My periodic list of fabulous little-known and often overlooked jazz downloads began as "Hidden Gems at iTunes." But in recent weeks and months, I've noticed that Amazon has made an impressive push to host an ever-growing database of downloadable tracks. In some cases, Amazon has what iTunes doesn't.
So I've changed the name of this column to "Hidden Jazz Downloads." The albums featured aren't really hidden, of course. Anyone can find them. By "hidden," I mean that the albums I've dug up are either buried on other albums, have been overlooked, or have just been reissued or remastered.
Here are my five hidden picks of the week. They can be found either at iTunes or Amazon—or, in some cases, both:
Harry Carney with Strings—Harry Carney (1954). In
December 1954, Harry Carney recorded an album with strings. Arranged by Ralph Burns, the album was for Norman Granz's Clef label [original cover, right] and featured a chunk of Duke Ellington's band: Ray Nance on trumpet and violin; Tony Miranda on French horn; Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet and tenor sax; Carney on baritone and bass clarinet; Leroy Lovett on piano; Billy Bauer on guitar;
Wendell Marshall on bass; and Louie Bellson on drums. You won't find this album if you search for it by its original title. That's because its tracks have been folded into a Ben Webster download called Music for Loving [left]. If you bring the Webster up at Amazon and then to the second disc, the last eight tracks make up the Carney album. (See what I mean by "hidden?") Once downloaded, you'll hear the oversized sea-walrus sound that made Carney the envy of every baritone saxophone player of the period. You'll also hear a fine contrast between baritone horn and a rich bed of strings.
You Talk That Talk!—Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons (1971). Like the Harry Carney album with strings, you won't find You Talk That Talk! [right] as a stand-alone CD. I recently discovered it tucked away on Gene Ammons: Legends of Acid Jazz. Originally issued on Prestige, it is one of my favorite Ammons and Stitt albums. In addition to a clutch of funky 1970s tenor battles, there are two killer ballads: Stitt's Body and Soul, my favorite Sonny version, bar none; and Ammons' The Sun Died, which is equally soulful. The rhythm section here features Leon Spencer, Jr. on organ, George Freeman on guitar and Idris Muhammad on drums. By the way, the Gene Ammons tracks on the Acid Jazz CD are from The Black Cat and feature Ammons at his groovy best. In the 1970s, these two old school boppers were two funky fellers.
Clark Terry Septet—Clark Terry (1954-55). If you dig
Quincy Jones' early writing for small groups and you're crazy about Lucky Thompson, this album is worth digging. The download [pictured below] actually combines three different dates from the mid-1950s. The first eight tracks were for EmArcy Records and were recorded during two different January 1955 sessions. They feature Clark Terry on trumpet; Jimmy Cleveland on trombone,
Cecil Payne on baritone sax, Horace Silver on piano, Wendell Marshall on bass, Oscar Pettiford on bass and cello and Art Blakey on drums (a killer lineup). The last four tracks were part of an unusual MGM session recorded earlier in June 1954. The album was called Cats Versus Chicks [above right]. The album pitted an all-male jazz group against an all-female crew. Featured on the download's 9th, 10th and 11th tracks were the guys: Clark Terry
on trumpet, Urbie Green on trombone, Lucky Thompson [pictured, in the 1940s] on tenor sax, Horace Silver on piano, Tal Farlow on guitar, Percy Heath on bass, and Kenny Clarke on drums. On Anything You Can Do, the 12th tract, some of the women joined in: Norma Carson on trumpet; Terry Pollard on piano and Mary Osborne on guitar. Unfortunately, the remaining tracks aren't included, but I'll be writing about the date down the road. [Photo of Thompson by Herman Leonard]
Stan Getz and Laurindo Almeida—Stan Getz (1963). Two days after recording what would become known as the most successful jazz bossa nova album, Getz/Gilberto, Getz recorded this album with Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida. The album isn't as well known today as Getz's other bossa nova LPs. Fortunately, the Verve album was just remastered and reissued on June 3, and the download sounds fabulous. For a sample, dig Once Again (Outra Vez). I could listen to Stan and Laurindo play that baby on a loop all day. Ten years earlier, Almeida had teamed with Bud Shank, Harry Babasin and Roy Harte to record the earliest Brazilian jazz albums, which would influence Antonio Carlos Jobim and other Brazilian bossa nova pioneers. Today those early 10-inch LPs are on an album called Brazilliance Vol. 1, which is available as a download.
Plus Four—Max Roach (1956). This is the Clifford Brown album that never was or should have been. Recorded three months after Brown and Richie Powell's death in a June 1956 auto accident, Max brought together Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Sonny Rollins on tenor sax, Ray Bryant on piano and George Morrow on bass for this EmArcy recording. It's high energy all the way, and an extension of Sonny's 1956 return to the group.