Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Carmen McRae - Birds of a Feather ft. Ben Webster (Decca 1958)

Yes, there's a concept on the loose here -- all the songs are about birds. Fortunately, there are plenty of good songs on the subject, and it's not so narrow that all the focus hinges on birds themselves. Add horn men Ben Webster and Al Cohn to McRae's enigmatic, dark contralto voice and you get the general idea.

1. Skylark
2. Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight?)
3. Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, A
4. Mister Meadowlark
5. Bye Bye Blackbird
6. Flamingo
7. The Eagle and Me
8. Baltimore Oriole
9. When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along
10. Chicken Today and Feathers Tomorrow
11. When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano
12. His Eye Is on the Sparrow

Personnel: Carmen McRae (vocals); Barry Galbraith, Mundell Lowe (guitar); Al Cohn, Ben Webster (tenor saxophone); Irwin "Marky" Markowitz (trumpet); Dick Berg, Fred Klein, Donald Corrado (French horn); Don Abney (piano); Don Lamond, Todd Sommer, Nick Stabulas (drums).

Liner Note Author: Burt Korall.

Recording information: New York, NY (08/04/1958-08/08/1958).

Director: Ralph Burns.

Arrangers: Milt Gabler; Ralph Burns.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dr. John performing the music of Duke Ellington - Duke Elegant (1999)

Dr. John (a.k.a. Mac Rebennack) may have been a couple of months late in releasing this Duke Ellington centennial tribute, but his execution of these legendary numbers is still a delight. Rather than handling each classic as if it were a delicate museum piece to be treated with kid gloves, Rebennack instead infuses them with his signature style, which leans more toward New Orleans R&B. Songs such as "I'm Gonna Go Fishin" and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" are given light funk workouts dominated by chugging grooves and popping bass. The album constantly shifts gears, as Dr. John turns "Satin Doll" into a latin shuffle, hops on the organ to inject some Jimmy Smith-flavored phrasing into "Perdido," and transforms "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" into a Meters-like workout. Dr. John's brightest moments come on "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "Flaming Sword." Rebennack transforms the former from wistful ballad into an upbeat declaration of freedom while on the latter, his piano breezily dances along the top of a syncopated rhythm in a manner reminiscent of his late friend James Booker. So in a nutshell the Duke gets pure fonk-i-fied by the good Dr.

1. On the Wrong Side of the Railroad Tracks
2. I'm Gonna Go Fishin'
3. It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
4. Perdido Street Blues
5. Don't Get Around Much Anymore
6. Solitude
7. Satin Doll
8. Mood Indigo
9. Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me
10. Things Ain't What They Used to Be
11. Caravan
12. The Flaming Sword

Personnel: Dr. John (vocals, piano, Hammond B-3 organ); Bobby Broom (guitar, background vocals); Ronnie Cuber (saxophone); David Barard (bass, background vocals); Herman Ernest III (drums, background vocals); Cyro Baptista (percussion).

Recorded at RPM Sound Studios, New York, New York. Includes liner notes by Dr. John.