Sunday, March 17, 2019

Nat "King" Cole, pianist

In this week of jazz centennials (Mercer Ellington on the 11th, George Avakian on the 15th, Lennie Tristano on the 19th), today we celebrate Nat "King" Cole's. He was a great singer, especially given his limited resources and a popular entertainer. He was also a terribly influential pianist—Lennie Tristano and Hank Jones certainly listened to him—who helped establish the piano trio, albeit with a guitar instead of drums, the format Oscar Peterson, another Cole fan, maintained until mid-1959.

Cole recorded a lot with his trio, both for commercial release (for Decca, and later Capitol) and for radio broadcast (or transcriptions). Among the latter, there is a recording called "Miss Thing", effectively a reduction to the trio of the Count Basie Orchestra side "Miss Thing (Part II)", which shows a lesser known aspect of Cole's musicianship.

Basie's "Miss Thing (Part II)" (early 1939)



Cole's "Miss Thing" (late 1943)


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Jacob Rex Zimmerman

Jacob Rex Zimmerman

As his website explains, Jacob Zimmerman is a sax and clarinet player based in Seattle. He's 32, and he has two records out focusing on jazz as it was played in the 1940s. The earlier one, Recording Ban, refers to the stoppage to commercial recording imposed by union boss James Petrillo, starting in August 1, 1942 and ending in 1943-44 (depending on the record label). The title of his latest record, More of That, sounds like a reference to the previous one, delving as it does in music from around those years.

Revivalism in jazz in a tricky subject, open to all sorts of questions, starting with whether it should be done at all. For the epicurean listener who enjoys the records of that kind of music, the chance to hear it re-recorded or, better still, live, will always be welcome, despite the obvious risk for disappointment, proportional to the listener's familiarity with the originals on record.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Off jazz: 12 by Ordinarius

Ordinarius—a word-play after their musical director and arranger, Augusto Ordine—is the name of a vocal sextet faring from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Left to right: Maíra Martins, Augusto Ordine, Matias Corrêa, Fabiano Salek,
Beatriz Coimbra, Mateus Xavier, Rebeca Vieira.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Bird quotes Satchmo

When Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie burst into the jazz scene in the mid-1940s, much was made of the presumed animosity between the new and the older generations of musicians. Although there were some noises in that direction, let's just say that jazz journalism paid a lot off attention to celebrity status, fans and gossip.

Back in 1928, Louis Armstrong recorded this classic cadenza as the opening for his "West End Blues":



Charlie Parker must have paid attention, since he used it twenty years after Armstrong, at least twice on record, both times while playing the blues, one at Carnegie Hall on Christmas day, 1949:



the other at St. Nicholas Arena in New York (St. Nick's), a couple of months later:

Friday, August 24, 2018

Zoot greets Getz

Zoot Sims, Tião Neto, Stan Getz at A&R Studios, NYC. March 18/19, 1963
(Photo by Jim Marshall. Source: JazzTimes.)

Zoot Sims (left) and Stan Getz (right) had a common history beginning in the summer of 1947 in a rehearsal band for which Gene Roland wrote the arrangements. This eight-piece group led by trumpet player Tommy DeCarlo and also comprising Herbie Steward and Jimmy Giuffre was spotted by Ralph Burns and eventually led to Woody Herman's signing of the saxes minus Giuffre—Herman had already signed Serge Chaloff for the bari chair.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Gil Evans recycles

Before the career-changing album that was Miles Ahead for both Miles Davis and Gil Evans, the latter was making a living out of odd jobs and small assignments. Like this arrangement of "Miss Brown to You" for Kent Harian, for instance (the only one by Evans in the album Echoes of Joy):




When Harian recorded his album, in December 1956, Evans was already hard at work on Miles Ahead, which would be released the following October. Some weeks earlier, he was in the studio, courtesy of Prestige—Miles's previous label—, to do Gil Evans & Ten, his first album as a leader, at age 45. One of its better known tracks is his reading of the bloody ballad "Ella Speed", with a classic solo by Steve Lacy, and this passage for the ensemble:



Monday, July 16, 2018

Image and sound: Webster Hall, 1956

One satisfaction of researching jazz photography—for it is a lot of fun—is the rare occasion when the images can be married to sounds. The book The Sound I Saw (Phaidon Press, 2011) by Roy DeCarava (1919-2009) includes a beautiful collection of black and white images, many of jazz musicians, with no credit whatsoever. Checking faces, names and discographies like this one, there are two photographs which can be pinned down, taken at the magnificent Webster Hall, RCA's regular studio in NYC at the time. These:
Tony Scott and orchestra, Webster Hall, NYC,
Friday, December 14, 1956
Left to right: Frank Foster, Danny Bank (with back to the camera), Frank Wess, Sahib Shihab,
Gigi Gryce, Tony Scott; same date and location.