Retro Reviews

DO YOU REMEMBER THE CONCERT WHEN…

Of the hundreds of concerts we may attend in our lifetimes, the ones we remember best are the ones with stories attached. Usually, the stories are exaggerated over time…unless the concert was recorded. In this month’s Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe reviews newly issued vintage concerts by Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, and Oscar Peterson, each attached to a unique story.

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ROY ELDRIDGE: “DALE’S WAIL” (Verve LP VE2-2531)

Roy Eldridge and Norman Granz first met in 1942. Eldridge was already a star but Granz was still living on limited means. A few years later, Granz bolstered Eldridge’s stature by featuring him in concerts and recordings. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe examines a seminal collection of 4 collaborations between Eldridge and Oscar Peterson, produced by Granz, from a classic double-LP compilation, “Dale’s Wail”.

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UNBURIED TREASURES

This issue’s Retro Review covers three new discoveries, including a pair of highly interactive duo concerts by Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller, three Seattle nightclub sets from the 1960s by Harold Land, and the recording debut of Sheila Jordan. Thomas Cunniffe reviews these instant classics.

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NEW MUSIC FROM OLD MASTERS

The four albums spotlighted in this month’s Retro Review offer new insights into the music of Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus and Sonny Rollins. Each recording adds previously unissued music which help to fill gaps in their legacy. Thomas Cunniffe highlights these important recordings.

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MINGUS AT ANTIBES (Atlantic 3001 [LP]/Rhino 72871 [CD])

It was hot in the summer of 1960, but it wasn’t all due to the weather. Civil Rights was a regular topic on the evening news. With racial inequality still part of our daily lives in 2020, Thomas Cunniffe felt that it was appropriate to re-examine Charles Mingus’ explosive concert at Antibes from July 1960, featuring Ted Curson, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Dannie Richmond and special guest Bud Powell.

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LENNIE TRISTANO & LEE KONITZ: DUETS (but not with each other)

Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz were constantly grouped together because of their decades-long association: first as teacher and pupil, then as leader and sideman. It may seem surprising that they never made a duet recording together, but soon after their last gig together, both men started an album of duets…with other musicians. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe discusses the classic “Lee Konitz Duets” and the new Tristano release “Duo Sessions”.

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TUBBY HAYES: “THE COMPLETE FONTANA ALBUMS” (Fontana 7743915—13 CDs)

While most of Tubby Hayes’ recordings have been reissued in recent years, his important recordings for the Fontana label have been in and out of print since their original issues. With the success of the recently rediscovered “Grits, Beans and Greens” sessions, Universal Music has finally reissued all of Hayes’ Fontana albums as deluxe CD and LP box sets. Thomas Cunniffe offers a detailed summation of the 13-CD set in this extended Retro Review.

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NAT KING COLE: “HITTIN’ THE RAMP” (Resonance 2042)

In addition to being one of the world’s greatest popular vocalists, Nat King Cole was also an important jazz pianist in the years between swing and bebop. Many of Cole’s earliest recordings were made for radio transcription companies rather than commercial labels, but that didn’t stop Cole from leaving a group of recordings that showed his development as both an instrumentalist and a vocalist. A new set from Resonance collects 183 tracks recorded between 1936 and 1943, and reviewer Thomas Cunniffe notes that modern listeners will be able to hear stylistic developments and artistic breakthroughs that the original audiences probably missed.

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“THE PLAYBOY JAZZ ALL-STARS, VOLUME 2” (LP: Playboy PB 1958)

Don’t let the Playboy moniker throw you: The album under review does include a gatefold cover, but there are no nude photos inside. “The Playboy Jazz All-Stars, Volume 2” collected tracks by the winners of the magazine’s 1958 jazz poll, and aside from a few misogynist remarks in the liner notes, the album is completely family-friendly. In fact, it was one of the first jazz albums that the teenaged Thomas Cunniffe ever heard. In this Retro Review, he recalls this recording, his growing love of the music, and a very special Christmas present.

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