Archive for the Jazz Category

The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on June 22, 2020 by telescoper

Today has been one of those frustrating days at work that ends with a to-do list longer than it started with so I’m in need of a pick-me-up. Here is Benny Goodman and his Sextet recorded on the Ed Sullivan show in 1960 playing The World is Waiting For the Sunrise. Goodman loved this tune and played many different versions of it over his long career. The audience definiely enjoyed this, and I think it’s BG himself who ends this one with a yeah to prove that he enjoyed it too! I hope you do likewise.

Over the years there have been some (indeed many) jazz critics who have written that Benny Goodman’s clarinet playing was `clinical’ and `unemotional’ and other such nonsense.  I think his playing on this is absolutely sensational (as incidentally is Red Norvo on the vibes).  Enjoy!


Cristo Redentor – Donald Byrd

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

Duke Pearson was inspired by the famous statue that looks down over Rio de Janeiro to write this tune, of which this is the very first version, put on record in 1963 and released a year later in 1964 to become an instant classic. It’s a wonderful fusion of jazz, blues and gospel music but above all it’s a gentle hymn to peace and respect.I don’t think I have to explain why I think it’s apt to put it up today.

Front and centre is Donald Byrd on trumpet, but the rest of the band includes Hank Mobley (tenor), Herbie Hancock (piano), Donald Best (vibes), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Butch Warren (bass) and Lex Humphries (drums). The choir consists of 8 voices (4 male, four female) but sadly they are not named on the liner notes.


A Century of Peggy Lee

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

The great Jazz singer Peggy Lee (real name Norma Deloris Egstrom) was born a hundred years ago today, on 26th March 1920.

I couldn’t resist marking the occasion sharing this short clip of her famous live performance at Basin Street East, a nightclub in New York City, in 1961. I picked this not only because it is the tune of which I posted the original version last week but also because it’s a fine example of her vocal artistry and sizzling stage presence. I love the way she slides the notes as she drapes the melody languidly over the sounds from the band.

See See Rider Blues

Posted in History, Jazz with tags , , on May 23, 2020 by telescoper

There have been dozens of versions of the old song See See Rider and its origins are lost in the mists of time, but I’m pretty sure that the first ever recording was this one, made in October 1924 by the fabulous Gertrude `Ma’ Rainey (vocals) together with a stellar backing group including Louis Armstrong on cornet, Buster Bailey on clarinet and Fletcher Henderson on piano.

Remembering Johnny Hodges – Jeep’s Blues (Live at Newport, 1956)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on May 11, 2020 by telescoper

The great alto saxophonist and long-term mainstay of the Duke Ellington Orchestra Johnny Hodges passed away 50 years ago today, on 11th May 1970.

Here’s the piece that was his signature tune, Jeep’s Blues – played during a very famous live concert by the Ellington band at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956.

Feast your ears on that huge soulful sound that was perfect for playing the blues!

Bright Mississippi – Allen Toussaint

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

I have, on a few occasions posted pieces of Jazz that cross over different eras and here’s a wonderful example that has been in my head for a while. Bright Mississippi is a typically quirky composition by Thelonious Monk, a man often described as the ‘High Priest of Bop’. This version in a live performance by a band led in 2009 by Allen Toussaint, however, gives it a joyously carefree New Orleans treatment.

R.I.P. Henry Grimes (1935-2020)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on April 19, 2020 by telescoper

The Coronavirus continues to cut a swathe through a generation of great Jazz musicians. The latest sad news is of the passing of bass player Henry Grimes at the age of 84.

Henry Grimes was very active in the 50s and 60s, playing with such luminaries as Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk, and appearing on some classic recordings, but he dropped out of the music scene as a performer for roughly thirty years from about 1970 during which time he was virtually destitute. He returned to music around 2002 after a Jazz fan tracked him down and bought him a double bass to play – he had sold his instrument decades earlier – and remained active until his death.

When I heard last night of the death of Henry Grimes the first thing that popped into my mind was this sequence from the movie Jazz On A Summer’s Day. You can see shot of the young Henry Grimes right at the beginning in this clip of the Thelonious Monk trio playing Blue Monk at the Newport JJazz Festival in 1958; Roy Haynes was the drummer.

Rest in peace, Henry Grimes (1935-2020)

R. I. P. Lee Konitz (1927-2020)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2020 by telescoper

My word this Covid-19 pandemic is having a terrible effect on the Jazz world. I heard this evening that it has now taken from us the great alto saxophonist Lee Konitz at the age of 92 after a career lasting 75 years.

I can’t possibly do justice here to the memory of such a legend but at least I can post one of my favourite tracks of his, a live performance from the 1950s of a tune called Ablution. If Lee Konitz hadn’t announced it at the start the comping of pianist Ronnie Ball would have told you straight away that this is a contrafact built on the chords of the famous Jerome Kern tune All The Things You Are, the unusual chords of which have made it a popular vehicle for jazz musicians to improvise on ever since it was written back in 1939.

In the bebop era it was typical practice to base original compositions on top of the chord sequences of standard tunes in such a way as to hide their foundations from the casual listener. A famous example of this was the Charlie Parker – Dizzy Gillespie session in which they decided to play a variation on the standard Cherokee. It went well until they absent-mindedly played the actual theme of Cherokee at which point there was a cry of anguish from the control room from a producer who had obviously hoped that if they stayed off the original melody he wouldn’t have to pay composer’s royalties. So off they went again called the next take Ko Ko and created one of the Charlie Parker classics.

Although Lee Konitz had a tone much more reminiscent of Paul Desmond than Charlie Parker he had a wonderfully agile and inventive way of playing that had echoes of Bird at the same time as being definitely his own style, as I hope you will agree after listening to this!

Here are just two classic albums that Lee Konitz played on relatively early in his career, if you want to check them out

R.I.P. Lee Konitz (1927-2020)


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!