Wednesday Apr 25

Favorite listening from 2003

Throughout the year [2003] I kept track of a few special recordings so I'd be ready.  I'm going to keep descriptions terse.  These are in utterly random order, by the way.

Reaching Out LPReaching Out CD

1. Dave Bailey/Grant Green: Reaching Out (Jazzline LP, 1201 Music CD)

The current CD bears guitarist Grant Green's name but the original Jazztime LP came out as by the Dave Bailey Quintet. Music is the same no matter whose name is on the front cover: relaxed, mildly funky jazz with an emphasis on bluesy originals. One of them, bassist Ben Tucker's "Baby You Should Know It" has developed into a minor jazz standard and had words added later by Bob Dorough. The one pop standard, "Falling In Love With Love" features Green at his most lyrically compelling.

The sound on my mono LP is impeccable. The CD version sounds pretty good, too.

Busch plays Mozart

2. Adolph Busch Chamber Orchestra: W.A. Mozart, Serenade No. 6 for orchestra in D major ("Serenata Notturna"), K. 239

I can't cite label or number for this fine old recording of an increasingly popular bit of Viennese schlag from the pen of the immortal Wolfgang. I've seen it included in various CD collections but at this writing, I can't find it in my online searches.

You can easily find other, much more recent, performances of the work on CDs. I have a couple myself and the composition's use of two small but separate instrumental groupings benefits from stereo. But I keep coming back to the performance by Busch which I have on a pair of 10 inch HMV 78s. The Busch version serves up enough vitality, energy, and fun to overcome the slight advantage that two channels bring to the music.

UPDATE:  Check Amazon.com!

Smithsonian Social Orchestra

3. Smithsonian Social Orchestra & Quadrille Band: 19th Century American Ballroom Music, Waltzes, Marches, Polkas & Other Dances (Nonesuch LP)

Yes, there was dance music in America before ragtime and jazz. This LP (I find no reference to a CD issue) presents a program that might have been heard, as the title says, in a 19th century American ballroom. The highly capable orchestra performs the music on historical instruments from the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, to boot.

How many other recordings are you going to come across where you can hear not only one but two different bass ophicleides, one 9 key and one 10 key version? (My 1919 Elson's Pocket Music Dictionary tells me that the ophicleide is "a large bass wind instrument of brass...and the tone is loud and of deep pitch...[with a] peculiarly raucous tone.")

I particularly favor one of the solo piano pieces on the LP. It's a solo piano piece in 5/4 called "Five Step Waltz" by 19th century African-American composer A.J.R. Conner. The dancers must have had particular fun with that one!

4. Woody Herman:  Jazz Hoot-Woody's Winners (Collectables CD)

"Do you really like the way this sounds?" That was a guy is one of the Alexis Park demo rooms at a CES a couple of years ago. I'd brought along a CD on which I'd carefully dubbed the "Opus de Funk" track from my Woody's Winners LP. I knew what he was referring to. Although it's a live recording, the engineer created an antiphonal "brass on the left/reeds on the right" effect. It's not natural, but not unpleasing either. And the arrangement of that particular piece definitely justifies the unusual perspective.

The charging performance by the band (fully and loudly appreciated by the audience) makes this a precious recording, the likes of which is unlikely ever to be made again.

Now this rare LP (Woody's late '60s sojourn with Columbia has been largely ignored in the CD era) has been reissued on a two-fer CD along with Herman's JAZZ HOOT from the same period.

Compared to the LP version, this CD is missing some of the deepest bass, but at least the music is out there again.

Krips CD

5. Josef Krips, Concertgebow Orchestra: W.A. Mozart, Symphony No. 36 in C, K.425 "Linz"; Symphony No. 21 in A, K.134 (Philips LP)

My feelings for this recording might be due to my personal history. Krips conducted the first classical concerts I ever attended. They were "young people's" concerts by the Buffalo Philharmonic--grade school field trips. But I'm going to claim that the clarity and directness of these performances would move anyone.

I'm hoping for a CD reissue.

UPDATE:  The CD is out.  The cover's shown above.

6. Jimmy Giuffre 3: 1961 (ECM CD)

This two CD set reissues and expands the rare Fusion and Thesis LPs that clarinetist Giuffre recorded with his working group of the time. The other 2 of the 3 were pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow, both using acoustic instruments.

The remastered CD set is, in the words of an online review "a revelation." The music is acoustically quiet but emotionally and intellectually powerful. The sound is the best you're likely to hear and proves again, if repeated proof is necessary, that the standard CD format has nothing to apologize for.

7. Don Ellis: Out of Nowhere (Candid CD)

This group could be called the Don Ellis 3. It's the Giuffre 3 group listed above but with trumpeter Don Ellis in place of Giuffre. It was also recorded in 1961 but these are all variations on standard tunes ("Sweet and Lovely," "My Funny Valentine," "Just One of Those Things," among others) rather than original compositions as in the Giuffre set.

To be totally correct, we can call this the Don Ellis 1, 2, or 3 since this set has solo and duo as well as trio performances. Every reading is melodic but slightly "outside" and capable of transporting the listener to a small coffee house in the Greenwich Village of the early '60s. The sonic character is in tune with that view.

Note that the current King label import has two less tracks than the out of print Candid/da Music CD.

8. Richard "Groove" Holmes: On Basie's Bandstand (Prestige CD)

This recent CD of previously unissued material will also transport the listener to the NY '60s jazz scene, but a few years later and further uptown.

Organist Holmes holds forth with a trio in a rollicking set of pop and jazz standards. The notes suggest that the sound might be a bit rough around the edges and "not as conducive to hearing on your home sound system" as Holmes' studio recordings from the same period. I say it's actually perfect--the sonic equivalent of cinema verite.

The notes also mistakenly "Rifftide," a Coleman Hawkins line on "Oh Lady Be Good" chords for a blues. So it goes.

9. Mildred Bailey (Cocktail Hour CD)

I'm going to use this beguiling two CD set to introduce you to the Cocktail Hour line from Allegro Music (http://www.allegro-music.com/cocktailhour). These bargain priced sets offer up lovingly selected performances by classic jazz/pop artists of the 20th century. You can also get themed sets of mambo, Broadway, Gershwin, Havana, and more.

The company seems to be able to find the most pristine originals to work from so the resulting CDs are eminently listenable. In the case of the Bailey set, for instance, the marvelous "and Her Alley Cats" performances absolutely sparkle in comparison to the more official versions that Columbia put out on its LP compilation in the '60s.

UPDATE: All of the Cocktail Hour sets have disappeared from the Allegro Music offerings except for sets by Bing Crosby, Mario Lanza, and Tony Martin along with a love songs compilation called Cheek to Cheek. Check eBay for a fairly generous used selection.

10. Bob Brookmeyer: Blues Hot and Cold (Verve LP)

This entry is a fond wish. I have a dubbed cassette of this wonderful LP from my distant cousin Bill. He did a careful job and the listening is pretty good, but my cassette collection isn't as readily at hand as my CDs and LPs. Yes, I could run the cassette onto an audio CD-R, but I just haven't gotten around to it.

So how about it, Polygram (or whoever owns the master now)? Let's break out the Brookmeyer.

UPDATE:  Forget Polygram.  Lonehill put it out with Brookmeyer's 7 x Wilder in the same CD.  I hope they're paying Brookmeyer. Check Amazon or eBay.