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Monday, May 24, 2010

Nine Nice Jazz Favorites

            And I thought nine would be an easy number to deal with.  Once again I've ended up sacrificing so many great albums, but I think the ones I've kept are pretty nice.  These are probably not the greatest by consent of most jazz purists and believe me, I'm far from being a jazz expert.  But I do own a lot of jazz albums and there are so many that could have made the list.  I'll stick with these.  I know what I like.

           This selection covers a pretty nice range of styles.  I'm keeping it light on vocal music, which is a genre I truly enjoy.  I'm also leaving off the jazz albums I had on my previous lists.  These are all favorites, but I don't know that they would necessarily supercede any other favorites I have in my collection.  In other words there would be several other albums I could interchange with these.  Seeing as how I've only got nine places to fill I'll stand by these.
          Here are my NINE NICE JAZZ FAVORITES:

Pass The Plate (1971) by The Crusaders-- This is the first album the Jazz Crusaders released under their shortened name: a jazz funk album which at times has been flawlessly engineered to create an almost psychedelic musical mind trip.  There's nothing weird or far-out about the music, but portions have been edited and phased in and out in a tasteful manner in the amazing title piece.  The rest of the album is bop, funk, a touch of gospel, and a whole lot of good listening.  This is one of the earliest jazz albums I bought back when I was still in college in 1971.

Don Shirley in Concert (1968) by the Don Shirley Trio-- Classical music is some of the finest music of all in my opinion.  This album almost comes across as classical at times, with influences that might remind one of Rachmaninoff or Chopin.  The classical sound makes sense since Don Shirley is also a classical pianist who has written symphonies and concertos.  But this album is clearly jazz--a very melodic, beautiful form of jazz.  Shirley is accompanied by bass violin and cello in a concert at Carnegie Hall performing unbelievably beautiful renditions of "Georgia on My Mind", "I Can't Get Started", "My Funny Valentine", and other jazz standards.  This is another album from my college days.

         The Essential Dorsey Brothers (1928-1935)  Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra--  In the 50s I was growing up on this stuff and still digging on it into college.  This was the music of my parents so there were always plenty of big band music albums to listen to.   It seems terrible to bring down big band and early jazz to be represented by just one album, but we're talking about so much great music in the first half of the twentieth century.  I'm choosing this one because it is a jazz orchestra with a string section and I'm partial to strings.  Also, I like the campy sound of the music of the pre-WW2 era.  There are some really fine arrangements of fairly well-known standards as well as songs that are not often heard.  It's some really great music.

           Bopland: The Legendary Elks Club Concert L.A. 1947 by Dexter Gordon and many others--I'm not a huge fan of be-bop and some of the wilder modern jazz sounds, but I do like it and listen to it when I'm in the right mood.  And actually if I put one of these CDs on, if it's good it will put me in the right mood.  Like the big band music I'm leaving out a lot of music here.  I am a big fan of time-travel and though I usually don't like live albums with a lot of extraneous crowd noise, this album makes me feel like I've traveled back in time. 
          I became interested in hearing some Dexter Gordon after reading Jack Kerouac's ON THE ROAD.  In the book, the characters frequent jazz clubs where this style of music is being played.  Kerouac goes into some extensive descriptions of some of Dexter Gordon's music and reading about made me want to hear it.
The Bopland album effectively provides the experience of live bop and the musicianship is at times a wonder. I especially like the electric guitar work of Barney Kessel.  But of course Dexter's sax and the rest of the band are pretty good too.

           Idle Moments (1963)  by Grant Green -- This is superb guitar music backed by an excellent ensemble of musicians.  The title track is one of the most ultimately cool jazz pieces ever--perfect for lazy afternoon or dreamy late night listening.  The entire album is the epitome of coolness.  Besides the totally laid back fifteen minutes of "Idle Moments" there are some exquisite examples of ensemble bop featuring swinging saxophone and irresistible vibes.  Put this CD on, maybe have a martini or two, and you will just feel so cool.  Like, yeah man!

             Stormy Weather: The Legendary Lena 1941-1958 by Lena Horne-- Oh, such a travesty!  Perhaps I should have done a separate list of vocal albums.  Maybe I should later?  This current list is lacking so many great female vocalists such as Julie London, Dinah Washington, Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson, and so many more.  I went with Lena Horne because she had such a long musical history.  And this album has some of my all-time favorite songs.   Lena's vocal stylings are impeccable.  It's old music, but it's classic and it doesn't get much better than this.

                The Man From Ipanema (1995) by Antonio Carlos Jobim --- This 3 disc career retrospective set would be cool for the packaging alone. It comes in a colorful spiral bound booklet form.  The music ranges from the beginning of Jobim's career into the nineties.  Tracks feature collaborations with Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Pat Metheny, and many others in ensemble and with orchestra backing.  Some of the more well known songs have as many as four different versions, each one as good as the other.  The music is smooth bossa nova.  There is not a bad track to be found on any of the discs.  This is a prized part of my music collection.

Cool Cat Blues (1990)  by Georgie Fame-- There are so many male jazz vocalists that one could choose so I thought I'd go with one who I feel has been the most overlooked in the United States.  I've been a fan of Georgie Fame since 1965 when his jazzy version of "Yeah, Yeah" hit the U.S. charts.  He had a couple of other hits in the United States after that, but never achieved wide recognition.  The Cool Cat Blues album features an alternate slowed down take of "Yeah, Yeah", "Moondance", and "Georgia".  He is joined by the likes of Boz Scaggs, Robben Ford, and long time collaborator Van Morrison.  Fame is jazz in the pop vein very much like Scaggs and Morrison.  This is a fine album from one cool cat.

           Paganini: After a Dream (2003) by Regina Carter -- As a fan of jazz violin I had to put one fiddle player here.  There are many good ones to choose from, but Carter probably plays closest to a style I most enjoy.  Also, this album fits the classical mold I like so well.  Regina Carter takes some lovely impressionistic pieces by Ravel, Debussy, Faure, and others and jazzes them up a bit.  The result is mellow melodic jazz that is beautiful to listen to but with enough improvisation to demonstrate her skill as a jazz artist.  Everything I've heard by Carter is quite good, but this is the album that really suits me.

           So much that I've had to leave off, but that's the nature of a list like this.  It pained me to eliminate "Charlie Parker with Strings", "Cool Velvet" by Stan Getz, and "Mel Torme Sings Fred Astaire", but what the hey--I'm not on any desert island and I can still listen to any of my albums when I want to.

           How'd you like my list?   You can still add one of your own.  Don't be intimidated by "jazz".  You probably listen to it without even realizing it's catagorized as jazz.  Jazz is cool.


  1. Great list Lee, I see you know how to get the music on. I do mine by, have had it many months now, I know many of what you have,
    A pity more didn't take part,
    Have a wonderful swinging day.


  2. Does The Man From Ipanema feature The Girl From Ipanema? I know that song!

  3. You have quite the range there, Lee!

  4. Yvonne --- I tried to use but I couldn't ever get to the site to open so I tried this one which seems to work good. I really liked the way you had your music so I wanted to try it as well Maybe a few more will jump in--I'd love to see the other sugggesions. I really enjoyed yours.

    Alex -- The Jobim album features 4 different dynamite versions of the dynamite "Girl From Ipanema"-- what a great song.

  5. L. Diane -- That's right! Jazz, like rock and other forms, covers a lot of territory and frequently merges with and incorporates other styles.

  6. I enjoy jazz, and play quite a bit of it in my classroom. I like to expose the kids to a wide variety of music and they always like the jazz. I don't know a lot of these names (other than Lena) so I'm going to check out some of these names. Thanks!

  7. Very informative post for me. I don't know anything about jazz and have heard very little. I think I like blues better than jazz. One thing I have found when I have listened to jazz, I can't play it on the drums. I can't find a feel for most of it. I can feel country, I can feel it pulsating throught my veins and the beat and rythmn is natural to me.

    Most rock and roll I can feel and play by ear or without music. I can feel some blues and play along with a song I have never heard.

    But jazz I can't feel and can't get a grip on it.

    I liked listening to your selections.

  8. Thanks for the tips. These all sound great!

  9. Awesome! Thanks for adding a playlist. I found some new ones to love.

    Happy Monday!

  10. What a great idea! I'm enjoying listening while I'm commenting!

  11. Part 1 Of 2:
    rLEE-b ~
    Kudos to you, Brother! I am genuinely impressed. I’m not sure why exactly, but for some reason, I kinda had some nagging little doubt that you really knew Jazz. I guess it was because your Desert Island music list focused so much on Rock/Pop, and a fair portion of it which I myself don’t particularly care for. So, I guess I was thinking something like: Can a guy who loves Neil Young so much REALLY know Jazz?

    Well, I apologize for ever doubting you, my friend. You DO knowz Jazz!

    --> “I'm not a huge fan of be-bop and some of the wilder modern jazz sounds”

    I’m with you there, McBuddy. I tried getting into it myself over a fair period of time but finally threw in the towel, saying, “It’s just not for me”. I remember a time when I played this Charlie Parker album over and over again, thinking my mind would eventually embrace it, but it never did. And what’s funny is that I think I too was trying to dig “Bird” because Jack Kerouac pretty much thought Bird was God. I finally came to the conclusion that Be-Bop is the Punk Rock of Jazz. Or, to put it another way: bullsh#t! (Ha!)

    However, Brother, you have a nice cross-section of Jazz styles on this list, which illustrates your knowledge of the genre. You done good. I will say, however, Frank Sinatra doing “The Girl From Ipanema”? Feh.

    I recall a discussion my Pa had with my Ma decades ago, in which he expressed some mild irritation with Sinatra’s overly developed ego which seemed to make him think he could do ANYTHING. Specifically, he was referring to Sinatra’s recording of ‘Mack The Knife’, long after Bobby Darin had totally claimed ownership of that song via his unsurpassed rendition. My Pa thought it was a bit presumptuous of ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ to think he could top or even compete with the Darin version. I tend to agree with my Pa’s outlook. I don’t mind artists covering a well known song, but unless they really can add something to it, they should just let it be. Especially when the song has been solidly established in the camp of some other performer. And in this case, we see Sinatra up to his old tricks again. ‘The Girl From Ipanema’? Who does he think he is, Astrud Gilberto? Anyone who has ever heard Astrud’s version of this song is NEVER going to rush out and buy the Sinatra version heard here. I mean, c’mon, Frankie, give it a rest. Astrud OWNS that song!

    [Continued Below...]

  12. Part 2 Of 2:

    Well, since my Desert Island list already included 6 favorite Jazz or Jazz Fusion albums, I’ll mention just 3 more here, specifically chosen with an ear toward “accessibility” for the Jazz neophyte:

    “TEQUILA” by Wes Montgomery (1966).
    The Jazz “purists” claim to dislike it because it includes a string section arranged by Claus Ogerman and it includes some instrumental versions of popular songs of its day, like the title track and ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’, etc. But Wes is unquestionably one of the very best guitarists to ever bend six strings in or out of the Jazz genre. I don’t think he could have made a bad recording if he’d tried, and this album, although leaning toward “Pop”, includes some fabulous guitar work and some melodies that will be bouncing around in the listener’s head long after the album has come to an end.

    “ON THE BLUE SIDE” by Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff (1989).
    For the dude or dudette who digs their Blues. It’s Jazz featuring the outstanding chops of alto saxman Crawford and Hammond B-3 organ master McGriff. The album has a very Blues/R&B feel to it, and guitarist Jimmy Ponder adds some clean, hot licks to round out the sound. I’m frequently found whistling the opening track ‘Any Day Now’ which is about as catchy as any hook-laden Pop song. This is not the only recording on which Crawford and McGriff collaborated, but for my money, it’s their best.

    “SIGNATURE” by Richie Cole (1988).
    OK, this one’s a bit more adventurous and might not be entirely geared toward the Jazz neophyte, but given a chance over time, I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t be pleased to have it in their record collection. But even right out of the chute, Richie’s instrumental version of ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’, from the movie musical Camelot, should knock every listener out of their socks.

    I was sitting in a parked truck one rainy night on a dark out-of-the-way side street on the UCLA campus in 1988 when ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’ was played on the Jazz radio station I regularly listened to. I was so totally blown away by it that as soon as the DJ said what it was, I immediately started up my truck and drove into Westwood Village (about 5 minutes South of me) and bought the album. I’ve been diggin’ it ever since.

    In fact, rLEE Bird, in your honor, I just now posted a review of the album on my blog. I wrote this review six years ago for the website and, although it went almost entirely ignored by the Jazz-deficient masses, this was always one of my ten or twelve favorite reviews I ever wrote. I adopted a kind of film noir detective story approach for the first half of it. It’s now posted HERE because your ‘Nine Nice Jazz Favorites’ list has inspired me to resurrect it. Thanks, friend. Very nicely done! YOU ONE CAT WHO KNOWZ JAZZ! (I never shoulda doubted it.)

    ~ “Lonesome Dogg” McD-Fens

  13. Jemi -- What kind of jazz do the kids like? I think there is a stigma attached to "jazz" that causes many to shun it without really listening to it--kind of like classical.

    Gregg -- Jazz and blues are pretty closely related. What about Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and other Texas Swing? Western jazz I'd say.

    Marvin -- thanks for stopping by during your blogcation.

    Jackee-- The playlist was my experiment for today's post. Makes sense if you are talking about music.

    Talli -- glad you stopped to comment.

  14. Don Shirley, Regina Carter and Lena Horne all totally AWESOME! Great list arlee!

  15. Stephen T McC--- Keep in mind that I grew up during the 50s when Rock and Roll was in its formative stages and jazz and jazz-influenced music was the mainstay. My parents played a lot of Louis Prima and Keeley Smith, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and big bands. We were watching Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby's show on TV. Jazz was everywhere.

    In my college days of the early 70s I often listened to the jazz programs on the University of TN station (not much jazz on the radio in East Tenn. at that time) and I attended several fine jazz concerts including one of my favorites, Don Ellis Orchestra. Jazz was always a mainstay of my record collection.

    And don't be knocking Neil Young. I happen to have a taste for his music. I know some folks don't, but I and many others do.

    You're a bit harsh on Be-bop. And I like Frank Sinatra a whole lot. Although I will say I was trying to find any other version of "Ipanema", but Frank's is all I found so I had to settle for that. I would have definitely put Astrud's version on if it had been available-- loved it since I bought the 45 record back when it first came out.

  16. StMcC part 2-- Not really familiar with these three albums. I don't care what the jazz purists have to say about strings, I happen to like lush strings layered behind good jazz improv. What do jazz purists know anyway? And is there such a thing as pure jazz?
    I do own some Wes Montgomery and he's very good. The others I don't have in my collection and don't know if I've heard them or not other than the clips from Richie Cole I just listened to on Amazon.

    I'm certainly no expert on jazz, but I have a fair general knowledge.

  17. Paula -- Regina Carter and Lena Horne are fairly well-known among many people (Lena of course is), but it's good to get someone to back me up on Don Shirley. I haven't heard any of his classical work, but he sure plays some tasteful jazz.

  18. I don't really know much at all about Jazz Arlee except for the fact that I really like it! So I will check out some of your selections and experiment some more. Thanks for the heads up! Love Di ♥

  19. Hi Lee:)

    Greetings and good wishes:)

    Lovely collection of Jazz music. I will certainly check out all the artists.

    Many thanks for showing the way.

    Best wishes Lee:)

  20. I love jazz. I listen to KJAZZ 88.1 every day. At least an hour. Sometimes more.

    Stephen Tremp

  21. Diana -- Don't give up on jazz. There's a lot of good stuff.

    Joseph -- Thanks for visiting and hope you find some jazz that you enjoy.

    Stephen T. -- I also enjoy KJazz sometimes when I'm not listening to talk radio which is most of the time. I especially like Saturday mornings when they play the big band music.

  22. rLEE-b ~
    --> “And don't be knocking Neil Young. I happen to have a taste for his music. I know some folks don't, but I and many others do.”

    Hey, no problem, Bro. To each their own. I must have owned at least half a dozen of his albums back in the days of “licorice pizza”, but I eventually came to think of him as kind of “a poor man’s Bob Dylan”. Looking back on him from this 2010 perspective, I can honestly say that the only thing he ever wrote that still impresses me from a lyrics standpoint is “Sugar Mountain”. But heck, I ain’t gonna hold it agin ya if yer so po’ you can’t afford Dylan and have to settle for Young instead. ;o)

    --> “You're a bit harsh on Be-bop.”

    Yeah, you’re right. Truthfully, there’s a huge difference between Punk Rock and Be-Bop: The Punk Rockers are forced to play loud racket because they really are not accomplished musicians. I mean, anyone who practices playing guitar for 6 to 8 months could play as well as any Punk Rock band. It’s all style and attitude rather than substance and musicianship.

    But the Jazz Be-Bop players really are great musicians who could play any other form of Jazz (or even Classical pieces) if they chose to. They play Be-Bop because they want to, not because they have to. I just prefer melody in my music, and I don’t enjoy hearing as many notes played as humanly possible with no regard for a tune that one might find memorable. Perhaps I’m just not smart enough to wrap my mind around Be-Bop, whereas even in a gin-induced sleep and half of my brain sucked out, I’m still smarter'n any Punk Rocker. Ha!

    --> “I don't care what the jazz purists have to say about strings, I happen to like lush strings layered behind good jazz improv. What do jazz purists know anyway? And is there such a thing as pure jazz?”


    --> “I do own some Wes Montgomery and he's very good.”

    Ho!-Ho! He’s a lot better than “very good”. That stuffs he was doing with octaves, I won’t even pretend to understand. I just knows what I hears and knows what I likes. Pat Metheny (no slouch on the guitar himself) has called Montgomery’s album “Smokin’ At The Half Note” the greatest Jazz guitar album ever recorded. Tracks like “Four On Six” and “Impressions” is about as close to Be-Bop as I can get and still really dig it. Amazing when one stops to remember that Wes was playing all of that with his thumb; he never used a pick. Sheesh! Like a great magician, this great musician leaves me askin’ myself: How does he do it?

    --> “I'm certainly no expert on jazz, but I have a fair general knowledge.”

    That’s exactly how I would describe myself as well. I ain’t even remotely qualified to write a book about it, but I’ve been listening predominantly to Jazz for the better part of the last three decades, so I’ve heard a good amount of it and it’s definitely my musical form of choice.

    ~ “Lonesome Dogg” McD-Fens

  23. StMc-- Here's where I think you're offbase with the Young / Dylan theory. Dylan is mainly about the words and Young is about the music. Dylan's inspirations come from the poet Dylan Thomas (where Bobby Z. got his name), Woody Guthrie, and Ramblin' Jack Eliott--no really great musical mastery in these, they were wordsmiths.

    Young's main influences came from Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and the early rock and pop performers whose material was more based on presentation and melody than the importance of the words.

    Some of the early groups that Young played in were instrumental groups. For Young it was all about the music. Note how much of Young's music consists of long instrumental breaks whereas Dylan's does not.

    It's not which artist is better, it's the focus of what they do. I'm not a big lyric person--I don't even pay attention to lyrics much of the time. I mainly hear the music, so my inclination is Young style.

    Most people might agree neither Dylan nor Young have technically perfect voices-- I like them both--but I think Dylan does a better job sing/speaking lyrics and Young has a voice with more musical qualities.

    So bottom line is that one or another is not rich or poor man's anything, they are just stylistically different with different approaches to what they are doing. They are both excellent. I like Dylan for what he does and cannot deny the greatness of his songs, but I will opt for Young because I prefer music over words and Youngs music suits my tastes. I'll never stop listening to Dylan, I'll just listen to Neil more often.

  24. Lee, I know the name, Dorsey and Lena Horne, the rest I'm not familiar with. Okay, maybe I would be if I heard them. I will have to check these out~ I do love jazz; the last few years, even more so!
    Seems like a certain age, most of my friends, started listening to country..not me! I started listening to Jazz on the radio. I can remember my parents having some albums, mainly country! I will check these out, I bet I will recognize them!

  25. rLEE-b ~
    My Brother! My Brother! Methinks yer makin' the same mistake that peoples who don't know me so well frequently make. One ought not take EVERYTHING I say so seriously. I'm a joker, a clown, a jab-ya-in-the-ribs-and-give-ya-the-business kind of guy.

    --> "I ain’t gonna hold it agin ya if yer so po’ you can’t afford Dylan and have to settle for Young instead".
    How could a line like that have inspired such a defense as you presented? It was intended as a "joke". You spent a lot of time examining something that was just supposed to make ya smile and move on.

    Oh well, that's cool, because you said some interesting things that I'll try to briefly respond to:

    --> Dylan is mainly about the words

    Agreed. Particularly in the beginning. By the time he'd reached the "Slow Train Coming" era, the music was receiving enhanced focus, but indeed, the lyrics have always been the biggest draw.

    --> Dylan's inspirations come from... Woody Guthrie, and Ramblin' Jack Eliott - no really great musical mastery in these, they were wordsmiths. Young's main influences came from Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard...

    Well, truth be told, in the early years, while he was still in high school, Dylan idolized the same popular performes that Young did - Elvis, Little Richard, etc. The day Elvis died, Dylan mentioned it to his then girlfriend, and when she made some derogatory remark about Elvis, Dylan refused to speak to her for several days afterwards. Dylan was CRAZY about Little Richard and he once gave a Little Richard-style piano performance on his high school stage during a talent contest in which he was getting so wild that the principal of the school rang the curtain down on him.

    So, actually, in the earliest days, both Dylan and Young received inspiration from the same sources. It was some years later that Dylan's attention turned more toward the earlier Folk movement and he became infatuated with the likes of Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack, Leadbelly, etc.

    --> I'm not a big lyric person - I don't even pay attention to lyrics much of the time. I mainly hear the music, so my inclination is Young style.

    Wow! Now that REALLY surprises me, Brother. With your desire to become a professional writer, I would have automatically assumed that in songwriting, the lyrics would be of at least equal importance to you as the music.

    I myself fall into both camps. Some of my favorite of all music is strictly instrumental ("Moonlight Serenade", "So Rare", "Take Five", Pat Metheny's stuffs, etc.), and although I do appreciate some rather lyrically silly tunes ("Chantilly Lace", "Alley Oop", "Summertime Blues", etc.), when it comes to music WITH words, I would generally prefer to hear something that knocks my socks off or really wows me with lyrical imagery (Bob Dylan's "It's Alright, Ma", Tom Waits' "Broken Bicycles", Rickie Lee Jones' "Last Chance Texaco", etc.)

    Unfortunately, although Neil Young has a reputation for being one of the better lyricists in Rock/Pop - as I stated earlier - the only Young song I can think of off the top of my head that impresses me from a lyric standpoint is "Sugar Mountain".

    But, anyway, Brother, you're certainly your own man and it doesn't bother me in the least if you choose Young over Dylan. Now if you chose Barack Obama over Ron Paul, THAT would bother me! (Heck, everyone knows that Obama is just the poor man's Paul ;o)

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens


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