Yesterday's post featured my "Top 10 Mindblowers" of the first quarter—noteworthy quotes that surfaced in my JazzWax interviews with jazz legends over the past three months. Today's post features my "Top 10 Replays"—CDs I acquired between January and March that refuse to be put away and sit stubbornly in a stack next to my stereo because I play them so often.
May I have the envelope, please? (Tearing sound.) Here, then, are my Top 10 Replays—in no particular order. Do yourself a favor and grab some or all of them. These are exceptional albums by any measure:
Replay #1: Maynard Ferguson: Dancing Sessions. This CD from the European Jazz Beat label combines two drop-dead Maynard Ferguson albums for Roulette Records—Plays for Jazz Dancing (1959) and Let's Face the Music and Dance (1960). Both college dance albums that feature rocket-fuel arrangements and big band playing with the throttle wide open. Mosaic issued a complete "Maynard on Roulette" box years ago. Now sadly out of print, the box fetches around $700 at eBay auctions. This single CD provides a superb taste of Maynard's unmatched output during this period. Except for an odd dropout in fidelity on Mangos, every track is better than the next. And you get to hear why so many listeners are willing to pay so much for the Mosaic box. As a bonus, you also get an unreleased vocal track of Let's Fall in Love by Ann Marie Moss (who soon after this session would marry singer Jackie Paris). For some reason, this fine vocal track was not released on the original LP. Go here.
Replay #2: Donald Byrd and Gigi Gryce: Complete Jazz Lab Studio Sessions #1. This LoneHill Jazz CD is really pieces of two different LPs—Jazz Lab and Modern Jazz Perspective, both recorded in 1957. I like it because you get all of the group's best-known tunes on one disc. Tracks include Nica's Tempo, Sans Souci, I Remember Clifford, An Evening in Casablanca, Social Call and Stablemates. The late 1950s never sounded so good. Three sets of top-shelf musicians accompany trumpeter Byrd and alto saxophonist Gryce, and the two leaders are at their absolute best here. Simply remarkable. I don't think I'll ever put this CD away. Go here.
Replay #3. Gerry Mulligan: Night Lights. Few jazz albums are as delicate as this one. Recorded in September 1963, it's one of the most gentle jazz albums and has been my day-starter ever since hearing it open David Brent Johnson's Night Lights radio show on WFIU back in January. The personnel is Mulligan (baritone sax), Art Farmer (trumpet and flugelhorn), Bob Brookmeyer (trombone), Jim Hall (guitar), Bill Crow (bass) and Dave Bailey (drums). This album is like listening to Nantucket mist at 3 am. I bought a Japanese import to capture every drop of sound, and the restoration is superb. Go here.
Replay #4. Frank Wess: Wess Point—The Commodore Recordings. I raved about this 1954 session in a blog post here when I was still listening relentlessly to the LP. When I spotted the Fresh Sound CD, I couldn't resist. I was getting tired of flipping the record over and over. This CD features Wess leading a quintet and sextet. Dig the lineup—Wess (tenor sax), Henry Coker (trombone), Jimmy Jones (piano), Oscar Pettiford (bass) and Osie Johnson (drums). You'll even get to hear Osie drop a drum stick on Mishawaka without missing a beat. Joe Wilder is the added sextet player. There's simply nothing like Wess in the early and mid-1950s, and his output for Savoy and other labels as a writer, arranger and blower continues to go unrecognized. I adore this album, and it's great to see that two Wess tracks from Thad Jones' own Commodore date have been added. Go here.
Replay #5. Teddy Charles: New Directions. Everything Teddy recorded in the 1950s is great by me. I became a freak for Teddy's cool, hip vibes sound after researching and interviewing him here. I've been particularly fond lately of Teddy's 1951 and 1952 Prestige recordings released as part of a series called New Directions. You'll be hard-pressed to find another Lady Is a Tramp or Tenderly that sounds this gone. Not to mention one my favorite all-time Teddy tracks, Edging Out. All of the New Directions material has been combined on one CD and the tracks still sound exciting and fresh. So exciting, in fact, that you have to keep reminding yourself that when they recorded, Bird is still alive, Miles isn't quite sure what direction he's going in, and West Coast jazz is still an experiment. Teddy was way ahead of the curve. Go here.
Replay #6. Oscar Pettiford: Manhattan Jazz Septette. I did not know this 1956 album even existed until alto saxophonist Hal McKusick mentioned it during one of our phone conversations a month or so ago. "Oh, sure, it's fantastic," Hal said. "You've got to get your hands on it." As always, Hal was right on the money. The personnel says it all—Urbie Green (trombone), Hal (alto sax), Herbie Mann (flute, tenor), Eddie Costa (piano, vibes), Barry Galbraith (guitar), Oscar Pettiford (bass) and Osie Johnson (drums), with sublime arrangements by Manny Albam. Believe it or not, this CD from LoneHill Jazz is teamed with Galbraith's Guitar with the Wind (1958), which is equally superb. Galbraith is a future JazzWax post, for sure. Go here.
Replay #7: Herbie Mann-Sam Most Quintet. If you dig jazz flute, this album kills. While researching Herbie Mann before blogging about Just Wailin', I came across this 1955 album in Mann's discography. The entry virtually whispered to me, "How can this possibly be bad given the year, the tracks and the Bethlehem label?" So I closed my eyes and ordered a Japanese remastered version. I've been blown away ever since it arrived. Mann and Most are on flutes, Joe Puma on guitar, Jimmy Gannon on bass and Lee Kleinman on drums. Mann and Most tear around like a pair of otters and get solid swinging support from the sidemen. This album is incredible. Go here.
Replay #8: Oscar Peterson: Historic Carnegie Hall Concerts. Most readers of this blog probably already own these Peterson recordings. If not, this CD from Giant Steps features Peterson's astonishing live debut in 1949 and includes his 1950, 1952 and 1953 concerts. Peterson's rich, superhuman playing leaves the audience gasping on each song. Peterson did not use a drummer on any of these dates, and for good reason. His left hand was saving him a fortune. Go here.
Replay #9: George Williams: Rhythm Was His Business. This is another album I never would have known about had Hal McKusick not told me about it in enthusiastic terms in January. A prolific and lightning-fast penman, Williams arranged for Glenn Miller and Boyd Raeburn in the early 1940s, Gene Krupa in the mid-1940s, and Ray Anthony in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This album from 1956 was a tribute to Jimmie Lunceford and included some heady big-band session players, including Hal, Jimmy Cleveland, Al Cohn, Bernie Glow, Ernie Royal, Charlie Shavers and Conte Candoli. Go here.
Replay #10: John Coltrane: Settin' the Pace. I've owned this CD for years, but the just-issued version that's part of the Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series (Concord) is spectacular. Coltrane in 1958 was on the verge of his next phase but clearly still in love with ballads and mood-making. I also love this album because it combines songs like I See Your Face Before Me with Rise 'N' Shine, one of the all-time great Trane on Prestige recordings that foreshadows his let-loose Atlantic period. If you own the Fearless Leader box (I don't), then you already have this recording (though split over discs No. 3 and 4). If you don't own the box, this CD is a slick restored gem that sounds as clean as a Bentley door closing. Go here.