Hawes Atomic Wild Side

I added this collection of Hampton Hawes: Three Classic Albums plus, a year or so ago as the iTunes price was right & I love Hampton. When I was living in Sydney, Cape Breton he was my real introduction to jazz that wasn’t fusion. Traditional straight ahead inventive playing & well worth adding to any collection.

John Betsch Society: Earth Blossom (1974) – sweet postbop percussion & sax/flute pleasant. Christer Norden: Library Music (2021) – similar to Betsch – soothing, more piano oriented jazz verging on easy listening.

Babatunde Olatunji – (Nigerian drummer) Soul Makossa (1973) – This is timeless excellent African music – a jazzy mix of traditional with a great version of the title track, one of my favourite exotica instrumentals.

Count Basie: The Complete Atomic Basie (1994). I did a search for Neil Hefti – best known for his music of there 60’s Batman TV show – & read that he was a well-established jazz musician & arranger & this is an lp he produced & arranged for Count Basie. Excellent big band jazz. Could I tell Basie from Ellington? Probably not.

Limbo Party: Ivy Pete & His Limbomaniacs (1962) was an lp my folks had & I did a little iTune search & there it was full of great playful ‘limbo’ music. The limbo was a fad dance in the late 50’s early 60’s & introduced many to this world music sound. Then it was rarely listened for itself. It stands the test of time.

Next on this cd mp3 compilations are a couple of movie soundtrack. First Gerry Mulligan Orchestra: I Want To Live (1958). When I saw this film on TCM I was amazing at the soundtrack – some of the action takes place in various jazz clubs & the producers were smart enough to use real jazz musicians, so there are great scenes of Gerry Mulligan’s group playing. Good film with an excellent soundtrack.

Another, thanks to TCM, soundtrack find is Elmer Bernstein’s Walk On The Wild Side (1962). One of the most versatile soundtrack composers his use of jazz saves some films from obscurity. A strange film, check out the opening credits on YouTube, the music suits this over-heated melodrama set in a New Orleans brothel. The lp didn’t include (I guess for licensing issues) the Brook Benton songs which I also tracked down on iTunes as an ep – Walk On The Wild Side (1962). Well worth having.

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mingus Monk

Jazz runs the gamut from easy listening to complex challenging. There is the from the gut playing of John Coltrane to the intellectual work of Anthony Braxton. There are those who argue that ‘instrumental’ is pap – is Lawrence Welk big band or ‘instrumental’ pap? If it’s too popular does it lose creative credibility? 

Mingus and Monk are two jazz masters who have never attempted to be popular & no one questions their credibility. Both can be ‘difficult’ because they both challenge conventional jazz structures & tonalities. First is  Charlies Mingus (1922-1989) – I have Mingus Dynasty 1960, Me Myself and Eye 1970, Mingus: a two lp compilation 1972. My first exposure to Mingus was either Haitian Flight Song as performed by The Pentangle, or Good Bye Pork Pie Hat. Both are his most frequently covered compositions. I remember buying the double-lp on one of my record buying visits to Halifax (from Sydney, where there was no real jazz selection). Dynasty is a dense, big band workout – dissonant at points with fun, if disjointed, rhythms. Me Myself is similar – Larry Cornell shows up with a great, but out-of-place guitar solo. An excellent introduction to Mingus would be Money Jungle – the great set he did with Duke Ellington as a trio with Max Roach on drums.

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) Thelonious Himself (1957), Gerry Mulligan Meets Monk (1957) Monk’s Dream (1963), Big Band & Quartet in Concert (1963), Solo Monk (64-65). A good introduction would be the live sets from 1957 that he did with John Coltrane. I’d also recommend the Winston Marsalis album ‘Monk’ for a solid representation of his work.

Monk is a wild piano player – his style is often blocky as opposed to smooth – minor keys, seemingly erratic rhythms & an ability to dissemble a melody & put it back together again – altered yet recognizable. Like Mingus this music is more intellectual than gut level – not that they lack sensuality but not simply background music either.

Rounding out the Monk mp3 cd is Stanley Turrentine with Shirley Scott: Blue Flames (1964) – this is fine, sexy sax playing cushioned perfectly by Scott’s jazz organ. Oh yes, there are lots of women jazz musicians 🙂 Finally saxophonist Courtney Pine: The Vision’s Tale (1989) – a nice set of originals & unexpected covers – from I’m An Old Cowhand to a great take on Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

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Dorothy and Friends

When I say ‘black female jazz performer’, who comes to mind? Vocalists galore, sure, maybe even a few piano players, right. So let me introduce you to Dorothy Ashby. Her niche gets even smaller when I tell you she plays harp, no not harmonica, but an actually harp. Jazz harp! When I say ‘jazz instruments’ you probably think of sax first, piano second. But harp!

I ‘discovered’ her while searching for, of all things, cover versions of the theme from Valley of The Dolls. Her’s is on the Afro-Harping lp. At the time I spotted the Classics set for $5.99. So on this mp3 cd I have the  Four Classic Albums Plus -The Jazz Harpist (1957), Hip Harp (1958), In A Minor Groove (1958), Soft Winds (1961), Dorothy Ashby (1962); and Afro-Harping (1968). This is not jazz for purists by any means – better than easy listening or mere instrumental. She plays jazz standards from Satin Doll to Moonlight in Vermont. Worth checking out.

Jon Hassell: Maarifa Street (2005) – another tumblr find – a very mediative, sonically dense, jazzy set by this trumpeter, that is clearly inspired by Miles Davis’ Bitch’s Brew period but is more mellow. Soothing & sweet. The same is true for  vibraphonist Lennie Hibbert’s Creation (1969) – late sixties mystic jazz. 

Even more meditative is a pair of Japanese releases – Kanyko Oganaku: Japanese Ambient Music; and Hiroshi Yoshimura: Music For Nine Postcards. There was a track by Yoshimura on the Ambient album. Soothing & experimental at the same time. Perfect for insomniacs – relaxing without being boring. Some electronic, some gentle piano, bamboo flute & sets nicely with the Dorothy Ashby. An mp3 CD perfect for randomized play.

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Silent Movie Soundtrack

I love movie soundtracks. They are written to sustain or create a mood. Deliberately manipulative music that can scare, lull, arouse & even make one patriotic. Often I wish it would drown out the dialogue lol. Sometimes it is the only good thing about movie. Even silent movies had music – usually played live on piano or elaborate pipe organs while the movie was being projected. Some had music written for them. Many had sheet music to accompany the film. As technology progressed early forms of lp was tried but sync was a challenge.

I have the soundtrack for Metropolis (1927) – For the film’s 2010 “complete” restoration premiere, Huppertz’s score was performed live and subsequently re-recorded by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frank Strobel. The composer, Huppertz, often played piano on Lang’s set to inform the actors’ performances. Huppertz’s score only accompanied the film once, at its original premiere.

The music is sweeping & one doesn’t need to have ever seen the movie to enjoy it. I have the 2010 restoration & have watched int a few times & the music certainly supports the plot & action but when I listen to it separately I don’t recall scenes. Unlike, say, the music from the Psycho shower scene. Great music that is more than just an historic document.

On this mp3 cd I added two soundtrack collections: Legendary Horror Films: original soundtrack music from King Kong, Frankenstein  etc. and Film Noir: original soundtrack music from Peter Gunn, The Big Sleep etc. Original movie instrumental soundtracks lps weren’t really a ‘thing’ until the sixties. Sure blockbusters would make some available i.e. Gone With The Wind. So these two collections of original music are excellent, in some cases music was taken directly from the film reels as the original recordings were not archived.

The soundtrack to I Married A Monster From Outer Space (1958) wasn’t released until the film itself became a cult favourite decades later. This is prime sci-fi space age music with ondes Martenot flourishes by a variety of composers including Max Steiner! The movie is great fun too, but you don’t have to see it to enjoy this soundtrack. 

Now for something different but retro. Bent Fabric was Danish pianist and composer best remembered for his hit Alley Cat (originally called “Omkring et flygel” (literally, “Around a Grand Piano”). It topped the charts in 1962. The song has shown up in various movies about the 60’s. I have a sweet collection of his fun pieces in a friendly jazzy style. 

I don’t think Mary Lou Williams did any soundtrack work – she was too busy working with the likes of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis to write for movies. Jazz pianist extraordinaire she was an early black, female powerhouse who, I think, is due for a major bio-pic. As a break from the noir soundtracks I have her Black Christ of the Andes (1964), Super Female (compilation of tracks from her albums). You want a black, female genius before Beyonce look no further.

Finally the Lemurian Congress – a Canadian electronica band. Their recording The Tour is the ideal soundtrack for any unmade movie about the future of Earth’s colonizations of Mars.

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MMMostly Jazzy

Working though the M’s in my jazz collection with a part of stand-alones by Medeski, Martin & Wood: keyboards, drums, bass. It’s A Jungle (1993) (Coltrane, Monk), Shack-man (1996). Fun organ based smooth jazz – the organs sound is breathy as opposed to Jimmy Smith’s. The group aims for a funky jazz vibe & are fun but two cds was enough for me.

Next is Pat Metheny. I have as either stand-alone or mp3: Water Colors (ECM 1977), American Garage (ECM 1979) Rejoicing (w Charlie Haden) (ECM 1984), One Quiet Night (2003), The Way Up (2005). He has played as sideman with endless others. His guitar playing is often subtle, somewhat in the Wes Montgomery style but not as relaxed. These are all excellent & any lp he plays on is worth having. One Quiet Night is a relaxing, romantic acoustic set. 

Rounding out the mp3 collection is Egberto Gismonti, (Brazil) – Magico 1979 (w Charlie Haden). Another amazing guitar player – inventive, smooth & worth tracking down. Some George Benson:  The Other Side of Abbey Road (1970), White Rabbit (1972). I suspect Abbey Road is one of the most covered Beatles lp – I have at least two other complete track-by-track set of jazz covers of it. Benson is a guitar player with a great pop singing voice. White Rabbit is a set of pop covers, or rather interpretations, fun but not as interesting as Gabor Szabo. 

Art Pepper: New York Album (1979) Pepper plays a vibrant sax  & this is an excellent set, s bit romantic but solid jazz – none of the pop cover stuff. Charlie Hunter Trio: Bing Bing Bing! (1995) funky jazz with a great guitar sound – here the trio is more like a sextet with horns added to the sound. Finally some Mahavishnu Orchestra: Inner Worlds (1975); Noonward Race (1972 Live at Mar y Sol Festival) – this live track is a race that left me breathless & glad that I had hunted down this live set.

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Ray McKenzie And His Orchestra: Count Basie’s And Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits (1974) This is an lp to cd transfer of a double lp by this orchestra. In jazz this is a big band with several saxes, horns, piano etc & is not to be consumed with a symphony orchestra. These are decent interpretations of the hits. Nothing radical 🙂 

On a genre hopping mp3 cd that runs too nearly 8 hours of music I have Gary McFarland (vibraphonist) Essential Jazz Moods 50 tracks some with Anita O’Day, Gabor Szabo, Steve Kuhn. This is a massive compilation of McFarland’s recordings in the late 50’s to Mid 60’s. His work with Gabor Szabo is amazing, as is Szabo anyway. I think I paid $5.99 for this via iTunes & was not disappointed – a fine purchase for anyone who wants an instant good jazz collection. 

I watched a documentary about the Birth of Disco – Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa was one of the first major hits of the genre. Disco was diverse before diversity became a must. I have The Very Best Of (1997): which includes Soul Makossa & Manu Safari (1998). He is an excellent sax player & if you want powerful African jazz this is for you. 

Here too is Franz Waxman’s Peyton Place (soundtrack 1957). Waxman was the John Williams of his day, responsible for dozens of fine film soundtracks. The title song was impressed on my brain by the TV series. I’m a Peyton Place fan & once had a pirated copy off the entire series (picture quality got worse & worse). The 1957 movie is sordid fun & the music is sublime.

Finally to round out the mp3 cd is some Billy Preston – Wildest Organ in Town/Club Meeting (1966/67). When I discovered that Preston was gay I added these jazz lps (his pop is fine too). This is funky stuff in the Jimmy Smith mode & love it when it comes up in my play rotation. The story of his life is heartbreaking – internalized homophobia has killed too many.  

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There’s no denying that I like an organ’s thick juicy sound. My love started with that Farfisa bounce in 60s garage rock – i.e. 96 Tears. It expanded with Vanilla Fudge, ELP. I think on of my fruit jazz organ lps with Jimmy Smith’s Monster (more about him when I get to ’S’].

Back in the day when I flipped though bins of 2nd hand cds I came upon Brother Jack McDuff (1926-2001) lp: Gettin’ Our Thing Together (1968) which had one of the most hideous covers I’d ever seen, so I bought it for fifty-cents. He’s a funkier version of Jimmy Smith. On this mp3 collection I have Do It Now (1967)/Gettin’ Our Thing Together (1968)/Moon Rappin’ (1969),  Sophisticated Funk (1976). All great fun & worth checking out.

Also on this mp3 cd is Booker T & The MGs: Time Is Tight: This is a three cd set that covers all their studio lps up to & including ‘Melting Pot.’ Now this is funky is a more soulful way, more pop than jazz. All the hits are here: Green Onions, Hip Hug-Her as well as endless tasty cover versions of the Beatles, movie themes (Hang’Em High) & original songs. The group was also the house band for a couple of labels i.e. Stax, Atlantic & played on hundreds of number one singles by a list of stars too long to include here.

Booker T was also highly influential on many British groups: Procol Harum owes them a debit of gratitude, as does Pink Floyd whose long dreamy passages could be by Booker T. At one time I had the lp Melting Pot as well as a cassette of ‘Greatest Hits.’ Melting Pop is a masterpiece that transcends genre & if you don’t have it – get it.

Next on the shelf is the stand-alone of Jimmy McGriff’s (1936-2008) – Tribute to Basie (1966). Another fine jazz organist this is a, as you might guess, more of a big band work out with organ instead of saxes taking the lead. Another cd I picked up flipping through bins at a 2nd hand music store. Now I flip though iTunes for obscure old school disco.

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Quicksilver Spirit

It’s easy to think groups like King Crimson, ELP ‘invented’ progrock forgetting about the California explosion in the late 60’s. I am talking about two bands in particular: Quicksilver Messenger Service & Spirit. Adventurous, challenging & timeless. Though at the time I didn’t see them as ground breaking merely as interesting & psychedelic. I have two mp3 cd collections that pair them.

By Quicksilver Messenger Service I have: Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968), Happy Trails (1969), Shady Grove (1969), Just For Love (1970), What About Me (1970), Maiden Of The Cancer Moon (Live 1983). The first two & the Live ‘Moon’ reflect the more experimental side of the group with extended explorations that transcend standard pop into a sonic avant gard. On the other three lps they have added keyboard genius Nicky Hopkins to the group & the songs become more pop oriented with a more ELP sound. Some great moments but not as adventurous in the same way.

Quicksilver were progressive in an experimental way while Spirit went in a jazzier direction that influenced groups like Weather Report. Here I have Spirit(1968), The Family That Plays Together (1968), Clear (1969), Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970), Feedback (1972). There is a definite change as the band matures. I loved the first two lps with amazing production work & jazz-rock instrumentals. One of the few non-folky bands at the time with a strong ecological message ‘Uncle Garbage.’ They even managed some radio friendly hits.

To round out this look at the psychedelic sound I’ve included the much more radio friendly Jefferson Airplane’s Live At The Fillmore East 1968 (released 1998 – just after After Bathing at Baxter’s was released this a great live lp. Finally the Electric Flag’s A Long Time Comin’ (1968) grounded by Mike Bloomfield’s guitar this was an ambitious mix of soul, blues, rock & horns. Not radio friendly though & over shadowed by Bloomfield’s work on Super Session.  

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Hola Flora e amigos

I have two mp3 cd collections of Latino music anchored by Flora Purim – a diverse mix of Spanish & Portuguese musicians, of vintage & modern artists.

By Flora Purim (Brazil) I have Butterfly Dreams (1973), Stories To Tell (1974), Open Your Eyes You Can Fly (1976),Everyday Everynight (1978), Sings Milton Nascimento (2000). (elsewhere I have her work with Chick Corea, & Airto Moreira)

I first heard her with Chick Corea. Chick is one of the lollards of jazz-rock & also a jazz piano god. As a result her first few lps have a strong feel for jazz-rock but in a much more Latino direction. She a clear soaring voice that is comfortable with adult pop, avant guard experimental, folk & jazz. Check out Dr. Jive on YouTube – it is an amazing rush of energy & merges her sensibilities in an almost psychedelic explosion. I love all these lps.   

Flora didn’t appear in a void though, she was preceded in the 50’s by Yma Sumac, a Peruvian-American coloratura soprano with a range of over four and a half octaves. I have her Mambo! (1954) , Legend of the Sun Virgin (1952), Voices of the Xtabay (1950). The queen of exotica she picked up where Carmen Miranda left off with a series of amazing, authentic recordings that haven’t been bettered. The original cover art alone on these is amazing. Grab a hits collection.

Sergio Mendes Brazil’66 brought an interesting spin on Latino music by interpreting current pop songs as sambas etc. I have Fool on The Hill (1968), Four Sider (1972). They mix Brazilian standards as well thus exposing us try their native sounds as well. A bit middle-of-the-road – an easier to take version of Flora Purim lol.

If you want to step even deeper try Sivuca (Brazil): Sivuca (1978), Quinteto Ulrapuru (2010) – I had his 78 lp on vinyl on the east coast & loved it – playful, romantic street/folk music. the 2010 lp is mature & verges of modern classical. Hermeto Pascol’s (Brazil): Eu e Eles (1999) Is a fun, quirky work – he plays in the studio with sound effects & almost silly vocal styles: words gargled with water. 

Violeta Parra (Chile) (1917-1967): Las ultimas composiciones, is best known for ‘Gracias a la Vida’ which is given an amazing recording by Mercedes Sosa. Parra is a folkie solo singer – a sweet voice, an acoustic guitar with songs of political protest, love & hope. Obscure, mind you. She reminds me of the 60’s coffee house scene.

Mane Silvera & Swami Jr.- Ima: with Silvera on sax, Jr. on acoustic guitar. I borrow this cd from the library, made a cassette copy & then downloaded the mp3 – I love love love this jazz duo – playful, lyrical & one of my favourites. Who could resist a musician named Swami Jr? I love the playing of both these  musicians & have more by each elsewhere in my collection. This is a must have.  

Jon Hendricks’s Salud! Joao Gilberto (1963) is a pleasant exploration of Gilberto that was ahead of its time. Easy listening takes on classic songs by one of America’s foremost male jazz singers.

In this collection are couple of Spanish lps as well. Antologia Del Tango Argentino – a collection of archival tangos – yes there was a major recording industry outside of the USA. Finally a dip into more recent sounds with Orishas (Cuban hip hop): Emigrante (2002), El Kilo (2005). Energetic, passionate & full of samples of Cuban big band & jazz. Remarkable modern music.

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McBridal Shower

I love upright bass, so by bass player Christian McBride I have as stand-alone Gettin’ To It (1994) , Parker’s Mood (1995), Number Two Express(1995), (as mp3) fingerpainting: The Music of Herbie Handcock (1997), Sci-Fi (2000). I first heard Christian as a sideman with sax player Joshua Redman – he was a strong support player but when I found Gettin’ To It his first release as leader I was eager to hear him get to it.

Bouncy, contemplative, fresh with a great version of The Stars Fell On Alabama – on this Joshua Redman is a sideman, along with Roy Hargrove on trumpet. Excellent, accessible jazz. On Parker’s Mood he is part of trio with Roy Hargrove & Steven Scott. As the title indicates, this a tribute set of Charlie Parker tunes given not-overly-respectful reinterpretations.  On Express he is joined by old school masters Chick Corea & Jack DeJohnette for another great set. The fact that he attracted these jazz icons speaks to his chops & reputation.

The Hancock tribute is excellent even though there is no piano in the bass, trumpet, drums trio. Adventurous rethinkings of Hancock that actually explores rather than treats the material with such respect it might as well be on a museum shelf. 

Sci-Fi, is, as the title suggests, a bow to the jazz-rock  sounds of Miles Davis &, yes, Herbie Hancock. In fact Hancock joins in on keyboards & even David Gilmore of Pink Floyd makes an appearance. No one really thinks of Pink Floyd as jazz-rock but Atom Heart Mother ranks up there with Inner Mounting Flame. Another homage that explores rather than replicates that time era.

You cannot go wrong with with any jazz lp that includes Christian McBride as leader or as a sideman.

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