Waxings & musings. All that's standing between CDs and the dustbin are liner notes. Like you, I've ripped a good portion of my favorite CDs onto my computer. Which means I don't really need the CDs hanging around anymore. But I keep them anyway for the liner notes. Without the notes, there's no story behind the music. And without the story, the music is almost meaningless. Just ask kids today who download jazz tracks and albums and haven't a clue about the artists' bios, why artists are significant, who wrote the songs that the artists are playing, and why the songs have meaning. Liner notes will always be necessary for jazz listening, even if the folks at e-stores still don't get it. Over the coming few years, I suspect someone will create a web-based service that lets you download original and updated notes. Then and only then will the CDs era truly be over.
Jackie Cain. During last week's interview series with vocalist Jackie Cain, I received many e-mails from her fans and from people who weren't aware of Jackie's husband Roy Kral. Among the e-mails was this one from musician, educator and writer Bill Kirchner:
"Thanks for mentioning my 2004 album Everything I Love. The two songs that featured Jackie have unconventional chord changes and challenging melodies, but she sang them beautifully. Which is all the more extraordinary (as are her many accomplishments with Roy), because, as she mentioned in your interview, she doesn't read music. She has ears unsurpassed by any singer I've ever worked with.
"In 2005, my wife Judy Kahn was organizing Jackie and Roy's music library and found the scores and parts to the couple's Bits and Pieces and Free and Easy big-band albums in a closet. They were in pristine condition—untouched since they were recorded in 1957. Wonderful charts by Ralph Burns, Bill Holman, Quincy Jones, Ernie Wilkins, and Roy.
"I immediately contacted pianist Diane Moser, and in January 2006 we performed this music with Diane's Composers Big Band for an SRO audience at Trumpets, a club in Montclair, N.J. That night, Jackie sang the music for the first time since 1957. The drummer and arranger Rich DeRosa (who had worked with Jackie and Roy for years) sang Roy's parts. I conducted.
Memorial Day jazz. David Brent Johnson, host of WFIU-FM's Night Lights, offers a brilliant podcast this weekend featuring moving recordings by jazz artists paying tribute to deceased jazz legends. Tracks include vibraphonist Joe Roland's Goodbye, Bird (1955) and Thad Jones' The Summary, part of an elegiac suite in honor of Louis Armstrong (1972). Go here to listen free.
Evan Christopher. Last week I dropped in on clarinetist Evan Christopher's recording session at Nola Recording Studio, one of the most historic jazz recording spaces in New York. I was invited down by Mat Domber of Arbors Records. Joining Evan were guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, guitarist James Chirillo and bassist Greg Cohen. What a superb lineup—two guitars and a bass behind Evan's clarinet. No drums. No piano. From what I heard, it's a beautiful session with a focus on the music of New Orleans. Evan has a wonderful, sensitive sound.
Bob Mover. Bret Primack, the Jazz Video Guy, interviews saxophonist Bob Mover at his vid-blog this week. In Bret's revealing clip, entitled Who Is Bob Mover?, the saxophonist talks about working with Charles Mingus and Chet Baker and shares several touching anecdotes...
Jazz art. Thomas Andersen sent along a lovely note last week and a sample of his jazz-inspired art. His works can be seen here.
More radio themes. Following my post on radio DJ themes from the 1970s, readers continue to send along their favorites.
From photographer Paul Slaughter:
"In 1967 in Los Angeles, I landed a job on the leading all-night jazz station, KBCA-FM. I had a three-hour program each evening. We also had to have an FCC license and engineer our own show. All the DJs got invited to jazz clubs and concerts for free. It was a real blast!
"I started interviewing jazz greats for my program. Artists included Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Wes Montgomery, Stan Kenton, Charles Lloyd, and many more. (I recently had all these taped interviews transferred to CDs.) I would incorporate the interviews into a program with tracks of music.
"I had a good interview with Thelonious Monk but the tape was either lost or stolen. I found a translated version of the interview on the web, in the Jazz magazine of France. But the slant of their translation was a bit off. I don't know how they got the interview. Perhaps recorded from the radio broadcast, somehow. [Photo of Thelonious Monk by Paul Slaughter]
"For my regular shows I would start off with a music track and then just improvise with other musical selections. My show got favorable reviews in Variety and Billboard. It was a great three-year run, and then I started my photography career."
Here's a portion my Monk interview...
Q. Monk, What time of day do you like to compose and practice?
A. After I come home in the morning, when the clubs have closed.
Q. Don't your neighbors complain?
A. Paul, they complained about me before my piano moved in.
From Don Frese:
"Sid Torin [pictured] naturally used Jumpin' with Symphony Sid and alternated between versions by Dizzy, Lester and King Pleasure. Django, the original Prestige recording, was his background music while talking.
"I think Frame for the Blues was actually a Slide Hampton piece. And I agree with Bob Rusch—my night began with Jean Shepherd and ended with Mort Fega."
From Michael Bloom:
"During my eight-year run as a five-night-a-week jazz DJ in Honolulu, I always opened with Babs Gonzales' Professor Bop and closed with Miles Davis' Bye Bye from one of the Live at the Blackhawk LPs. If there was time left, I'd let it segue into Wynton Kelly's exquisite solo piano rendition of Love, I've Found You."
CD discovery of the week. From 1957 to 1962, Lucky Thompson lived in France working primarily on the soprano saxophone. Shortly after returning to the U.S. in December 1962, Thompson's wife died of a cerebral hemorrhage, leaving him to care for the couple's two young sons. To make ends meet, Thompson began an aggressive period of recording and performing. During 1963 and 1964, Thompson recorded for Prestige, most notably Lucky Strikes, as well as for the fledgling Rivoli label. He also was recorded playing on two live dates. Both are captured on a fabulous two-CD set, Lucky Thompson: New York City 1964-65 (Uptown Records).
The CDs feature Thompson's performances on the soprano sax at The Little Theater in February 1964 and at the Half Note one year later. On the first disc, we hear Thompson in transition, working through original material arranged for a little big band consisting of Dave Burns (trumpet), Danny Turner (alto sax), Cecil Payne (baritone sax), Benny Powell (trombone), Hank Jones (piano), Richard Davis (bass) and Al Dreares (drums). His sound on soprano naturally bears shades of John Coltrane.
On the second CD (a radio broadcast superbly remastered), Thompson is accompanied by his working trio at the time: Paul Neves (piano), George Tucker (bass) and Oliver Jackson (drums). Here we have Thompson gracefully weaving in and out of three standards and one magnificent original, The World Awakens. Both CDs are a welcome addition to the Thompson canon.
Lucky Thompson: New York City 1964-65 can be found as a download at iTunes or on CD here.
Oddball album cover of the week. This one from 1956 is the wet version of Sonny Rollins' arid Way Out West (1957). Both were photographed by William Claxton. Despite Clax's knack for composition and his unfailing journalistic taste, this one for a Pacific Jazz Records compilation was a novelty shot and somewhat forced for the master lensman. It's unclear here whether the emerging frogman filched the cool-jazz horn out of the surf or whether he took it with him for a jam session under the sea. Also unclear is whether the hep snorkler pictured was a model or a real live West Coast jazz musician. Looks a little Shelly Manne-ish to me.