JazzWax Insider. If you haven't signed up yet for my JazzWax Insider newsletter, do so now if you want to receive my June issue next week. Go here to subscribe (leave "HTML" checked).
The JazzWax Insider is free and features behind-the-scenes insights on jazz legends, lunch conversations and other short squibs in large type that I think you'll find enjoyable and easy to read.
Why did I bother to start the JazzWax Insider? Because there isn't enough room during the week to get all I hear, see and think about into JazzWax. So if you dig this blog, think of the JazzWax Insider as one of those dishes a chef sends out to your table as a little something extra. Match me, Sidney.
Sonny Rollins returns. In the following revealing video clip, Sonny Rollins talks about his years in the early 1950s kicking a drug habit and putting his life back on track with Clifford Brown and Max Roach. Another fine, up-close interview by jazz videographer Bret Primack...
Art on the Beach. West Coast writer and author Leslie Westbrook sent along the following fascinating clip of kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen...
Dave Liebman radio. Jazz musician and writer Bill Kirchner will be presenting a show tonight on WBGO-NY on saxophonist Dave Liebman [pictured]. You can access the show at 11 p.m. (EDT) from anywhere in the world here.
Jazz in church. Up in Northridge, CA, sits the United Methodist Church. The church's Robin Blomquist tells me that this year, the humble sanctuary is holding a series of free monthly Sunday jazz performances starting at 5 p.m. The series will showcase the Jennifer Barnes Quartet (June 13), Lanny Morgan Sextet (July 11), Don Menza [pictured] (August 8), Alan Broadbent (September 12), Med Flory (October 10) and John Proulx (November 14). It's the little church that could and did. For more information, go here or call (818) 886-1555.
CD discoveries of the week. A few weeks ago I went down to New York's Jazz Standard to hang out with Sue Mingus and hear the Mingus Big Band. I was blown away by the orchestra's energy, complex arrangements and all-out performances. You can hear what I heard on the band's new CD, Mingus Big Band Live at the Jazz Standard, recorded New Year's Eve of 2008.
The album is testament to this repertory group's Mingus scholarship and passion for Mingus' music. Every track is a stallion of an orchestration refusing to be tamed. My favorites are Song with Orange and Self-Portrait in Three Colors. I can't think of another jazz composition that sounds more like images of New York in the 1950s than the latter one.
You'll find Mingus Big Band: Live at the Jazz Standard (Jazz Workshop) at iTunes or here.
Admittedly, I'm not much of a Bing Crosby fan after about 1950. There's nothing wrong with Bing's voice during the LP era, but it just sounds completely out of touch with the new level of intimacy and intensity that younger jazz singers of the day were expressing. Which is why my favorite Bing album during this period was his last one. Seasons was recorded in September and October 1977 in London, just weeks and days before his death on a golf course in Spain on October 14th.
What I like about this newly remastered concept album is that Bing was actually trying—trying to sound like his old self. As a result, the extra effort brought me closer to him. Instead of just admiring Bing, you're actually rooting for him, and the crooner does every song justice. Dig June Is Busting Out All Over, Summer Wind and Autumn in New York. It's lion-in-winter stuff, but there's a charm here that makes Bing terribly endearing.
You'll find the deluxe edition of Bing Crosby's Seasons (Collector's Choice) here.
Trombonist Eric Felten can sing, too, as evidenced on his new album Seize the Night. Felten has a caressing sound on the 'bone and warm phrasing on the vocals. Like Frank Rosolino, Chet Baker, Oscar Peterson and other strong instrumentalists who recorded as singers, Felten brings a certain whimsy to his delivery, and you sense he loves getting back to playing once the lyrics are wrapped.
Felten is joined by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Dennis Irwin, drummer Jimmy Cobb and tenor saxophonist Don Braden. Which means when Felten isn't playing or singing, you're in for additional solo treats. Sample Which Are You?.
You'll find Eric Felten's Seize the Night (Melotone) at iTunes or here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Making the scene never was so intimate—or smokey. This far out 1959 compilation from Warner Brothers featured "12 new ways to fly," tracks by different artists ranging from Chico Hamilton and Marty Paich to The Signatures and The Smart Set. Dig the opening to the album's liner notes:
"This decade's rounding the turn into the Sixties. Like other decades, this one will probably receive some characterization... The way things are going, it will probably be recalled as the Cool Sixties."
So much for predictions! What slays me most is the forlorn woman on the stairs. If only she had taken the time to read Frank O'Hara's A Step Away From Them and picked up a pack of Pall Malls, the real gone espresso cats surely would have carved her a perch in their nest.
(Hats off to reader David Langner for unearthing this beaut. David, by the way, is auctioning off a treasure trove of jazz CDs from Japan that were packaged like mini LPs. Go to eBay here.)