The Enigma of Jeri Southern

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.

Summation 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, Jazz History Online recognizes the best new and reissued CDs, DVDs and books that have appeared in our pages over the past 12 months. We also pay tribute to the great musicians and historians who left us in 2018.

Remembering Susannah

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.

Dave Brubeck’s “Koto Song”

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.

Attracting the Lost Generations

Despite a wealth of historical material on the internet, there are many otherwise well-educated people who are unaware of great musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. In this Sidetracks commentary, Thomas Cunniffe urges jazz fans to introduce newcomers to the music before our legacy vanishes.

Maria Schneider/Dawn Upshaw: “Winter Morning Walks” (ArtistShare 121)

Winter Morning Walks is the first album in five years from composer Maria Schneider. It is not a jazz album, but a pair of orchestral song cycles featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw. As it represents a change of pace for both us and the artist, it seems appropriate to present Thomas Cunniffe’s review of the album as this month’s edition of Sidetracks.

Michelle Lordi & the Art of Storytelling

Philadelphia vocalist Michelle Lordi loves to tell stories in song. She has a deep abiding interest in the Great American Songbook, but has also found viable material from alternative country singer Ryan Adams and the 1980s pop group, The Cars. In this month’s Sidetracks feature, Thomas Cunniffe introduces us to Lordi through her recordings and a recent live performance in Denver.

Interviewing Miles

In the first edition of our new Sidetracks feature, Amy Duncan tells of getting the interview of a lifetime with the legendary (and notoriously difficult) Miles Davis. The first-person narrative is part of Duncan’s soon-to-be-published autobiography Getting Down To Brass Tacks: My adventures in the world of jazz, Rio and beyond.

A Non-Review

Normally, this space would be filled with a book review. But this month, Thomas Cunniffe became quite frustrated with a new jazz listener’s guide he was asked to review. As he writes,This book is a particularly egregious example of shoddy work, which was pushed into the marketplace without recognition of its responsibilities or consequences. Cunniffe uses the faults of the book to address the problems with some of today’s jazz scholarship.

The Unedited Paul Desmond

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.

Retro Technology

Invent a new recording technology and someone will claim that the old technology was better. The CD vs. LP discussion has gone on for the past several years, but Sony Music is going one step further, claiming that Miles Davis’ first 9 Columbia albums were designed to be heard in mono. Thomas Cunniffe speculates on Sony’s reasoning in this month’s Sidetracks.

Those Marching Saints

When the Saints Go Marchin’ In is one of the oldest standards in the jazz repertory, and its origins are shrouded in mystery. In this month’s Sidetracks column, Thomas Cunniffe notes a startling resemblance between the Saints and a crucial part of the Catholic Requiem Mass.

A Sick Kind of Humor

The New Yorker’s fake Sonny Rollins interview has probably gotten more attention than it ever deserved, but the suicide of Robin Williams has brought out a new and disturbing element about the Rollins article. In this special edition of Sidetracks, Thomas Cunniffe explores the darker side of the New Yorker’s satire.

A Midsummer Night’s Stream

In recent years, many jazz venues have added live video streaming as a way to add to their revenue and recognition. Theoretically, a live feed should be the next best thing to being there, but in this month’s Sidetracks, Thomas Cunniffe discusses the highs and lows of video streaming, and spotlights a club that’s trying to set the bar higher.

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