Tuesday Sep 17

Favorite listening from 2005

Toward the end of 2005, an email from my editor announced that it was time to draw up another favorite recordings list. The annual discomfort welled up. Some reviewers may welcome this sort of task. I don't.

I could ease some of the pain by keeping listening notes throughout the year. But that would enforce a year's worth of cognitive deliberation that would interfere with my musical pleasure.

When There Are Grey Skies

When I'm immersed in a particularly wonderful recorded performance, I don't care to pause to scribble notes about it. I'm not likely to do that immediately afterward either. Invariably what I've just heard has suggested further listening to do.

That's enough whining. Here are a few recent, current, and ongoing favorites. As in the past, they are in no special order.

Red Garland: When There Are Grey Skies (Prestige)

This session has pianist Garland joined by Wendell Marshall and Charlie Persip on bass and drums. The three delve into jazz history and prehistory with great respect, affection, wit, and wisdom. Note in particular the contribution of

Persip, tightly recorded in the right channel--his tight fills on "My Honey's Loving Arms" and crisp brushwork on "St. James Infirmary" in particular.

Other deep classics on this disc include "I Ain't Got Nobody," "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," and "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home," and "Sonny Boy" which opens the disc and provides the title from the opening words of its chorus. There's some choice irony there, by the way. The great entertainer Al Jolson had a hand in the song's composition.

Gennett Records Greatest Hits, Volume 1

This is one of three CDs chock full (20 tracks on this volume, 22 on each of the other two) of performances culled from the archives of Gennett Records.

Gennett Records was the recording subsidiary of the Starr Piano Company of Richmond, Indiana. It recorded many of the greats of various genres of American popular music for about 15 years starting in 1916. This CD offers performances by Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band with young Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael (doing the first recorded version of "Stardust"), Georgia Tom, Fletcher Henderson, Smilin' Sam, Art Hicks, and more.

The transfers to CD are the very best I've ever heard of early Gennett recordings and the performances have tremendous vitality and verve.

There's no recording company credited with the release of this CD and no catalog number. I bought my copy at the Wayne County Historical Museum in Richmond when I visited the site of the Gennett company. You can order up the full boxed set directly from the Starr Gennett Foundation. Volume 1 and Volume 3 are available separately, but it appears that Volume 2 is out of print as a single CD. There are various other compilations at the site.

SF Jazz Collective (Nonesuch)

The highlights of this self-titled live recording by the eight member SF Jazz Collective are performances of three Ornette Coleman classics. Gil Goldstein did the arrangements of "Peace," "When Will the Blues Leave," and "Una Muy Bonita."

The group has a near magical lineup of Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Brian Blade (drums), Renee Rosnes (piano), Josh Roseman (trombone), Joshua Redman (tenor and soprano saxes and artistic director), Miguel Zenon (alto sax and flute), and Robert Hurst (bass). Redman, Rosnes, and Zenon contribute originals to the band's book.

Lloyd Holzgraf: The Power and the Glory (M&K RealTime Direct-to-Disc LP)

I rediscovered this at a thrift store in unplayed condition. I think I paid a dime.

If you want to hear and feel real bass, this is the recording to get. The feeling part was the most astounding experience I've had in years of listening.

It's not the proverbial "gut-thumping" bass. That's easy to find and it isn't even that low. The average resonant frequency of the human thorax is about 150 Hz, not really that low.

In this case the feeling is literally breathtaking. The deep tones of the organ simply reached down and took hold of my diaphragm. Amazing.