Historical Essays
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New this month:
MEL, MARTY & THE DEK-TETTE
The recorded collaborations between vocalist Mel Tormé and arranger Marty Paich were arguably the highlights of each man's career. The albums they recorded with a 10-piece studio ensemble, the Marty Paich Dek-tette are some of the finest vocal LPs ever made. Thomas Cunniffe's study of this music was originally part of his Master's Thesis, and has been published on several websites over the past two decades. This newly-revised edition of the article (with three embedded videos) now marks its first appearance on Jazz History Online.
 
Previous essays (in alphabetical order by last name of artist or subject):
THE EARLIEST RECORDINGS OF "BODY & SOUL"
Before it was interpolated into the Broadway revue, "Three's A Crowd", Johnny Green's "Body and Soul" had been a hit in England. As the show went through tryouts, the lyrics of the song  underwent a complete rewrite before its Broadway premiere. In this interactive Historical Essay, Thomas Cunniffe examines 17 recordings of "B&S" recorded between February and October 1930.


PAUL DESMOND AND THE CANADIANS
In the last decade of his life, Paul Desmond only performed occasionally. But when he hired three exceptional Canadian musicians, (Ed Bickert, Don Thompson and Jerry Fuller) to back him for a club date, the music inspired Desmond to some of his finest performances. Thomas Cunniffe explores the legacy of Desmond's "Canadian Quartet" in this Historical Essay.

DUKE ELLINGTON AND 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.


THE 1968 BILL EVANS TRIO WITH EDDIE GOMEZ & JACK DEJOHNETTE
For about 6 months in the middle of 1968, pianist Bill Evans led a remarkable trio featuring bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Up until now, the only recordings that existed of this group were the Grammy-winning LP "Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival" and a handful of bootleg recordings. In this Historical Essay, Thomas Cunniffe discusses all of the group's recordings (including a newly released--and previously unknown--studio session) as well as a rare TV broadcast. 


THE ART FARMER QUARTET FEATURING JIM HALL
While they were only together for a little over a year, the Art Farmer Quartet with Jim Hall created a remarkable legacy of music. In this extended historical essay, Thomas Cunniffe explores the audio and video recordings of this remarkable group.

TOMMY FLANAGAN'S COMPOSER TRIBUTES

Between 1975 and 1993, pianist Tommy Flanagan recorded six tribute albums featuring, in turn,  the music of Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn, Bud Powell, Harold Arlen, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Thad Jones. Thomas Cunniffe explores these albums in this month's Historical Essay.

SHEILA JORDAN: THE BASS/VOICE DUETS (Part 1)

Sheila Jordan once said, "I think I may have been a bass player in a previous life. My favorite way to sing is with the bass". Jordan's duo recordings with  bass accompaniment have been some of her finest work. This month, Jordan's biographer Ellen Johnson, offers the first part of a two-part Historical Essay on these seminal recordings.

SHEILA JORDAN: THE BASS/VOICE DUETS (Part 2)

After the end of her partnership with Harvie S, Sheila Jordan continued to explore the possibilities of the bass/voice duo with Cameron Brown. In the second part of her Historical Essay, Ellen Johnson examines the music Jordan recorded with Brown and other bass players.

SHELLY MANNE AND HIS MEN (FEATURING JOE GORDON AND RICHIE KAMUCA)
One of the most beloved recorded collections in jazz history features extended live performances performed by a band with no major stars except its leader. In this Historical Essay, Thomas Cunniffe reviews the  recordings of Shelly Manne and His Men featuring Joe Gordon and Richie Kamuca, including the magical albums recorded over three nights at San Francisco's Black Hawk.


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.


JAZZ ADAPTATIONS OF "PORGY AND BESS"
George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" lives in two disparate worlds: opera and popular music. With an award-winning, but controversial production running on Broadway, the show has never been more popular. In this Historical Essay, Thomas Cunniffe discusses several jazz adaptations of this American masterwork.


"THE SOUND OF JAZZ": AN INTERACTIVE ESSAY
Produced by Robert Herridge for CBS in December 1957, The Sound of Jazz is universally recognized as the best jazz television show ever made. Thomas Cunniffe's interactive essay includes embedded videos of the entire show, plus detailed information on the show's production and music.


48 VERSIONS OF "ST. LOUIS BLUES"
W.C. Handy's St. Louis Blues was written nearly 100 years ago, and it has inspired thousands of recorded versions. Thomas Cunniffe examines four dozen jazz versions in this month's Historical Essay. A Spotify playlist is available for our Facebook fans who want to listen along.

FATS WALLER AT THE PIPE ORGAN
Fats Waller recorded over 70 sides on pipe organs in Camden, New Jersey and London, England. He was the first to record jazz on the "king of instruments" and through his own self-taught technique, he made the behemoth swing. Thomas Cunniffe examines this unique recorded legacy in an extended essay.