Welcome to the 11th Anniversary issue of Jazz History Online. I apologize that there hasn’t been a new issue since the beginning of the year, but I have had health problems that are just now being rectified. COVID-19 has still made public transportation to the big cities difficult, but I have tried to cover as many concerts as possible. In fact, I will return to New York City this Thursday for a concert at the 92nd Street Y.
We will begin a new concert journal when this new review publishes next week. I have a DVD review ready of “The WBGO Story”, but I cannot publish it yet because the producer is still setting up online distribution for the DVD. When it is available, I will post the review. Before discussing the new articles, I want to offer a short editorial regarding a subject that will affect most of our readers sooner or later.
One of the projects occupying my time is the custody of two music collections, one which belonged to a deceased friend, and the other to an elderly friend who is now in assisted living. Naturally, as I have just turned 61 years old, I am also trying to find a future home for my collection. Years ago, it was easy to find libraries that would take any donated items, but with the popularity of streaming and the gradual decline of physical media, most libraries have storage units filled to capacity with discs they may never use. Many libraries have stopped taking unsolicited donations, and some have removed their CDs and LPs from the stacks. For those of us who spent thousands of dollars building our collections, it is heartbreaking to think that no one seems interested in our records. And what of the established tradition of recommending recordings to young students? Didn’t we all have that teacher or family friend who lent us a pile of old jazz records just so we could learn about the music? I fear that the open exchange of music may now be endangered, even at a time when so many people download music for free. The streaming companies may exercise their rights to pull recordings off their platforms if they don’t generate enough profit. I treasure my right to own copies of my albums, so I can listen to them whenever I please. I encourage you to do the same.
On to this issue’s offerings! I was tempted to title the new Historical Essay “Red/Sullivan” after a nickname given to the Red Rodney/Ira Sullivan Quintet. If you get the title’s pun, you were probably alive when Red and Ira were on the scene. Further, you were probably a jazz fan when Red and Ira led their group. Shortly after Ira’s death, I picked up several LPs of the Quintet and decided that I wanted to write about the band. With the unexpected appearance of six amazing concert recordings, I wrote the essay for this issue. For those unaware of this quintet, it was fronted by two veteran players, both of which had played with Charlie Parker. Rodney was portrayed in Clint Eastwood’s biopic “Bird” (remember “Albino Red”? That was Red Rodney.) Sullivan was a legendary multi-instrumentalist with equal abilities on trumpet and saxophone. Rodney and Sullivan recorded together in the 1950s, but their major work was in the 1980s quintet which included a young, vibrant rhythm section. The band embraced contemporary jazz styles from a strong bebop foundation., and they did it before Wynton Marsalis appeared on the scene. The essay contains discussions of 9 albums and 6 concert recordings. Most of the concert recordings are embedded in the article, along with a rare video of the group. If you want to collect the original albums, follow the links; most of the albums are available at budget prices.
In the Book Review section, we feature a new book on Mary Lou Williams, along with a recording of Williams’ compositions performed by the book’s author, Deanna Witkowski. The Retro Review collects four newly issued live recordings, featuring Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, and Oscar Peterson. There was something about each concert that stood out, and I used those elements to structure the reviews. The Vocal CD Reviews include albums by Alex Baird, Dawn Derow, Carol Sloane, Melissa Stylianou, Tierney Sutton, and Mark Winkler. On the instrumental side, we have reviews of albums by Lynne Arriale, Eli Degibri, Fred Hersch, and Martin Wind. There were many discs waiting for review this time and I could not get to everything. Our September issue will continue my attempt to catch up on disc reviews.
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