Waxing and musings. Are jazz releases from Spain the dirty little secret of passionate jazz listeners? A close friend wrote me an email last week crisply reminding me that the Definitive label out of Spain is among the most abusive 'rip-off' labels of the European Union. Last week I had mentioned that the complete Buddy De Franco-Sonny Clark sessions were available on Definitive in my interview series with Buddy.
For those unaware of what the fuss is about, here's a recap—and my friend isn't completely off base. European copyright laws last 50 years, tossing recordings into the public domain once that period elapses. What does this mean? Anyone in Europe can copy recordings and sell them—including all U.S. albums released prior to 1961—and not be in violation of laws or owe a Euro in royalties. So labels like Fresh Sound, LoneHill Jazz, Definitive and others find clean LPs or CDs, make copies, re-package them with cover and liner-notes art and issue them to consumers worldwide, including in the U.S. [The U.S. version of the Teddy Charles Tentet, left, and the European Complete Teddy Charles Tentet version, right]
Two problems: First, the artists don't receive royalty payments. Second, these European releases often are timed to coincide with the issue of U.S. box sets. U.S. labels typically invest hard time and money to create lovingly restored jazz discs, often with comprehensive liner notes. Definitive's goal is to create a dirt cheap (by comparison) set and provide a knock-off alternative at roughly the same time.
Which is dirty pool and a shame. But my response to my concerned friend was "So what?" Let me explain from the listener's perspective. No one loves jazz artists more than I do. If it were up to me, they'd receive a sizable government check each month just for their artistic service to this country. But 50 years after the fact, artists rarely see much in the way of royalties even when their material is reissued here. Creative accounting takes care of that. As for Euro labels submarining U.S. box sets, there's really no comparison between the high-end boxes created here and the Euro equivalent in terms of care and consistent quality (I recently read liner notes to a European set that consistently referred to the big band trombonist as "Tony Dorsey").I think even the original artists would agree that after 50 years, they'd rather see their material available to young and old rather than watch the mailbox each day for a small royalty check. If there's a villain, it's the U.S. record companies that continue to sit on great music from the 1950s rather than issue it digitally. Which would undercut the European labels, since they are only available on CD here. Ask yourself this: Where would jazz listeners be if all those great recordings from the 1950s weren't available at all?
Ed Thigpen (1930-2010), a graceful drummer best known as a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio in the late 1950s and 1960s and whose brush technique could be as forceful as his stick work, died January 13th in Copenhagen, where he had lived since 1972. He was 79. [Photo by Philippe Lévy-Stab]
In the 1950s, Thigpen recorded with a wide range of leading artists, including Dinah Washington (After Hours with Miss D), Joe Newman (Jazz for Playboys), Billy Taylor (My Fair Lady Loves Jazz) and Gil Melle (Thigpen is on many of the Blue Note and Prestige recordings I wrote about last week here).
But it was Thigpen's lengthy tour of duty with Peterson and Ray Brown that brought him the most acclaim. His first album with the pianist was A Jazz Portrait of Frank Sinatra in 1959. The release was quickly followed by a marathon recording session in August 1959 during which the trio recorded songbook-album tributes to nine different composers.
Perhaps the highpoint of Thigpen's work with Peterson was West Side Story, which featured the drummer employing a seemingly endless series of drum techniques. Among my favorite examples of Thigpen's later work can be found on Wig Is Here, an album led by Gerald Wiggins on piano and Major Holley on bass. The 1974 Thigpen tracks are You Are the Sunshine of My Live, Oh Give Me Something to Remember You By, Lover, FBOT, Edith Is the Sweetest and There Is No Greater Love.
Here's Thigpen on Cubano Chant, exhibiting his broad range of delicate drumming techniques...
Nelson Riddle. Wish you had been on hand to see Nelson Riddle conduct a studio orchestra? On March 5th and 6th, singer Shawnn Monteiro will perform backed by a 17-piece orchestra in The Nelson Riddle Show: Studio Sessions, featuring arrangements by the late, great arranger-conductor.
The Riddle family has pulled original arrangements from their vault for the event. Many have not been performed in a generation. These include Lorelei from Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Gershwin Songbook, Peggy Lee's Jump for Joy and Sinatra's At Long Last Love. On hand will be Chris Riddle and sister Rosemary Acerra to recount memories of their legendary dad.
Where: Tim McLoone's Supper Club in Asbury Park, N.J. Time: Dinner at 6 pm; show at 7 pm. Tickets: $79.95, which includes a prix fixe dinner. More information: 732-774-1400.
Video clip 1: It's 11 degrees in New York. You know what that means? Time for another great bossa nova clip (stay with the opening dialogue)...
Video clip 2: Carl Woideck found this interesting mashup featuring Ellington's music against Beyonce's Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)...
Saluting the producers. Following my post last Sunday praising the contribution of jazz producers of the 1950s, Chris Fine, son of C. Robert Fine, the legendary engineer on sessions for Verve, EmArcy and other labels, sent along the following:
New blog. Pianist Joe Alterman had a field day at the recent National Endowment for the Arts event featuring a virtual who's who of jazz legends. You can read about Joe's stellar interactions here.
"I totally agree with you about the contribution jazz producers made. I would extend those comments to music in general of the time (late 1940s through the late 1960s). So many great albums of all genres owed their success to these producers as well as the musicians. Non-jazz pop examples: George Martin, Tommy Dowd, Paul Rothchild, Mitch Miller, Phil Spector, Lou Adler, Jerry Wexler [pictured] and many others. Classical examples abound as well.
In those days, you couldn’t have a credible record company without a professional producing staff. Lots of these folks were highly-trained musicians in their own right and could play right along, compose part or all of a tune, arrange or challenge the most ornery musician."
CD discovery of the week. Dig swinging big bands? Really raging, swinging bands? Back in 1996, drummer Frank Capp recorded Play It Again Sam (Concord) with his Juggernaut band. All of the compositions and arrangements are by Sammy Nestico (that's Sammy on the cover on the upright piano). The album rocks and purrs like crazy from beginning to end. Capp is a Stan Kenton veteran and a monster small group and big band West Coast stick-man. The album includes trumpeter Conte Candoli, saxophonists Jackie Kelso and Pete Christlieb, and pianist Gerald Wiggins. Best of all, this is a band led by a fierce drummer, and you can hear his leadership on every track.
By the way, if you're in Canoga Park, CA on February 12th, you can catch Capp with West Coast jazz legends Dave Pell, Med Flory, Bill Fulton and Jim Hughes at the Back Room at Henri's. More information: (818) 348-5582.
Sadly, Frank Capp's Play It Again Sam is out of print on CD but may be available at online download retailers. Try typing the album's name into Google. Hats off to Peter Sokolowski for bringing it to my attention.
Oddball album cover of the week. This gem showcasing three jazz cats swinging on a line was issued by Allegro in the 12-inch LP era. It included Standard radio transcriptions from 1951 with Norvo, guitarist Tal Farlow and bassist Charles Mingus. The art director was no mouse and certainly gets points for picking up the tabs.