- “THE COMPLETE FREDDIE HUBBARD BLUE NOTE & IMPULSE STUDIO SESSIONS” (Mosaic 274)
With the exception of Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard was the hottest jazz trumpeter during the early to mid-1960s. Prior to leading his own group, he was a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and he appeared on many landmark albums of the time. A new Mosaic box collects the first 10 LPs Hubbard recorded under his own name, in stunning fidelity with outstanding liner notes by Bob Blumenthal. Thomas Cunniffe offers a track-by-track summary of this set in this Retro Review.
- “THE COMPLETE LOUIS ARMSTRONG COLUMBIA & RCA VICTOR STUDIO SESSIONS, 1946-1966” (Mosaic 270)
After several delays, Mosaic has finally released "The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia and RCA Victor Studio Sessions". If anything, it is even more fascinating that the live set they released several years ago. As he did with the previous Mosaic Armstrong box, Thomas Cunniffe reviews the new set in depth with detailed information on each session.
- “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.
- A Plethora of Historical Releases
The reissues have been piling up in the JHO offices, so this month, Thomas Cunniffe has selected seven new collections (a total of 26 discs!) for discussion in the Retro Review. Included are the Mosaic Savory Collection, and collections featuring Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Erroll Garner.
- An Avalanche of Classic Jazz (Resonance)
Resonance Records, a non-profit record label run by George Klabin and Zev Feldman, usually produces a handful of historic jazz releases each year, but this year--in the span of six weeks--they have issued five remarkable albums. In this expanded Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe reviews the CDs by Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Stan Getz, João Gilberto, Larry Young and Sarah Vaughan.
- Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: “Free For All” (Blue Note 84170)
Although it was made in a recording studio, Art Blakey's Free For All sounds like a live album. Recorded in 1964, the album features remarkable music by one of the greatest of all Jazz Messenger units, with Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton and Reggie Workman. Thomas Cunniffe discusses the curious circumstances of the recording session and the events of the time that may have inspired the music.
- Art Pepper: “Live at Fat Tuesday’s” (Elemental 5990427)
For years, Art Pepper proved that being white and a Californian were not detriments to being a great jazz musician. However, even near the end of his career, Pepper believed he had to prove himself yet again. A newly released nightclub performance from New York's Fat Tuesday's finds Pepper performing exciting and emotionally ripe solos in front of an explosive rhythm section with Milcho Leviev, George Mraz and Al Foster. Thomas Cunniffe reviews this important recording in this month's Retro Review.
- Art Pepper: “Unreleased Art, Vol. 8: Live at the Winery” (Widow’s Taste 13001)
When Art Pepper was released from Synanon in 1972, he was hesitant to resume his playing career. He realized that the music he loved to play was also the conduit for his substance abuse. Yet, with the encouragement of his wife Laurie, Pepper gradually started playing again. Thomas Cunniffe reviews a brilliant 1976 concert recording from the Paul Masson Winery, recently issued by Laurie's Widow's Taste label.
- Ben Webster: “Soho Nights” (Resteamed 106/112)
When Ben Webster traveled from New York to London in December 1964 for an engagement at Ronnie Scott's, he probably did not imagine that he would never return to the US. A new release by Stan Tracey's Resteamed label captures Webster on his second night in London. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the disc and an earlier volume with music from a 1968 performance at Scott's.
- Benny Carter: “Further Definitions” (LP: Impulse 12; CD: Impulse 229)
No one could write for saxophone sections like Benny Carter, and his 1961 Impulse LP, Further Definitions is a genuine masterpiece. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the CD reissue, which also includes Carter's superb 1966 follow-up, Additions to Further Definitions.
- Beny Moré: “Lo Mejor de Lo Mejor” (The Best of the Best) (BMG Mexico 72826)
Known as the Wildman of Rhythm, Cuban singer and bandleader Beny Moré was beloved by fans and musicians. In a solo career that lasted just over a decade, Moré accumulated several hit records, 40 of which are compiled in RCA's Lo Mejor de Lo Mejor. Jazz History Online's Latin jazz expert Janine Santana revisits this music in this Retro Review.
- Bill Evans Trio: “Live at the Top of the Gate” (Resonance 2012)
Historic recordings by Bill Evans are legion, but not all of the recordings have optimum music or sound. George Klabin and Resonance Records' new release Live at the Top of the Gate offers the Evans Trio at an important time in their development, and in spectacular sound. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the album.
- Billie Holiday: “All or Nothing at All” (Verve 314 529 226)
During seven recording sessions in August 1956 and January 1957, Billie Holiday recorded three albums which represented some of the best singing of her later years. Several years ago, these three albums, All or Nothing at All, Body and Soul and Songs for Distingué Lovers were combined on a 2-CD set. To commemorate Holiday's centennial, Thomas Cunniffe listens again to these superb albums, finding Holiday's voice and interpretive powers at their peak.
- Carmen McRae at the Great American Music Hall (Blue Note 709)
Recorded in June 1976, Carmen McRae's live album ...At the Great American Music Hall is one of the singer's least-heralded masterpieces. Featuring the outstanding rhythm section of Marshall Otwell, Ed Bennett and Joey Baron, plus four tracks with guest artist Dizzy Gillespie, the album finds McRae creating one memorable performance after another. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe writes that McRae benefits from the enthusiastic response of the young San Francisco audience.
- Carol Sloane: “Live at 30th Street” (Columbia CS-8743)
On an August night in 1962, Columbia turned its fabled 30th Street Studio into a nightclub for a live recording by vocalist Carol Sloane. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the rarely reissued, Live at 30th Street shows playful, swinging elements of Sloane's style only hinted at on her orchestral debut LP, Out of the Blue.
- Charles Lloyd: “Manhattan Stories” (Resonance 2016)
Although he had appeared on records since the early 1960s, Charles Lloyd was still developing his sound and finding his audience in 1965. A new 2-disc set, Manhattan Stories includes contrasting live sets from Judson Hall and Slug's featuring Lloyd, Gábor Szabó, Ron Carter and Pete La Roca. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the set, noting how well these two sets play off each other, and how one selection points to Lloyd's eventual direction.
- Charles Mingus: “Pre-Bird” (aka “Mingus Revisited”) (Verve 314 538 636)
The music of Charles Mingus was always ahead of its time, and on his album Pre-Bird he presents compositions that he wrote before hearing Charlie Parker. In this Retro Review, Ellen Johnson discusses all of the music and how it related to Mingus' life.
- Charles Mingus: “The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65” (Mosaic 253)
Filling an important gap in Charles Mingus' discography, the new Mosaic 7-CD set The Jazz Workshop Concerts collects five concerts from 1964-1965 originally produced for issue on Mingus' own label. The album includes over two hours of newly released music, including three very different versions of Meditations on Integration. Thomas Cunniffe offers details in this Retro Review.
- Charlie Haden: “Liberation Music Orchestra” (Impulse LP AS-9183)
Jazz and politics might seem strange bedfellows, but no one merged the two better than Charlie Haden. With brilliant arrangements by Carla Bley, Haden's 1969 LP, Liberation Music Orchestra captured the turbulence of its era, and led to three more albums by this landmark ensemble. Thomas Cunniffe examines the original Impulse album in this Retro Review.
- Charlie Parker with Strings (Deluxe Edition) (Verve 22596)
The exclusive recording contract between Charlie Parker and Norman Granz was beneficial to both parties. Signing Parker was a coup for Granz, who did not yet have the large stable of recording artists. Under Granz, Parker recorded with a wide range of musicians, and was able to realize a long-held dream of recording with strings. A new 2-CD collection of Charlie Parker with Strings includes nearly a full disc of unissued alternate takes. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the new collection in this month's Retro Review.
- Clarence Gene Shaw in Chicago
In 1957, trumpeter Clarence Shaw left the music business after a violent argument with his employer, Charles Mingus. By 1962, Shaw was in Chicago and playing again . Now using his middle name, Gene, he recorded three superb LPs for Argo featuring the best of the Windy City's musicians Thomas Cunniffe discusses those rare albums in this Retro Review.
- Classic Brunswick & Columbia Teddy Wilson Sessions (Mosaic 265)
Teddy Wilson was one of the most prolific jazz musicians of the 1930s, recording with Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, and many others. No single CD box set could ever cover all of Wilson's recordings from this period, and Mosaic's new collection contains some--but not all--of Wilson's best sides as a leader, including all of his solo tracks, several combo sessions and all of his big band tracks. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the contents of the set in this month's Retro Review.
- Classic Coleman Hawkins Sessions, 1922-1947 (Mosaic 251)
Mosaic's Classic Coleman Hawkins Sessions 1922-1947 includes many of the pioneer tenor saxophonist's best recordings from the first half of his career. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe details the highlights of the set and praises the outstanding remastering by Andreas Meyer.
- Classic James P. Johnson Sessions (Mosaic 262)
During the 1920s, James P. Johnson's career developed in four distinct areas: stride pianist, vocal accompanist, songwriter and sideman. A new set from Mosaic features Johnson's recordings in all these areas during his peak years of 1921-1943. Because the recordings are presented in chronological order, the music of those distinct areas get mixed together. In his Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe suggests that listeners use the programming function on their CD player to separate the styles and omit some of the less artistic tracks.
- Cleo Laine: “Shakespeare and All That Jazz” (Fontana 5209 or Philips 6382 014)
A modern Renaissance woman, Dame Cleo Laine's 1964 LP Shakespeare and All That Jazz is one of her finest recordings, and one that begs for a CD reissue. Thomas Cunniffe discusses that album and a similar project recorded by Laine's daughter, Jacqui Dankworth, 32 years later.
- Clifford Brown/Max Roach: “Historic California Concerts’ (Fresh Sounds 377)
In 1954, Max Roach and Clifford Brown teamed up in LA to form one of jazz's finest bop groups. The group only stayed in California for a few months, but it helped revitalize LA's bop scene. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe examines two early concerts by the Brown/Roach Quintet, originally issued on the GNP label, and now available in a superior reissue by Fresh Sounds.
- 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.
- Count Basie/Joe Williams: “Memories Ad-Lib” (Roulette LP 52021)
In 1958, Joe Williams and Count Basie recorded a small group masterpiece called Memories Ad-Lib. While the performances by Williams and Basie are superb, the real treasure of this album are guitar solos by Freddie Green. Thomas Cunniffe tells of this rare treasure and wonders why no one has reissued it on CD.
- Dave Brubeck Quartet: “Jazz At Oberlin” (OJC 46)
Jazz at Oberlin is one of the classic Dave Brubeck albums. It was his first recorded college concert, and it featured Paul Desmond at his most uninhibited. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe tells of the first he heard this jazz masterpiece.
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.
- DIVERGENT CAREER PATHS
This issue's Retro Review tells of two superb vocalists whose careers took different paths in the late 80s and early 90s. Lisa Rich was a rising singer with a new album ready for release when health problems sidelined her career. Betty Carter was at the zenith of her career, and was celebrated in a career retrospective at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The recordings have received belated releases, and Thomas Cunniffe discusses both in this essay.
- Dizzy Gillespie: “Sonny Side Up” (Verve 314 521 426)/”Duets” (Verve 835 253)
There are all-star sessions, and then there's Dizzy Gillespie's Sonny Side Up. This album, featuring the twin tenors of Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt, contains one of the greatest tenor sax battles ever recorded. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe explores both Sonny Side Up and its companion album Duets.
- 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.
- Don Ellis: “Soaring” (MPS 1785959)
Don Ellis was best known for his late 1960s band that experimented with odd time signatures and electronic instruments. Through his exploration of ethnomusicology and film music, his concepts deepened through the early 1970s. Michael Verity discusses Ellis' late masterpiece, Soaring in this Retro Review.
- Duke Ellington: “(Hi-Fi) Ellington Uptown” (Columbia 87066)
The early 50s were not a great time for big bands, but Duke Ellington continued to tour and record with his orchestra, despite several roadblocks. Ellington Uptown, an album released in several versions shows Ellington triumphing over adversity in a profound way. Thomas Cunniffe discusses the original LPs and their compilation on Compact Disc in this Retro Review.
- Duke Ellington: The Complete “Ellington Indigos” (Jazz Beat 527)
Neglected among Duke Ellington's classic albums of the late 1950s, Ellington Indigos contains definitive versions of standards by Ellington and his contemporaries. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe offers a fresh interpretation of this album and sorts out its various releases.
- Duke Pearson: “The Right Touch” (Blue Note 84267)
Under-appreciated by the jazz public, but beloved by musicians, Duke Pearson recorded seventeen albums in just under 11 years. Michael Verity singles out Pearson's 1968 Blue Note LP The Right Touch as his crowning achievement in this month's Retro Review.
- Eddie Jefferson: “The Main Man” (Inner City 1033)
In the mid-1970s, Eddie Jefferson finally received the popular and critical acclaim that was long overdue. His 1977 Inner City LP The Main Man has long been considered his finest work, with Jefferson singing definitive versions of his greatest vocalese pieces, backed by a remarkable all-star band. Thomas Cunniffe takes another listen in this month's Retro Review.
- Ella Fitzgerald & Ellis Larkins: “Pure Ella” (Decca/GRP CD 636)
In 1950, Ella Fitzgerald had the good sense to partner with pianist Ellis Larkins for the LP Ella Sings Gershwin. That classic album and its followup Songs in a Mellow Mood were reissued on CD several years ago on a disc appropriately titled Pure Ella. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe details why these recordings are among Fitzgerald's greatest.
- 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.
- Ella Fitzgerald: “Ella Swings Lightly” (Verve 314 517 535)
In the mid-1950s, Ella Fitzgerald entered a period of simultaneous artistic growth and enormous popularity. Although the Song Book series garnered most of the attention, Fitzgerald several jazz albums including the splendid Ella Swings Lightly with the Marty Paich Dek-tette. Thomas Cunniffe discusses this album in this Retro Review.
- Eric Dolphy: “Out To Lunch” (Blue Note 84163/HD Tracks FLAC remaster)
From its iconic cover to the groundbreaking music within its grooves, Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch is one of the classic free jazz albums of the 1960s. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe examines this complex masterpiece.
- Erroll Garner: “Ready, Take One” (Columbia/Legacy 36331)/ Shirley Horn: “Live at the Four Queens” (Resonance 2015)
The names Erroll Garner and Shirley Horn do not usually appear side-by-side in jazz histories. Yet in a vintage interview, Horn said that Garner was her first jazz influence. Both Garner and Horn created unique styles that were difficult for others to copy, specifically Garner's idiosyncratic approach to rhythm and Horn's intimate way with ballads. Thomas Cunniffe reviews newly released recordings by Garner and Horn in this month's Retro Review.
- 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.
- Frank Sinatra on the Radio
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra's birth, Sony Music and the Smithsonian Institute have released a total of 5 CDs featuring radio performances spanning the first two decades of the legendary vocalist's career. In this month's Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe reviews both the Sony 4-CD set and the Smithsonian single disc package, noting that the recordings offer a rare opportunity to hear Sinatra performing songs he never officially recorded.
- 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.
- Gil Evans: “Into The Hot” (orig. LP: Impulse 9; CD: Impulse 39104)
Following his 1961 big band masterpiece, Out of the Cool, Gil Evans defied expectations with his next album, Into the Hot. Evans acted only as producer, allowing John Carisi and Cecil Taylor to showcase their music. Amy Duncan reviews this classic album which contrasts Carisi's progressive big band charts with Taylor's avant-garde ensemble.
- Herbie Hancock: “Mwandishi” (Warner Bros. 9362 47541)
Herbie Hancock called his 1970 LP, Mwandishi his “favorite record of all the records I have ever made, and the loosest I’ve ever done.” Marissa Dodge examines this pivotal album which expanded the ideas explored in Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.
- James Newton: “The African Flower” (Blue Note 46292)
When it was issued in 1985, The African Flower featured some of the decade's greatest jazz talents, from its leader, flutist James Newton to the sidemen, violinist John Blake, alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, cornetist Olu Dara, vibraphonist Jay Hoggard and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that while few of these musicians have retained their status as jazz stars, the original album remains one of the finest tributes to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn ever recorded.
- Jo Stafford: “Jo + Jazz” (Corinthian 108)
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.
- John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (Impulse 10591)
In March 1963, John Coltrane made a temporary change in his quartet's style for a recorded collaboration with ballad singer Johnny Hartman. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe discusses the beauty and legacy of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.
- JOHN COLTRANE/ERIC DOLPHY: “EVENINGS AT THE VILLAGE GATE” (Impulse 37784)
There is no shortage of live albums by John Coltrane, but a newly-discovered set "Evenings at the Village Gate" reveals a crucial step in the development of the iconic saxophonist's Great Quartet. With the added presence of Eric Dolphy, the new album offers a unique look at Coltrane's group in August 1961, just a few months before their historic engagement at the Village Vanguard. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe puts the album in historical perspective.
- 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".
- Les Double Six: “Singin’ Swingin'” (LP: Philips 600 026 CD: RCA 65659)
The Double Six of Paris was unique among vocal jazz groups for their clever vocalese lyrics (sung in French!) and their uncanny way of capturing the nuances of the original instrumental recordings. Amy Duncan discusses the group's second LP Singin', Swingin' in this Retro Review.
- Louis Armstrong: “Columbia & RCA Victor Live Recordings” (Mosaic 257)
Mosaic's new collection of Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars includes over 11 hours of live performances spread over 9 CDs. Co-Producer and annotator Ricky Riccardi has long held that Armstrong's later recordings are as important as his early works, and reviewer Thomas Cunniffe states that the music in this Mosaic set validates Riccardi's arguments. This expanded Retro Review offers a detailed look at the music in this outstanding collection.
- Louis Armstrong: “Red Beans & Ricely Yours” (Smithsonian-Folkways 60005)
In what would be his penultimate public appearance, Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars played a 30-minute concert at the National Press Club on January 29, 1971. The performance, and a tribute concert from the following year have been reissued by Smithsonian-Folkways. Thomas Cunniffe reports that the music may not be profound, but the Creole recipes included as liner notes will allow you to create a culinary tribute to Armstrong.
- Louis Armstrong: “Satchmo at Symphony Hall” (Decca 16891)
Satchmo at Symphony Hall has long been considered one of Louis Armstrong's greatest concert recordings. In commemoration of the 65th anniversary of this recording, Universal Music has released the concert complete for the first time. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the new version in this Retro Review.
- Manhattan Transfer: “Extensions” (Atlantic 19258)
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.
- Mary Lou Williams: “Solo Recital, Montreux Jazz Festival, 1978” (OJC 962/ EagleVision 39053)
One of Mary Lou Williams' proudest claims was that she played through all the major jazz eras. In the final years of her life, she codified the styles so thoroughly that any piece she played could have elements of stride, swing, boogie, bop and free. Thomas Cunniffe reviews her stunning solo performance at the 1978 Montreux Jazz Festival in this Retro Review.
- McCoy Tyner: “Inception” (LP: Impulse 18; CD: Impulse 5334721)
Inception was McCoy Tyner's first album as a leader, and it shows the 24-year-old pianist bridging the gap between bop and modal jazz. The album has been highly influential on several pianists, including Jazz History Online's Ben Markley, who chose this disc for his first Retro Review.
- Miles Davis at Newport, 1955-1975 (Columbia/Legacy 81952)
When Miles Davis first took the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, Duke Ellington joked that Davis and his fellow musicians inhabited the world of Buck Rogers. Actually, the music Davis played that day was fairly accessible, and it wasn't until 14 years later that his music began to alienate his long-time fans. While the new Legacy 4-CD set Miles Davis at Newport dutifully presents the music in chronological order, Thomas Cunniffe's review offers a different perspective as he starts with the most recent (and less known) sets and works backward from there.
- Miles Davis Live in Europe 1967 (Columbia/Legacy 94053)
Columbia/Legacy launches its latest series of Miles Davis recordings with a 3-CD/1-DVD set chronicling a fortnight tour of Europe in 1967. The quintet featuring Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams was in peak form, creating vastly different performances from night to night. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the set, and reveals what you won't find on the collection.
- Miles Davis: “Kind of Blue” & “Jazz Track” (Columbia CS 8163/CL 1268)
Jazz history textbooks will all tell you that Miles Davis' 1959 masterpiece Kind of Blue was important because of its extensive use of modal improvisation. Thomas Cunniffe agrees wholeheartedly with that statement, but wonders if the modes were simply a means to an end. He traces the history of the album through its immediate predecessor, Jazz Track and finds a simple reason for the album's artistic and popular successes.
- Miles Davis/John Coltrane: “All of You: The Last Tour” (Acrobat 7076)
By 1960, John Coltrane had played with Miles Davis for nearly five years. With the release of Giant Steps, he was auditioning musicians for his own quartet. However, Davis needed Coltrane for an tour of Europe, and Coltrane reluctantly accepted. The brilliant concert recordings from that tour have been bootlegged for years, but a new Acrobat 4-CD set collects them in one place. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe recommends the set for its improved sound quality and its detailed liner notes by Simon Spillett.
- Milton Nascimento: “Txai” (Columbia 46871)
On his 1990 CD, Txai Milton Nascimento explores the music and culture of the people protecting the Amazon rain forest. The recording features sound clips of the indigenous people as well as an impressive line-up of Americans and Brazilians. Janine Santana examines the album in this Retro Review.
- 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.
- Modern Jazz Quartet: “Concert in Japan ’66” (Atlantic [Japan] 1027-1028)
The Modern Jazz Quartet's stage manners were always immaculate. Dressed in tuxedos or fine crafted suits, they projected an air of dignity usually reserved for string quartets. However, on one night in Tokyo, they let themselves loose, and in the process created some of the most memorable performances of their repertoire. The concert was recorded by TBS Radio in Japan, and issued on the Japanese Atlantic imprint, but it was never issued in the US. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe examines this unique entry in the MJQ discography.
- Modern Jazz Quartet: “Lost Tapes” (JazzHaus 101731)
The Modern Jazz Quartet was never as stuffy as their critics claimed. Their music changed and evolved subtly through concerts and recordings. Lost Tapes, a new CD of recordings from Germany offers the opportunities for fresh comparisons, and in this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe traces the changes in MJQ arrangements through this and previously released albums.
- Nancy Wilson: “Yesterday’s Love Songs/Today’s Blues” (Capitol 96265)
In the 1960s, Nancy Wilson's popularity rose as jazz's audience waned. Much of her success was due to an extraordinary series of albums on Capitol. In his first contribution to our pages, Michael Canty offers his thoughts on one of those classic albums, Yesterday's Love Songs/Today's Blues.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- NEWLY-RELEASED JAZZ (FROM THE 1960s)
It's amazing what treasures can be found within a record company vault. In this month's Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe discusses two double-CD sets of previously unreleased 1960s recordings by a pair of iconic tenor saxophonists. "Getz at the Gate" is a 1961 live date with Stan Getz at his most aggressive (powered by the phenomenal Roy Haynes), and "Grits, Beans and Greens" presents two contrasting recording sessions led by Tubby Hayes.
- Ornette Coleman: “The Shape of Jazz to Come” (Atlantic 1317)/ “Change of the Century (Atlantic 1327)
Few albums had the impact of Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come and Change of the Century. They generated an incredible amount of critical buzz, and there was little middle ground: either you loved it or hated it. In 1960 (and today), Amy Duncan loved it, and she shares her reactions to the albums in this Retro Review.
- Peter Appleyard & The Jazz Giants: “The Lost 1974 Sessions” (Linus 270135)
It's hard to go wrong with an all-star recording featuring Bobby Hackett, Urbie Green, Zoot Sims, Hank Jones, Slam Stewart, Mel Lewis and leader Peter Appleyard. While reviewer Thomas Cunniffe praises the music on the newly-released The Lost 1974 Sessions, there are severe problems with the production of the disc which call for a new edition.
- Phil Woods: “I Remember…” (Gryphon 788)
In 1978, Phil Woods composed and arranged I Remember..., an album-long suite which memorialized eight jazz masters: Cannonball Adderley, Paul Desmond, Oscar Pettiford, Oliver Nelson, Charlie Parker, Willie Rodriguez, Willie Dennis and Gary McFarland. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the album is also a memorial for Dr. Herb Wong, whose liner notes graced the original LP.
- Quincy Jones: “This Is How I Feel About Jazz” (ABC-Paramount 149)
In September 1956, 23-year old Quncy Jones assembled a truly all-star band for his first LP as a leader, This Is How I Feel About Jazz. In ensembles ranging from nine to fifteen pieces, Jones provided brilliant showcases for Art Farmer, Jimmy Cleveland, Phil Woods, Lucky Thompson, Milt Jackson, Billy Taylor and Charles Mingus. Thomas Cunniffe reviews this landmark recording in this month's Retro Review.
- Re-Discovering Tubby Hayes
Tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes has been nearly forgotten in the United States, but in the United Kingdom, he is revered as one of the greatest jazz musicians Britain ever produced. Hayes died over 40 years ago, but his legacy has been kept alive through an avalanche of live and unissued Hayes recordings issued in the past decade. In this expanded Retro Review. Thomas Cunniffe examines the wide-ranging music of this sometimes neglected giant.
- Red Garland: “Swingin’ on the Korner” (Elemental 5990426)
When Red Garland left the Miles Davis Sextet in 1958, his career continued on with recordings for Prestige and a busy schedule of sideman appearances. But in 1962, Garland moved to Dallas to care for his ailing mother, and he didn't return to active playing for nearly a decade. Elemental's new 2-CD set. Swingin' on the Korner finds Garland in exceptional form, leading a trio with Leroy Vinnegar and Philly Joe Jones in live sets recorded in 1977 at San Francisco's Keystone Korner.
- Revisiting “Shuffle Along”
When Shuffle Along premiered on Broadway in May 1921, it ended a 12-year drought of black shows on the so-called Great White Way. With a new version of the show about to premiere on Broadway, Thomas Cunniffe examines a 1976 LP and a new CD which reconstruct the show's proto-jazz score, written by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. Cunniffe also examines a new solo piano recording by Ehud Asherie of songs from the score.
- 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".
- Sarah Vaughan featuring Clifford Brown (LP: EmArcy 36004; CD: EmArcy 814 641)
When Sarah Vaughan first heard Clifford Brown in 1951, she wanted to make a record with him, even though he was unknown and had not recorded. Three years later, with Brown established as a rising trumpet star, the collaboration became a reality. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe discusses that album, rightly acknowledged as a jazz classic.
- Sarah Vaughan: “Sophisticated Lady: The Duke Ellington Songbook Collection” (Pablo 34608)
In 1979, Sarah Vaughan was a newlywed. Her husband was trumpeter Waymon Reed, a competent but hardly original soloist. Vaughan insisted on featuring Reed on her recordings, including her 2-LP Duke Ellington Songbook. Concord has now reissued the set on CD with a previously unissued session conducted by Benny Carter. In his review of the CD, Thomas Cunniffe speculates that Reed may have been the catalyst for some of Vaughan's greatest late-career performances.
- Shirley Horn: “Here’s To Life” (Verve 314 511 879)
One of jazz's greatest storytellers, Shirley Horn created a masterpiece for the ages with her 1992 CD, Here's To Life. The album was her first collaboration with Johnny Mandel, and it features three of Mandel's best songs. However, as Thomas Cunniffe writes, it is the title song--written especially for Horn--that ties this album together..
- Slim Gaillard: “Groove Juice:The Norman Granz Recordings & More” (Verve 27591)
Bulee Slim Gaillard was a man of many gifts--songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist--but his greatest gift may have been as a linguist of both real and invented languages. Gaillard's recordings for JATP, MGM, Mercury, Clef and Norgran have been collected in a new Verve collection, Groove Juice and Thomas Cunniffe provides his input on how Gaillard's music and humor have traveled through the years.
- Sonny Clark: “Cool Struttin'” (Blue Note LP: 81588/CD: 46513 or 95327)
Sonny Clark never made a better album than Cool Struttin'. This 1958 Blue Note date may have been conceived as just another blowing date, but the high quality of the music made it an instant classic. As Thomas Cunniffe notes in this Retro Review, the magic starts with the iconic album cover but peaks with the music created by Clark, Art Farmer, Jackie McLean, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.
- Sonny Rollins: “There Will Never Be Another You” (LP: Impulse 9349; CD: Impulse 5334723)
When Sonny Rollins signed with Impulse Records in 1965, his first recording project was a live outdoor concert at New York's Museum of Modern Art. During the concert, Rollins wandered all around the performing space as he improvised, and the off-mike recording was shelved for 13 years, when it was issued as There Will Never Be Another You. While the album reflects an important milestone in Rollins' live recordings, it is frequently misunderstood. Thomas Cunniffe examines the recording and the music in this Retro Review.
- Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto: “Getz/Gilberto” (50th Anniversary) (Verve 20749)
As the quintessential summit meeting between American and Brazilian artists, Getz/Gilberto was both an artistic and commercial success. For the 50th anniversary of its release, Verve has issued an new CD edition. Thomas Cunniffe writes that the original stereo album sounds better than ever, but finds the supplemental section lacking in imagination.
- Stan Getz Presents Jimmy Rowles: “The Peacocks” (Columbia 34873)
In 1975, Stan Getz was asked to produce several jazz albums for Columbia. One of his first projects was The Peacocks, an album displaying the instrumental and vocal talents of Jimmy Rowles. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe calls the album the best showcase Rowles ever had.
- Stan Getz: “The Dolphin” (Concord Jazz 4158)
One of Stan Getz' last masterpieces was The Dolphin, a quartet recording made at San Francisco's Keystone Korner. New JHO contributor Chris Coulter offers his thoughts on the album and its companion disc, Spring Is Here.
- Still Progressive
Eric Dolphy, Ran Blake and Jeanne Lee were all considered avant-garde jazz musicians when they first appeared in the 1950s and 1960s. In this expanded Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe reviews new releases by each, and notes that all three still sound progressive today.
- THE BEBOP CHRONICLES
This issue's Retro Review spotlights two collections of historic bebop recordings. Savoy's "The Birth of Bop" was originally issued in 1952 and consists solely of commercial recordings made for Savoy, while Verve's "Bird in LA" collects rare private recordings which document three of Parker's visits to the City of Angels. Thomas Cunniffe evaluates each set.
- 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.
- The Complete Atlantic Studio Recordings of the Modern Jazz Quartet (Mosaic 249)
One of the reasons for the Modern Jazz Quartet's longevity was the wide appeal of their music. Cool jazz adopted them as their own for the fugues and Third Stream works, while boppers could appreciate their strong roots in the blues. Mosaic's 7-CD collection of the MJQ's studio albums from 1956-1964 offers generous helpings of the group's wide repertoire. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that a companion volume of the MJQ live would complete the picture.
- The Smithsonian and “Classic Jazz”
The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz has undergone several transformations since its initial release in 1973. Thomas Cunniffe evaluates the various editions of the set as one of this month's Retro Reviews.
- Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin: “Road Time” (RCA Victor 22242)
One of the finest ensembles of the 1970s was the Los Angeles big band co-led by Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin. Their double LP, Road Time documented their 1976 tour of Japan, and netted the group a Grammy nomination. Amy Duncan examines this out-of-print classic in this month's Retro Review.
- 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.
- Two Trips Through The “Money Jungle”
The 1962 LP Money Jungle brought together the prototypical power trio: Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. The personal tensions between these giant personalities was reflected in the music, which was less like sparks flying and more like landmine explosions. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe examines this classic recording and a new tribute album by Terri Lyne Carrington.
- 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.
- We Insist!: Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite (Candid 79002)
Over fifty years ago, Max Roach stunned the jazz world with his political Freedom Now Suite. Thomas Cunniffe re-examines the recording as part of an ongoing series of historical jazz record reviews.
- Wes Montgomery in Paris (Resonance 2032)
Resonance Records' latest Wes Montgomery issue will not be new to seasoned fans. The guitarist's 1965 Paris concert has been available as a bootleg for many years. However, Resonance's edition offers the concert in its entirety, mastered from the original ORTF master tapes. It is also the first legitimate release of this material. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the recording, which also features Harold Mabern, Arthur Harper, Jimmy Lovelace and Johnny Griffin.
- Wes Montgomery: “Echoes of Indiana Avenue” (Resonance 2011)
The legacies of many jazz legends have been enriched with posthumous releases. Resonance's Echoes of Indiana Avenue is the first album of unissued Montgomery in a quarter-century, and as reviewer Thomas Cunniffe notes, the album has clues that more unissued Montgomery may still be forthcoming.
- Wes Montgomery: “In the Beginning” (Resonance 2014)
While Wes Montgomery was not well-known in the jazz world before 1960, he had been a semi-professional musician in his home town of Indianapolis since 1944. Following on their acclaimed album Echoes of Indiana Avenue, Resonance Records has issued a new collection called In the Beginning which traces Montgomery's playing back to 1949. Thomas Cunniffe offers his thoughts on the set in this Retro Review.