Posts Tagged ‘Riverside’

Chet Baker: Plays the Best of Lerner & Loewe

Friday, December 27th, 2013

ChetBaker_PlaysTheBestOfLernerAndLoeweChet Baker chills out on Broadway

This 1959 recording, the last of trumpeter Chet Baker’s albums for Riverside, was also on the leading edge of jazz artists exploring material from Broadway musicals. Shelly Manne’s My Fair Lady had made a tremendous splash in 1956, and Baker’s own Chet included tunes from Rogers & Hart and Kurt Weill. Backed here by Herbie Mann, Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans and a rhythm section of Earl May and Clifford Jarvis, the interpretations are lyrical, and as you’d expect from Baker, cool. Half of the eight tracks are from My Fair Lady, and the contrasts with Manne’s interpretations are many. “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” is more forlorn than delicate with its loss. “I Could Have Danced All Night” is turned from a Latin rhythm and Andre Previn’s quick fingers to the lighter mood of Mann’s woodwinds and Baker’s trumpet. “On the Street Where You Live” features the interplay of Baker’s trumpet and Adams’ baritone, and “Show Me” finds the band heating things up a bit, with Mann and Sims offering compelling solos.

The album’s four remaining titles were drawn from Brigadoon, Gigi and Paint Your Wagon. “Heather on the Hill” is more reserved than the Broadway score, losing the expectation of the original’s lyric to a drowsy backing with contemplative trumpet and flute leads. A breezy reading of “Almost Like Being in Love” reflects the lyric’s unbridled joy, and Baker’s lead on “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” is more introspective than Maurice Chevaliar’s trademark performance. There’s nothing particularly revelatory about these interpretations – neither about the musicians or the music. But in a sense, that’s the album’s proposition: Frederick Loewe’s melodies are fetching, Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics give story to the instrumental leads, and the musicians play true to their usual excellent form. The 2013 reissue of this title features a 24-bit Joe Tarantino remaster of the original eight tracks, Orin Keepnews’ original liners and new notes by James Rozzi. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Wes Montgomery: SO Much Guitar!

Friday, December 27th, 2013

WesMontgomery_SoMuchGuitarExpanded reissue of classic 1961 Montgomery LP

Montgomery’s fourth album for the Riverside label, recorded in 1961, finds the inimitable guitarist leading a quintet of Hank Jones, Ron Carter, Lex Humphries and Ray Barretto on a set that mixes originals (“Twisted Blues” and “Something Like Bags”) with well-selected standards. The group comes out charging hard with Montgomery picking firm and fast as the rhythm section swings with all due speed. Carter’s bass provides both rhythm and a melodic foil for the guitar, and Jones’ fleet fingers prove a good match for Montgomery’s thumb. The ballads show another fully-formed side of Montgomery’s playing, with the highly-charged percussive picking giving way to more fluid and introspective lines, such as on the unaccompanied “While We’re Young.” The mid-tempo “I’m a Lucky So and So” allows the band to swing as Montgomery explores the song’s melodic theme in his lead, finally giving way to Jones for a bluesy 32-bars. The album closes with a truly sublime reading of “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” whose drowsy tempo takes the place of Johnny Mercer’s late-night lyrics.

The album’s original eight studio tracks are augmented on the 2013 reissue by eight live recordings made with the Montgomery Brothers (Wes, Buddy and Monk) and drummer Paul Humphrey. Recorded in a Vancouver club in 1961, the sound is actually crisper than the studio tracks, and the leads are shared between Wes’ guitar and Monk’s vibraphone. These live tracks have been previously released on the compilation Groove Brothers, but they make a nice complement to this album, filling out the disc to 79 minutes. The new 10-page booklet includes Orrin Keepnews’ original liners, new notes by Marc Myers and original front- and back-cover art. As with other recent Concord reissues of the Riverside catalog, this disc features a new 24-bit remaster by Joe Tarantino. The new CD is substantially louder than the 1987 reissue, which may be why the high end sounds better articulated (which, thankfully, doesn’t make the loudest piano notes any more of a problem than on the previous CD). Whether or not the sonic changes provide an upgrade, the added live tracks are a worthwhile get. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Cannonball Adderley with Milt Jackson: Things Are Getting Better

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

CannonballAdderley_ThingsAreGettingBetterTwo jazz masters meet with a dynamite rhythm section

This 1958 session finds alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley in session with Modern Jazz Quartet vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and a three-piece rhythm section of Wynton Kelly (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Jazz Messengers leader, Art Blakey (drums). Jackson’s playing makes both a brilliantly smooth tonal partner for Adderley’s sax, and a rhythmic complement to Heath and Blakey’s beats. The opening “Blues Oriental” provides a blue mix of piano, vibes and sax, backed by Blakey’s moody tom-toms and Heath’s superb bass line. Kelly and Jackson tip off a lighter, more optimistic mood for Adderley’s title cut, with the saxophonist swinging happily as he trades solos with Jackson and Kelly. The quintet simmers on “Serves Me Right,” with the rhythm section providing drowsy, late-night backing to Adderley and Jackson. And so the set runs, moving between Dizzy Gillespie’s mid-tempo “Groovin’ High” and Eubie Blake’s “The Sidewalks of New York,” Adderley’s relaxed “Sounds for Sid” and an upbeat reading of Cole Porter’s “Just One Those Things.” The rhythm section proves both solid and flexible, adding a kick to the mid-tempo numbers and providing laid back atmosphere for the ballads. The 2013 reissue of this title was remastered in 24-bits by Joe Tarantino, and includes three bonus tracks. The first of the three is a little less than a minute of studio chatter, while the latter two provide alternate takes of “Serves Me Right” and “The Sidewalks of New York.” This is a terrific showcase for Adderley and Jackson, and a good example of how alto and vibraphone play together. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Bill Evans Trio: How My Heart Sings!

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

BillEvans_HowMyHeartSingsBill Evans re-emerges after the death of Scott LaFaro

Following the untimely 1961 death of his musical foil, Scott La Faro, pianist Bill Evans disappeared for several months. He re-emerged in early 1962 with a new trio that brought bassist Chuck Israels into the fold. The trio recorded two albums in mid-year sessions, a collection of ballads entitled Moon Beams, and this set of mid- and up-tempo numbers. Israels occupied a more traditional spot in the trio, fluidly marking time and taking a few introspective solos, and the change in balance pushed Evans piano forward as a lead “singing” voice. Drummer Paul Motian also falls back slightly, drumming with crisp, light strokes that add delicate accents to Evans solos. Both percussionists stoke the rhythm for hotter numbers like “Walking Up,” but it’s the trio’s more delicate moments that find the most cohesion here. The song list is stocked with well-selected standards that, while not particularly revelatory, fit the trio well. OJC’s 2013 reissue includes three bonus tracks: “In Your Own Sweet Way [Take 2],” which was included on earlier reissues, and “34 Skidoo [Take 9]” and “Ev’rything I Love [Take 2],” which are being released for the first time. Joe Tarantino remastered the disc in 24-bits, and the original liners (by Bill Evans and Orrin Keepnews) are extended with new notes by Doug Ramsey. This is a nice upgrade from earlier reissues. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Thelonious Monk: The Very Best Of

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

TheloniousMonk_TheVeryBestOfWell-picked introduction to mid-50s Monk

Concord’s 10-track disc provides an introduction to Monk’s mid-50s recordings for the Prestige and Riverside labels. Collected here are prime examples of Monk in mid-career as an iconoclastic pianist, writer of jazz standards, and a band leader who attracted spectacular players to his sessions. Among the notable compositions are “Blue Monk,” “Ruby, My Dear” and “’Round Midnight,” and the sessions are highlighted by the talents of Percy Heath, Art Blakey, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Haynes and many more. This is neither a full-telling of Monk’s career, which also included key recordings on Blue Note and Columbia, nor of his entire six year run on Prestige and Riverside (the original albums of which are mostly still in print); but for an introduction to Monk’s music, this is a good place to start. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

The Bill Evans Trio: The Very Best Of

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

BillEvansTrio_TheVeryBestOfShort but well-picked introduction to Evans’ most fertile period

Bill Evans had a long and successful career, but the high point has always remained the trio he formed with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian in 1959. This eleven-track disc selects tracks from four of the trio’s albums, Portrait in Jazz, Explorations, Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard. The latter two, recorded live at New York’s Village Vanguard, were both career highlights and the end of the road; LaFaro was killed in a car accident just ten days after the shows were recorded. Evans returned to the trio format after LaFaro’s passing (with Chuck Israels filling the bass spot), but never again reached the depth of musical conversation engendered by this original trio. Rather than playing as a pianist against a percussion section, the trio played as equals, with each of the players shifting and moving the music of the other two rather than simply stepping up for a spotlighted solo and then stepping back. Though the original albums (or The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings) provide greater depth, this budget-priced sixty-three minute collection is an excellent introduction to the trio’s invention. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Wes Montgomery: The Very Best of

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Solid picks from Wes Montgomery’s years on Riverside

Guitarist Wes Montgomery had an unusually long incubation as a supporting player, and a too-short time as a leader. Throughout the 1940s and ‘50s he toured and played sessions for others, finally breaking through as a leader with a series of late-50s and early-60s releases for Riverside. Montgomery’s run with the label, sampled here, continued throughRiverside’s demise in the wake of its co-founder’s death in 1963, at which point he moved to Verve, and subsequently to A&M. It was at the last stop where the guitarist’s fame grew into the mainstream via his explorations of hit pop melodies, but this earlier work, with his sumptuous tone set against piano- and organ-trios and -quartets remains his definitive musical signature.

The eleven tracks cover the years 1959 through 1963, stretching from The Wes Montgomery Trio through Boss Guitar, omitting selections from a number of excellent albums along the way. Montgomery is heard playing with a number of rhythm sections that include his brothers Buddy and Monk, Ron Carter, Philly Joe Jones, Percy Heath, Paul Chambers, along with Mel Rhyne (Hammond), Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan (piano) and Milt Jackson (vibes). The only reed in this collection is Johnny Griffin’s tenor on a live take of the Montgomery original “Cariba.” The set features several jazz favorites, including a meditative reading of Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” and a swinging version of west coast pianist Carl Perkins’ “Groove Yard.”

Montgomery’s guitar is brilliantly engaging throughout, whether vamping behind other soloists or playing one of his wonderfully fluid leads. He picks percussively against the stabs of Rhyne’s B-3 and Jimmy Cobb’s ride cymbal on an upbeat take of “Besame Mucho” and shares the spotlight with Milt Jackson and Wynton Kelly on “Delilah.” The eleven tracks, clocking in at just over an hour, are a fair sample of Montgomery’s run on Riverside, but for those without the rest of the catalog, this will merely whet your appetite for the individual albums. For those willing to go all-in, check out The Complete Riverside Recordings. This is a good place to start; just don’t expect it to be your last Wes Montgomery purchase. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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]

The Bill Evans Trio: Moon Beams

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Bill Evans meditates on the loss of Scott LaFaro

After redefining the piano trio on a series of albums for Riverside, Bill Evans had his musical foil taken from him with the 1961 car accident that killed bassist LaFaro. Perhaps most difficult was that LaFaro’s death came less than two weeks after the trio made their tour de force stand at the Village Vanguard, as subsequently memorialized on the albums Sunday at the Village Vangaurd and Waltz for Debby. Evans withdrew from performing for several months before reemerging in 1962, with Chuck Israels filling the bass slot, with this album of ballads. The interplay of the previous trio is still to be heard, but Evans piano, pensive but not moody, steps more assertively forward.Israels’ warm tone provides a soothing bottom end for Evans’ rhythmic chords and solo flights, and Paul Motian’s drumming, particularly in the sparser passages, keeps Evans moving without pushing the tempos. This is a beautifully expressive album from start to finish. [©2012 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]