Despite appearing on some of the greatest jazz records of the 1930s, and possessing one of the most personal sounds in jazz history, trumpeter Frankie Newton is barely remembered today. His biography is filled with contradictory information, and his discography has several mysterious gaps. Thomas Cunniffe sorts out the conflicting details and discusses all of Newton’s recordings in this special 2-part Historical Essay.
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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.
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 newly revised Historical Essay, Thomas Cunniffe sorts out the discographical maze and discusses all five of the albums in both their mono and stereo editions.
The art song has been a staple of European and American classical music for two centuries. It’s possible that jazz has found its equivalent in two new albums led by Renee Rosnes and Helen Sung. On each album, the pianist/composers have collaborated with a living, jazz-influenced poet to create song cycles with potent messages and room for improvisation. Thomas Cunniffe compares these stunning new releases in this special CD review.
One of the most revered vocalists of the 1950s, Jeri Southern created a series of acclaimed LPs and then abruptly stopped performing and recording. Thomas Cunniffe explores her minimalist style and her recorded legacy in this month’s edition of Sidetracks.
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.
As they approach their 50th anniversary, the Swingle Singers are at the top of the a cappella world. Thomas Cunniffe offers this interactive history of the group with embedded video and audio performances and a gallery of group photos.
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.
Jo Stafford never considered herself a jazz singer, but her 1960 Columbia LP Jo + Jazz shows us what might have been. Arranged and conducted by Johnny Mandel, and featuring an all-star band made up of Ellington veterans and West Coast jazz stalwarts, Stafford performs the most jazz-infused performances of her career. Thomas Cunniffe revisits this vocal jazz classic in this month’s Retro Review.
Of all Dave Brubeck’s compositions, none have been as completely transformed as Koto Song. Thomas Cunniffe examines 11 Brubeck recordings of the piece and notes the gradual evolution of this delicate masterwork. All of the pieces can be heard through an embedded audio playlist and a video.
In their 30-year history, the Manhattan Transfer has recorded several fine albums. However, few were as pivotal as Extensions, the 1979 LP which introduced Cheryl Bentyne as a new member of the group, and solidified the group’s commitment to jazz and vocalese. Thomas Cunniffe takes a fresh look at the album in this Retro Review.
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 marks its first appearance on Jazz History Online.
Paul Desmond’s blazing improvisation on The Way You Look Tonight (from the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s album Jazz at Oberlin) has long been considered one of the saxophonist’s greatest solos. An alert JHO reader discovered that the solo was edited when transferred from 10 LP to EP and 12 LP. In this Sidetracks feature, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the edit completely changes the feel of the solo. Both versions are embedded in this article.