Legendary jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal, who was still performing into his nineties, has passed away at the age of 92.
Reissues of four albums of acceptance and empowerment
In celebration of the documentary Wonâ€™t You Be My Neighbor?, and the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Omnivore released the Mister Rogers best-of compilation Itâ€™s Such a Good Feeling, alongside the instrumental collection Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogersâ€™ Neighborhood Jazz. They now dig deeper into the catalog with reissues of four original albums, 1992â€™s Bedtime, Youâ€™re Growing, and You Are Special, and 1997â€™s Coming and Going. Each album is bookended with unique versions of the signature songs â€œWonâ€™t You Be My Neighbor?â€ and â€œItâ€™s Such a Good Feeling,â€ collect songs that loosely fit around the albumâ€™s title theme, and are backed by Mister Rogersâ€™ longtime jazz trio of Johnny Costa (piano), Carl McViker (bass) and Bobby Rawsthorne (percussion).
Bedtime features songs of comfort and reassurance that will help send a young childâ€™s worried mind into dreaming wonder. Rogers addresses a common childhood concern on â€œNighttime Sounds,â€ turns existential for â€œWhen the Day Turns Into Night,â€ and closes out the theme with â€œPeace and Quiet.â€ Youâ€™re Growing highlights the momentous physical and emotional growth that comes in a childâ€™s early years – changes that are often confusing or frightening. You Are Special centers on acceptance, self confidence and individual empowerment, and Coming and Going is about new experiences and the comfort of the familiar. The latter visits the Neighborhood of Make Believe for several songs.
Rogersâ€™ empathy for a young childâ€™s concerns is demonstrated through his deeply considered validation of their feelings. His lyrical themes are universal and timeless, and in these performances, his caring has survived his corporeal form. The trioâ€™s light jazz backings are equally empathetic to Rogersâ€™ thoughts. Rogersâ€™ was a unique television star, but more centrally, he was a unique friend and educator of young children, and his song catalog retains the caring that he poured into everything he did. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
Laura Nyro was more than a new discovery on this 1967 debut, she was a wholly new musical entity, bringing together the songcraft of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, blues, jazz and pop. Her lyrical and singing voices melded these strands into something wholly new, and years ahead of other singer-songwriters whoâ€™d venture into similar polymusical directions. Even more impressive is that her songs were strong enough to create space for both her authoritative original versions and the iconic hit covers of others. Nyroâ€™s passionate reading of â€œAnd When I Dieâ€ is wholly satisfying, and uneclipsed by Blood, Sweat & Tearsâ€™ iconic cover. The same can be said for â€œStoney Endâ€ (Barbara Streisand) and â€œWedding Bell Bluesâ€ (The Fifth Dimension), both of which are equally remarkable as originals and covers. Originally released by Verve/Folkways, the album was reissued by Columbia (under the title The First Songs, with revised running order and cover art) with Nyroâ€™s move to the major. The original formulation has had a few import CD reissues, and is now returned to vinyl in a limited-edition, violet-colored mono LP, with remastering by Vic Anesini from the original master tapes, and a new lacquer cut by Clint Holley. In addition to Nyroâ€™s preferred mono mix, this reissue is also free of the reverb that Columbia added to The First Songs. This is a super souvenir for Nyroâ€™s many fans! [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]
By the time that Pittsburgh pianist Johnny Costa met Fred Rogers, he was an accomplished jazz musician whoâ€™d led albums released by Coral, Savoy and Dot, was featured on Manny Albamâ€™s A Gallery of Gershwin (a theme Costa revisited on 1994â€™s A Portrait of George Gershwin) and served as music director for televisionâ€™s Mike Douglas. Costa returned to Pittsburgh in the mid-60s where he met and partnered with Fred Rogers in creating the music for Mister Rogersâ€™ Neighborhood. Costaâ€™s college background in both music and education matched that of Rogers, and his fluid musical style (one that Art Tatum likened to his own) and imaginative arrangements were a perfect match for the emotional insights that Rogers illuminated with his song concepts and lyrics. Costa was a charter resident of the neighborhood, joining in 1968, playing live, adding improvisational continuity, appearing on camera on occasion, and serving as Rogersâ€™ musical director until the pianistâ€™s passing in 1996.
This 1984 release features Costaâ€™s piano in a trio setting with Carl McVicker on bass and Bobby Rawsthorne on drums. As an instrumental jazz outing on the short-lived Mister Rogers Neighborhood label, but not featuring Mister Rogers himself, it likely didnâ€™t sell well to either the television showâ€™s preschool viewership or jazz hounds, and so the original vinyl release has become quite rare. Omnivoreâ€™s reissue includes the albumâ€™s original thirteen tracks, all written by Fred Rogers. Fans of the television show will immediately recognize the warm welcome of the opening â€œWonâ€™t You Be My Neighbor,â€ but as you would expect from a talented jazz musician, Costa uses the theme as a launching point for spirited improvisation. The same is true for the closing â€œTomorrow,â€ which is given a heavier dose of optimistic melancholy than in its television incarnations.
Costaâ€™s playing is florid, dramatic, inquisitive, frenetic, humorous and contemplative, mirroring the themes and emotional lessons of Rogersâ€™ lyrical compositions. The yearning for reassurance that Rogers wrote into the lyrics of â€œPlease Donâ€™t Think Itâ€™s Funnyâ€ is equally well expressed in Costaâ€™s introspective soloing. â€œEverybodyâ€™s Fancyâ€ includes fancy runs, â€œI Like to Take My Timeâ€ proceeds at a jaunty stroll, and â€œSomething to Do While Weâ€™re Waitingâ€ is filled with irrepressible childhood energy. Costa is fleet-fingered and lyrical as he expresses through his piano the emotional core of each song. This collection ofÂ instrumental treatments provides a terrific complement to Fred Rogersâ€™ originals, twenty-three of which are collected in Omnivoreâ€™s companion volume, It’s Such A Good Feeling: The Best Of Mister Rogers. Taken together, the two releases highlight the musical and emotional resonances between Rogers, Costa and their audience. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]
Childrenâ€™s entertainment is often filled with empty merchandising calories, and devoid of the thoughtful content that promotes intellectual and emotional growth. But that is not the case with the music of Fred Rogers, creator and host of the eponymous Mister Rogersâ€™ Neighborhood. Educated in musical composition, divinity and child development, Rogers turned the meditations of his solitary childhood into a helping hand for preschoolers. While Sesame Street focused on helping young children get ready for the cognitive growth of schooling, Rogers prepared them for the parallel emotional development they would experience in new social situations. Rogers spoke and sang to children with insight and patience that acknowledged feelings and fears that adults had long since forgotten. He offered a helping hand through songs whose fundamental truths connected deeply with his audience.
His television show included many memorable characters and activities, but his music reached deeper. For those who grew up watching the show (or parenting children who did), the songs remain a sense memory that can instantly transport you back to an age of uncertainty and seemingly endless questions. His lyrics encompasses thoughts and lessons in friendship, optimism, attentiveness, confidence, vulnerability, perseverance, empathy, imagination, self-worth, humor, individuality and a myriad of questions, emotions and anxieties that children first encounter in their formative years. Rogersâ€™ songs put a name to these feelings, and let children know that such feelings are both natural and shared.
Rogers recorded with a trio of musical director and pianist Johnny Costa, bassist Carl McVicker, and percussionist Bobby Rawsthorne. Their light, jazzy instrumentals typically stayed in the background, underlying the emotional lessons of the lyrics. Rogers released dozens of singles, EPs and albums, but few remain in print. Omnivoreâ€™s 21-track collection cherrypicks from four previous albums (Youâ€™re Growing, Coming and Going, Bedtime, and You Are Special), and adds five previously unreleased recordings, including the closing rendition of Rogersâ€™ trademark show closer â€œTomorrow.â€ The eight-page booklet includes an introductory note by film biographer Morgan Neville, and liners by Pittsburgh TV critic Robert Bianco. Rogersâ€™ gentle manner may seem out of place in todayâ€™s belligerent times, which makes his lessons in civility all the more relevant. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]
Itâ€™s hard to imagine a more fitting stage for pianist Mitch Woods and his hand-picked New Orleans Rocket 88â€™s band than the Jazz & Heritage Festivalâ€™s blues tent. Though he was born in Brooklyn, and came of musical age on the West Coast, his New Orleans influences flow through him as he consecrates the stage with jump blues, boogie-woogie and swing. Woods and his musical colleagues are deep in their element, and their element is deep in them, swinging tightly through both original material and covers of Wynonie Harris, Clarence Garlow, Hank Williams, Jackie Brenston & Ike Turner, and as the albumâ€™s title signifies, Fats Domino.
Woods opens the set with his own â€œSolid Gold Cadillac,â€ with drummer Terence Higgins quickly setting everyoneâ€™s toes tapping and the three-piece horn section flexing its muscle. Woods exhorts the audience to acknowledge the band as he rolls out the boogie-woogie piano and sings with infectious joy. The saxes offer both punctuation and hot solos, including a stellar outing by the legendary Roger Lewis on a rousing cover of Hank Williamsâ€™ â€œJambalaya.â€ Guitarist John Fohl adds sizzling licks and the rhythm section alternately lays back in second-line grooves and spurs the band forward.
Woods is both studied and artful as he pays tribute to Professor Longhair with the original â€œMojo Mambo,â€ and tips his hat to Fats Domino with the Imperial classics, â€œBlue Mondayâ€ and â€œWalking to New Orleans.â€ The audience responds with enthusiastic appreciation throughout the set, and Woodsâ€™ song intros add context to the deep dish helping of entertainment. Thereâ€™s clearly nowhere else that Woods, his band and the audience would rather be than sharing this music with each other; and after listening, you may find yourself booking a ticket to the next gig. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]
The fusion of country, jazz, folk, blues, bluegrass and swing this trio developed in the late â€˜70s isnâ€™t without near-term antecedents (e.g., Dan Licks and His Hot Licks) or parallels (e.g., David Grisman), but the joy with which these three talented musicians – Walter Hyatt, Champ Hood and David Ball – meshed their influences and voices is in many ways without equal. Although there was fine solo work to follow – and commercial success for Ball in Nashville – there was something greater than the parts in their collaboration. With three star-quality singers blending their voices in harmony, their talents as instrumentalists might have receded into the background, had their gifts not been so substantial. Their acoustic playing is gentle, but substantial, and provides perfect backing and decoration to their singing.
Omnivore began the digital restoration of the groupâ€™s catalog with the 2018 anthology Those Boys From Carolina, They Sure Enough Could Sing, and now digs deeper with this reissue of the groupâ€™s debut. Recorded in North Carolina (in a single day, in mono, and with no overdubs!) and originally released in 1974 as Blame it on the Bossa Nova, the album was reordered and reissued eponymously in 1978, as the group was settling into Austin. Their run would last five more years and turn out another studio album (An American in Texas), a live set (Recorded Live) and a cassette collection of studio material (6-26-79). Reissues have come and gone, including the numerous versions of this debut that are documented in the liner notes, but the bandâ€™s impression on its fans has never faded.
The trioâ€™s harmonies take in the sounds of country musicâ€™s early family acts, close harmony pop of the â€˜40s, and the jazz vocal groups of the â€˜50s and â€˜60s. Their repertoire includes superb original material that mingles easily with lovingly arranged covers of the Delta Rhythm Boysâ€™ jivey â€œGive Me Some Skin,â€ Robert Johnsonâ€™s â€œFrom Four Until Late,â€ Professor Longhairâ€™s â€œIn the Night,â€ the late â€˜30s blues â€œUndecided,â€ the folk staple â€œLittle Sadie,â€ and a wonderfully crooned take on the film theme â€œRuby.â€ The trioâ€™s harmonizing on â€œHigh Hillâ€ is unbelievably lush, Ballâ€™s falsetto is striking throughout the album (as are Hoodâ€™s acoustic guitar leads), and Hyattâ€™s â€œAloha,â€ which opened the original LP, now closes out the albumâ€™s eleven track lineup.
Omnivoreâ€™s reissue doubles the track count with eleven previously unreleased bonuses that mix period demos and live recordings, including covers of Turner Laytonâ€™s early twentieth century â€œAfter Youâ€™ve Gone,â€ an a cappella version of â€œRock Island Line,â€ and a wealth of original material. The groupâ€™s vocal arrangements and instrumental prowess shine brightly on the demos, a few of which were covered by others, including Lyle Lovettâ€™s 1998 rendering of â€œLonely in Love.â€ The live recordings show that the fraternity the trio achieved in the studio was just as potent on stage, and that their lighthearted stage banter and effortless musicality instantly drew the audience into their groove. The twenty-page booklet includes photos, remembrances by the bandâ€™s musical associates and famous fans, and new liner notes by Mark Michael and Heidi Wyatt. This is an all-time classic, reissued in great style. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]
Detroit guitarist Dennis Coffey had a brief run of solo fame with his 1971 instrumental hit â€œScorpio,â€ and its 1972 Top-20 follow-up â€œTaurus.â€ But his guitar has been much more widely heard on a string of iconic Motown hits that includes the Temptationsâ€™ â€œCloud Nine, â€œBall of Confusionâ€ and â€œPsychedelic Shack,â€ Edwin Starâ€™s â€œWarâ€ and Diana Ross & The Supremesâ€™ â€œSomeday Weâ€™ll Be Together.â€ Those whoâ€™ve spent time in the Motor City may have been lucky enough to hear Coffey playing live, including a residency with organist Lyman Woodardâ€™s heavy swinging trio at Morey Bakerâ€™s Showplace Lounge. Those who didnâ€™t have the pleasure can check out some of the trioâ€™s live dates on the previously released Hot Coffey in the D â€“ Burninâ€™ at Morey Bakerâ€™s Showplace Lounge and One Night at Moreyâ€™s: 1968.
Coffey has continued to gig steadily, and Omnivore now offers up a more recent live date, recorded in 2006 with a quartet that features keyboardist Demetrius Nabors, bassist Damon Warmack and drummer Gaelynn McKinney. The quartet has a different sound than Lymanâ€™s organ-based trio, but Coffeyâ€™s guitar is still as fiery and free as ever. The track list is comprised mainly of finely selected jazz covers, including titles by Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis and Jack McDuff, but also includes a hot, extended jam on â€œScorpio,â€ and a lengthy take on the Temptations â€œJust My Imagination.â€ The latter is highlighted by Coffeyâ€™s soulful, phase shifted guitar (taking the vocalâ€™s spotlight) and an electric piano solo from Nabors.
The signature saxophone and piano vamp of Miles Davisâ€™ â€œAll Bluesâ€ is given here to Warmackâ€™s warm bass playing, with Coffeyâ€™s chorused guitar, string bends and rapid-fire bursts suggesting Coltraneâ€™s sax more than Davisâ€™ trumpet. The Crusadersâ€™ â€œWay Back Homeâ€ is given a bounce by McKinneyâ€™s drumming and Naborsâ€™ swinging solo, as Coffeyâ€™s improvisations really blast off. The album closes with an uptempo cover of Jack McDuffâ€™s â€œDinkâ€™s Blues,â€ featuring solos from Coffey, Nabors and Warmack. The setâ€™s generous 74-minute running time, new liners from Bill Kopp and an interview with Coffey make this a welcome complement to the two earlier live discs. And if youâ€™re in Detroit, catch Coffey on Tuesday Nights at the Northern Lights Lounge. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]
Originally released in 1977, NRBQâ€™s fifth album marked the first appearance of drummer Tom Ardolino, and the debut of the bandâ€™s Red Rooster label. Having spent time on Columbia and Kama Sutra, the responsibility of producing and recording for their own imprint seems to have brought both freedom and focus to their music. To be sure, all the NRBQ trademarks are here, including oddball originals like Terry Adams â€œCall Him Off, Rogers,â€ lovingly selected covers of â€œCecillia,â€ â€œI Got a Rocket in My Pocketâ€ and â€œHoney Hush,â€ a ragged, minor key send-up of the theme to Bonanza, and generous helpings of the Whole Wheat Horns.
As usual, the band mashed up a wide array of pop, rock, soul, blues and jazz influences, but the original material from Adams, Al Anderson and Joey Spampinato includes some especially fine pop songs. Andersonâ€™s nostalgic lead-off, â€œRidinâ€™ in My Carâ€ has a double-tracked vocal and sunshine backing harmonies, and Terry Adamsâ€™ â€œIt Feels Goodâ€ mixes â€˜50s romanticism with, in true NRBQ fashion, a Japanese koto solo. Adams also offers an echo of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys with â€œThings to You,â€ and Joey Spampinatoâ€™s â€œStill in Schoolâ€ and â€œThatâ€™s Alrightâ€ have harmonies that sound like Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe channeling the Everlys.
This reissue adds four bonus tracks recorded during the albumâ€™s two years worth of sessions. A cover of Bill Justisâ€™ â€œChicken Heartedâ€ offers a heavier dose of chicken-pickinâ€™ than Roy Orbisonâ€™s original, while the originals include the jazz-country hybrid â€œSheâ€™s Got to Know,â€ rockabilly â€œStart It Over,â€ and low-key New Orleans funk â€œDo the Bump.â€ The latter was originally issued as a B-side, while the other three were woven into Rounderâ€™s Ridinâ€™ in My Car sort-of reissue of All Hopped Up. Omnivoreâ€™s tri-fold slipcase augments one of NRBQâ€™s best albums with new liners by John DeAngelis and vintage photos. [Â©2018 Hyperbolium]
After a two year fight to break his heavy-handed contract with Fantasy Records, San Francisco pianist Vince Guaraldi was free to follow his muse, and be compensated fairly for doing so. His first outing, the self-released Vince Guaraldi with the San Francisco Boys Choir, failed to gain any traction, and he subsequently signed a deal with Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. Omnivoreâ€™s 2-CD set collects the albums that Guaraldi recorded for the label in 1968 and 1969, Oh, Good Grief!, The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi and Alma-Ville, and adds four previously unreleased bonus tracks to lead off disc two.
Guaraldi won a 1963 Grammy for â€œCast Your Fate to the Windâ€ and was praised for his work with guitarist Bola Sete, but it was the 1965 soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas that catapulted his music from jazz clubs into American households. He returned to the Peanuts canon for his first album with Warner Bros., revisiting eight selections with a quartet that included electric guitar, bass and drums. Guaraldi opens the set with a new recording of his most famous composition, â€œLinus and Lucy,â€ and its hurried tempo and electric harpsichord flourishes are more big city bustle than the joyous dance of the original.
The harpsichord steps to the fore to open the waltz-time â€œYouâ€™re in Love, Charlie Brownâ€ falling back to vamp as Guaraldi solos on piano. The piano and harpsichord trade the spotlight throughout the album, with only â€œGreat Pumpkin Waltzâ€ and â€œRain, Rain Go Awayâ€ given fully to acoustic piano. The band swings, and the piano and guitar solos add soul, but the electric harpsichord doesnâ€™t provide Guaraldiâ€™s touch the musical colors of the piano, and now sounds more like an anachronistic infatuation than a solid artistic choice. That said, the harpsichord doesnâ€™t dominate to the point of distraction.
By the autumn of 1968, Guaraldi had grown out his hair and started jamming with the likes of Jerry Garcia. The San Francisco rock sceneâ€™s influence is heard both overtly and implicitly on his next album, as Guaraldi stretches out in new musical directions. Self-produced, and recorded over several months with a variety of drummers, bassists and guitarists, Guaraldi even included a string section on a few tracks. The opener has a pensive Latin influence, but with arching string lines that suggest grand landscapes, while the longer jams â€œLuciferâ€™s Ladyâ€ and â€œCoffee and Doe-Nutsâ€ feature driving, progressive solos.
Stretching even further, a vocal cover of Tim Hardinâ€™s â€œBlack Sheep Boyâ€ brings to mind trumpeter Jack Sheldon, but Hardinâ€™s â€œReason to Believeâ€ shows off Guaraldiâ€™s limitations as a singer. The harpsichord on Sonny & Cherâ€™s â€œThe Beat Goes Onâ€ sounds more like a primitive synthesizer than a keyboard, and the strings on the Beatlesâ€™ â€œYesterdayâ€ sound like Muzak. Guaraldi plays thoughtfully on a cover of â€œIt Was a Very Good Year,â€ and finds some life in his electric harpsichord on a swinging cover of â€œDo You Know the Way to San Jose.â€ The latter is offered here as a bonus track from the original sessions, alongside a alternate take of â€œThe Beat Goes Onâ€ whose jamming improves upon than the album cut.
The renowned that Guaraldi had earned back with his first Warner Bros. album dissipated with the lack of response to the second, and the label brought Shorty Rogers on board to produce his third and final effort. Guaraldi also returned to acoustic piano and wrote the bulk of the albumâ€™s material, giving the album a coherency the previous effort lacked. Guaraldi warmed up with Rogers in the producers seat with an organ-based instrumental cover of Edwin Hawkinsâ€™ â€œOh Happy Dayâ€ and the speedy original â€œThe Sharecropperâ€™s Daughter.â€ Neither were used for the the album, and are offered here as bonus tracks.
Alma-ville returns Guaraldiâ€™s piano to the fore, opening with the Latin-tinged theme for Snoopyâ€™s arm-wrestling alter ego, â€œThe Masked Marvel,â€ and offering thoughtful variations on â€œEleanor Rigby.â€ Colin Baileyâ€™s cymbal work adds just the right push to Guaraldiâ€™s right hand and Herb Ellisâ€™ guitar solo on the original â€œDetained in San Ysidro,â€ and the rhythm section swings hard on a then-new arrangement of the title tune. Duke Personâ€™s â€œCristo Redntor,â€ previously recorded in definitive versions by both Pearson and Donald Byrd, is an album highlight, opening in a meditative mood before transitioning to a more lively tempo.
Sadly, despite Alma-villeâ€™s focussed song list and deep artistry, its predecessor had sacrificed the labelâ€™s goodwill, and the album went unpromoted, leaving Guaraldiâ€™s tenure at Warner Bros. to live in the shadow of his earlier work for Fantasy. Of his three albums for Warners, only the commercially successful Oh, Good Grief! remained in steady circulation, making this complete set the first widely-available retelling of Guaraldiâ€™s quirky, but fruitful last recording tenure. A must-have for Guaraldiâ€™s fans, and a welcome second chapter for those whoâ€™ve worn out their copies of A Charlie Brown Christmas. [Â©2018 Hyperbolium]