpreted standards, including Frank Loesser’s “The Lady’s in Love With You” and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise.” The collection closes out with three pieces from Guaraldi’s Peanuts repertoire, including “Christmas is Coming” (the theme to which the gang dances) and a six-minute instrumental version of “Christmas Time is Here.” The two-disc Definitive Vince Guaraldi, issued three years ago, provides a deeper helping of Guaraldi’s sound, and the A Charlie Brown Christmas Original Soundtrack is a must-have. But for those wishing to taste Guaraldi’s music beyond what you’ve heard on TV, this is a good place to start. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Chet Baker: The Very Best of

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

A sampling of the trumpeter/vocalist’s classic ‘50s sides

As a leading exponent of the West Coast sound, trumpeter Chet Baker was as well known for his introspective vocals as his cool horn style. Prestige’s fourteen-track collection pulls together selections from nine albums drawn from the years 1952 through 1965. The bulk of the set is taken from albums made forRiversideand Jazzland in ’58 and ’59, along with an earlier side on Fantasy and two later sides on Prestige. Baker’s intimate vocals are featured on four tracks (“Do it the Hard Way,” “My Heart Stood Still,” “Old Devil Moon,” and “The Song is You”), with the rest finding his trumpet accompanied by the likes of Chico Hamilton, Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers, and sharing the spotlight with Gerry Mulligan, Johnny Griffin, Herbie Mann, Zoot Sims and others.

The set opener, a 1952 take of “My Funny Valentine” with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, is among Baker’s purest expressions, shading contrasts between romantic and wounded, confident and doubtful, pensive and expressive. Throughout the collection, Baker’s trumpet is absorbed in thought, slowly revealing itself in long lines and quiet transitions. Even when pushed to mid-tempo and goosed by saxophones, Baker’s tone and volume remain understated. He stays cool and under control, even as he navigates the complexities of “Have You Seen Miss Jones?” There’s a lot to Baker’s catalog, including albums waxed for Blue Note and Pacific Jazz before he joinedRiverside, and a tangle of labels between his stints onRiversideand Prestige, but these late ‘50s classics are a great place to start. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Bill Evans: The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

An overview of Bill Evans’ sides on Riverside and Fantasy

This two-disc set bookends Evans most productive years, offering key sides from his initial stay on Riverside (1956 through 1963) and later work on Fantasy (1973-1977). The collection opens with a piece from his first album, 1956’s New Jazz Conceptions, and really kicks into gear with the formation of his first stellar trio (featuring Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums) for 1959’s Portrait in Jazz. With LaFaro’s death in a 1961 car accident, Evans withdrew from performing for several months, finally forming a new trio with bassist Chuck Israels and releasing two new albums (Moon Beams and How My Heart Sings!), from which the original “Very Early” and the Dave Brubek composition “In Your Own Sweet Way” are drawn. Paul Motian surrendered the drummer’s throne to Larry Bunker for the last of Evans’ albums on Riverside, Live at Shelly’s Manne-Hole, after which the pianist move over to Verve.

Evans’ years on Verve (which can be sampled on The Best of Bill Evans on Verve) included some remarkable experiments, such as the overdubbed Conversations with Myself, and it was while on Verve that he connected with bassist Eddie Gomez. Gomez was still part of the trio (along with drummer Marty Morell) when Evans landed at Fantasy, opening his run with 1973’s The Tokyo Concert. When Morell departed, Evans and Gomez recorded as a duet on 1974’s aptly-titled Intuition. Though Evans recorded the majority of his catalog with a trio of piano, bass and drums, this set includes several interesting non-trio sides. 1958’s “Peace Piece” is a terrific solo performance that foreshadows other pianist’s 1970s improvisations, a date backing Cannonball Adderly yields a soulful take on Evans’ “What What I Mean?” and fruitful collaborations with Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz and Tony Bennett are featured.

Disc two picks up where disc one left off, opening with a quartet featuring Zoot Sims and Jim Hall, and a remarkable solo recording that pairs the love theme from “Spartacus” with Miles Davis’ “Nardis.” Though these tracks were recorded for Riverside, they were lost in the shuffle of Evans’ switch to Verve, and left unissued until the early ‘80s. Evans’ years at Fantasy were spent mostly with the trio of Gomez and Morell, though by the end of the run the latter had given way to Eliot Zigmund, featured here on the closing “I Will Say Goodbye.” As on any cherry-picked collection, once could debate whether the track selection is “definitive,” but the span of these two CDs gives a fair view of Evans’ time on Riverside and Fantasy, and with the original albums still available, this is a useful roadmap guide for newcomers and an enjoyable summary for fans. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Cal Tjader and Stan Getz: Sextet

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Two giants of jazz meet for a 1958 West Coast date

This is a sweet 1958 West Coast jazz session that brought together vibraphonist Cal Tjader and tenor saxophonist Stan Getz. Also playing on the session is noted San Francisco pianist Vince Guaraldi, guitarist Eddie Duran, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Billy Higgins. Each of the side men were starting to stir up some notice, though they were each a few years away from their breakthroughs. Getz stands at the session’s center, but leaves room for the others to solo; Guaraldi and Duran offer some particularly interesting lines on “Ginza Samba” and “Crow’s Nest.” Tjader swings a few tunes, but it’s his breezy touch on the ballads that partners most fruitfully with the cool of Getz’s sax. The band creates a relaxed mood for Lerner and Lowe’s “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” and swings warmly through Tjader’s waltz “Liz-Anne.” The seven tracks recorded here turned out to be all there is – no alternates, no outtakes – a remarkable occurrence for an ad hoc band that recorded with no rehearsal. The ability of the players to cohere in such short-order (the entire session was three hours) is a testament to both their talent as players, and their shared vision as musicians. Those with an earlier reissue might still want to check this out for Joe Tarantino’s 24-bit remaster and new liner notes by Doug Ramsey. Ralph J. Gleason’s original notes are included in a reproduction of the album’s back cover, as well as in a surprisingly error-filled transcription within the set’s 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]

Dave Brubeck’s Home Page

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

Sunday, November 7th, 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 Brubeck before and after his 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 Joe Morello and Eugene Wright, and rejoins Brubeck in the early 80s in a group that included 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 both 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]

Dave Brubeck’s Home Page