Over the past several decades, jazz oral history projects have preserved the stories of great musicians. While the Filius Jazz Archive from Hamilton College may not be as well known as other jazz oral history projects, a new book "Jazz Tales from Jazz Legends" reveals that the Filius Archive holds several unique treasures. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the book, sales of which support the ongoing work of the archive.
New in Retro Reviews:
JAMES NEWTON: "THE AFRICAN FLOWER" When it was issued in 1985, "The African Flower" featured some of the decade's greatest jazz talents, from its leader, flutist James Newton to the sidemen, violinist John Blake, alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, cornetist Olu Dara, vibraphonist Jay Hoggard and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that while few of these musicians have retained their status as jazz stars, the original album remains one of the finest tributes to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn ever recorded.
DUKE ELLINGTON & BILLY STRAYHORN'S "SUCH SWEET THUNDER" In 1956, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn spent a week at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. Inspired by the performances of the Bard's plays, Ellington promised that he and Strayhorn would write a new Shakespeare-inspired suite for the next year's festival. The result was "Such Sweet Thunder", one of the most highly acclaimed albums in the Ellington discography. In this Historical Essay, Thomas Cunniffe explores the suite in depth, offering historical and musical background for this important recording. A rare aircheck of the Ellington orchestra performing portions of the suite is also included in this extended article.
Few contemporary vocalists have the stylistic
range of Luciana Souza. She is a remarkable improviser and composer who
can not only offer passionate interpretations of songs from America and
Brazil, but is also a collaborator with contemporary classical composer
Osvaldo Golijov. Thomas Cunniffe introduces you to Souza in this JHO
profile, which includes audio and video clips of Souza at work.
2015 comes to a close, Jazz History Online recognizes the best CDs, DVDs and books that have appeared in our pages over the
past 12 months. We also pay tribute to the great musicians and jazz
historians who left us in 2015.
It's been about six years since pianist Renee Rosnes and saxophonist Lew Tabackin released albums under their own names, but each of them has a new disc out, and as Thomas Cunniffe notes in his reviews, both albums were worth the wait. Also reviewed is a collection of 2005 duets by trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and pianist John Taylor. The album was originally issued as a memorial to Wheeler, but by the time of its release, Taylor had also passed away.
This month's vocal releases seem tailored for late-night listening. Cyrille Aimée’s "Let's Get Lost" tells the story of a relationship through songs in English, Spanish and French, Stacey Kent's "Tenderly" is an intimate recital of standards featuring Roberto Menescal, and Jenny Maybee's collaboration with trumpeter Nick Phillips, "Haiku" is an intriguing and moody collection of original pieces and jazz classics. Thomas Cunniffe dims the lights as he reviews these three fine recordings.
The flamboyant electric bassist Jaco Pastorius was an anomaly in jazz history. Since his instrument has generally gone out of favor in jazz circles, Pastorius' main influence has been within rock bands. A new documentary, authorized by the Pastorius family, was produced by Metallica's Robert Trujillo, and features an equal number of rock and jazz musicians as interviewees. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the 2-DVD set of "Jaco", noting that the film discusses Jaco as a person well, but gets a few key facts wrong.
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