During one of my recent swings through iTunes and Amazon, I stumbled across five terrific jazz albums you may not know about. Or if you do, you may not be aware that these albums are now available as downloads. As readers of this ongoing feature know, I often come across such gems while hunting for other albums. Or I find the albums after checking to see if they've made it into the download universe. Because iTunes and Amazon do little to promote new entries of old jazz albums, I figured I'd take on this task and let you know when I find great stuff. Here are five:
The Dual Role of Bob Brookmeyer (1954). This killer album was recorded with vibraphonist Teddy Charles and produced by Teddy to show off Bob's skills on valve trombone and piano. Joining Bob and Teddy were Teddy Kotick on bass, Ed Shaughnessy on drums and Nancy Overton (Hall's wife) talk-singing through one track. Bob is sensational here—on both instruments.
Bent Axen: Trio, Quintet and Sextet (1959-61). Don't know Bent Axen? He's a Danish bop pianist who performed regularly at Copenhagen's Montmartre club in the 1950s, often backing American jazz musicians passing through or who resided in Europe. The sessions on this album were recorded for the Debut label and featured Danish jazz musicians.
Tony Scott in Hi-Fi (1953). This 12-inch album originally was released on Brunswick in 1957. But the material actually was recorded four years early, on two different 10-inch LPs: Music After Midnight and Jazz for GIs. On the first album, Scott was joined by Dick Katz (piano), Milt Hinton (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). On the latter, the album featured Katz (piano), Earl May (bass) and Osie Johnson (drums).
Hector Lavoe: Comedia (1978). While white and African-American urban youth crammed into discos in the late 1970s, Latin-Americans of the same age group had their own thing: a new Salsa club sound. One of its leading proponents was Puerto Rican vocalist Hector Lavoe. To be sure, the recent biopic, El Cantante, starring Mark Anthony and Jennifer Lopez suffered from a poor screenplay. But Lavoe, who was heavily addicted to heroin and died in 1993 of AIDs, was one of a kind. Singer Lavoe brought enormous passion to ballads and huge energy on Salsa numbers. Comedia is among his best from this period, complete with strings, a powerful Salsa band and gripping vocals. Sample the first and second tracks for a sense of the beauty and excitement here.
Count Basie: Basie Land (1963). Count Basie's Verve years are admittedly spotty. Poorly produced by Norman Granz during this period, Basie could wind up turning out superb albums like This Time By Basie but follow with disasters like Basie Picks the Winners and Basie's Beatle Bag. Basie Land falls into the former category. The album was arranged by Billy Byers and retains a strong New Testament feel without drifting into flabby stabs at pop hits.
Note: For Volumes 1-9 of this series, type "Hidden Jazz Downloads" into the search engine at the top, right-hand corner of this page.