Wednesday Jun 26

A few more CDs from 2006

Fantasy Records [now part of Concord Music Group] says that it holds "The World's Mightiest Jazz Catalog" and has been releasing a series of Original Jazz Classics samplers to support the claim. Three are based on '50s and '60s recordings that came out on smaller and subsidiary labels like Jazzland, New Jazz, Specialty, and HiFiJazz.  Those three are, to me, the most interesting so far. That's probably because most of the performances and even a number of the performers are less well known than the relatively big names and familiar performances that the earlier Fantasy, Prestige, Riverside, and Contemporary compilations quite naturally present.

OJC Jazzland

Various: Original Jazz Classics Samplers (Jazzland, Specialty/HiFiJazz/Nocturne, New Jazz)

OJC Specialty

Check out, in particular, "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" by Mel Rhyne (Wes Montgomery's organist) on the Jazzland sampler. Gene Harris plays piano on the date following a two-keyboard tradition that never fails to excite. Examples that come quickly to mind is the Illinois Jacquet "Port of Rico" session (reissued on Flying Home--The Best of the Verve Years) which brought together Count Basie on the organ and Hank Jones at the piano, the exquisite Count Basie Presents Eddie Davis (unreissued Roulette LP) date where the Count was back at the piano and Shirley Scott played organ, and the more recent Conference de Presse piano/organ CDs by Eddy Louiss and Michel Petrucciani (Volume 1 available from Dreyfus with volume 2 not yet released in the US).

I was also blown away by "My New Jet Plane" on the Specialty/HiFiJazz/Nocturne sampler. It's a high intensity high speed psycho-surreal proto-rap vocalization by Steve White whose cool sax soloing eases the pressure. White's abetted on this previously unreleased excursion by the ultra-hip pianist Jimmy Rowles, himself an occasional off-the-wall vocalist.

The Salt Brothers: It's the Right Move (Soundup)

The Salt Brothers

You're going to have to dig a little to find this next CD. It's The Right Move by The Salt Brothers. The "brothers" are guitarist Coleman Mellett and trumpeter Jeff McSpadden. It's a sort of throwback to '70s acid-tinged jazz of the electrified but non-cheesy variety. You get a rhythm section featuring Fender Rhodes piano, electric bass, and augmented percussion.

McSpadden's crisp trumpet crackles and snaps with a sound and swing that put me in mind of Lee Morgan, Dizzy Gillespie, and pre-haze Chuck Mangione. Mellett (who is Mangione's current guitarist) gets more out of a guitar than I've heard in a long time. You want down and dirty funk? You got it. Cleanly swinging single line solo and lead work? You got it. Twangy rocking runs and knock-you-out smashing chords? You got 'em. You also get a couple of vocal contributions by Jeanie Bryson and some by Mellett. Bryson's a gem of a vocalist. Mellett's a great guitarist.

The Right Move is a self-produced CD that the Salt Brothers put out on the Soundup label, but with no catalog number. You can find it online at Amazon. I doubt you'll see it in a store near you. And as of 2011 other online sources seem to have dried up. I got my review copy from the landscaper uncle of one of the Salts.

Various: Inspiration (Sunnyside)


I have a box of newspaper cartoons that I've snipped and saved over the years. One of my favorites is from an "Animal Crackers" cartoon strip (Fred Wagner)series on hi-fi foibles. In one of the strips, the know-it-all Dodo is showing off his multi-channel system with monster speakers and powerful amplifiers to Lyle the lion. Lyle's clearly impressed and asks Dodo, "What do you listen to with all this?" The Dodo blandly replies, "Mostly harmonica music."

Indeed, the deceptively simple mouth organ doesn't put major demands on the power and range of our audio equipment, but in the hands of various virtuosi it has an uncanny ability to move us musically. For those who might like to try Dodo's favored instrument on their gear and ears, Inspiration (Sunnyside SSC 3007) gathers up twenty-two great harmonica performances in genres including jazz, blues, country, folk, pop, and latin. Artists range from Toots Thielemans to Borah Minevitch to Larry Adler to James Cotton to Little Walter to Stevie Wonder and the usual "many more."