Every so often I cruise through iTunes to see what has slid quietly into the e-bins. Recently I noticed two encouraging trends: First, albums that had been part of box sets and were off the market are now re-emerging as stand-alones once those sets fall out of print. Which is good news for those who only want only one particular album. Second, I see that many killer albums from the 1950s that were long out of print are bouncing back onto iTunes at the discounted price of $5.99. Which also merits a collective high-five.
Here are five gems that I spotted at iTunes last week (they may also be available elsewhere online):
Johnny Richards—Wide Range (1957) and Walk Softly, Run Wild (1959). For those not in the know, Richards was one of the most dynamic and expressive arrangers of the 1950s. Richards wrote extensively for Stan Kenton (Cuban Fire, Back to Balboa), but he also led his own fiery orchestras. These two albums from the late 1950s are among Richards' finest outings using New York session musicians. The albums were part of the Mosaic Select box, but with that set now out of print, these two have popped back into circulation.
Gerald Wilson—Theme for Monterey (1997). Like Richards, Wilson is a prolific West Coast arranger and bandleader. He started his career in Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra, and his feel is deeply influenced by his early experiences. I bought this one years ago when it first came out and still love it. The theme that runs throughout the album has a movie soundtrack feel, and the recording shows off Wilson's Ellingtonian ability to both swing and create rich humid moods.Shorty Rogers—Plays Richard Rodgers (1957). Rogers is considered one of the forefathers of West Coast jazz. He led numerous big bands throughout the 1950s that often were referred to as "his Giants." This bouncy one for RCA has been out of print for years but magically appeared as a download. The sound is pure Hollywood in the late 1950s and features some of the swinging-est California pros on the scene at the time: Shorty Rogers, Conte Candoli, Pete Candoli, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Maynard Ferguson and Al Porcino (trumpets), Milt Bernhart, Bob Burgess, John Halliburton and Frank Rosolino (trombones), Sam Rice (tuba), Herb Geller (alto sax), Bill Holman, Jack Montrose and Bill Perkins (tenor saxes), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Pete Jolly (piano), Red Mitchell (bass) and Stan Levey (drums).
Lucky Thompson—Brown Rose (2009). Connoisseurs of tenor saxophonist Thompson know that his Paris period in 1956 features some of his finest work, particularly the sessions held in March and April of that year. I bought the legendary Vogue recordings on a French import some years ago. Then they fell out of print and were selling for a ghastly price. This download provides a superb survey of the Vogue recordings, including the septet and nonet dates. Note the fabulous solo work by French pianist Martial Solal.
Sonny Stitt—Plays Quincy Jones (1955). Saxophonist Hal McKusick and I were chatting last week when he noted in passing a breathtaking alto sax solo by Stitt on Star Dust. Hal sang part of the solo line over the phone, at which point I hopped onto iTunes and found it before he completed the rundown. The session for Roost showcased Stitt playing Jones' arrangements backed by an all-star band: Jimmy Nottingham and Ernie Royal (trumpets), J.J. Johnson (trombone), Anthony Ortega (flute and alto sax), Seldon Powell (tenor sax), Cecil Payne (baritone sax), Hank Jones (piano), Freddie Green (guitar), Oscar Pettiford (bass) and Jo Jones (drums). And yeah, Stitt's Star Dust here is a stunner.
JazzWax note: For links to the other 10 volumes in this series, scroll down the right-hand column of JazzWax to "Hidden Downloads."