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Maynard Ferguson Early 60’s Cameo Sessions Re-Issued by ABKCO

14 Jan

Maynard Ferguson was one of the great Big Band trumpet blowers. Sure, the heyday of the Big Bands had long passed by the time these sessions were laid down in 1963. But Maynard, a native Canadian, continued to carry the torch — and did so in spectacular fashion. Ferguson was best known for his amazing ability to hit and sustain high notes, yet please do not consider him a “one trick pony.” He could play with the best of them and consistently surrounded himself with talented young musicians. This is certainly the case for these takes, which were recorded during the peak of the Cameo-Parkway label’s financial success. That success was due in great part to Chubby Checker’s mega-hit, “The Twist.”

ABKCO’s upcoming release of the NEW SOUNDS OF MAYNARD FERGUSON and COME BLOW YOUR HORN (both LPs are included on this single CD) do a fine job of displaying Maynard’s versatility and virtuosity. Many songs will be immediately familiar to the casual jazz or pop music fan. These tunes would include Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man, the traditional Oh Danny Boy, Count Basie’s rousing One O’Clock Jump, Ray Allen’s groovy Gravy Waltz, Duke Ellington’s hit Take the A Train, Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town), and Billy May’s Naked City TV theme. Slightly lesser known compositions by Hammerstein-Kern, Oliver Nelson, Benny Golson, Elmer Bernstein, and the prolific team of Cahn-Van Heusen help to round out the collection. Yes, Maynard had great taste as well as great musical chops.

I must say I really dig this stuff. Some of you whippersnappers out there may think Big Band music is out of date or even, GASP, uncool. I beg to differ — in fact, I strongly beg to differ. I’d take this over your Gaga and your Bieber any day, Junior. And if you’re an older music fan with a fondness for Big Bands like Basie’s or The Tonight Show’s Doc Severinson, this will surely send you soaring as high as one of Maynard Ferguson’s stupifying trumpet blasts.  This is far out, groovy, Buddy Rich, Jack Sheldon, Old Blue Eyes’ “Koo-Koo” kind of good.

The New Sounds of Maynard Ferguson/Come Blow Your Horn—the Complete Cameo Recordings  

PRE-ORDER-NOW! Available January 31, 2012

Released through Real Gone by arrangement with ABKCO Records, this twofer features two of the most collectible albums in the entire Maynard Ferguson catalog, the two records he recorded in 1963 for the Cameo label in between his stints at the Roulette and Mainstream labels. Maynard still has his great Roulette band of Lanny Morgan, Willie Maiden, Frank Vicari, Mike Abene, Ronnie Cuber and master arranger Don Sebesky et al. with him on these recordings. Sourced from the original master tapes, this marks the first time these rare gems will be legitimately released on CD. Both albums feature driving big band arrangements of both standards and originals, and we have unearthed an unreleased bonus track from the New Sounds sessions, a take on the classic The Song Is You, exclusively for this reissue. Remastered straight from the original tapes with new liner notes—Maynard’s complete Cameo recordings!

The New Sounds Of Maynard Ferguson C1046 (1963)

1. Take The “A” Train; 2. Bossa Nova De Funk; 3. Gravy Waltz; 4. Cherokee (Indian Love Song) 5. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; 6. One O’Clock Jump; 7. At The Sound Of The Trumpet 8. Maine Bone; 9. Watermelon Man; 10. Danny Boy; 11. The Song Is You (previously unreleased)

Maynard Ferguson – Come Blow Your Horn C1066 (1963)

12. Groove; 13. Country Boy; 14. Blues For A Four String Guitar; 15. Whisper Not 16. We’ve Got A World That Swings; 17. Chicago That Toddling Town; 18. Naked City Theme; 19. New Hope; 20. Antony And Cleopatra Theme; 21. Come Blow Your Horn

Ray Charles’ “Singular Genius” Shines Through on New 5-CD Box

6 Nov
 
This, in my humble opinion, is a long-overdue release. Florida native Ray Charles’ output while with the ABC-Paramount label was pretty extraordinary. And while his earlier Atlantic recordings placed him on our collective radar for the first time, his ABC singles allowed him to stretch out and reach for the stars. Country, soul, pop, R & B … it’s all here. And laid down in a way only Brother Ray could. In fact, I can think of no one else who could have pulled this kind of mix together in such a cohesive, effortless manner. 53 singles, 11 #1 hits. You call yourself a true fan of American Popular Music and Culture? Then you simply must own this historic collection.

 

RAY CHARLES’ SINGULAR GENIUS: THE COMPLETE ABC SINGLES,
AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 15 ON CONCORD RECORDS, COMPILES
HITS AND B-SIDES — MANY NEVER PREVIOUSLY ON ALBUM

106 recordings on five compact discs totaling 53 singles
are housed in handsome linen-textured collectors’ box

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — With the release of Ray Charles’ Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles, on November 15, 2011, Concord Records will make available for the first time the artist’s collection of ABC-Paramount singles during this prolific period (1960-1972).

The digitally remastered deluxe 106-song collection presents the A and B sides of 53 singles, including 11 #1 hits, such Grammy Award winners “Hit the Road Jack,” “Busted,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Crying Time,” “America the Beautiful,” and many more.

 

Twenty-one of the songs are making their digital debut, and 30 have never previously been available on CD. Liner notes were written by R&B recording artist and music historian Billy Vera and rare photographs are included.

According to Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation, “This compilation provides an opportunity to hear Ray’s evolution into a full-fledged artist and creative force. The song selection was based upon the interpretation he could bring to the music and not the genre. The ABC singles comprise an epoch of essential Ray Charles music and a window into how his genius evolved.”

John Burk, Concord Music Group’s Chief Creative Officer stated, “Ray Charles is one of America’s most iconic and treasured voices. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to present Ray’s historic ABC singles with the reverence and respect they deserve and continue our dynamic partnership and acclaimed reissue program with Valerie Ervin and everyone at the Ray Charles Foundation.”

By the time the singer released his first single for his new label affiliation, ABC-Paramount, in January 1960, he had crossed over into the stardom that show biz insiders had long known was his due. After several years of R&B hits on his previous label, Atlantic Records, he’d finally reached the coveted white teen market with his smash, “What’d I Say,” the simplest, most basic song of his career.

 

Charles’ contract was coming up for renewal and the Atlantic brass expected an easy negotiation. After all, most entertainers took a passive approach to their business, especially when things were going well. However, his agency, Shaw Artists, wanted to bring Charles to a broader audience, which they felt could be better delivered by a major record company.

One such company was ABC-Paramount, a newer major that had found success with teen idols Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian, while crossing Lloyd Price over into pop. ABC’s Larry Newton convinced label president Sam Clark that Ray Charles was the ideal artist to not only make hits but to attract other black acts to the fold. Charles was granted a magnanimous contract that included ownership of his masters after five years. Even Frank Sinatra, as Vera points out, did not have a deal like this.

 

Sid Feller became Charles’ A&R man and producer. Though as Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler once said, “You don’t produce Ray Charles; you just get out of the way and let him do his thing.”

After striking a rich deal, the Ray Charles/ABC relationship had a momentary setback when the first ABC single, “Who You Gonna Love” b/w “My Baby,” sold disappointingly. The second single, “Sticks and Stones,” a “What’d I Say” knockoff, went to #2 R&B and #540 pop. Finally, the third ABC single, “Georgia on My Mind,” culled from the album The Genius Hits the Road, reached #1 on the pop charts. With the overwhelming popularity of “Georgia on My Mind,” Charles was at last a full-fledged mainstream star, right up there with the Nat Coles and Peggy Lees. The company’s strategy was to cater to his new market while still releasing singles to serve his R&B base.

Charles in the meantime launched a publishing arm, Tangerine Music, signing one of the greats of West Coast blues, Percy Mayfield. Mayfield brought with him a song he’d pitched to Specialty Records without success, “Hit the Road, Jack.” Ray’s version rose to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. It was followed by “Unchain My Heart.”

ABC-Paramount celebrated his grand success by giving Charles his own label, Tangerine, which he used to record some of his personal R&B heroes including Mayfield, Louis Jordan, and Little Jimmy Scott. At the same point in time, Charles became enamored of country music and recorded several country sides: “Take These Chains From My heart,” “Busted,” “That Old Lucky Sun,” and from Buck Owens, “Crying Time” and “Together Again.”

 

1966 saw the opening of Ray Charles’ own RPM Studios on Washington Blvd. in Los Angeles. The first song he recorded at the facility was “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” a Coasters cover penned by Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson, and Jo Armistead.

The ABC-Paramount recordings continued into the late ’60s and early ’70s. In 1972 Charles cut a version of the New Seekers hit, “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma,” but it was the B-side, “America the Beautiful,” that became a runaway hit, Grammy Award winner (one of five on this collection) and to a younger generation unfamiliar with his earlier major works, his signature song.

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Lauterbach’s Chitlin’ Circuit History Deserves Great Praise & a Wider Audience

28 Aug

Preston Lauterbach is a friend of mine — going back to my days in Memphis. Great guy, he is. And he knows a thing or two about music — and good eats. I was pretty impressed when he first mentioned that he was undertaking this project. It’s a big topic. But also a topic that has not been well documented in the recent past.

All that being said, I am even more impressed by the finished project. This is a well-researched and entertaining story. Preston has a way with words. His method is hip and engaging. He educates without sounding like a professor. I buzzed through this book in no time flat. I had long thought that I was well versed when it came to this shadowy corner of rock n’ roll history. Boy, was I wrong. So many wonderful nuggets of knowledge to be found — and savored.

This is a tasty pot of musical stew – and one I would suggest you dig into.

A definitive account of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in black America, this book establishes the Chitlin’ Circuit as a major force in American musical history. Combining terrific firsthand reporting with deep historical research, Preston Lauterbach uncovers characters like Chicago Defender columnist Walter Barnes, who pioneered the circuit in the 1930s, and larger-than-life promoters such as Denver Ferguson, the Indianapolis gambling chieftain who consolidated it in the 1940s. Charging from Memphis to Houston and now-obscure points in between, The Chitlin’ Circuit brings us into the sweaty back rooms where such stars as James Brown, B. B. King, and Little Richard got their start.

With his unforgettable portraits of unsung heroes including King Kolax, Sax Kari, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Lauterbach writes of a world of clubs and con men that has managed to avoid much examination despite its wealth of brash characters, intriguing plotlines, and vulgar glory, and gives us an excavation of an underground musical America. 34 black-and-white illustrations

http://www.amazon.com/Chitlin-Circuit-Road-Rock-Roll/dp/0393076520

Concord Gives Evans, King and Davis The Respect They Deserve

10 Apr

All three of these collections are worth your time. How can you go wrong with Miles Davis? Or the legendary pianist Bill Evans. Or the mighty Albert King? These 2-CD sets include many of the well known recordings. There are also many more obscure tracks for your discovery and enjoyment.

Miles Davis was obviously a Jazz giant, but his most commercially successful LPs were recorded for Columbia Records. Albert King’s searing blue guitar and powerhouse vocal attack became the blueprint for a couple of artists named Clapton and Vaughan. Yes, those guys! Bill Evans’ piano mastery has always been a bit more off the beaten path. Yet those in the know will tell you how influential he was — and continues to be to this day. We encourage you to seek out these excellent compilations and make them a part of your collection. You’ll be a better person for it.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in its ongoing Definitive series, one of which marks the series’ initial foray into CMG’s vast blues catalog. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige; The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy; and The Definitive Albert King on Stax span a total of 60 years and include the music of two monumental figures in jazz and an equally influential figure in the blues. Each of the two-CD collections were released on April 5, 2011.

The two dozen tracks of The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige follow the creative evolution of the most revered trumpeter in the annals of jazz. Spanning the first half of the 1950s, the collection captures Miles at the beginning of his breakthrough to mainstream appeal, according to the liner notes by music journalist and historian Ashley Kahn.

“The purpose of this collection is to deliver a full, definitive overview of that very special period in Miles’s career,” says Kahn. “Its focus covers the nearly six-year period when the trumpeter was signed exclusively to Prestige. Disc 1 offers the best of his 1951 to ’56 sessions primarily as a leader of various ad hoc all-star ensembles. Disc 2 provides a generous sampling of Miles the bandleader, in ’55 and ’56, at the helm of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the day.”

The collection also chronicles Miles’s dramatic artistic growth over a relatively short time, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the collection. “The years between 1951 and 1956 are not a huge amount of time, but the development by Miles—as a musician and as a bandleader—is pretty astonishing in this period,” says Phillips. “This culminates in what ended up being one of the most legendary groups in jazz, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane.”

The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy tracks more than two decades of recordings by a highly influential figure in jazz piano. “It would be difficult to think of a major jazz pianist emerging after 1960 who did not take Bill Evans as a model,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey, who wrote the liner notes for the 25-song collection that begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1977. “Indeed, many seasoned pianists who preceded Evans altered their styles after hearing him.”

What’s more, “Evans had a profound effect on how musicians play jazz and how listeners hear it,” says Ramsey. “He is so much a part of the jazz atmosphere that many musicians — regardless of instrument—who came of age in the 21st century are not conscious that his concepts helped form them.”

The collection also gives proper attention on the second disc to Evans’s Fantasy-era recordings of the mid-1970s, says Phillips, who also produced the Evans collection. “Because the Riverside sessions are so acclaimed and so legendary, the Fantasy tracks are often overshadowed,” he says. “But in listening to this collection, you realize that Evans was still creating some amazing recordings throughout the Fantasy period with some high- caliber musicians, like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, and Philly Joe Jones.”

The Definitive Albert King on Stax follows 15 years worth of recordings—from 1961 to 1975, plus a final track from 1984—by a bluesman who’d spent the early part of his career playing to an African-American fan base in the roadhouses and theaters of the chitlin’ circuit. But by the latter half of the 1960s, the genre “was now attracting the rapt interest of young white listeners, their sensibilities opened wide by the muscular, in-your- face blues rock of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his liner notes for the collection. “These new converts were gravitating to the best the idiom had to offer. No single blues guitarist made a more stunning impact during that tumultuous timeframe than Albert King.”

“For as paradoxical as it might sound, you could make the case that Albert King was a cheery blues guy,” says Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Albert King collection. “He had that wry smile, and he often smoked a pipe. He was always well dressed and dapper. He was genuinely interested in putting on a show for his audience, and that sensibility comes through on these tracks.”

Dahl suggests that the years between 1966 and 1975 were a “Golden Decade” for King. “He was with Stax that entire time,” he says, “right up to the Memphis label’s unfortunate demise, cutting one enduring blues classic after another as he scaled the charts over and over again. In the process, King deeply influenced countless up-and-coming blues axemen, even though the ringing licks he coaxed out of his futuristic Gibson Flying V were all but impossible to accurately recreate.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com

“The Definitive Sonny Rollins” Does the Mighty Saxophone Colossus Justice

2 Apr

The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary came out a few weeks ahead of Rollins’ 80th birthday on September 7, 2010. This Sonny Rollins set covers almost an entire decade, from a December 1951 session in New York for Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet to an October 1958 session in Los Angeles for Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders.

“That was such a significant period in the development of jazz in general, and Sonny Rollins was at the heart of all that was going on during that decade,” says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the Definitive series. “Just look at the Miles Davis session where he recorded `Airegin,’ `Doxy’ and `Oleo,’ for example. Those are all tunes that he penned, and all remain indelible jazz standards. That’s a whole lot of jazz history that was made on just a single day in the summer of 1954.”

Liner notes for The Definitive Sonny Rollins are provided by music journalist Bob Blumenthal, co-author with photographer John Abbott of the forthcoming book, Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins.

“That the marks of [Rollins'] genius were fully apparent in the music he made over a half-century ago has been obvious to all who have followed the trajectory of his unprecedented career,” says Blumenthal. “As a contract artist with Prestige Records between 1951 and 1956, and through his work on various labels from 1957 until the beginning of an extended sabbatical two years later, Rollins laid the foundation for his status as a master improviser, saxophonist and composer; an influence far beyond his chosen instrument and idiom; and a living icon of affirmative creativity. Concord Music Group is the steward of many of the finest Rollins performances of the ’50s, and has culled them well in presenting this short course in what made Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com

Concord Continues String of Great Jazz Reissues with Classic Recordings from Bill Evans & Wes Montgomery

21 Oct

WES MONTGOMERY – “BOSS GUITAR”

Wes Montgomery began his incredible series of recordings for Riverside in the organ trio context that he employed on gigs in his native Indianapolis. After a series of acclaimed albums featuring pianists, Montgomery ended his Riverside run by reuniting with Hammond B-3 master Melvin Rhyne on several sessions.

The first, Boss Guitar, featured Jimmy Cobb on drums, and the Miles Davis veteran (and future Montgomery working partner) inspired the guitarist and organist to their greatest recorded work together. Highlights include a cooking 6/8 version of “Besame Mucho,” the funky Montgomery blues “Fried Pies,” and Montgomery’s dazzling showpiece “The Trick Bag,” (each heard in both master and alternate takes.

BILL EVANS TRIO – “WALTZ FOR DEBBY”

This is the fourth and final album by one of the most influential groups in jazz history, a unit that redefined the notion of the piano trio. Recorded (like its companion volume Sunday at the Village Vanguard) just days before the highway accident that took bassist Scott LaFaro’s life, it summarizes the level of creative interaction that made the Bill Evans Trio a harbinger of jazz possibilities in the coming decades. Evans, LaFaro, and Paul Motian play with astounding freedom in these performances, maintaining all the while a keen balance and a pervasive sense of beauty. The flow of tempos and moods underscores the depth of the trio’s concept, casting a spell that remains undimmed some 50 years later.

www.concordmusicgroup.com

Undiscovered Ray Charles Masters are Released by Concord Records

24 Sep

Concord Records is celebrating the 80th birthday of the legendary Ray Charles with a special gift for his legions of fans: Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters. This treasure trove of newly discovered recordings, highlighted by a duet with fellow icon Johnny Cash, will become available on October 26th, 2010.

Culled from four decades worth of demos and other previously unreleased material, Rare Genius showcases the remarkable artistic vision, stylistic range and emotionally rich vocals that crafted Charles enduring legacy. Listening to the ten gems from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s that comprise this CD, fans will have no trouble envisioning the late singer rocking back and forth at the piano as he effortlessly segues between R&B/soul, pop, country and gospel. “Ray would always get inside the meaning of a lyric and make the listener believe every word,” says Concord Music Group Chief Creative Officer, John Burk. “His vocals carried incredible emotion and intensity, even on demo tapes. What we have here with Rare Genius is on par with some of his greatest works.”

And that’s crystal clear right from the album’s sparkling opener, “Love’s Gonna Bite You Back.” The March 1980 session track features an upbeat horn arrangement behind what Rare Genius liner notes author Bill Dahl calls “a Charles vocal that’s a signature mixture of sandpaper grit and heavenly goodness.” Up next is the stunning ballad “It Hurts to Be in Love,” which underscores the album’s main thematic focus and one of Charles’ favorite subjects: the ups and down of romance. Another compelling standout is the gospel-stirred Charles and Cash duet on Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me, Lord?” Discovered in the Sony vaults, the song was produced by Billy Sherrill in Nashville and recorded in 1981 for an anticipated release on a CBS album. For unknown reasons, that didn’t come to pass. What’s more important, however, is the emotional charge you get listening to these two powerful voices come together in this spirited and inspired pairing.

Except for “Lord,” the nine other Rare Genius tracks including the soul-drenched “I Don’t Want No One But You,” a blues-infused cover of songwriter Hank Cochran’s country classic “A Little Bitty Tear” and the joyous “I’m Gonna Keep on Singin'” were found in the vault at Charles’ R.P.M. International Studios in Los Angeles. Adding a little sweetening to some of the sparse, stripped-down tracks was a team of top-notch musicians and artists: guitarists Keb’ Mo’ and George Doering, organist Bobby Sparks, trumpeter Gray Grant, trombonist Alan Kaplan, bassists Trey Henry and Chuck Berghofer, drummers Gregg Field and Ray Brinker and background vocalist Eric Benet.

As with its Concord predecessor, 2004’s Grammy-winning Album of the Year Genius Loves Company, Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters is another fitting tribute to Charles, who would have turned 80 on September 23, 2010. It’s a fresh, vibrant reaffirmation of the music icon’s unparalleled artistry and legacy.

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/Rare-Genius-The-Undiscovered-Masters/

Concord Releases Definitive Riverside/Prestige Collections from Monk, Coltrane and Rollins

21 Aug

Concord Music Group Spotlights John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins in Its Definitive Series

Two-disc sets capture some of the finest jazz
recorded in the 1950s

All three collections to be released on August 24, 2010

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Following up on the success of The Definitive Vince Guaraldi, Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in the Definitive series showcasing some of the most influential figures in modern jazz. The Definitive John Coltrane on Prestige and Riverside; The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside;The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary not only put the spotlight on the monumental work of three individual jazz players of the 1950s, but also provide an overview of the hard-bop period, one of the most significant chapters in the evolution of jazz. Each of the 2-CD collections is set for release on August 24, 2010.

• The Definitive John Coltrane on Prestige and Riverside tracks Coltrane’s artistic development from his first Prestige recording session in November 1955 for Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet to his last sessions for Prestige (for Bahia) in December 1958.

Trane’s career was marked by various shifts in style throughout the ’50s and ’60s, “but if you like straight-ahead, yet inventive, hard-bop playing, then this collection of recordings from the mid- to late ’50s is definitely one of the sweet spots,” says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the Definitive series. “And yet some of what you hear in these tracks gives hints about what was to come from this restlessly creative artist.”

Extensive liner notes by veteran music journalist and Coltrane biographer Ashley Kahn provide an in-depth look at the tracks and the circumstances surrounding their genesis. “The Definitive John Coltrane offers a best-of culled from these early recordings,” says Kahn, “offering an inspiring listening session that allows for much to be gleaned: Coltrane’s talent at recasting decades-old themes with a modern touch; a penchant for brooding, minor-key melodies; the uncanny rate of his personal development — building on his strengths, articulating a signature sound; an increased ability born in the one-take fire of three-hour recording dates to toss together timeless performances.”

• The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside covers an even broader span of the ’50s, beginning with trio sessions in New York featuring bassist Gary Mapp and drummer Art Blakey in October 1952 and stretching to sextet dates in San Francisco with trumpeter Joe Gordon, tenor saxophonists Harold Land and Charlie Rouse, bassist John Ore and drummer Billy Higgins in April 1960.

“This is some of the most amazing Thelonious Monk on record,” says Phillips. “Whether he’s playing a standard or one of his own compositions, he sounds uniquely like Thelonious Monk and nobody else. All of the tunes in this collection that Monk wrote have become jazz standards. Conversely, he plays standard tunes like ‘Caravan’ and ‘Tea for Two’ with such distinctive genius that you’d swear he had written them himself.”

But Monk was no overnight sensation. He made “a long, slow climb from underground to mainstream adulation, and the ten-year period represented by this collection captures that ascent,” says Kahn in his liner notes. “The one constant — creatively, promotionally, and economically — was his recordings. First for Prestige Records from 1952 to ’54, then for the Riverside label from ’55 to ’61, Monk was afforded the chance to create new music and work with a number of significant jazz peers in a number of contexts — from solo piano, to trios, to quartets, even a big band . . . Most importantly, what Monk composed and recorded during the ’50s amount to the definitive versions of some of the most enduring, joyous melodies in modern jazz.”

• The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary comes out a few weeks ahead of Rollins’ 80th birthday on September 7. Like the Thelonious Monk release, the Sonny Rollins set also covers almost an entire decade, from a December 1951 session in New York for Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet to an October 1958 session in Los Angeles for Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders.

“That was such a significant period in the development of jazz in general, and Sonny Rollins was at the heart of all that was going on during that decade,” says Phillips. “Just look at the Miles Davis session where he recorded ‘Airegin,’ ‘Doxy’ and ‘Oleo,’ for example. Those are all tunes that he penned, and all remain indelible jazz standards. That’s a whole lot of jazz history that was made on just a single day in the summer of 1954.”

Liner notes for The Definitive Sonny Rollins are provided by music journalist Bob Blumenthal, co-author with photographer John Abbott of the forthcoming book, Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins.

“That the marks of [Rollins’] genius were fully apparent in the music he made over a half-century ago has been obvious to all who have followed the trajectory of his unprecedented career,” says Blumenthal. “As a contract artist with Prestige Records between 1951 and 1956, and through his work on various labels from 1957 until the beginning of an extended sabbatical two years later, Rollins laid the foundation for his status as a master improviser, saxophonist and composer; an influence far beyond his chosen instrument and idiom; and a living icon of affirmative creativity. Concord Music Group is the steward of many of the finest Rollins performances of the ’50s, and has culled them well in presenting this short course in what made Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins.” released in October 2009, and

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“Black Sabbath” Exposes the Musical Connection between Black and Jewish Cultures

17 Jul

What a fascinating concept! I certainly give these guys an A+ for creativity. And you know what? They somehow manage to pull it all off. This is a really fun, well-researched collection of Jewish songs (some traditional, some more obscure) performed by some of the biggest African-American artists in the history of popular music. Nina Simone, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and The Temptations all make appearances — alongside lesser known entertainers such as Libby Holman, Jimmy Scott, Malena Shaw (who performed the ’60s classic “California Soul”), and Slim Gaillard of “Slim and Slam” duo fame.

Gaillard’s “Dunkin’ Bagel” is a highlight and immensely catchy. Slim was known for his silly scat numbers and often used food as his lyrical inspiration. Calloway’s “Utt Da Zay” is another winning contribution to this recording. The track starts slow, but really swings. I also found The Temptations’ “Fiddler on the Roof Medley” and Aretha’s “Swannee” (a 1920 hit for the legendary Al Jolson) to be both eye-opening and ear pleasing. The “Theme from “Exodus” has always been a favorite melody of mine. Jimmy Scott gives it the good old slow burn treatment. And I must admit to renewed respect for Lena Horne’s vocal chops after hearing her passionate demand for social justice simply entitled, “Now!”

And please remember, you don’t have to be Jewish or African-American to enjoy this CD. “Oy Vey, y’all!”

INTERPLAY OF JEWISH CULTURE AND BLACK MUSIC CHRONICLED ON ‘BLACK SABBATH: THE SECRET MUSICAL HISTORY OF BLACK-JEWISH RELATIONS ‘

CD compilation with deluxe booklet to be released by the Idelsohn Society on September 14; features Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Scott, Cannonball Adderly, Nina Simone, the Temptations and more

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Black Sabbath: The Secret History of Black-Jewish Relations is the first CD compilation to showcase legendary African-American artists covering Jewish songs. Focusing on the 1930s through the 1960s, it uses popular music to shed light on the historical, political, spiritual, economic, and cultural connections between African Americans and Jewish Americans. Featuring Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, and many others, Black Sabbath explores the myriad ways that Jews and African-Americans have coalesced and clashed, struggled against each other and struggled alongside each other. This is the soundtrack to a rarely told American story. The CD, produced by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation (http://www.idelsohnsociety.com) is set for September 14, 2010 release.

This is the first attempt to gather the U.S. history of Black–Jewish relations into a selective pop musical guide. The relationship between African Americans and Jewish Americans has long been a reliable subject of rigorous attention. Books and articles focusing on the musical landscapes shared by Blacks and Jews have been equally numerous, indeed most general histories of American Popular Music even turn on the synergies of Black-Jewish creativity, influence, and exchange, be it African-American spirituals, Tin Pan Alley, Klezmer, the Yiddish theater, jazz or R&B.

Yet for all this attention there has yet to be a one-stop musical source of evidence and exploration, a single CD release that succinctly and selectively gathers together some of the key songs that speak to the vibrant and often dazzling musical back-and-forth between the two communities. The Black Sabbath collection samples a century’s worth of extraordinary and fascinating musical performance that finds African-Americans performing Jewish music and appealing to Jewish audiences.

After hearing the compilation, legendary jazz singer Jimmy Scott, whose version of “Exodus” is featured, had this to say: “”A wonderful musical composition by our Isrealite brotherhood. Well done and all that jazz!”

The CD moves from early black performers like Slim Galliard singing about bagels gefilte fish, and pickled herring (in a self-penned song) and Cab Calloway mixing Yiddish into his hepcat dictionary of jive to Billie Holiday singing “My Yiddishe Momme” and Aretha Franklin doing a ’60s take on the early blackface hit for Al Jolson, “Swanee.” Indeed, while much scholarly and media ink has been devoted to the Jewish attraction to Black music, this anthology — while surely demonstrating that — focuses instead on the long history of African-American interest in Jewish musical practice, performance, and composition.

The Idelsohn Society was so inspired and astonished by the Johnny Mathis version of “Kol Nidre” that they tracked the crooner down and interviewed him about his motivations for recording one of the most beautiful and sacred pieces of the Jewish canon.

“When I was growing up in San Francisco as a teenager, I would visit temple with some of my Jewish friends and I loved to listen to the cantors,” says Johnny Mathis, whose version of “Kol Nidre” is featured on the compilation. “They helped me learn these songs long before I recorded them.” Paul Robeson, no stranger to either repertoire, put it this way: “If it had been true that the Jewish people, like so many other national groups for whom I have sung, have warmly understood the loved songs of my people, it has also been true that Negro audiences have been moved by the songs of the Jewish people.”

About the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation

The Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation is a critically acclaimed all-volunteer non-profit organization. They are a small but dedicated team from the music industry and academia who passionately believe Jewish history is best told by the music we have loved and lost. In order to incite a new conversation about the present, we must begin by listening anew to the past.

They do this in a number of ways:

–Re-releasing lost classics like Mazeltov Mis Amigos, and compilations like Jewface
–Filming the story of every veteran Jewish musician they can find across the country to build a digitally-based archive of the music and the artists who created it in order to preserve their legacy for future generations
–Curating innovative museum exhibits that showcase the stories behind the music, like “Jews on Vinyl,” which is currently travelling the nation
–Creating concert showcases like “Mazeltov Mis Amigos” at Lincoln Center and, coming this August, the “Jews on Vinyl Revue” at the Skirball Cultural Center

All of this work is driven by the passion and energies of volunteer supporters and donors across the country who share the belief that music creates conversations otherwise impossible in daily life. Our work has lifted the past into the present, from the pages of the New York Times, to the NPR airwaves, to the stage of Lincoln Center. You can join the Idelsohn Society in their mission by visiting them at http://www.idelsohnsociety.com .

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Ray Charles’ “Genius + Soul = Jazz” Just Got Better

30 Mar

Ray Charles LP “Genius + Soul = Jazz” has been a mainstay in my personal wax collection for quite some time now. You might say it’s the missing link between the Count Basie Orchestra and Booker T. and the MGs. The recording features a face-melting horn section and a greasy down home feel that hints towards a Memphis vibe that had not yet been created.  Brother Ray’s groovy take on The Clovers’ “One Mint Julep” is alone worth the price of admission. The original CD release upped the anty by including the “My Kind of Jazz” LP, which carried on in a similar winning vein.

Now Concord Records new 2-CD expanded edition captures an amazing total of 37 tracks — and there’s not a clunker in the bunch!  The additional tracks come from the “Jazz Number II” and “My Kind of Jazz Part 3″ collections. Those final 17 songs (including bonus track “Misty”) spotlight Charles’ work as  a producer and the Basie influence is agan very evident. The arrangements swing and the shear power of the brass will blow you away. I didn’t think this CD collection could get any better, but it obviously has.  Buy it now and swing along with Ray.       

Ray Charles was best known for his work in the idioms of R&B, rock ‘n’ roll and even successful forays into country. But he also recorded influential jazz albums, including the groundbreaking Genius + Soul = Jazz originally released in 1961, and continuing into the ’70s with My Kind of Jazz, Jazz Number II and My Kind of Jazz Part 3. Concord Records will release a deluxe edition two-CD set featuring digitally remastered versions of all four albums including encyclopedic liner notes by Will Friedwald, jazz writer for The Wall Street Journal and author of several books on music and popular culture, along with original liner notes by Dick Katz and Quincy Jones.

Genius + Soul = Jazz was recorded at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in late 1960. The producer was Creed Taylor; arrangers, Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns. Ray Charles played the organ with three vocals (“I’ve Got News for You,” “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “One Mint Julep”) and band members included members of the Count Basie Orchestra: Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Billy Mitchell, Frank Wess, Freddie Green, and Sonny Payne among others. Issued originally on ABC Records’ legendary Impulse jazz label, the record ascended to the #4 spot on Billboard’s pop album chart, and spawned the very first singles on Impulse, heretofore an album label. “I’ve Got News for You,” rose to #8 R&B and #66 on the Hot 100. In addition, Charles’ version of “One Mint Julep” charted #1 R&B and #8 pop, and his rendition of the blues standard “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” reached #25 R&B and #84 pop.

As annotator Friedwald states, “Genius + Soul = Jazz . . . was a bold and innovative album, but, at the same time, a direct step forward from his earlier work.” Although Basie himself does not appear on the album, the Count was a major model as Charles assembled a full-scale, working orchestra. Basie also influenced his use of organ in a jazz context, and Charles was happy to record at the Van Gelder studio, where Jimmy Smith had recorded his classic Blue Note albums. Truly, as Dick Katz wrote in his original January 1961 liner notes, “The combination here of rare talent plus uncommon craftsmanship has produced a record that showcases the timeless quality and innate taste that is uniquely that of Ray Charles.”

Some nine years later, Charles recorded another jazz album, My Kind of Jazz. With sessions in Los Angeles this time, Charles surrounded himself with such players as Bobby Bryant and Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Glen Childress, trombone; Andy Ennis, Albert McQueen and Clifford Scott, saxophone; and Ben Martin, guitar. The album contained Charles’ own “Booty-Butt” (which was issued as a single on his own Tangerine label), Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder,” and Horace Silver’s “Señor Blues.”

In his original liner notes to My Kind of Jazz, Quincy Jones wrote, “This album is the essence of what Ray used to tell us when we were kids: Be true to the soul of the material you’re dealing with.”

Jazz Number II was recorded roughly two years later at Charles’ Tangerine/RPM Studios and issued on Tangerine Records. Charles enlisted an impressive cast of arrangers: Alf Clausen, Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Heath and Roger Neumann. The tracks included Ray Charles and Roger Neumann’s “Our Suite,” Teddy Edwards’ “Brazilian Skies” and “Going Home,” Thad Jones’ “Kids Are Pretty People” and Jimmy Heath’s “Togetherness.”

Finally, My Kind of Jazz Part 3, which concludes the Genius + Soul = Jazz deluxe package, was recorded in Los Angeles circa 1975, featured the Ray Charles Orchestra including Clifford Solomon, alto sax; Glen Childress, trombone; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Leroy Cooper, baritone sax; and James Clay, tenor sax. Included are compositions by Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Jimmy Heath and Benny Golson. Issued on Charles’ own Crossover Records, the album reached #55 on the R&B chart in 1976.

The reissue of Genius + Soul = Jazz continues Concord Music Group’s long-term reissuing of the Ray Charles catalog in cooperation with the Ray Charles Foundation. Among the other albums repackaged in the past year are Genius Hits the Road, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Message From the People, plus the career compilation titled Genius.

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