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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Riverside

This early-'60s effort, not Murphy's first but still pretty early in his discographical canon, has worn well over the years. Credit of course can be lavished on the vocalist himself, who didn't sound like this 20 years later, although every stage of his developing vocal chops has been interesting to be sure. On tracks such as "Green Dolphin Street," he dives into the rhythm with the relaxed calm of an expert. And when the result can be the harebrained complexity of "Twisted" or the funky timing of "Doodlin'," the wisdom of letting the experts handle the hard work has never been more apparent. But this is not just Murphy's display. The undersung Ernie Wilkins was working behind the scenes on combo and orchestra arrangements and came up with some effective and fun charts, expertly matching horn soloists such as the contrasting trumpeters Clark Terry and Blue Mitchell or embellishing the medium tones of Murphy's voice with the striking tone of Melba Liston's trombone. And what a rhythm section! This is really all Murphy has ever needed to get off, or at least that's what he wants his fans to believe, and in this case listeners have either Wynton Kelly or Bill Evans on piano. Either one is fine; both have been road-tested by maestro Miles Davis. Likewise for drummer Jimmy Cobb, whose cymbal flair keeps the time going on "Stopping the Clock" and whose tom-tom caresses and snare drum flutter literally do launch "Out of This World." This fine album is the result of several different recording sessions that clicked perfectly, produced and edited with taste by Orrin Keepnews. © Eugene Chadbourne /TiVo
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CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Riverside

The first of two studio albums by the Bill Evans-Scott LaFaro-Paul Motian trio (both of which preceded their famous engagement at the Village Vanguard), this Portrait in Jazz reissue contains some wondrous interplay, particularly between pianist Evans and bassist LaFaro, on the two versions of "Autumn Leaves." Other than introducing Evans' "Peri's Scope," the music is comprised of standards, but the influential interpretations were far from routine or predictable at the time. LaFaro and Motian were nearly equal partners with the pianist in the ensembles and their versions of such tunes as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "When I Fall in Love," and "Someday My Prince Will Come" (which preceded Miles Davis' famous recording by a couple years) are full of subtle and surprising creativity. A gem. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Prestige

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Coleman Hawkins' 1957 session for Riverside, aside from an oral documentary record in a short-lived series, was his only recording for the label under his name. Yet producer Orrin Keepnews had the good sense to invite the legendary tenor saxophonist to pick his own musicians, and Hawkins surprised him by asking for young boppers J.J. Johnson and Idrees Sulieman in addition to the potent rhythm section of Hank Jones, Oscar Pettiford, Barry Galbraith, and Jo Jones. The two days of sessions produced a number of strong performances, with Hawkins still very much at the top of his game, while both Johnson and Sulieman catch fire as well. Even though most of the focus was on new material contributed by the participants, the musicians quickly adapted to the unfamiliar music, especially the leader's old-fashioned swinger "Sancticity" (which sounds like it could have been part of Count Basie's repertoire) and the pianist's tightly woven bop vehicle "Chant." Hawkins was one of the great ballad interpreters, and his majestic performance of the standard "Laura" is no exception. The 2008 reissue in the Keepnews Collection series uncovered no previously unissued material, though expanded liner notes by the producer and improved 24-bit remastering make this edition an improvement over earlier versions. © Ken Dryden /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Riverside

Milt Jackson was 38 when, in December 1961, he co-led this superb hard-bop date with the distinctive guitarist Wes Montgomery. A jazzman who was as opinionated as he was gifted, Jackson wouldn't hesitate to tell you exactly what he thought of a musician -- so when he praised Montgomery, you knew his praise was genuine. Not surprisingly, the boppers prove to be quite compatible on Bags Meets Wes, which finds them co-leading an all star-quintet that also includes pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Philly Joe Jones (who shouldn't be confused with swing drummer Jo Jones). Although Jackson and Montgomery prove what lyrical ballad players they could be on the standard "Stairway to the Stars," ballads aren't a high priority on this album. Instead, the improvisers put more of their energy into the blues -- and the 12-bar format serves them well on "Sam Sack," "Blue Roz," and "S.K.J." Equally strong are hard-swinging versions of Montgomery's "Jingles" and Benny Golson's "Stablemates." © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Riverside

Trumpeter Blue Mitchell left his home in Miami for a short stint in New York City, headed back to Florida, and then to Los Angeles before his brief but vital career as a jazz trumpeter ended. This sojourn identified his sound, initially branded by the warmth of the Southeast, burnished by the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, and polished by the West Coast cool school demeanor. In 1959, as Mitchell returned to Miami, he connected with Detroit trombonist Curtis Fuller and Philadelphia tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath to form one of the most potent three-horn front lines in jazz history. Few knew how good they were until after the fact, but this recording, the third album for Mitchell as a leader, has him and his mates in full flight. Drummer Philly Joe Jones has a lot to do with the solid booster rocket-like propulsion on this primarily hard bop date, and check out his calypso variations on the second chorus of the otherwise easy blues swing and ultra melodic "Waverley Street." Credit Mitchell's street smarts and highly developed melodic inventiveness as the focal point for this definitive session. In many ways, this is a parallel album to the Miles Davis classic Kind of Blue, with subtle undertones driven by fourth-gear swing. The set kicks off with the famous "Minor Vamp," of which Fuller's original take for the Savoy label has been remixed and layered, and is heard in the acid jazz dancehalls. It's a familiar sparse line, a two-note vamp tacked onto a lithe, perky melody that needs no critique -- it's simply great! More concisely rendered hard bop follows on "The Head," not complex by any means, but filled with plenty of soul. The hardest line crops up during "Top Shelf," featuring a memorable, cutting, precise solo by Heath. Fuller and Heath lay out so you can hear in full dimension the cozy and warm persona of Mitchell on the ballad "Park Avenue Petite," but especially on the bright, easy swinger "Blue Soul," which most accurately approaches Kind of Blue. In tribute to his then-boss, Horace Silver, "Nica's Dream" features Mitchell's muted trumpet over an underlying fresh bed of trombone and tenor sax. Even more so, Mitchell's deep blue horn shines on the standard "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," an organ of sheer beauty and one to be studied for those who need to learn that playing fewer notes more musically is an admirable quality. This is one of the most precious jazz recordings of a year that would soon give sway to the Blue Note sound, and is in many real and important ways as much of a prelude as any other statement. It's a must-have for all serious mainstream jazz fans. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
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CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Milestone

One of the most difficult aspects for producer Orrin Keepnews of recording pianist McCoy Tyner so frequently in the '70s was coming up with new ideas and settings for each record. Fly with the Wind gave Tyner a rare opportunity to write for strings. Joined by bassist Ron Carter, drummer Billy Cobham, flutist Hubert Laws, piccolo, oboe, harp, six violins, two violas and two cellos, Tyner performed four of his originals (including the title cut) plus the standard "You Stepped out of a Dream." This set has plenty of memorable moments and is a surprising but logical success; Tyner's orchestral piano blended with the strings very well. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Fantasy Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This excellent live date from the Village Vanguard was the recording debut of the Adderley sextet, with Cannonball waxing eloquently and swingingly on alto, brother Nat charging ahead on cornet, and the versatile Yusef Lateef (who had joined the band only three weeks earlier) adding a bit of an edge on tenor, flute, and unusually for a jazz wind player, oboe on the odd, dirge-like "Syn-Anthesia." Also, this was the first recorded appearance of pianist Joe Zawinul -- a little over three years since his arrival in America -- in Cannonball's band. This group would be Zawinul's springboard to prominence in the jazz world, and readily apparent is how his compulsively funky mastery of bop and the blues had fused tightly with the Sam Jones/Louis Hayes rhythm section. Included is one of the earliest recordings of a Zawinul composition, "Scotch and Water," a happy, swinging blues. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1960 | Riverside

Work Song is a near-classic by cornetist Nat Adderley. Adderley utilizes a cornet-cello-guitar front line with Sam Jones and Wes Montgomery, along with a top-notch rhythm section pianist including Bobby Timmons, Percy Heath, or Keter Betts on bass and drummer Louis Hayes. First up is a fine early performance of his greatest hit, "Work Song." He also helps introduce Cannonball Adderley's "Sack O' Woe." Four songs use a smaller group, with Timmons absent on "My Heart Stood Still," which finds Keter Betts on cello and Jones on bass; "Mean to Me" featuring Nat backed by Montgomery, Betts, and Hayes; and two ballads ("I've Got a Crush on You" and "Violets for Your Furs") interpreted by the Adderley-Montgomery-Jones trio. No matter the setting, Nat Adderley is heard throughout in peak form, playing quite lyrically. Highly recommended. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Milestone

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
By February of 1958, when Sonny Rollins recorded Freedom Suite, his political consciousness had risen to match the poetic scope of his music. In addressing his place as a creative artist and an African-American, Rollins recognized that both aspects of his being existed under second-class circumstances, and that it was time for this country to review these inequities. In recording with bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Max Roach, Rollins aligned himself with the modern jazz innovators who best exemplified his righteous brand of freedom. Pettiford is particularly inspired on trio and duo versions of "Till There Was You," where he displays an uncanny knack for enunciating lyrical syncopations without losing the flow of the beat or a sense of harmonic structure. His ringing half notes on the head to "Will You Still Be Mine?" set up a vibrant series of Rollins/Roach exchanges, while his charming solo distills the melody into its most swinging components. But it's "Freedom Suite," with its stunning stops and starts, extended variations, thematic interludes, and exhilarating denouement, that invites the most superlatives. Rollins' sense of sustained melodic invention is remarkable, as is his cyclical formal structure. The opening theme, with its affectionate parody of a formal overture, sets the band in motion, as if motifs and contrasting themes criss-cross and collide in a swinging trialogue. A waltz figure and dramatic, extended cadenza introduces one of Rollins' most touching ballads, richly tinted in smoky shades of blue, with some joyous buck and wing by Pettiford and Roach. Finally, a reprise of the waltz theme gives way to a climactic chase, inspiring some of Roach's most fervent, singing breaks, before a return to the opening theme ties it all up. © TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1960 | Riverside

The incredible Wes Montgomery of 1960 was more discernible and distinctive than the guitarist who would emerge a few years later as a pop stylist and precursor to George Benson in the '70s. On this landmark recording, Montgomery veered away from his home Indianapolis-based organ combo with Melvin Rhyne, the California-based Montgomery Brothers band, and other studio sidemen he had been placed with briefly. Off to New York City and a date with Tommy Flanagan's trio, Montgomery seems in his post- to hard bop element, swinging fluently with purpose, drive, and vigor not heard in an electric guitarist since bop progenitor Charlie Christian. Setting him apart from the rest, this recording established Montgomery as the most formidable modern guitarist of the era, and eventually its most influential. There's some classic material here, including the cat-quick but perhaps a trifle anxious version of the Sonny Rollins bop evergreen "Airegin," the famous repeated modal progressive and hard bop jam "Four on Six," and Montgomery's immortal soul waltz "West Coast Blues," effortlessly rendered with its memorable melody and flowing, elegant chiffon-like lines. Flanagan, at a time shortly after leaving his native Detroit, is the perfect pianist for this session. He plays forcefully but never overtly so on the bop tracks, offering up his trademark delicacy on the laid-back "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and easy-as-pie "Gone with the Wind." With the dynamic Philadelphia rhythm section of brothers Percy Heath on bass and drummer Albert Heath, they play a healthy Latin beat on the choppy and dramatic melody of Montgomery's original "Mr. Walker." Montgomery is clearly talented beyond convention, consistently brilliant, and indeed incredible in the company of his sidemen, and this recording -- an essential addition to every jazz guitarist fan's collection -- put him on the map. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
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Jazz - Released December 1, 1956 | Concord Records

Although Brilliant Corners is Thelonious Monk's third disc for Riverside, it's the first on the label to weigh in with such heavy original material. Enthusiasts who become jaded to the idiosyncratic nature of Monk's playing or his practically arithmetical chord progressions should occasionally revisit Brilliant Corners. There is an inescapable freshness and vitality saturated into every measure of every song. The passage of time makes it all the more difficult to imagine any other musicians bearing the capacity to support Monk with such ironic precision. The assembled quartet for the lion's share of the sessions included Max Roach (percussion), Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Oscar Pettiford (bass), and Ernie Henry (alto sax). Although a compromise, the selection of Miles Davis' bassist, Paul Chambers, and Clark Terry (trumpet) on "Bemsha Swing" reveals what might be considered an accident of ecstasy, as they provide a timeless balance between support and being able to further the cause musically. Likewise, Roach's timpani interjections supply an off-balanced sonic surrealism while progressing the rhythm in and out of the holes provided by Monk's jackrabbit leads. It's easy to write Monk's ferocity and Forrest Gump-esque ingenuity off as gimmick or quirkiness. What cannot be dismissed is Monk's ability to translate emotions into the language of music, as in the freedom and abandon he allows through Sonny Rollins' and Max Roach's mesmerizing solos in "Brilliant Corners." The childlike innocence evoked by Monk's incorporation of the celeste during the achingly beautiful ode "Pannonica" raises the emotional bar several degrees. Perhaps more pointed, however, is the impassioned "I Surrender, Dear" -- the only solo performance on the album. Brilliant Corners may well be considered the alpha and omega of post-World War II American jazz. No serious jazz collection should be without it. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo