Twitter. As long-time readers of JazzWax know, Wall Street Journal drama critic and friend Terry Teachout was the one who first encouraged me to start this blog in August 2007. So I did. Now Terry's done it again. En route to Chicago from Los Angeles on Friday, Terry sent me an e-mail insisting that I sign up for Twitter. Terry's always ahead of the curve on such matters. So I did. Now I'm on Twitter as "JazzWax."
Throughout the day I'm providing jazz tidbits and thoughts not offered on this blog. Just go to Twitter and sign up for free. Don't be intimidated. It's pretty simply stuff. If Facebook and My Space are camp buses, Twitter is a motorcycle.
I'm always a bit hesitant to jump on these electronic yammering services. They're a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can be an enormous time-waster (as evidenced at Facebook, where right now "friends" are talking about taking a dog for a walk and baking cookies). On the other hand, in this blippy world known as the blogosphere, you gotta shout out. The trick is to do just enough chattering without being pulled too far away from what needs to be accomplished each day.
Speaking of Terry, he had a fabulous "Sightings" column this weekend's Wall Street Journal on Broadway's unsung heroes—orchestrators:
"What's the first thing you think of when you think of the score to Gypsy? For me, it's the brazen, tassel-twirling overture that explodes out of the orchestra pit at the top of the show. John Gielgud is supposed to have said that the Gypsy overture was the piece of music he'd most want to have in his suitcase if he were to be stranded on a desert island. I can see what he meant. Jule Styne, who composed the music to Gypsy, never wrote anything better in his life.
"Guess what? He didn't write it."
For more, you have to read the column here.
Creed Taylor. Following my interview series last week with producer Creed Taylor on his CTI years, I received an e-mailfrom the great trumpeter, bandleader and arranger Marty Sheller...
"Terrific interview with Creed Taylor. My one experience with Creed was an album I arranged for George Benson that Creed produced for CTI. Creed liked an arrangement I wrote for Mongo's band on the song Cloud Nine that featured Sonny Fortune, and he decided to hire me and Sonny to add some 'salsa' to George's next recording. It was the first time that George sang on a record and he was still finding his own vocal style (he was heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder at the time). Nothing much happened with the record, but George decided to try singing again on his next recording. That one included a little thing called This Masquerade, and the rest is history."
Grant Stewart. Few young tenor saxophonists around today are as important and as satisfying as Grant Stewart. I totally dig his sound and approach. I'm a huge fan. Last week I was able to hear a demo of Grant's upcoming release Plays the Music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, due soon from Sharp Nine Records. The album is absolutely great, and I'll have more to say when the CD is available (I'm not in favor of torturing my readers). By the way, Grant will be at Small's in New York on Tuesday at 10:30 p.m.
Carol Sloane. Legendary jazz singer Carol Sloane will be making a rare New York appearance at Iridium on May 8th, 9th and 10th, with two sets—at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Read Carol's posted thoughts about on her upcoming gig here.
California cool clips. Reader Larry Coltrane sent along a link to some stupendous West Coast jazz video clips. They are from Frankly Speaking, Frank Evans' Los Angeles TV show in the early 1960s. Go here.
To give you a taste, here's—an extraordinary 1962 show featuring Bud Shank and Clare Fischer playing Fischer's Samba de Borboleta (the lyrical opening and closing theme is Fischer's Carnival)....
Bea Abbott. Reader Rob Lenhart sent an e-mail last week in response to my "Oddball Album Cover" post, noting that Out of Nowhere actually was a Hal Otis Quintet date, with Bea Abbott singing on just four tracks. Writes Rob:
"Bea Abbott sings I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Mountain Greenery, Almost Like Being In Love and Just You, Just Me. Westminster Records did release one album by Bea Abbott [pictured]. It was called The Too, Too Marvelous Bea. It was reissued on CD in Japan along with the four tracks she sang on Out of Nowhere."
CD discovery of the week. Back in February 2008, I posted about Machito's Kenya, one of the most exciting Latin-jazz recordings of the 1950s. Shortly after my post, I attended a concert by the Manhattan School of Music's Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, conducted by percussionist and professor Bobby Sanabria.
That night, Bobby and the orchestra took on the entire Kenya album as a 50th anniversary tribute. He commissioned fresh arrangements, and the school's orchestra dove right in. Now Kenya Revisited has been issued, and the result is pure heat.
Kenya Revisited isn't a note for note recreation. Instead, it's a fond revamping that re-interprets the tracks without giving up any of the original flavor, energy or complexity. In fact, it's hard to believe that the musicians on the CD were all in college at the time (except for Bobby, of course, and guest conga master Candido Camero). The fidelity is terrific as well.
What's apparent immediately from this recording is Bobby's commitment to building on the New York mambo sound of the late 1950s and bringing it into the 21st century. Back in the early 1990s, Bobby was the drummer in Mario Bauza's Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. For those unfamiliar with Bauza [pictured], the trumpeter's career dated back to Chick Webb's orchestra in the early 1930s, and Bauza with Machito launched Afro-Cuban jazz in 1941.
Kenya Revisited is available as a download at iTunes or as a CD here.
Oddball album cover of the week. This 1954 cover is odd for what's not in the picture—glamor. Claire Austin is an acquired taste. The deep-voiced vocalist recorded between 1952 and 1975, doing a respectable job on gutsy blues and popular standards, particularly ballads. Her sound was husky and honest, and she wound up recording with jazz legends Kid Ory and Don Ewell. Perhaps it's because we live in an age of superficial TV makeover shows, but it's a little hard to see exactly which demographic this cover was shooting for at stores. Perhaps the goal was to be the anti-Jackie Gleason. Gleason's LP Music to Remember Her, also released in 1954, was par for the course.