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Jazz - Released July 20, 2018 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released February 23, 2018 | Rhino

When Nina Simone released her first recordings for Bethlehem Records in 1958, she sounded strikingly accomplished both as a singer and a pianist, displaying the skill and the inspiration of a seasoned veteran. However, her Bethlehem sides only captured one aspect of her musical personality, and as even the most cursory examination of Simone's career makes clear, she was an artist who stubbornly refused to be pigeonholed. After Simone learned her first lesson about the vagaries of the music business when her deal with Bethlehem went sour, she signed with the Colpix label, where she recorded from 1959 to 1964, a time when jazz artists still made occasional appearances on the pop charts. The Colpix Singles is a collection that brings together the monophonic 45-rpm mixes of the 14 7"s released during Simone's tenure with the label, and it makes for a reasonably thorough overview of her work for Colpix. Simone's Bethlehem sides were recorded simply with a small rhythm section, but at Colpix she had the resources for more polished production and significantly more elaborate arrangements, some of which honor her jazz and blues influences, while others sound like clear efforts to introduce her to a mainstream pop audience. Whatever the surroundings, Simone never sounds like anything other than herself; her voice is strong and confident, her phrasing brings out the many moods and meanings of these songs, and her piano work is virtuosic without calling undue attention to itself. Even when the backings sound treacly, Simone rarely makes an emotionally false move. Simone also cut four live albums for Colpix, and the samples of her concert performances are outstanding; the live tracks capture Simone in her element and in the moment, and preserve her brilliance in simple but mesmerizing form. Completists will be happy to know that seven of these songs appear in single edits and mixes that have never before appeared in digital format, and the remastering is clean and well executed. The Colpix Singles covers a time when Simone was still exploring the boundaries of her creative approach, and not long before activism became a key part of her music and her life; this is far from a definitive sampling of this period, but it does make clear just how fruitful it was. ~ Mark Deming
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Jazz - Released August 18, 2014 | Rhino

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Crossover - Released January 26, 2004 | Rhino

If a pop singer is backed by a jazz band, he/she doesn't automatically turn into a jazz singer -- having jazz accompaniment doesn't necessarily make you jazz. But if a pop singer likes to swing, having jazz accompaniment is certainly a plus. Like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr. was a jazz-influenced pop singer who knew how to swing hard. And when Davis joined forces with drummer Buddy Rich in 1966, swinging hard was inevitable. The Sounds of '66 documents a 1966 show in Las Vegas, where Davis was backed by Rich's big band. Although Rich had a reputation for being difficult to work with and could be a loose cannon at times, he was an extraordinary musician -- and if you were able to get along with the volatile drummer (musically or personally), he could certainly add a lot of fire to your performances. Fire is exactly what Rich brings to The Sounds of '66; he clearly inspires Davis to go that extra mile on performances of songs that range from "Come Back to Me" to Sammy Cahn's "If It's the Last Thing I Do" and Frank Loesser's "Once in Love With Amy." Even "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" (a song that listeners generally associate with The Wizard of Oz) is hard-swinging -- Davis and Rich approach the E.Y. "Yip" Harburg/Harold Arlen song as aggressive big band pop, not children's music. A major departure from the famous Wizard of Oz version, Davis and Rich's version is definitely an adult interpretation. Not every album that Davis recorded in the '60s is great, but lovers of traditional jazz-influenced pop can't go wrong with this excellent CD. ~ Alex Henderson
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Jazz - Released July 2, 2012 | Rhino

If ever a musician needed a box set to document the full range of his numerous musical achievements, it's saxophonist David Sanborn. While achieving a Platinum album status only once, he has a total of eight Gold records to his credit, has charted in three genres as a solo artist -- jazz, R&B and pop -- and has played on legendary records including Stevie Wonder's Talking Book, David Bowie's Young Americans (that's his solo in the title cut), and more. The two-disc Then Again, issued by Rhino, isn't that box, but it's a great step. Sanborn produced the set and selected and sequenced all 29 tracks, as well as offering commentary in the liner notes. This material was all recorded for Warner Bros -- or one of their affiliate labels -- between 1975 and 1995. Disc one is arranged chronologically; disc two, aesthetically. Don Grolnick's "The Whisperer" features a beautiful twin horn head by Sanborn and Michael Brecker. The former's solo simply sings over the top, turning it into something both lyrical and funky. "Lisa," from the commercial breakthrough album Hideaway in 1980, showcases his early balladic style and blues-inflected phrasing. The lithe groove of "Maputo" from Double Vision, recorded in collaboration with Bob James, is another highlight. Written by Marcus Miller, its songlike quality is underscored by Sanborn's instinctive engagement with the melody. The R&B side of the saxophonist is here, too, in Miller's "Chicago Song" and the boogaloo vamp on Joe Cuba's "Bang Bang." Disc two concentrates on Sanborn's diversity rather than his career trajectory. There are a couple of vocal cuts in "Back Again" with Michael Sembello, and the traditional "The Water Is Wide," with Linda Ronstadt. Musical adventures include bassist Charlie Haden's "First Song," with Sanborn in the company of the composer, guitarist Bill Frisell, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and others from 1991's Another Hand. The standard "Try a Little Tenderness," featuring the saxophonist in the presence of Johnny Mandell's orchestration, offers another dimension of Sanborn as he renders soul through his horn with the elegance of a vocalist. The deeply funky "Snakes" from 1992's Upfront is included here; it is one of the set's highlights. Throughout, Sanborn proves over and over again that he is not only a highly skilled improviser and lyricist, but that his music is as much about poetic and emotional expression as technique. Then Again serves two purposes: it's an excellent -- if incomplete -- retrospective, and it's a stellar introduction to a musician for whom labels simply don't apply. ~ Thom Jurek

Jazz - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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The now-legendary Nina Simone began her recording career in 1959, after briefly studying classical piano at Juilliard and performing at an Atlantic City nightclub where the club's owner allegedly ordered her to sing as she played. Simone specializes in the eclectic, and her personal variety of musical magic is without equal. With her androgynous, deeply burnished vocals and her extraordinary, classically influenced piano technique, Simone refashions any song to fit her own fiercely artistic vision. Always cutting edge, her sound has influenced and continues to influence other artists. NINA'S CHOICE is a reissue of a fine 1963 compilation of favorite tracks that Simone selected from her five prior albums on the Colpix label. Every song is a stunner. The insanely quirky "Rags and Old Iron" sounds like something off a Tom Waits album. The strange, slow tango of "Just Say I Love Him" features the brilliantly haunting guitar work of Al Shackman, Simone's longtime guitarist. Also included here is a rollicking version of the traditional "Little Liza Jane," a highpoint of Simone's appearance at Newport in 1960. This thoughtfully selected compilation is well worth owning.

Jazz - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released November 27, 2007 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released May 24, 2005 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released January 25, 2011 | Rhino

Jubilee Records' 1967 LP Legend of the Blues, Vol. 1 finds singer/pianist Memphis Slim (aka Peter Chatman) accompanied by Billy Butler on guitar, Eddie Chamblee on tenor saxophone, and Herb Lovelle on drums for a session of some of his well-known numbers, notably the slow "Lend Me Your Love." Leadoff track "Little Lonely Girl" appears to be a version of "Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl" with slightly different lyrics, while some may know "Ramble This Highway" better as "Key to the Highway." Memphis Slim shows off his piano abilities on the instrumental "Broadway Boogie," but otherwise the ensemble supports him with jazz-blues arrangements for his smooth and authoritative vocals. There are so many Memphis Slim recordings that it's hard to call any of them definitive, but this session is very good. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Jazz - Released September 14, 2010 | Rhino

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Jazz - Released September 13, 2004 | Rhino

Dreamland is the second volume in Joni Mitchell's self-compiled series of "theme" retrospectives. The first, issued on the Geffen label, was entitled The Beginning of Survival. It focused on songs that dug deep into social, cultural, political, and environmental themes, as "commentaries on the world in which we live." Dreamland was compiled from her Asylum, Reprise, and Nonesuch years and focuses, for lack of a better term, on the jazzier side of her catalog musically, including songs with lyrics are all highly imagistic in their makeup. Most are dealing with love and life in the process of moving through it. From "Free Man in Paris" and the title track, to "In France They Kiss on Main Street," "Come in From the Cold," "Help Me," and of course, "You Turn Me on I'm a Radio," these songs turn the tide for the listener from the place of observing love to the terrain of being caught up in it, where everything is hyperreal and the senses are heightened. The other, tempered side of love is offered with the orchestral version of "Both Sides Now" and "For the Roses." But there are other songs, too, like "Furry Sings the Blues," which paints a nocturnal landscape of the blues past, as visited by the protagonist in dreaming, or travel as an other reality in the orchestral reading of "Amelia," or in "California." In each instance, the view of reality presented is distorted, either by memory, the acute hypersensitivity of the heart, or by the notion of displacement. All of these strains weave a new terrain from Mitchell's oeuvre. The package is, once again, a delight, featuring a fine appreciation by Cameron Crowe, and reproductions of ten of Mitchell's paintings. While the material here has all been released before, as has always been the case with Mitchell's work, context is everything. This bold new context offers a startling view of the artist as auteur. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released December 22, 2009 | Rhino

Saxophonist Ernie Watts is best known for his work in the 1980s and '90s with Charlie Haden in Quartet West, and as a leader of some very distinctive dates where his big-boned sound finds its lineage in John Coltrane. Before this creative period as a leader, however, Watts had played in ensembles led by the great Gerald Wilson, Oliver Nelson, Buddy Rich, with Jean-Luc Ponty, and as a member of the Tonight Show Band. He also played dates as a sideman with Stanley Clarke and Lee Ritenour. In other words, Watts is one of the more diverse players on the scene. The Wonder Bag, recorded under his own name -- actually, as the Ernie Watts Encounter -- in 1972 is his first date as a leader. The band that includes such soul-jazz and jazz-funk luminaries as Crusaders' pianist Joe Sample, guitarist David T. Walker, and drummer Paul Humphrey also includes congeuro Francisco Aguabella and bassist Bob West, and features guests like Chuck Findley and George Bohannon and a couple of others on the track "Sweetening," who form an extended horn section. This Ernie Watts is a very different player than would emerge in later years, yet not only are all the roots here, but The Wonder Bag is an overlooked soul-jazz classic. Watts is using his harsher-edged tone, but the music is seamlessly groovy, warm, and wonderful. Sample plays Rhodes as much as he does acoustic piano; Walker offers proof as to why he was in such demand during the era (Phil Upchurch was his only peer). This stellar program concentrates all of its efforts on the subject of its title: the music of Stevie Wonder. Whether it's the finger-popping celebratory funkiness in "Nothing's Too Good for My Baby," the lithe, airy "My Cherie Amour" (Watts' flute here is deeply moving and lyrical), the stomping dancefloor strut of "I Was Made to Love Her," (featuring a burning Coltrane-inspired solo, some great breaks, and early L.A. reggae) the backbone slipping, expressively romantic, "Never Had a Dream Come True," or the wildly lyrical deep soul essence of "Ain't No Lovin" -- where Watts brings out the deep jazz at the heart of Wonder's melody -- this set is a kind of feel-good revelation. Richard Bock's production is less polished than Creed Taylor's, Bob James', or Don Sebesky's, but it is expansive and wonderfully groovy. The arrangements are there to serve the tune, not showcase the band. Watts' solos and his interaction with Sample and Walker are inventive, tasty, and worth their weight in gold. The Wonder Bag is all killer, no filler, and should be picked up by anyone who is a fan of early-'70s soul and jazz-funk and groove, as well as anyone who has ever liked Watts' tone. Highly recommended. ~ Thom Jurek