THE PROPER COMBINATION

In discovering a unique repertoire, jazz musicians (both instrumentalists and vocalists) must search to find their own proper combination of standard and original material. If the two are not balanced, a musician can be unfairly labeled as either a cover artist or too esoteric. In this month’s Vocal CD Reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines four self-released discs by artists who are searching for that elusive formula.

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SOLO PIANO!

Artists of all kinds strive for a direct connection with their audiences (basically, where thoughts move from their mind to yours)_. Until the day when telepathic communication becomes the norm, solo performances are the closest equivalents, with only an instrument, a communication method and our comprehension. In this month’s Instrumental CD Reviews, Thomas Cunniffe discusses three new solo piano recordings where the artist’s emotions and motivations are clearly expressed in their music.

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Music for a Cool Yule 2019

Happy Holidays from Jazz History Online! For our annual feature, Music for a Cool Yule, Thomas Cunniffe and Marti Mendenhall offer capsule reviews of the best in holiday jazz, both new and classic. We have received far less holiday discs for review this year, so we hope that you will look through the entire list to find a new holiday favorite, regardless of whether it is a new release, or one from years past.

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“A ROMANTIC EVENING WITH JACKIE ALLEN” (AvantBass Blu-Ray & CD)

Of all popular music genres, the love song may be the most venerable. A new Blu-Ray/CD concert recording, “A Romantic Evening with Jackie Allen” displays how the brilliant Midwestern songstress brings deeper meaning and great expression to a wide variety of love songs written between the 1930s and the 1980s. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the concert video is currently playing in a shortened version on PBS, but that the 2-disc set is a worthy purchase for its additional music and insights.

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NAT KING COLE: “HITTIN’ THE RAMP” (Resonance 2042)

In addition to being one of the world’s greatest popular vocalists, Nat King Cole was also an important jazz pianist in the years between swing and bebop. Many of Cole’s earliest recordings were made for radio transcription companies rather than commercial labels, but that didn’t stop Cole from leaving a group of recordings that showed his development as both an instrumentalist and a vocalist. A new set from Resonance collects 183 tracks recorded between 1936 and 1943, and reviewer Thomas Cunniffe notes that modern listeners will be able to hear stylistic developments and artistic breakthroughs that the original audiences probably missed.

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DAVE BRUBECK’S “TIME OUT” (by Stephen A. Crist)

Dave Brubeck frequently related the story that the businessmen at Columbia Records fought against the release of “Time Out”, feeling it would be a commercial flop. Fortunately, Brubeck had an important supporter in Columbia’s president, Goddard Lieberson. When the album was released and sales went through the roof, Brubeck was accused of going commercial! A new monograph by Stephen A. Crist examines the history and legacy of Brubeck’s signature album. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the book.

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CHICK COREA/CHRISTIAN McBRIDE/BRIAN BLADE AT MACKY AUDITORIUM (Boulder; October 9, 2019)

The supertrio of Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade has so much musical experience that their concert performances can–and frequently do–go in many different directions. At a recent performance at Macky Auditorium, the group used compositions by jazz giants to illustrate its expansion of the trio style. However, “Trilogy 2”, the double CD documenting the group’s last world tour, offers a freer approach and a (mostly) different repertoire. Thomas Cunniffe reviews both the concert and the CD in this special combined review.

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NOTES FROM THE EDITOR 12-19a

Hello everyone– I hope that you are all having a happy holiday season. It has been a busy time  here at the JHO offices, and as a result, we will have two issues this month! The second will appear on December 31 with the publication of our 2019 summation, along with several new reviews. “Music […]

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VERONICA SWIFT: “HER INFINITE VARIETY”

In “Antony and Cleopatra”, Shakespeare wrote, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale, her infinite variety”. The words were originally a tribute to the Egyptian queen, but they have special significance in the career of jazz vocalist Veronica Swift. Thomas Cunniffe explores the music and life of this multi-talented young lady in this JHO Profile.

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