Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Ray Brown, Mickey Roker

In the autumnal phase of his recording career, Dizzy Gillespie was reunited with Jazz At The Philharmonic producer Norman Granz for a series of finely crafted recordings on his Pablo label (so named because Granz financed the label by selling off some of his valuable Picassos).

These later recordings are often mistakenly undervalued by critics, despite their superb production values, dynamic acoustic sound, and generally provocative mix of players and musical materials. DIZZY'S BIG 4 is one of the very best, featuring a dream team rhythm section that responds to all of Gillespie's virtuoso challenges, and then some. Ray Brown is one of the all-time greats, who startled the jazz world when he first emerged as Dizzy's bassist while still in his teens; drummer Mickey Roker is a commanding percussionist and long-time Gillespie collaborator, while guitarist Joe Pass is a stellar virtuoso, with a series of excellent recitals of his own on Pablo.

Gillespie is in a particularly puckish mood on these sessions. Where the youthful Gillespie might have ordinarily opted for more of the bravura pyrotechnics, represented herein by the relentlessly uptempo changes of "Be Bop (Dizzy's Fingers)," DIZZY'S BIG 4 is distinguished by the ballads "Hurry Home," "Russian Lullaby" and "September Song." Here the trumpeter's rich timbral shadings plumb deep new meaning from these familiar melodies. Most impressive is Dizzy's depth and range as a blues player, which further enlivens his improvisations on Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," his own latin styled funk on "Frelimo" and the hard bopping "Birks Works."

1.Frelimo 8:06 (Gillespie)
2.Hurry Home 6:20 (Meyer/Emmerich/Bernier)
3.Russian Lullaby 6:46 (I. Berlin)
4.Be Bop (Dizzy's Fingers) 4:26 (Gillespie)
5.Birks Works 8:48 (Dizzy Gillespie)
6.September Song 2:45 (M. Anderson/K. Weill)
7.Jitterbug Waltz 6:49 (Fats Waller)

Dizzy Gillespie t
Joe Pass g
Ray Brown b
Mickey Roker d

Recorded at Cherokee Recording Studios, Hollywood, California on September 17 & 19, 1974. Originally released on Pablo (2310-719). Produced by Norman Granz.Includes liner notes by Benny Green.
Digitally remastered by Phil De Lancie (Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California).

Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie essential recording
This 1977 date joins two jazz giants with contrasting approaches: Gillespie's explosive bop trumpet virtuosity and Basie's laconic piano style. The bare-bones quartet format--with the sterling rhythm team of bassist Ray Brown and drummer Mickey Roker--does nothing to conceal the differences, but it sets up a comfortable middle ground that accommodates swing and bop nuances alike. Differences apart, the co-leaders share infectious warmth, a deep feeling for the blues, and an absolute compulsion to swing. Basie's understatement triggers some of Gillespie's most thoughtful playing of his later career, developing long, intricate solos that combine harmonic exploration and direct, speechlike inflections, often with the distinctive burr of a harmon mute. The settings--two Gillespie tunes, the ancient "St. James Infirmary," and a series of impromptu collaborations--are casual, doing nothing to encumber the musicians in a session they're clearly enjoying. --Stuart Broomer

1.Back To The Land 7:20
2.Constantinople 8:28
3.You Got It 5:21
4.St. James Infirmary 6:54
5.Follow The Leader 6:24
6.Ow 6:18

Count Basie p
Dizzy Gillespie t
Ray Brown b
Mickey Roker d

Recorded at Las Vegas Recording Studio, Las Vegas, NV; February 3, 1977 for Pablo Records. Produced by Norman Granz. Remastering 1996 - Phil De Lancie.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thelonious Monk Live at the It Club 1964

A lost Thelonious Monk treasure from the 60s -- a really open-ended live set recorded in LA in 1964, but not issued by Columbia until the early 80s -- making the package a wonderful re-discover of Monk's genius during these years! The tunes are much more freewheeling than some of the studio work cut by Monk's quartet at the time -- stretched out takes on Monkish favorites, played by Thelonious on piano, Charlie Rouse on tenor, Larry Gales on bass, and Ben Riley on drums -- all with plenty of room for extended solos. This wonderful 2CD package brings together the complete recordings from the show -- offering up many tracks in their full recorded versions, and adding in a few unreleased tracks too -- titles that include "Bemsha Swing", "Blue Monk", "Well You Needn't", "Misterioso", "Gallops Gallop", "Teo", "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You", "All The Things You Are", "Blues Five Spot", "Evidence", "Bright Mississippi", and "Nutty". Dusty Groove America

Recorded over two evenings in Los Angeles in 1964 and arranged in order, this recording presents the great Thelonious Monk at the peak of his considerable talents--and with his most enduring sidemen, including saxophonist Charlie Rouse and drummer Ben Riley. This version also restores 11 (!) cuts to their entirety (previous versions edited or offered shortened bass and drum solos). Aside from the now-complete versions of the set's songs, this It Club also offers three previously unreleased songs ("Teo," "Bright Mississippi," and "Just You, Just Me") and 20-bit digital remastering. The result is perhaps as close as we can come to a great-sounding complete show by one of the most fertile minds in the history of jazz. While not one of Monk's wilder live sessions, this set nonetheless effortlessly communicates the pianist's offbeat genius. From the first note, the sound (which thanks to the remaster, begs for high volume) is classic Monk: inquisitive right-hand chord exploration, thundering left-hand exclamations, and intoxicating runs up and down the keyboard fly from his fingers while the band gives him enough room so that every thought, strategy, and wild hare is allowed to range free. Highlights include an exquisitely gorgeous "I'm getting Sentimental over You", a spicy "Rhythm-A-Ning," and an uptempo "Bright Mississippi." With excellent liner notes by Bob Blumenthal and some new photos, this package rates as a must-buy for all Monkophiles.

...Very little of his recorded legacy has more of the feeling of spontaneity and joy at music-making than this set, recorded in 1964.... Never before released in its entirety, the set contains 27 minutes of previously unreleased titles plus original tracks restored to their full length for the first time. BBC magazine

Disc 1: Blue Monk; Well, You Needn’t; ‘Round Midnight; Rhythm-a-Ning; Blues Five Spot; Beshma Swing; Evidence; Nutty; Epistrophy (Theme).

Disc 2: Straight, No Chaser; Teo; I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; Misterioso; Gallop’s Gallop; Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-are; Bright Mississippi; Just You, Just Me; All The Things You Are; Epistrophy

Thelonious Monk (piano)
Charlie Rouse (tenor sax)
Larry Gales (bass)
Ben Riley (drums)

Recorded live at the “It” Club, Los Angeles CA, on October 31st and November 1st 1964.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Billy Cobham

Coming to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s with trumpeter Miles Davis and then with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cobham is, in the words of critic Steve Huey, "generally acclaimed as fusion's greatest drummer," and "one of the best [drummers] in the world" with an influential style that combines explosive power and exacting precision.

This 1987 compilation documenting his Atlantic period ably demonstrates what a hell of a musician Cobham is (and a great guy speaking from personal experience). Snoopy's Search/Red Baron from his mega-hit Spectrum LP alone warrants the price of admission.


1 Quadrant 4 4:30
2 Snoopy's Search / Red Baron 7:39
3 Spanish Moss 4:08
4 Moon Germs 4:55
5 Stratus 9:50
6 The Pleasant Pheasant 5:11
7 Solo / Panhandler 4:06
8 Do What Cha Wanna 4:35

Tracks 1,2 and 5 from Atlantic SD 7268 ''Spectrum'' LP.
Tracks 3 and 6 from Atlantic 7300 ''Crosswinds'' LP.
Track 4 from Atlantic 18121 ''Total Eclipse'' LP.
Track 7 from Atlantic SD 18149 ''A Funky Thide Of Sings'' LP.
Track 8 from Atlantic SD 18194 ''The Billy Cobham / George Duke Band Live'' LP.