AT THE OPERA HOUSE In 1957, Norman Granz launched the 18th tour of Jazz at the Philharmonic. The concerts yielded 5 separate albums featuring Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Stan Getz, J.J. Johnson, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and the JATP All-Stars. All of the albums were titled "At the Opera House" but on four of the five albums, the mono editions were recorded at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles! In this Historical Essay, Thomas Cunniffe sorts out the discographical maze and discusses all five of the albums in both their mono and stereo editions.
From the beginning of her 6-decade career, Peggy Lee was the personification of understatement. Her subtle vocal delivery said more with one note that most singers did with several, and on film, she could entice the entire audience with only a raised eyebrow. James Gavin's new biography, "Is That All There Is" examines Lee's life and music. In his Book Review, Thomas Cunniffe argues that because the book's primary focus is on Lee's personal life, it might discourage new fans from exploring her music.
By 1960, John Coltrane had played with Miles Davis for nearly five years. With the release of "Giant Steps", he was auditioning musicians for his own quartet. However, Davis needed Coltrane for an tour of Europe, and Coltrane reluctantly accepted. A new 4-CD set from Acrobat collects many of the tour's highlights, and in this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe recommends it for its improved sound quality and its detailed liner notes by Simon Spillett.
Anita Wardell may be the greatest singer you've never heard. Well-known in Europe, but barely known in the US, Wardell is one of the best scat singers in jazz today, and she also is a superb interpreter of vocalese, jazz originals and standards. Thomas Cunniffe introduces you to Wardell in this profile which features 5 complete audio selections and a video performance.
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The words "memory" and "memorial" come from the same root, but they hold different connotations. In this month's instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines how these concepts are contrasted and combined in albums by saxophonists Jimmy Greene, Houston Person and Dayna Stephens.
Standards are part of every jazz vocalist's repertoire, and the three women featured in this month's vocal CD reviews all share deep love and knowledge of the standard repertoire. Thomas Cunniffe discusses an autobiographical CD by Cat Conner, a soulful recital with B3 organ by Nancy Kelly, and a direct-to-2-track recording by Melissa Stylianou.
When Gary McFarland died in 1971, he had been praised as one of the 1960s most innovative jazz arrangers and vilified by the same critics for incorporating rock and Brazilian music into his scores. A new documentary, "This is Gary McFarland", attempts to restore McFarland's lost fame. In his DVD review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the film takes too narrow of an approach to McFarland's wide musical horizons.
Clark Terry is one of jazz's greatest mentors. There's hardly a jazz musician working today that hasn't been touched by this gentle, wise giant. A new documentary, "Keep On Keepin' On", captures Terry and his gifted student, pianist Justin Kauflin, as they each face numerous obstacles. Thomas Cunniffe provides a sneak preview in this special edition of Sidetracks.
In the spring of 2010, vocal jazz fans were treated to a pair of amazing recordings: "Vocabularies" by Bobby McFerrin (arranged by Roger Treece) and "The Music of Maria Schneider" by Kerry Marsh and Julia Dollison. Marsh and Dollison are better known in educational circles than to the jazz public, but their recordings continue to astound listeners. In this exclusive Jazz History Online interview, Thomas Cunniffe talks to Marsh and Dollison about the Schneider album, their quartet Vertical Voices and the future of vocal jazz.
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