Archive for the Jazz Category


Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on March 26, 2020 by telescoper

I think it’s time to share a bit more music, so here’s a track from an album I have on vinyl that features a quartet led by guitarist Hank Garland with Gary Burton on vibes, Joe Benjamin on bass and the great Joe Morello on drums. It was recorded in June 1960 which means that Gary Burton was only 17 years old at the time! You’d never know that by listening to his superb playing. The tune is a bebop standard called Move which was written by drummer Denzil Best and based on rhythm changes, though to my ears the bridge sounds a bit different.

Struttin’ With Some Barbecue

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on March 14, 2020 by telescoper

Not long ago I shared a piece by the quartet that was led for a short time by Ruby Braff (cornet) and George Barnes (guitar). By way of a distraction I thought I’d share another track from the same album that one came from. Struttin’ with some Barbecue was written way back in the 1920s by Lil Hardin, and it became a bit of a showpiece for her husband, a gentleman by the name of Louis Armstrong. The title is not about outdoor dining arrangements, but roughly translates from the slang of the time as `Dancing with an extremely sexy partner’. Or perhaps a bit more than `Dancing’!

Anyway, this is another lovely performance and there’s a very special moment at about 3:09 where Messrs Braff and Barnes exchange leads in brilliantly telepathic style!

R.I.P. McCoy Tyner (1938-2020)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on March 7, 2020 by telescoper

I had just got home last night when I heard the sad news of the death at the age of 81 of the brilliant pianist McCoy Tyner. When I was looking through my collection of jazz recordings after hearing about this I was struck by how many of them featured McCoy Tyner, most of them in association with John Coltrane that lasted about five years. Tyner’s style was enormously influential as well as immediately recognizable, especially for the way he used his left hand to punch out chords in much the same way as a right-handed boxer uses his left jab.

Tyner had a very long career as a solo musician and it would be wrong the give the impression that his work with Trane from about 1960 to 1965 was all he did, but when choosing something to share in his memory I kept coming back to that period.

In the end I decided to post a classic piece from the John Coltrane era. This is the title track from the 1961 album My Favorite Things which, as it happens, is one of my favourite things. Coltrane plays soprano sax on this track; apparently he hadn’t played a soprano sax at all until 1960, when Miles Davis bought him one. I like its use on this particularly recording as it gives the performance a very “Eastern” sound.

You might think that a song from The Sound of Music would be unlikely material for John Coltrane to tackle, but in fact he does something extremely interesting with it: the melody is heard numerous times throughout the track, but instead of playing solos over the written chord changes, the soloists improvise over just two chords, E minor and E major, in a manner that seems influenced by Indian music. The whole thing is played in waltz time, but drummer Elvin Jones not only keeps an intense but fluidly swinging pulse going in 3/4 but also does so much around and across that central beat.

In My Solitude

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on March 2, 2020 by telescoper

Whether or not you’re in a state of self-isolation because of coronavirus, please give up three and a bit minutes of your time to listen to this little gem by the quartet that was led for a short time by Ruby Braff (cornet) and George Barnes (guitar). That band not only knew how to play but also exactly when to stop, as demonstrated on this exquisite live version of the great Duke Ellington song, In My Solitude. Michael Moore is on bass (arco on parts of this number) and Wayne Wright on rhythm guitar, but it’s Ruby Braff who takes the lead on this one, using his beautiful tone to stunning effect…





Thelonious Monk plays Duke Ellington

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on February 17, 2020 by telescoper

This morning there was a reminder on the radio that today is the anniversary of the death of the great Thelonious Monk, who died on 17th February 1982. I went to a concert by British pianist Stan Tracey the day after the sad news broke and he threw away his intended play list and played nothing but Monk tunes for the whole evening. It was a wonderful concert and a moving tribute from one musician to another who had clearly influenced him deeply.

Last week I was asked by a young man to recommend some albums because he wanted to find out more about Monk’s music. Among those I suggested was Thelonious Monk plays Duke Ellington which was recorded in 1956 for the Riverside Label, and features a trio of Thelonious Monk (piano), Oscar Pettiford (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums).

This is an unusual album because it finds Monk doing what the recording executives asked, namely to play standard tunes rather than his original compositions. The most performed jazz composer of all time* is Duke Ellington so he was a natural source of material to choose, and the album that resulted is absolutely fascinating not least because Monk clearly relates very well to Ellington’s music. In fact it’s one of my all-time favourites. Here is just one track from it, I let a Song go out of my Heart. Enjoy!

*The second most performed jazz composer of all time is none other than Monk himself!

How are things in Glocca Morra? – Sonny Rollins

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on February 12, 2020 by telescoper

À propos de rien, but to chill for a few minutes while I have a cup of tea after this afternoon’s Engineering Mathematics lecture, I thought I’d post a piece of music. As regular readers of this blog (both of them) will know, I listen to quite a lot of jazz. In the course of doing that it has often struck me that there can hardly be a tune that’s ever been written – however unpromising – that some jazz musician somewhere hasn’t taken a fancy to and done their own version. Louis Armstrong turned any amount of base metal into gold during his long career, but here’s an example from a more modern legend, Sonny Rollins, who is still going strong at the age of 89.

The full personnel listing is Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone); Donald Byrd (trumpet); Wynton Kelly (piano); Gene Ramey (bass); and Max Roach (drums). The track was recorded in 1956. The band is playing a tune called How are thing in Glocca Morra? and it was written for the 1947 musical Finian’s Rainbow (which I hate). This version, though is absolutely gorgeous.  It clearly doesn’t take much to inspire a genius…

R.I.P. Jimmy Heath (1926-2020)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on January 20, 2020 by telescoper

I heard last night the sad news that saxophonist arranger and bandleader Jimmy Heath had passed away at the age of 93. Jimmy Heath was a terrific musician whom Miles Davis described as `one of the thoroughbreds’ and who performed on a huge number of really important records as leader or as sideman throughout a long career than spanned seven decades.

I spent last night going through the part of my record collection that I have here in Maynooth to select a track to play as a small tribute, and came up with this up tempo track on a Blue Note collection. It’s standard written by Harold Arlen called Get Happy. I hadn’t listened to it for ages and I’d forgotten how great it is. It was recorded in 1953 by a six-piece band led by trombonist Jay Jay Johnson, and featuring Clifford Brown (trumpet), Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass, Jimmy’s brother*) and Kenny Clarke (drums). They’re all great musicians, and they make a wonderfully rich ensemble sound for a small band. Jimmy Heath plays a fine solo, rather typical of his early style (which, although he plays tenor sax rather than alto is clearly in the mould of Charlie Parker) and you also get the chance to hear the great Clifford Brown .

*Jimmy’s other brother Albert Heath was a fine drummer.

R.I.P. Jimmy Heath (1926-2020)