Ask the average jazz musician who he would like to meet, and one likely answer would be Herbie Hancock. From all accounts, Hancock is a friendly warm person with few pretensions. We may not all get our chance to hang out with Herbie, but his autobiography "Possibilities" might be the next best thing. In a conversational tone, Hancock recalls his work with Miles Davis, his own groups, and offers a few surprising stories. Thomas Cunniffe offers his impressions of the autobiography in this month's Book Review.
New in Retro Reviews:
"CHARLIE PARKER WITH STRINGS: DELUXE EDITION" The exclusive recording contract between Charlie Parker and Norman Granz was beneficial to both parties. Signing Parker was a coup for Granz, who did not yet have the large stable of recording artists. Under Granz, Parker recorded with a wide range of musicians, and was able to realize a long-held dream of recording with strings. A new 2-CD collection of Charlie Parker with Strings includes nearly a full disc of unissued alternate takes. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the new collection in this month's Retro Review.
AT THE OPERA HOUSE REVISED AND UPDATED! 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.
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.
Few singers could discover the inner meaning of a lyric like Susannah McCorkle. A self-described hopeless romantic, she thoroughly researched the songs she performed, and sometimes added long-forgotten lyrics to her arrangements. McCorkle committed suicide in 2001, but her memory lives on through a newly-released live recording from Berlin. Thomas Cunniffe, who once interviewed McCorkle, discusses her life and artistry in this Sidetracks article.
Female jazz vocalists have always outnumbered male jazz singers by a considerable margin, and if anything, the situation has become worse over the past few years. So with all due respect to the ladies, here are Thomas Cunniffe's reviews of albums by three outstanding male vocalists: Michael Dees, Kurt Elling and Ku-umba Frank Lacy.
WORTH WAITING FOR
Years ago, jazz musicians would typically release two or three albums a year, but with the current state of the recording industry, new CDs appear much less regularly. The three instrumental albums reviewed this month by Thomas Cunniffe are by artists who have not released albums as leaders or with their usual groups in several years. However, these recordings by Pat Bianchi, Maria Schneider and Terell Stafford were worth the wait.
and the movies are America's two greatest contributions to the arts,
but Hollywood rarely gets it right when jazz musicians are portrayed on
the silver screen. "Syncopation", a 1942 film directed by William
Dieterle has been issued on home video for the first time, and while
it's not the classic that the trailer claims, it is considerably better
than most Hollywood jazz films. As a bonus, the DVD and Blu-Ray editions
contain nine exquisitely restored jazz shorts featuring Louis
Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw, Jack Teagarden
and Cab Calloway, and reviewer Thomas Cunniffe states that these films
are more entertaining than the feature.
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