As has become custom on Sundays, here's a roundup of jazz bits, e-mails and reflections:
Waxflash: I hear that Uptown Records—the same label that mastered and released the Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie 1945 Town Hall Concert a couple years back—is preparing to issue a double CD of Dizzy Gillespie's 1946 big band recorded live.
Word is that while the material is from the "primary source," the sound still isn't great. But we'll see. Uptown Records does an amazing job with everything it releases.
The recordings in question would be the June and July 1946 dates at the Spotlight Lounge in Washington, DC. Dizzy's band at the time included Sonny Stitt on tenor, Leo Parker on baritone, Thelonious Monk on piano, Milt Jackson on vibes, Ray Brown on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums.
Yikes. This band's studio recordings for RCA are pure roars—the power and energy level are amazing. It's somewhat frightening to think what this bop band sounded like in a live, club setting. Looking forward to the upcoming CD release.
Waxwaves: I had a chance to listen to Night Lights live over the web late last night. Night Lights is an NPR jazz radio show hosted by David Brent Johnson on WFIU Indiana. This week the focus was on Johnny Mandel's and Gerry Mulligan's movie soundtrack, I Want to Live (1958), a pure jazz score that featured Mulligan, the ever-spirited Frank Rosolino, Bud Shank, Art Farmer and other jazz greats.
The Night Lights show (it's archived here for anytime listening) zoomed in on audio clips and tracks frm this beat noir film about a hard-boiled woman (Susan Hayward) fighting to avoid San Quentin's gas chamber. At the time, the film's female subject was billed as the "wildest of the jazzed up generation."
I've always felt that the unrecognized star of this soundtrack was Pete Jolly, a jazz pianist with terrific time and technique. Jolly remained largely anonymous until his death in 2004 thanks to decades of steady work as one of the top studio keyboard players in the lucrative "easy listening" genre of the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately for Jolly, his Faustian bargain resulted in many bland jazz albums over the years. But on I Want to Live, we hear what Jolly might have become had he spent more time on the cutting edge.
Waxanalysis: John Salmon raised an interesting point in response to my blog entry earlier last week focusing on Miles Davis' exhausting, October 26, 1956 recording session for Prestige, which freed him from the label to join Columbia Records.
Salmon points out that Frank Sinatra seemed to be afflicted by the same problem during his 12-month Capitol cram sessions of 1960-61. Only after four album's worth of tracks were in the can Sinatra was released from his Capitol obligation to move on with his new Reprise label.
Couldn't agree more. Sinatra's recordings during this short period are largely ring-a-ding-ding run-throughs—more an audio cache of Sinatra at his boring worst—with a rare touch of flare here and there. Song choices are mostly throw-aways, the arrangements are excessive, and Sinatra sounds as if he recorded them from a lounge chair. Remember, Sinatra's Swingin' Session includes Ol' MacDonald.
For kicks, dig this amusing passage from Will Friedwald's comprehensive book, Sinatra: The Song Is You: (1995):
"Before Sinatra himself could record for his own label [Reprise], there was still the matter of his Capitol commitment... [The label] reached the compromise for four "contractual obligation" albums, three of which finished within a year: Nice 'n' Easy (March 1960), Sinatra's Swingin' Session (August 1960) and Come Swing with Me (March 1961)...
"Billy May has recalled attending a date circa 1960 when Nelson Riddle conducted and [Harry] Sweets Edison sat in his familiar solo trumpet chair. 'In those days, Frank was deliberately being his petulant worst because he was pissed off and didn't want to be there,' said May. To express his annoyance, Sinatra constantly complained about the microphone setup and kept demanding take after take, finding fault both real and imagined with each run-through.
'They'd get to like, take 28, and Frank gets to the end of it. Nelson cuts the band off, and Frank starts looking around trying to figure out what he's going to get mad at this time. Sweets had a high, squeaky kind of voice, and just as the echo [of the take] was dying away, before Frank can think of anything, Sweets says, 'Shit, baby, you can't do it no better than that.' It broke Frank up so bad, he just fell right on the floor.' "