It's time once again for my top 10 "Replay" awards. At the end of each quarter, I give this honor to the albums I've played most over the past three months. None of the winning albums are new, and you may be familiar with some or even all of them. The winners simply are divine for one reason or another, and they remain stacked on my desk or top of mind in iTunes.
(To see my previous Replay lists, go to the search bar in the upper right-hand corner and type in "replays.")
And now for the winners, which do not appear in any particular order:
Russ Garcia—Wigville Band (Fresh Sound). This baby is a real gone. Recorded in 1955 and 1956, the two albums on this single CD are drop-dead great. The first album is an instrumental that swings with a sound unlike anything else recorded at the time. The second album on the CD features many of the same musicians behind vocalist Peggy Connelly, a virtual unknown today. I can't say enough about this CD, and most jazz heavyweights I've spoken to about it were unfamiliar with Russ' Wigville band or Connelly. This CD remains one of my favorite finds over the last three months.
Anita O'Day—Swings Rodgers and Hart (Verve). This recording from 1960 is well known, but it's packed with surprises every time I take it for a spin. The album remains on my desk because I love the clash between O'Day's wild, indy streak and Billy May's rigid bombastic arranging style. It always sounds like swinging Olive Oyl trying to make it across a six-lane highway. There was enormous tension on the O'Day-May dates for Verve, with O'Day carping about May's brass-heavy arrangements and May unhappy with O'Day's riffy studio style (you can hear the musical clash clearly on Falling in Love With Love). All the hissy stuff aside, this is one of O'Day's finest albums, with tracks swishing between string and band settings. Is there really a better Little Girl Blue? And dig the Paul Weston-like reed writing behind O'Day on I Could Write a Book. This CD would be worthwhile if the only song on it was O'Day's To Keep My Love Alive.
Bobby Hackett—Memorable & Mellow (Project 3). This rare CD combines two out-of-print easy-listening LPs: That Midnight Touch (1967) and A Time for Love (1968). Actually, check that. There's really no such thing as a Bobby Hackett easy-listening album. Everything Hackett played was sensible and on time. If you dig Hackett's trumpet wandering in and out of a full string section, this CD is the mother lode. Produced by fidelity freak Enoch Light, the sterling set's tunes range from You Only Live Twice and Emily to Laura, The Lamp Is Low and On the Street Where You Live. You get the picture. Lately I've been kicking off my writing day with this one, and the laid back feel is pure bliss.
Cannonball Adderley—Know What I Mean? (Riverside). This album never gets old. Each time I listen to it I hear something new. You really get two for one on this CD, since Cannonball's aggressive attack on alto is wonderfully tempered by pianist Bill Evans' tender chord changes and solos. Recorded in March 1961, Evans was three months shy of his career-changing live Vanguard sessions. To me, this one is really a concept album that builds to Evans' post-modern Know What I Mean, the album's final track. The import I own includes three alternate takes.
Richard Galliano—Solo (Dreyfus Jazz). As readers of this blog know, I'm a pushover for jazz accordion. It's probably because my artist parents lived in Paris during the 1950s and always had French accordion records playing around the house in New York when I was a kid. French-Italian squeeze-boxer Galliano has pure jazz sensibilities and has collaborated in the past with George Mraz, Ron Carter, Martial Solal, Chet Baker, Toots Thielemans and others. I often play this 2007 release when I have to work late. There's a nocturnal, after-hours club feel to Galliano's playing, and his technique is rich without overreaching.
Art Farmer—The Art Farmer Septet (Prestige). This pensive album combines two recording dates from 1953 and 1954 resulting in music that was years ahead of its time. If you didn't know when this one was recorded, you'd think based on the harmonic smarts that the year was 1958 or 1959. Classics here include Work of Art, Wildwood, Evening in Paris, Elephant Walk and a beautiful When Your Lover Is Gone.
Benny Golson—The Modern Touch (Riverside). In many respects, this album picks up where my previous Art Farmer pick left off. I haven't let go of it since posting my interview with Benny several weeks ago. Benny's tenor here is as soft as suede, sliding in and out of beautiful melody lines. Tough to go wrong with Kenny Dorham (trumpet), J.J. Johnson (trombone), Benny (tenor sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Max Roach (drums). Dorham's trumpet punctuates while Johnson's trombone swings along with punch. I never tire of listening to this one. Benny's compositions are as pretty as can be.
Cal Tjader—Jazz Round Midnight (Verve). I'm not a big fan of compilations. Most are a messy mix of songs that don't play well together. I'm also a big believer in jazz producers, who in the best cases wisely programmed original albums, turning them into cohesive works of art. But this roundup of Tjader's work from the 1960s is beautifully sequenced and is an exception. If you're downloading the album, I'd recommend adding the tracks Get Out of My Way and Nica's Dream from Cal Tjader Plugs In.
Christian Jacob—Contradictions (WilderJazz). This 2006 album by pianist Jacob is both cerebral and graceful. The recording was a tribute to Michel Petrucciani. But while its heart is with the late pianist, Jacob employs strong shades of Bill Evans and loads of thoughtful Evans-like lyricism and bounce. Jacob was joined by Trey Henry on bass and Ray Brinker on drums. I started listening to this CD several weeks ago, and it hasn't seen a shelf yet. The opening track, Looking Up, will give you a feel for what Jacob is all about. Even Mice Dance also is lovely. There really isn't a bad track on the album.
Count Basie—Straight Ahead (Dot). If this album doesn't motivate you to get up and go, nothing will. Recorded in 1968, the nine compositions were arranged by Sammy Nestico, and it swings hard from the first notes. What I love most about it is the track order. The opening title tune is a slammer, followed by the medium-paced It's Oh So Nice, followed by the ballad Lonely Street featuring Marshal Royal on alto, which then leads to the medium-paced James Bond-like Fun Time, resulting in the barn-burner Magic Flea. The rest of the album follows suit. You also have Basie's great, late-period reed section of Marshal Royal, Bobby Plater, Eric Dixon, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Charlie Fowlkes. This one always has my foot going the whole way though, and it's far and away my favorite 1960s Basie recording.