Tuesday, 27 February 2018

30. Benny Goodman: The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert

Image result for benny goodman carnegie hall

An event that changed everything. For better or for worse this was the concert that made jazz acceptable (for want of a better word). Swing music was undoubtedly the most popular music in the land around this time but the idea of it being played in a place like Carnegie Hall in New York would have been deemed laughable in late 1937. Indeed the idea was mooted as a publicity stunt that Goodman at first was hesitant to entertain. Upon being convinced of the idea he set out to provide the audience at Carnegie Hall with a concert to remember.

Basically what emerged was a recording featuring members of the three biggest swing bands at the time; Duke Ellington's Orchestra, Count Basie's Orchestra and Goodman's own. You are talking Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa, Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Buck Clayton, Lester Young, Freddie Greene (taking a very rare solo), Walter Page and more.

It's well documented how nervy the start of the show was. Like two boxers in the early round of a fight, the audience and the musicians didn't want to dive headlong into the experience with much aplomb from the very beginning. Things begin quite tepidly with "Don't Be That Way". Tepid that is until Gene Krupa decides to wake everyone up with his bass drum. He then lets rip with a quite startling short drum solo that the audience fully appreciates. His snare and high hat leads the band to a fitting finale.

The musicians eventually got into their stride. Goodman saw fit to include a historical perspective of jazz music by including some dixieland tunes including "Sensation Rag" by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Musicians from all three bands teamed up on an extended version of "Honeysuckle Rose". Lester Young opens with a sensational solo (you can see why he was inspiring young players like Charlie Parker around this time) followed by the light fingered Basie himself on piano. Krupa, knowing the vibe of  Basie, kept things restrained on his part with his drumming smooth rather than bombastic. Buck Clayton's trumpet solo is followed in fine style by the alto of Johnny Hodges. Freddie Greene and (I assume) Walter Page establish why they were two parts of the finest rhythm section in musical history. Goodman demonstrates his chops with an impassioned solo followed by Harry James on trumpet. The two try to go toe-to-toe with Young for a few bars before the tenor saxophonist heavyweight puts them both on the canvas. Absolutely sublime stuff and surely one of the most significant recorded jam sessions in jazz history.

Arguably the most talked-about track of the album is it's finale, "Sing Sing Sing". Goodman knew he was holding an unpinned grenade in the talents of Gene Krupa and he didn't disappoint. The outro is nothing short of joyous. This version of the song should be held in the same regard as "West End Blues" and "Body And Soul" as absolute classics. Carnegie Hall hadn't experiences the likes of Krupa's African inspired floor tom beats and things would never be the same again.

The arguments of the effect of this concert on jazz are perhaps for another day. (Coleman Hawkins was to return from Europe in about a year's time and lay down "Body and Soul" onto acetate which would open up a schism in the jazz world.) I think the album needs to be listened to purely on its merits.

1. "Don't Be That Way"
2. "One O'Clock Jump"
3. "Sensation Rag"
4. "I'm Coming Virginia"
5. "When My Baby Smiles at Me"
6. "Shine"
7. "Blue Reverie"
8. "Life Goes to a Party"

1. "Honeysuckle Rose"
2. "Body and Soul"
3. "Avalon"
4. "The Man I Love"

1. "I Got Rhythm"
2. "Blue Skies"
3. "Loch Lomond"
4. "Blue Room"
5. "Swingtime in the Rockies"
6. "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen"
7. "China Boy"

1.     "Stompin' at the Savoy"
2. "Dizzy Spells"
3. "Sing Sing Sing (with a Swing)"
4. "Big John's Special"

Sunday, 5 November 2017

29. Lionel Hampton: Hamp The Legendary Decca Recordings

Image result for hamp legendary decca

Lionel Hampton came to prominence when he joined with Benny Goodman's orchestra in the 1930s. Goodman noticed him playing his vibraphone at a club in Los Angeles and immediately asked him to join himself, Gene Krupa and Teddy Wilson on their small combo recordings thus becoming the first racially integrated successful jazz group. Hampton, from Louisville Kentucky, had spent the previous decade touring with various groups as a flamboyant drummer or on the vibraphone (a recently invented musical instrument).

Hampton went on to form his own orchestra and became hugely successful in the 40s and 50s. His biggest hit "Flying Home" kicks things off here with a great sax solo from the up and coming Illinois Jacquet. The majority of the tracks in the first disc follow the big band mold but then things take a complete left turn with the song "Red Cross" with Charlie Parker blowing an unbelievable solo. Hampton wasn't cowed by the emergence of bebop. Also check out his note perfect solo on the 15 minute live version of "Stardust" featuring Charlie Shavers and Slam Stewart.

Hampton brought through and worked with a lot of up-and-coming young jazz stars. He can obviously be heard in a few of the tracks on Charlie Christian album "Genius Of The Jazz Guitar" due to the Benny Goodman connections. But this album also shows him working with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Wes Montgomery and even Charles Mingus on the track "Red Top". The jazz standard "Midnight Sun" is sublime in the hands of Hampton and his orchestra.

Hampton was to have a long career playing right up to the 1990s with infectious energy and  musicianship of the highest calibre.

Disc One
1. Flying Home
2. Hamp's Boogie Woogie
3. Million Dollar Smile
4. Red Cross
5.Hamp's Blues
6.Evil Gal Blues
7.Flying Home
8. Stardust
9. Ribs and Hot Sauce
10.Blow Top Blues
11. Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop
12. Rockin' in Rhythm, Pts. 1 & 2
13. Limehouse Blues
14. Tempo's Birthday
15. Jack the Fox Boogie

Disc Two
1. How High the Moon
2. Three Minutes on 52nd Street
3. Red Top
4. Mingus Fingers
5. Midnight Sun
6. Chicken Shack Boogie
7. Central Avenue Breakdown
8. Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee
9. Moonglow
10. The Hucklebuck
11. Lavender Coffin
12. Rag Mop
13. I Wish I Knew
14. There Will Never Be Another You
15. Pink Champagne
16. Memories of You
17. Time on My Hands
18. Easy to Love
19. Twentieth Century Boogie
20. Dancing on the Ceiling
21. How High The Moon

28. Billie Holiday & Lester Young (BD Jazz)

Billie & Lester by J. C. Baty

There are a few albums out there that bring compile the songs that Billie Holiday and Lester Young recorded together. Some of them are extraordinarily comprehensive but I felt the urge to include this one as I'm a bit of a sucker for those hybrid graphic novel/ CDs that are quite prevalent here in Europe. This is a two CD album with the first showcasing the two artists and the second focusing on Lester Young from as early as 1936's Shoe Shine Boy with Count Basie.

Lester Young and Billie Holiday were kindred spirits. Young's light but musically audacious tenor sax was the perfect foil for Holiday's vocal experimentation. The early tracks were recorded with various luminaries from Benny Goodman's and Count Basie's orchestras including Buck Clayton, Walter Page, Teddy Wilson, Freddie Greene and Jo Jones. This Year's Kisses is an absolute joy to listen to. Things then motor along beautifully with tracks included from an early summer 1937 session that included Johnny Hodges on the alto trading licks with Young. Mean To Me is one of the highlights of the whole album.

Back In Your Backyard is a fascinating track for the time it was recorded; January 12th 1938. It was four days later that Benny Goodman was to change the course of music history with his historic performance at Carnegie Hall and the after-show event that was to occur in Harlem where Chick Webb and Count Basie were to do battle. Billie and Lester were surely having the time of their lives.

The album then moves into the early 1940s with I'm Pulling Through and the fantastic All Of Me. All the musicians involved were truly at the top of their games at this stage. The first part of the album concludes with perhaps their most famous collaboration from the CBS TV special in 1957, Fine And Mellow. The first version is the rehearsal version and the second is the broadcast version with Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge and Gerry Mulligan.

1. He Ain't Got Rhythm
2. This Year's Kisses
3. I Must Have That Man
4. Sun Showers
5. Mean To Me
6. Foolin' Myself
7. I'll Never Be The Same
8. Me Myself And I
9. A Sailboat In The Moonlight
10. Born To Love
11. Who Wants Love?
12. He's Funny That Way.
13. When You're Smiling.
14. If Dreams Came True
15. Back In Your Backyard
16. I Can't Get Started
17. I've Got A Date With A Dream
18. The Man I Love
19. You're A Lucky Guy
20. I'm Pulling Through
21. All Of Me
22. Fine And Mellow (1)
23. Fine And Mellow (2)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

27. Duke Ellington (In The Thirties. Creole Rhapsody)

Creole Rhapsody: Duke Ellington in the Thirties

This album contains the most popular tracks that Duke Ellington recorded with his orchestra between 1930 and 1939. Swing didn't become the popular music of the day until around 1935 but the outings on this record ably demonstrate that the Duke had swing DNA in his blood long before that. Bubber Miley had sadly departed by this stage but Cootie Williams knew how to fill his shoes. All the regulars are here; Johnny Hodges, Tricky Sam, Sonny Greer, Rex Stewart and Wellman Braud to name but a few. A real soundtrack of the 1930's and a glimpse into Ellington's musical evolution into what was to become the seminal Blanton Webster band of the 1940s.

Disc One:

1. Jungle Nights in Harlem
2. Jungle Blues
3.Ring Dem Bells
4.Mood Indigo (Dreamy Blues)
5.Rockin' in Rhythm
6.Creole Rhapsody
7.Echoes of the Jungle
8. It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing
9. Lazy Rhapsody (Swannee River Rhapsody)
10. Blue Harlem
11. Swampy River
12. Blue Ramble
13. Lightnin'
14. Sophisticated Lady
15.Drop Me off at Harlem
16. Bundle of Blues (Dragon Blues)
17. Harlem Speaks
18.  Dear Old Southland
19. Daybreak Express
20. Stompy Jones
21. Solitude
22. Saddest Tale
23. Merry-Go-Round (Harlem Rhythm)

Disc Two:

1. In a Sentimental Mood
2. Showboat Shuffle
3. Reminiscing in Tempo
4. Oh, Babe! Maybe Someday
5. Four Concertos: Clarinet Lament (Barney's Concerto)
6. Four Concertos: Echoes of Harlem (Cootie's Concerto)
7. Four Concertos: Trumpet in Spades (Rex's Concerto)
8. Four Concertos: Yearning for Love (Lawrence's Concerto)
9.In a Jam
10. Uptown Downbeat (Black Out)
11. Caravan
12. Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
13. Harmony in Harlem
14. Ridin' on a Blue Note
15. The Gal from Joe's
16. I Let a Song Go out of My Heart
17. Rose of the Rio Grande
18. Prelude to a Kiss
19. Battle of Swing (Le Jazz Hot)
20. Blue Light (Transblucency)
21. Grievin'

Saturday, 21 March 2015

26. Mary Lou Williams 1930-1941 (Featuring Andy Kirk & His Twelve Clouds Of Joy)

Mary Lou Williams was one of the most important figures that emerged from the Kansas City jazz scene in the 1930s. She was a prolific arranger and composer as well as being extraordinary pianist who would go on to mentor the likes of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.

This album chronicles her main body of work from 1930 to 1941, a time when she hooked up with Andy Sirk who was to become one of the most successful band leaders of the swing era.

The album actually kicks off with Williams demonstrating her chops in the solo Night Life followed by a selection of songs from the Mary Lou Williams Trio which includes a wonderful rendition of Jelly Roll Morton's The Pearls. The majority of the album is made up with songs from the Twelve Clouds Of Joy including Walking And Swinging and my personal favourite, Little Joe From Chicago. 

Everything rounds off perfectly with the last three tracks Zonky, Baby Dear and Harmony Blues given the septet treatment with some great solos including Williams herself.

1. Night Life

2. Overhand (New Froggy Bottom)

3. Clean Pickin'

4. The Pearls

5. The Rocks

6. Walkin' and Swingin'

7. Moten Swing

8. Bear Cat Shuffle

9. Steppin' Pretty

10. Twinklin'

11. Little Joe from Chicago

12. Mess-A-Stomp

13. Mary's Idea

14. Scratchin' the Gravel

15. The Count

16. Ring dem Bells

17. 47th Street Jive

18. Zonky

19. Baby Dear

20. Harmony Blues

Saturday, 21 February 2015

25. The Quintessential Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grapelli. 1934 - 1940

Quintette du Hot Club de France: 25 Classics 1934-1940

Click here for my original blog post looking at Django and Stephane

While Swing was becoming the big big thing in the USA in the mid 1930's there was another, perhaps more experimental, brand of jazz that was beginning to take shape on the other side of the pond. The music produced by the Quintette Du Hot Club De Jazz would significantly alter the future of jazz and music in general, especially the direction of the guitar.

The Quintette produced an absolute plethora of recordings during this period but an album like this concisely showcases the main songs that serve as a wonderful introduction to the world of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli. They are all here. Dinah, Tiger Rag, Djangology, Honeysuckle Rose (with Coleman Hawkins dipping his toes into experimental waters), and Nuages to name but a few.

1. Dinah

2. Oh, Lady Be Good

3. I Saw Stars

4. I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)

5. I've Had My Moments

6. Djangology

7. St. Louis Blues

8. Limehouse Blues

9. I Got Rhythm

10. I've Found a New Baby

11. After You've Gone

12. Nagasaki

13. Swing Guitars

14. Charleston

15. You're Driving Me Crazy

16. Runnin' Wild

17. Improvisation

18. Minor Swing

19. Honeysuckle Rose

20. Sweet Georgia Brown

21. Night and Day

22. Daphné

23. Them There Eyes

24. I'll See You In My Dreams


Thursday, 30 October 2014

24. Count Basie & His Orchestra: 1936-1938

Click here for my original post on Count Basie

I think it's fair to say that Count Basie and the members of his orchestra had a significant impact on the history and direction of jazz after they made their first recordings in 1936. New rules were established. Light airy and tasteful piano licks, walking bass, ride symbol beat and head arrangements from the brass section. Topped off with some exquisite improvisation and you have the recipe for one of the best (if not the best) jazz combos of all time.

This album gets you in at the ground floor. The first four small combo tracks from "Smith Jones Incorporated" (a name used due to contractual difficulties) showcase Lester Young's first ever recorded tracks. This would be a sufficient enough reason to own this album. Yet it continues aplomb with the full orchestra backed by the wonderful vocals of Jimmy Rushing on tracks like Don't You Miss Your Baby, Good Morning Blues and Pennies From Heaven. Check out how Young and Basie play off each other on Roseland Shuffle. Then listen to Young's tenor counterpart Herschel Evans on the track John's Idea. Both completely different sounds from the same intsrument. Both utterly sublime. Of course this was the time that Basie first recorded One O'Clock Jump. 

For a first time recording the band sounds incredibly tight. However this is no accident as all of these guys had been honing their chops since the mid 20´s. It was the social environment of the times that meant they would all be in Kansas City at this particular juncture of history, jamming in smoky bars until the early hours and creating some of the greatest music ever made. (Check out this link for more on my thoughts on the importance of Kansas City at this time)

1. Shoe Shine Boy

2. Evenin'

3. Boogie Woogie

4. Oh, Lady Be Good

5. Honeysuckle Rose

6. Pennies From Heaven

7. Swinging at the Daisy Chain

8. Roseland Shuffle

9. Exactly Like You

10. Boo-Hoo

11. The Glory of Love

12. Boogie Woogie

13. Smarty (You Know It All)

14. One O'Clock Jump

15. Listen My Children (And You Shall Hear)

16. John's Idea

17. Good Morning Blues

18. Our Love Was Meant to Be

19. Time Out

20. Topsy

21. I Keep Remembering

22. Out the Window

23. Don't You Miss Your Baby?

24. Let Me Dream

25. Georgianna