Thursday, 30 October 2014

24. Count Basie & His Orchestra: 1936-1938

Click here for my original post on Count Basie

I think it's fair to say that Count Basie and the members of his orchestra had a significant impact on the history and direction of jazz after they made their first recordings in 1936. New rules were established. Light airy and tasteful piano licks, walking bass, ride symbol beat and head arrangements from the brass section. Topped off with some exquisite improvisation and you have the recipe for one of the best (if not the best) jazz combos of all time.

This album gets you in at the ground floor. The first four small combo tracks from "Smith Jones Incorporated" (a name used due to contractual difficulties) showcase Lester Young's first ever recorded tracks. This would be a sufficient enough reason to own this album. Yet it continues aplomb with the full orchestra backed by the wonderful vocals of Jimmy Rushing on tracks like Don't You Miss Your Baby, Good Morning Blues and Pennies From Heaven. Check out how Young and Basie play off each other on Roseland Shuffle. Then listen to Young's tenor counterpart Herschel Evans on the track John's Idea. Both completely different sounds from the same intsrument. Both utterly sublime. Of course this was the time that Basie first recorded One O'Clock Jump. 

For a first time recording the band sounds incredibly tight. However this is no accident as all of these guys had been honing their chops since the mid 20´s. It was the social environment of the times that meant they would all be in Kansas City at this particular juncture of history, jamming in smoky bars until the early hours and creating some of the greatest music ever made. (Check out this link for more on my thoughts on the importance of Kansas City at this time)

1. Shoe Shine Boy

2. Evenin'

3. Boogie Woogie

4. Oh, Lady Be Good

5. Honeysuckle Rose

6. Pennies From Heaven

7. Swinging at the Daisy Chain

8. Roseland Shuffle

9. Exactly Like You

10. Boo-Hoo

11. The Glory of Love

12. Boogie Woogie

13. Smarty (You Know It All)

14. One O'Clock Jump

15. Listen My Children (And You Shall Hear)

16. John's Idea

17. Good Morning Blues

18. Our Love Was Meant to Be

19. Time Out

20. Topsy

21. I Keep Remembering

22. Out the Window

23. Don't You Miss Your Baby?

24. Let Me Dream

25. Georgianna

Monday, 14 July 2014

23. Artie Shaw: An Introduction To Artie Shaw. His Best Recordings 1937-1942

Click here for my original blog post on Artie Shaw.

Artie Shaw is not a name that trips off the layman's tongue in the same way that Benny Goodman or Count Basie do. Yet he was one of the biggest names in the jazz world. He was a consummate musician and professional who hit the heights during the swing era and one who went out in his own terms, hanging up his clarinet for good in 1954. This record reflects some of the best music that he made during the height of his career and when jazz was the most popular music of the day in America.

There are some real gems on this album. Naturally his greatest hit, Begin The Beguine, is represented. It's an unmistakeably good track as is the wonderful Stardust with a stunning trumpet solo from Billy Butterfield. Shaw also gets to demonstrate his chops on that track hitting some wonderful high notes. His brief work with Billie Holiday is represented by the song Any Old Time and Hot Lips Page appears on the fantastic St James Infirmary. 

Like his contemporary Benny Goodman, there is a minefield of greatest hits out there. This is the one to have.

1.Shoot the Likker to Me, John Boy
2. Begin the Beguine
3. Comin' On
4. Back Bay Shuffle
5. Any Old Time
6. Copenhagen
7. Rosalie
8. Carioca
9. Pastel Blue
10. One Foot in the Groove
11. Octoroon
12. Oh, Lady Be Good
13. Frenesi
14. Summit Ridge Drive
15. Temptation
16. Stardust
17. Prelude in C Major
18. Dancing in the Dark
19. It Had to Be You
20. Solid Sam
21. St. James Infirmary, Pts. 1 & 2
22. Hindustan

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

22. Benny Goodman: The Very Best Of Benny Goodman (RCA Victor)

Click here for my original blog post and thoughts on Benny Goodman

There are a plethora of Benny Goodman compilations out there, some of them very good and some downright awful in terms of sound quality. I chose this offering as there appears to have been some care regarding the sonic quality of the tunes offered. All of the songs on the album are from 1935 when Goodman and his orchestra stormed the Palomar Ballroom in California right through to the height of their fame in 1938.

The album also gives a good idea of Goodman´s range as a musician - from full on orchestra to the more nuanced tracks involving his quartet with the now legendary Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson. The song choices really reflect the chart topping hits of a time when jazz was the most popular music of the day. From the barnstorming Bugle Call Rag and St Louis Blues through to Count Basie´s One O´Clock Jump, Chick Webb´s Stomping At The Savoy, Duke Ellington´s In A Sentimental Mood and Jelly Roll Morton´s King Porter Stomp. The whole thing wraps up with the unmistakeable Sing Sing Sing in all its eight minute glory. This is the song that brought the house down when Goodman and his men played at Carnegie Hall in 1938 and brought jazz to the masses, for better or for worse.

1. Bugle Call Rag
2. St. Louis Blues
3. Swingtime in the Rockies
4. One O'Clock Jump
5. Exactly Like You
6. Sweet Georgia Brown
7. I Know That You Know
8. And the Angels Sing
9. Stompin' at the Savoy
10. After You've Gone
11. Avalon
12. In a Sentimental Mood
13. The Glory of Love
14. Goody Goody
15. Bei Mir Bist du Schön, Pt. 1
16. Bei Mir Bist du Schön, Pt. 2
17. I Cried for You
18. Moonglow
19. King Porter Stomp
20. Sing, Sing, Sing, Pt. 1 & 2

Sunday, 26 January 2014

21. Chick Webb: Spinnin´ The Webb

Two words that probably sum up Chick Webb´s Orchestra in the 1930´s: fearsome and feared. Not many bands survived a musical cutting contest with these guys and some would argue that Webb was indeed the true King of Swing. He was one of the first to integrate the drums into a jazz band, not as merely an instrument for keeping time, but as one that added a new flavour to the music. As the leader of the orchestra he would pave the way for the likes of Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson. He was also the man responsible for putting Ella Fitzgerald on the map.

This anthology takes us from Webb´s pre-swing roots in the late 1920´s to his untimely death in 1939. Dog Bottom and Jungle Mamma kick things off from a session recorded for Brunswick in 1929. The arrangements of Benny Carter can be heard in the subsequent two tracks Heebie Jeebies and Blues In My Heart. The rest of the album are from 1934 to 1939 when Webb began recording for Decca and also began his tenure as the leader of the house band for the Savoy Ballroom in New York. Don´t Be That Way is an instantly recognisable song from the era. It was arranged by alto saxophonist Edgar Sampson who also had a hand in arranging Blue Lou and Swinging At The Savoy (although the latter is omitted from this anthology).

And if you are looking for evidence of Webb´s drumming chops then look no further than Clap Hands! Here Comes Charlie! and Liza.  Unfortunately there aren´t enough recordings of Webb and no actual footage of his playing live exists. This album is therefore a musical snapshot of a man who was something of a colossus in his time and deserves further recognition.

1. Dog Bottom (2:39)
2. Jungle Mama (3:15)
3. Heebie Jeebies (3:08)
4. (I'm Left With The) Blues in My Heart (3:09)
5. Lona (2:47)
6. Blue Minor (3:03)
7. Don't Be That Way (2:35)
8. What a Shuffle (2:53)
9. Blue Lou (3:01)
10. Go Harlem (2:21)
11. Clap Hands! Here Comes Charlie (2:29)
12. That Naughty Waltz (2:57)
13. I Got Rhythm (2:33)
14. Squeeze Me (3:09)
15. Harlem Congo (3:17)
16. Midnight in a Madhouse (2:32)
17. Spinnin' The Webb (3:03)
18. Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away) (2:40)
19. Who Ya Hunchin' (2:52)
20. In the Groove at the Grove (2:38)