Retro Reviews

Erroll Garner: The Complete “Concert by the Sea” (Columbia/Legacy 20842)

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.

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Count Basie and Lester Young: Live and in the Studio

It’s always good to be a fan of Count Basie and Lester Young, but with the concurrent releases of Mosaic’s 8-CD box set Classic 1936-1947 Studio Sessions and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem’s second volume of Bill Savory recordings (focused entirely on Basie and Young from 1938-1940), the artistry of these great musicians can be understood in greater detail than ever before. In this extended Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the highly inclusive Mosaic set allows listeners to compare recordings that were made for competing record companies, and Savory’s radio broadcasts capture the band live at New York’s Famous Door, Boston’s Southland Ballroom and Chicago’s Panther Room.

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National Jazz Museum of Harlem Savory Collection, Vol. 1 (Apple download)

In the Thirties and Forties, a young radio engineer named Bill Savory captured broadcast performances of Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller, and many others. Up until this year, a double-disc set of Goodman airchecks were the only parts of Savory’s collection available to the general public. However, this fall Loren Schoenberg and the National Jazz Museum of Harlem released the first in a series of digital albums featuring highlights from the Savory archive. As Thomas Cunniffe notes in this Retro Review, the recordings make us reconsider our knowledge of these great jazz icons.

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Discoveries!

The modern-day discoveries of unreleased recordings keep jazz history an ongoing endeavor. Historians like Loren Schoenberg (of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem) and Zev Feldman (of Resonance Records and other independent companies) have discovered unissued recordings that have changed our perspective on the artists. This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews the third volume of the Bill Savory Collection and Thelonious Monk’s film score for Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960.

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Fred Astaire: “The Astaire Story” (Verve 26605)

Fred Astaire may not have been a fan of his own singing voice, but Norman Granz was, and in 1952, he called up Astaire to propose a 4-LP set commemorating his career. Astaire turned him down, but after his son reminded him of the JATP concert recordings they listened to at home, Astaire changed his mind. A new double CD reissue of The Astaire Story has just been released, and Thomas Cunniffe details the music and backstory of this timeless recording.

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Ella Fitzgerald: “Ella at Zardi’s” (Verve 27422)

By the early months of 1956, Ella Fitzgerald had appeared in concert halls, and nightclubs, as well as on radio and television. She tailored her repertoire to fit each venue. A new release, Ella at Zardi’s, offers the earliest authorized recording of Fitzgerald in a nightclub, and reviewer Thomas Cunniffe notes the casual atmosphere and the banter between Ella and her audience makes this recording significant, enlightening and highly entertaining.

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The Complete 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia & Master Recordings of Duke Ellington & his Famous Orchestra (Mosaic 248)

While Duke Ellington was one of Columbia Records’ signature artists, the company (now owned by Sony) has not always been an ideal custodian of Duke’s recordings. As a whole, Ellington’s 1932-1940 Columbia, Brunswick and Master big band sides have been out-of-print for years, with Columbia providing two outstanding collections in the 1960s, and little else since then. Mosaic Records has again stepped up to correct this problem, and in his Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe notes the wide variety of Ellington treasures in this 11-CD box set.

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