From the Brubecks. Following my four-part interview with Dave Brubeck last week, I received the following email from Iola, Dave's wife of 67 years:
"Dave and I loved your series, in particular your introduction in Part 2, in which you drew comparisons between Dave's music and modern glass residential architecture of the 1950s. Our home in Connecticut is not far from Philip Johnson's Glass House and is modern in design—although not as sparsely furnished and clean of line as his. After all, we raised six kids in our house.
"Our house, designed by Beverley Thorne, is a bit of California transplanted to Connecticut—all glass, stone and redwood and a mixture of furniture from 'moderne' to inherited antiques. Beverley also built our modern home in California, where we lived in the 1950s before moving. [Photo: Dave Brubeck at home in Connecticut in 2006 by Hank O'Neal]
"You mentioned how much you enjoy Brubeck a la Mode. I, personally, agree with you and think the album is one of the finest made during this period. I was surprised that it was more or less overlooked when it was released, even though the concept of modal playing was of great interest at the time and just beginning to circulate.
"Dave's contract with Columbia Records allowed him to record one album a year for Fantasy Records providing that the personnel was not actually the entire Dave Brubeck Quartet. Thus, Bill Smith substituted for Paul Desmond on those dates. I think Paul had a similar agreement, as he made some recordings on his own using different rhythm sections, and I think on at least one of his albums he used Eugene Wright. Dave and Bill have enjoyed a long history together. Other wonderful albums with Bill are The Riddle and Near Myth."
Rip-off redux. I received a wave of emails and comments last week in response to my editorial on European CD labels. Among the many responses was this one from Terry Teachout, author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (Terry is about to start work on a new biography of Duke Ellington):
"The real problem with the Definitive sets is that at least some of them appear to be digital clones of the beautifully remastered U.S. sets that you praised in your posting. Hence, Definitive is not merely ripping off the original labels but ripping off legit reissue labels. These labels include Mosaic, which are putting time, money, and energy into releasing box sets to whose "care and consistent quality" you pay tribute. That, I think, is unconscionable—and also creates a significant disincentive for legit labels to undertake serious reissue work."
Reader Lynne Eldredge of Chicago had a different take:
"I totally agree with your views on the music coming out of Spain. I did not start building my jazz collection until 1990 and it was frustrating to hear great tunes on the radio and not be able to find this music. If it weren't for Lonehill, Definitive, et al., my library would be a third less in size. I'll be happy to purchase U.S. made albums so royalties can be paid to artists. Just make them available and I'll be there. Shame on our record companies."
Brubeck 'n' Roll. Reader Joel Lewis wrote in to highlight Dave Brubeck's influence on rock:
"In one of the early Beatles press conferences in the U.S., one of the Beatles said that the band dug Brubeck. And Keith Emerson, when he was with his first band The Nice, did two versions of Blue Rondo a la Turk (called Rondo, minus the jazzy middle). Most progressive rock bands such as Yes, Gentle Giant and King Crimson would not have existed without the influence of the Time Out-era Brubeck.
"Have you heard In His Own Sweet Way, a Brubeck tribute on the Japanese Avant label? It was executive produced by John Zorn and features deconstructed versions of Brubeck tunes by "downtown" art acts in the U.S. and Japan.
"And let us not forget Dave's own contribution to jazz-rock fusion—Two Generations of Brubeck, a rather underestimated group that deserves a new hearing. Sadly, the album emerged during a low period and was largely ignored by fans."
Jazz's health. Videographer Bret Primack adds his voice to the ongoing "Is Jazz Dead" debate...
Buddy De Franco and Anita O'Day. Reader Tony Park sent along a clip of Anita O'Day backed by Buddy, who makes an appearance on stage toward the end...
CareFusion Jazz Festival 2010. George Wein, founder of Boston's Storyville and the Newport Jazz Festival, announced the dates of this summer's CareFusion Jazz Festival in New York: June 17-26. CareFusion, a leading global medical device company, is the festival's sponsor. George also posted remarks about the festival's mission and his love of jazz here.
Mystery men. Wall Street Journal jazz writer Will Friedwald sent along a link to a smart list of jazz-artist pseudonyms. Artists who recorded on albums while under contract to another label hid their identity by providing a fake one. Go here for the list.
Rat Pack clip. Jazz.FM91 CEO Ross Porter sent along this clip of Johnny Carson singing with the Rat Pack in 1965...
Jane Jarvis (1915-2010), a demure Indiana jazz pianist who became a stadium organist for the New York Mets, figuring out how to swing bebop classics between innings, died January 18th in Englewood, N.J. She was 94.
Jarvis' major contribution during the rock era was helping jazz greats feed their families. As the Muzak Corp.'s vice president of programming and recording, Jarvis hired Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Milt Hinton, Major Holley and many other jazz greats to record swinging easy-listening versions of songs, enabling them to make ends meet when club and concert gigs slowed. [Photo of Jane Jarvis by Brownie Harris]
CD discoveries of the week. A New Promise by guitarist Sheryl Bailey is a tribute to guitarist Emily Remler, who Bailey saw in concert in 1984. As a result, this album has all of the sensitivity and feel of Remler, with the type of big band arranging Creed Taylor was fond of on those Wes Montgomery recordings for A&M. Among the standouts are Remler's East to Wes, Mocha Spice and Carenia, which reminds you how sublime Remler was. You can find the CD at iTunes or here.
Bassist Michael Janisch's first album, Purpose Built, grabs your ear and won't let go. What's most compelling are the textures Janisch and other arrangers on the album extract through a shifting mix of instrumentation. Janisch's bass playing is firm and smooth, and the album's moodier moments featuring three saxophones and a trumpet are coolly tempered by icy vibes. You'll find the CD at iTunes or here
Mike Jones is one of the finest pianists around today you don't know. Jones opens for Penn & Teller's Las Vegas shows and fully understands the importance of entertainment. I wouldn't have known about him if it weren't for photographer Hank O'Neal, who brought him to my attention. Sample Jones' Live at Steinway Hall from 1999. You'll find the album at iTunes or here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Manny Albam's Double Exposures was recorded in 1960. The audiophile who looks at this cover isn't likely captivated by the Capri-clad models but instead is more concerned about the carefree and careless way in which they're handling Albam's albums.