Duke Ellington was many things to many people, and a new collection of essays, "The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington", examines Ellington from a diverse and wide-ranging set of approaches. In his Book Review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the anthology--which utilizes the work of 20 different authors--is uneven, but worth exploring.
By all indications, it shouldn’t have been that special: just a run-out concert by the Erroll Garner Trio in a small California coastal town on the off-night of a nightclub engagement in San Francisco. Yet, on September 19. 1955, Erroll Garner's concert in Carmel-by-the-Sea was recorded by a young Army DJ, and subsequently issued by Columbia. To celebrate the album's 60th anniversary, the complete concert is being issued for the first time. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe tells the story behind "Concert by the Sea" and notes that the remastered and restored sound is better than any previous issues.
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.
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.
Philadelphia vocalist Michelle Lordi loves to tell stories in song. She has a deep abiding interest in the Great American Songbook, but has also found viable material from alternative country singer Ryan Adams and the 1980s pop group, The Cars. In this month's Sidetracks feature, Thomas Cunniffe introduces us to Lordi through her recordings and a recent live performance in Denver.
The piano is capable of a wide range of expression, and the piano CD reviewed this month display three different approaches to the instrument. Yelena Eckemoff leads a quartet of Norwegian jazz musicians through an original program of meditative pieces on "Everblue", Benny Green and his trio enliven their audience with joyous swing on "Live in Santa Cruz" and Fred Hersch plays a concert of romantic ballads and energetic originals on "Solo". Thomas Cunniffe offers his thoughts in this month's CD Reviews.
While many singers are very comfortable singing in front of an orchestra or big band, there's something special about working with a small group.The five CDs reviewed this month feature vocalists performing in intimate duos, trios and quartets. Thomas Cunniffe discusses these albums by Karrin Allyson, Laurie Antonioli, Sinne Eeg, Elisabeth Lohninger and the New West Guitar Group (featuring Gretchen Parlato, Sara Gazarek, Peter Eldridge, Becca Stevens and Tierney Sutton).
Under the right conditions, jazz--like many other art forms--can take on a spiritual quality that can affect both the creators and audience. Charles Lloyd has communicated that spirit in performances spanning half a decade. A new film co-directed by Lloyd's wife, Dorothy Darr, examines Lloyd's career primarily through the effect he has had on fellow musicians and audiences. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the DVD edition, which includes notes from the filmmakers and a full Lloyd/ECM discography.
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