Posts filed under “Friday Night Jazz”
It was a real eye opener: This clean, cool recording of lovely Latin melodies, overlaid with a delightfully dry, reedy saxophone that infused everything with a sophisticated flavor. That was Gerry Mulligan’s sound.
NPR radio described Mulligan as "the most influential baritone saxophonist in jazz."
But Mulligan was more than that — he was a
commanding composer, an innovative musician, someone who pushed boundaries, yet remained accessible and enjoyable to listen to.
Mulligan’s light and airy baritone saxophone was the epitome of the the "cool" jazz sound. Yet its amazing how easily he could interact with many other musical styles: Ben Webster’s blustery tenor (the epitome of a "warm" sound); Monk’s percussive, fractured piano rhythms and dissonant tunes; the sweet, subtle tension between Mulligan and Chet Baker.
You can pretty much grab any random Mulligan album (I put up a decent selection here) and not be disappointed. You will see scattered around a broad selection of different styles, eras, and musical cohorts.
Are you a Brubeck fan? Monk? Chet Baker? Webster? Desmond? Grab anything, sit back — and enjoy.
Mulligan became known for his writing and arranging skills in his teens. He wrote for Johnny Warrington’s radio band in 1944, and for Gene Krupa’s band two years later.
Mulligan hit the big time when he became known for his work (writing, arranging, and soloing) on Miles Davis’ defining album, "Birth of the Cool." Gerry’s compositions for this album included "Jeru," "Godchild," and "Venus de Milo," all songs that would remain in his repertoire long after the initial success of the album had died down. (This album launched and aided several careers of important jazz figures).
Mulligan’s last record came out as one of his most beautiful. Lovely tunes, clever arrangements, and understated fabulous players mark his last recording (John Scofield and
Grover Washington, Jr. play on this).
Mulligan Discography (massive PDF)
Last week, while randomly channel surfing, I stumbled across a fantastic PBS documentary in the American Masters series, titled Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On.
It was a terrific review of the wonderful music and troubled life of Marvin Gaye.
Those of you who are less familiar with early Soul and R&B owe it to yourself to learn a bit about Gaye, best known as an artist on the Motown record label in the 1960s and 1970s.
Gaye had a classic R&B voice — described as "edged with grit yet tempered with sweetness." But he was much more than that: He was Motown’s renaissance man: A songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer as well.
AllMusic: "Moving from lean,
powerful R&B to stylish, sophisticated soul to finally arrive at an
intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression, his
work not only redefined soul music as a creative force but also
expanded its impact as an agent for social change."
You can explore Gaye’s work a couple of ways: The one click method is
either a box set or a Best Of. For the big 4 CD box, go with The Master 1961-1984. A less exhaustive approach is Every Great Motown Hit of Marvin Gaye.
I much prefer the albums over the greatest hits, The self-produced What’s Going On was a landmark effort, described as "a dramatic shift in both content and style that forever altered the face of black music." A mix of percussion, soul and jazz, it has a remarkably sophisticated and fluid sound. Reviewers have called What’s Going On a conceptual masterpiece.
The long-simmering eroticism implicit in much of Gaye’s work reached its boiling point with 1973′s Let’s Get It On, one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded; a work of intense lust and longing, it became the most commercially successful effort of his career
Top Ten Albums
1971: What’s Going On (#6 U.S.)
1973: Let’s Get It On (#2 U.S.)
1973: Diana & Marvin (#5 UK)
1974: Marvin Gaye Live! (#8 U.S.)
1976: I Want You (#4 U.S.)
1977: Live at the London Palladium (#3 U.S.)
1982: Midnight Love (#7 U.S.; #10 UK)
1994: The Very Best of Marvin Gaye (#3 UK)
2000: Marvin Gaye Love Songs (#8 UK)
• NPR: A Tribute to Marvin Gaye
videos after the jump
One of my all time favorites Jazz musicians is Thelonius Monk.
Our man Monk was a three way genius: As a composer, as a jazz pianist, and as an improvisationist, he was without peer, and shaped the future of Jazz. Some notable discs:
• Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane — what more can you add to these two geniuses riffing off of each other? Simply a monst rous most own.
• Monk’s Dream is a great example of Thelonious Monk in a Quartet format, with Monk at the peak of his career peak.
• Monk’s Music a classsic compositions & recordings; Bold and inspired, with Coltrane, Blakey and Hawkins. Just fabulous.
• Solo Monk a man, a piano, a studio tape recorder. Brilliant.
• Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall accidentally discovered in an unmarked box by a Library of Congress engineer early 2005 (previously mentioned in our year end review).
Videos after the jump . . .
FNJ has a guest DJ tonite: BondDaddy is in the house!
Dexter Gordon is one of the greatest tenor sax players. He had a strong tone and incredible sense of melody. Some players like Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson had a slippery sense of time; their phrases speed up and slow down, moving within the rythm section’s accompaniment. Not Dexter. Dex’s time was rock solid, never wavering. The rythm section had to accompany his time.
His playing is incredibly melodic, easily followed by the listener. Ideas naturally morphed from one to the other, always following a logical pattern. However, he was also able to surprise listeners with a run into upper chordal extensions.
His playing provides a logical link between Parker and Coltrane. Dex used many ideas from Parker, but played them with a tone that was deep, bold and soulful. His tone provides the link to Coltrane, who also favored a deep and rich tenor tone.
Gordon swung — and swung hard. If your feet are not tapping within 8 bars of his starting to play, you’re just not listening.
Our Man in Paris:
This be-bop session is a meeting between three of the most influential
musicians of the forties. The rhythms crackle, the solos fly; Our Man
In Paris is essential Dexter. A nice compilation of standards.
Homecoming: Live at the Village Vanguard. Dex lived in Amsterdam for about 10 years, and this was the album be made when he came back. Very cool set. Woody Shaw is on Trumpet, and the two work really well together. THis is Dexter at the very top of his game (and probably one of the top 25 live jazz albums of all time).
He also starred in the Round Midnight, probably the best jazz movie ever made
Go: Its been widely reported Gordon himself considered this his greatest achievement. Brimming with conviction and poise, Gordon’s gentle-giant sax carries itself with a sort of graceful edge that is difficult to emulate. Never has anyone made the diminished scale sound so musical.
Ballads: This is a compilation of his ballads (duh), and he could play just beautifully on these. Gordon delivers his almost sleepy and smoke-filled solos with real grace. Some of the most romantic playing you will every hear.
Videos after the jump
Why? Not only is Kind of Blue Davis’ best-selling album, it may very well be the best-selling jazz record of any artist, of all time. Even though it was released almost 50 years ago, it still sells over 5,000 copies per week today. In addition to its commercial success, it has come to be described by many Jazz critics as the greatest jazz album of all time.
Writing in AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted: “Kind of Blue isn’t merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it’s an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue posses such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius. It lures listeners in with the slow, luxurious bassline and gentle piano chords of “So What.” From that moment on, the record never really changes pace — each tune has a similar relaxed feel, as the music flows easily. Yet Kind of Blue is more than easy listening. It’s the pinnacle of modal jazz — tonality and solos build from the overall key, not chord changes, giving the music a subtly shifting quality.”
The one jazz record to own even if you don’t listen to jazz — the band is extraordinary: John Coltrane, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on saxophones, Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. I recently received a remastered CD of kind the album, thus retiring my scratchy hiss and pop laden vinyl version. (And another intelligent CD pricing: $7.47 at Amazon)
For those of you looking for some , check out NPR: Kind of Blue (54 minutes)
videos after the jump . . .
When it comes to music, I normally try to do the heavy lifting around here — writing about and recommending a new or beloved artist, or discussing whatever it is I happen to be listening to at the moment.
Tonite, something a little different.
I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU GUYS — What’s new and interesting? What old favorites have been replaying? What are you listening to right now? What concerts are you going to — or hoping to see?
What say ye?
UPDATE: Februrary 22, 2008 9:42am
Wow, thats quite a list!
TBP readers are quite an eclectic bunch;
All of the various FNJ recs readers made can be found here;
Most of the discs mentioned are linked to via Amazon or MySpace or some other site (after the jump):
By now, you should have some feel for my taste in music, and the wide ranging and eclectic flavors that live on my iPod. But unless you are a fool or a wizened old pro, any attempt at doing a Friday Night Jazz on Billie Holiday is likely to fall flat on its face.
Lucky for us, Nat Hentoff — formerly the Music critic of the Village Voice, and now the Jazz columnist of the WSJ is just such an old pro. In this week’s WSJ, he looked at a few new reissues of Lady Day’s music:
"Billie must have come from another world," said Roy
Eldridge, often heard accompanying her on trumpet, "because nobody had
the effect on people she had. I’ve seen her make them cry and make them
happy." Lady Day, as tenor saxophonist Lester Young named Billie
Holiday, still has that effect through the many reissues of her
recordings, including the recently released "Lady Day: The Master Takes
and Singles" of the 1933-44 sessions (Columbia/Legacy, available on
Amazon) that established her in the jazz pantheon.
I grew up listening to those sides, which infectiously
demonstrated — as pianist Bobby Tucker, her longtime pianist, noted –
that "she could swing the hardest in any tempo, even if it was like a
dirge . . . wherever it was, she could float on top of it." But none of
the previous reissues, as imperishable as they are, have as intense a
presence of Lady as in the truly historic new five-disc set "Billie Holiday: Rare Live Recordings, 1934-1959" on Bernard Stollman’s ESP-Disk label.
This is a model for future retrospectives of classic
jazz artists of any era because researcher and compiler Michael
Anderson, in his extensive liner notes, provides a timeline of her jazz
life — describing the circumstances of each performance in the context
of her evolving career. One example: a live radio remote from Harlem’s
Savoy Ballroom in 1937 when the 22-year-old singer "began a special
association with her comrade, ‘The Prez,’ Lester Young" — grooving
with the Count Basie band in "Swing Brother Swing."
As far as albums go, there are lots of choices, but they pretty much come down to a) Boxed Sets; 2) Early work; 3) Later years.
If you want to start with something basic, go for A Musical Romance - agreat duet with Holiday and her long time friend and msucial collaborator, Lester Young. You can also go to the 2 disc All or Nothing at All. The 2 CD Complete Decca Recordings is also quite good.
The set Hentoff refers to above is the 5 disc set Rare Live Recordings, 1934-1959
Students of her latter work will be interested in:
Videos after the jump . . .
On days like this, where the market opens up over 100 and closes down 170, I always get that "Black Friday" feeling — that no one really wants to carry much equity exposure over the weekend.
But its Friday night — Enough market talk! Its time for some jazz to mellow out to.