Archive for the Jazz Category

O Grande Amor – Getz & Gilberto

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on July 8, 2019 by telescoper

There was a time in the 1960s when the Bossa Nova seemed to be everywhere and no one person did more to stimulate the growth of this uniquely Brazilian musical form than singer, guitarist and composer João Gilberto, who passed away on Saturday 6th July at the age of 88. It was Gilberto’s collaboration with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz (and, on some tracks, his wife Astrud Gilberto) on the award-winning album Getz/Gilberto that made the Bossa Nova go global, penetrating not only the world of jazz but the much wider cultural sphere including pop and film music. The most famous track from Getz/Gilberto is undoubtedly The Girl From Ipanema which was a smash hit around the globe in 1964, but my own favourite number from that album is this, with lovely playing by Stan Getz and characteristically understated, almost whispered vocal by João Gilberto himself.

Rest in Peace João Gilberto (1931-2019)

Advertisements

Summertime – Henry “Red” Allen & Coleman Hawkins

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on June 27, 2019 by telescoper

Summer seems to have made it to Ireland at last so here’s an appropriate piece of music. It’s George Gershwin’s Summertime, played in 1958 by a band led by trumpeter Henry “Red”Allen that included the great Coleman Hawkins on tenor sax. This record came from a session that Henry Allen said near the end of his life that he regarded as his best work, and indeed his playing on this is absolutely beautiful (as is that of Coleman Hawkins). Other musicians on this track are Earl Warren (clarinet), Marty Napoleon (piano), Chubby Jackson (bass) and George Wettling (drums). Enjoy!

Synthesis – Con Moto

Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , , , , , on June 25, 2019 by telescoper

You will have to be of a certain age to remember this piece of music, the second movement (Con Moto) of a four-part work called Synthesis by Laurie Johnson who was a renowned composer of TV themes. This piece, however, written for Jazz Big Band and Symphony Orchestra, was used for many years as the intro theme Sounds of Jazz, a BBC2 Radio 2 programme presented on Sunday evenings by Peter Clayton. I always used to switch over from John Peel when Sounds of Jazz started, but we never got to hear more than the first minute or so so here’s the whole piece.

There are some exceptional British musicians on this track, including Kenny Wheeler (trumpet), Tubby Hayes and Tony Coe on reeds, and the great Stan Tracey on piano. It’s the London Jazz Orchestra, in fact, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Now, for bonus marks, can anyone remember what was the music used to close this show?

Flamenco Sketches for International Jazz Day

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on April 30, 2019 by telescoper

I discovered only this morning that today, April 30, is International Jazz Day 2019 so I thought I’d post a track to mark the occasion. This is from the all-time classic album Kind of Blue featuring the Miles Davis Sextet and it was recorded on April 22, 1959 – just over 60 years ago! This album appears very frequently in lists of top jazz records, but it’s so good I don’t think there’s any risk of getting bored with it no matter how often you hear it.

Flamenco Sketches involves a series of solos each improvised on a set of five scales; it’s the fourth section that hints at the Spanish influence alluded to in the title. The tempo is very slow, which contributes the air of solemnity as does the absolute perfection of the solos. In that respect it has clear parallels with some of Duke Ellington’s work. Miles Davis, who opens and closes the track on muted trumpet, and Bill Evans on piano are absolutely faultless but I particularly enjoy John Coltrane’s playing on tenor saxophone: his tone is as bleak and austere as an Arctic sunrise, and just as wonderful and he conjures up an absolutely beautiful improvised melody. Other members of the band are Cannonball Adderley (as), Paul Chambers (b) and Jimmy Cobb (d).

Enjoy! And a Happy International Jazz Day to you all!

Cherokee – Clifford Brown

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on April 6, 2019 by telescoper

Well, I’ve been on duty all day so far at the Open Day I mentioned yesterday and am about to knock off and go home for a rest but first I thought I’d share this wonderful version of Cherokee, a tune that because of its complex chord changes is generally regarded as a test piece for jazz musicians. You’d never guess that from the ease that Clifford Brown shows as he tackles the 64-bar harmonic labyrinth at a breakneck tempo. If you want an example of jazz as a white knuckle ride, this is it!

Clifford Brown was a phenomenal virtuoso on the trumpet and it’s so sad that he died so young, at the age of 25, in a car accident. This performance was recorded in August 1953 and features an extended solo by Clifford Brown followed by a series of four-bar exchanges with the great drummer Art Blakey. Other principals are Percy Heath on bass and John Lewis on piano; Gigi Gryce (alto) and Charlie Rouse (tenor) also participate on the intro and outro. Enjoy!

Fat Tuesday!

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on March 5, 2019 by telescoper

Well, it’s Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday which gives me four excuses to post this lovely old record made by Humphey Lyttelton’s Paseo Jazz Band in the early Fifties. That’s the band that featured Humph’s regular crew alongside a number of London’s marvellous West Indian musicians of the time, hence the abundance of percussion and the resulting infectious calypso beat. Enjoy!

Norman Granz Jam Session No. 6

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2019 by telescoper

It behoves me to spend most of this evening at a postgraduate Open Evening here at Maynooth University so I thought I’d take a little tea break and post a bit of Jazz.

This recording, made in 1954, is from one of the famous `All-Star’ jam sessions organized by impresario Norman Granz. These are fascinating for jazz fans because they provide a rare opportunity to hear extended solos from great musicians, not confined to the usual three-minute 78rpm records of the period. This one is almost half an hour long altogether, and was originally issued in two parts (on either side of an LP record) so there’s a rather clumsy edit half way through. There are also a few jumps on the record, but I don’t think they spoil this classic too much.

Norman Granz liked to select contrasting musicians for these spontaneous recordings and this line-up was clearly intended to juxtapose modernist trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie with his boyhood inspiration Roy Eldridge. It is indeed fascinating to hear them play one after the other, but the star of this show for me is the great clarinettist Buddy De Franco whose solo is absolutely superb – few Jazz clarinettists are able to match his control in the upper register. The other musicians clearly enjoy his solo too; I’m pretty sure that it’s Dizzy Gillespie you can hear delivering the encouraging shouts as De Franco gets into full flood.

The soloists (in order) are: Flip Phillips (tenor sax); Bill Harris (trombone); Buddy De Franco (clarinet); Oscar Peterson (piano); Herb Ellis (guitar); Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet); and Roy Eldridge (trumpet). The other musicians providing rhythm accompaniment are Ray Brown (bass) and Louie Bellson (drums). That’s not a bad band is it?

The tune played here is the swing era standard Stomping at the Savoy which is a good choice for this kind of jam session because (a) everyone knows it (b) the melody is quite simple, and (c) it has interesting chords for the musicians to improvise over. It is in standard 32-bar AABA format with a relatively simple A section (Db6, Ab9, Db6, Ddim, Ebm7, Ab7, Db, Db) but has a B section (bridge) with considerable chromatic embellishment (Gb9/G9, Gb9, B13/F#m6, B13, E9/F9, E9, A13, Ab9b); these are assuming that it is played in Db. It’s fascinating to hear how each of the soloists navigates the middle eight on this record.

Stomping at the Savoy is usually played a bit faster than it is here, but I like this beautifully relaxed and comfortably swinging tempo.

UPDATE: By an amazing coincidence*, Part 1 of this session was played by Bernard Clarke last night on The Blue of the Night (at about 10.30).

*It’s not a complete coincidence, as we had an exchange on Twitter about it a while ago and he said he would try to play it sometime – it was nevertheless a surprise that he played it on exactly the same day as I posted this!