Posts Tagged ‘Riverside’

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]

Thelonious Monk Septet: Monk’s Music

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Monk gains both critical and popular acclaim

By 1957, Thelonious Monk had been on the jazz scene for more than a decade, but his genius wasn’t yet recognized by much of the listening public. His compositions had found favor with other musicians, and he’d gained some notice as a sideman, but his unique style – both as a musician and as a person – obscured the depth of his invention. Having signed to Riverside in 1955 he recorded standards, Duke Ellington covers, and a widely recognized album of originals, Brilliant Corners, but it was this 1957 session that really solidified public opinion in his favor. Working with a septet that included both Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane on tenor sax, you could hear history’s page turning between the former’s warm-toned balladry on “Ruby, My Dear” and the latter’s modern improvisation. Coltrane was also just emerging as a star, having established himself with Miles Davis, and having led his first session the previous month.

The septet was anchored by the steady swing of Art Blakey and Wilbur Ware, and the horn section is filled out by Ray Copeland on trumpet and Gigi Gryce on alto saxophone. The four-horn lineup creates more solo variations; when playing as a section they could sound orchestral, or with Monk and Blakey pushing the rhythm, like the front-line of a big band. The selections mostly revisit tunes from Monk’s catalog, giving the pianist an opportunity to rethink his compositions, and the band an opportunity to create new interpretations that, in a few cases (such as “Ruby, My Dear”), might be considered definitive. The album’s one new composition is “Crepuscule with Nellie,” a song written by Monk for his wife, and the source of some frustration in the studio; the album’s original take is complemented here with an alternate that edits together pieces of two other takes. Alternates of “Off Minor” and a studio blues jam are also included. OJC’s 2011 reissue features a new 24-bit remaster by Joe Tarntino, new liner notes by Ashley Kahn, and the album’s original liner notes by session producer Orrin Keepnews. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers: Ugetsu

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

24-bit remaster of 1963 live jazz classic

Art Blakey’s June, 1963 Birdland date with the Jazz Messengers (Freddie Hubbard-trumpet; Curtis Fuller-trombone; Wanye Shorter-tenor sax; Cedar Walton-piano; Reggie Workan-bass; Art Blakey-drums) has been reissued several times before, and deservedly so. This was one of Blakey’s best line-ups of a band that had a wealth of talented musicians pass through its ranks. It’s also a superb live date, supplemented by the introduction of original material that remained in the group’s repertoire for years. This latest CD reissue features a fresh 24-bit remaster by Joe Tarantino, new liner notes by Neil Tesser (in addition to the original notes by Ed Sherman and Orin Keepnews) and a fourth bonus track to augment the three offered on previous editions. The sound quality of this recording has always been very good, though not great; the soloists are crisp and out front (Fuller and Hubbard, in particular, really shine), but the backing combo can get a bit muddy when Blakey really gets moving. The previously unreleased track is a cover of George Shearing’s late-40s classic “Conception,” featuring both drum and bass solos, and interesting unison horn playing. This album remains a real treat for jazz fans, and with a new 24-bit master and an added bonus track, it’s a tempting update even for those who own another recent digital edition. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Chet Baker: Sings – It Could Happen to You

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

West Coast vocal cool meets East Coast instrumental swing

Concord Records initiated a new pass through their Original Jazz Classics catalog in March of 2010, and they now add five more titles to the program. Each reissue features a new 24-bit remaster by Joe Tarantino, extensive liner notes, and bonus tracks. By the time of this initial 1958 session for Riverside, Baker had been complementing his trumpet playing with vocal turns for several years. This release expands upon the vocal talent shown in earlier Pacific Jazz sessions: the tone of his voice is still startlingly pure, but the intimacy of West Coast cool has become even more pronounced in his style. Baker’s vocal lines often mimic what he might play on the trumpet, but the mechanics of trumpet valves don’t impact his singing, giving the transitions a smoothness that separates his singing from his horn playing. The material selected for these sessions is drawn primarily from the great American songbook, but his then current quartet of Kenny Drew (piano), Philly Joe Jones/Dannie Richmond (drums), and George Morrow/Sam Jones (bass) are driven more by the rhythms than the melodies, particularly on the tracks featuring Jones. Baker seems more comfortable with the songs than those on this earlier vocal sets, swinging freely (though still quite coolly – compare his take on “You Make Me Feel So Young” with Sinatra’s 1956 version) and indulging his voice more naturally than before. The element of surprise that came with earlier vocal outings was dispelled by this point, but the quiet strength of his singing is still completely mesmerizing. Baker plays his horn only occasionally, scat singing a few solos and giving pianist Drew several of the instrumental leads. Drew is also exceptional as an accompaniest – adding flavor without ever overwhelming Baker’s vocals. Concord’s 2010 reissue of this set adds four bonus tracks, “While My Lady Sleeps,” and “You Make Me Feel So Young,” both of which were on the original Original Jazz Classics CD reissue, and alternates of the album tracks “The More I See You” and “Everything Happens to Me.” The fold-out booklet includes full-panel reproductions of the original covers (front and back), Orrin Keepnews’ original album notes, and new liners by Doug Ramsey. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Wes Montgomery: Boss Guitar

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

The boss of the jazz guitar in a stellar ’63 trio setting

Concord Records initiated a new pass through their Original Jazz Classics catalog in March of 2010, and they now add five more titles to the program. Each reissue features a new 24-bit remaster by Joe Tarantino, extensive liner notes, and bonus tracks. This 1963 set finds jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery at the peak of his creative powers, backed by the talented Mel Rhyne on Hammond B-3 and the sharp-as-a-tack swing of Jimmy Cobb on drums. Montgomery’s tone is both smooth and penetrating, and he’s as mesmerizing playing upbeat romps as he is laying back into ballads. The fluid paths taken by his solo improvisations feel fresh and spontaneous, and his chords are complex yet remain musical. The album is filled with the grooves of Rhyne’s organ playing, but the slow numbers, including Henry Mancini’s “Days of Wine and Roses” and a serene take on Eddie Heywood’s “Canadian Sunset” are winningly thoughtful. Montgomery thrived in the trio format, and the mix of up-tempo, ballad, original and cover material, along with straight and Latin-inflected rhythms, give this album terrific range and balance. It’s been fifteen years since the last domestic reissue of this title, so it’s great to have modern digital practices applied to this classic. The bonus tracks are alternate takes of the album tracks “Besame Mucho,” “The Trick Bag” and “Fried Pies,” and the fold-out booklet includes full-panel reproductions of the original covers (front and back), Joe Goldberg’s original album notes, and new liners by Neil Tesser that include fresh interview material with Rhyne and Cobb. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]