Well, iTunes has redesigned its store, making life even more difficult for fans of jazz from the 1950s and 1960s (if that's possible). Now, seeing what older, out of print jazz albums have been added to the store is trickier. Same goes for figuring out which tracks on compilations belong to which original albums. This means if you don't have a discography by your side, shopping is going to be like crawling around in a dark room.
Yesterday I did a little scouting around at iTunes to see what gems are hidden away. Here's what I found (some of these may be at Amazon as well):
Urbie Green—Big Band Greats. I'm not sure why this faux album bears this title or why there's a baboon on the cover. What I can tell you is that this 42-track collection (for only $10.99!) contains four brilliant albums by the glossy trombonist: All About Urbie Green (1956), Let's Face the Music and Dance (1957), Jimmy McHugh in Hi-Fi (1958) and The Message (1958)—all out of print. It's a must-own for anyone who digs big bands of the 1950s and Green's trombone. Dig Green on Please, among the loveliest trombone solos ever recorded.
Al Haig—Jazz Will O' the Wisp (1954). Originally recorded for Counterpoint, this is one of the pianist's most beautiful and lush trio albums. Autumn in New York, Moonlight in Vermont, All God's Chillun—all the great tunes are here, and each is given Haig's rich and hip treatment. Haig was joined on the date by bassist Bill Crow and drummer Lee Abrams. All 16 tracks were recorded flawlessly in one session on March 13, 1954. A different era.
Maynard Ferguson—Hey There (1960). I'm not certain what iTunes is
up to here, but this individual track is said to be from the Ed Sullivan Show in August 1960. To my ear, it sounds more like a studio date than a live recording. Either way, this hit from Pajama Game is taken as a slow-build ballad, and the taut arrangement is by Willie Maiden.
James Moody—Last Train from Overbrook (1958). After a fire destroyed his band's music and instruments, alto saxophonist and flutist James Moody checked himself into the Overbrook Hospital in Cedar Grove, N.J. to overcome his battle with alcoholism. Upon his release six months later, Moody composed and recorded this album. It's my personal favorite of Moody's and one of his finest.
Paul Quinichette—The Ultimate Jazz Archives No. 28. This iTunes series is shrouded in mystery. At some point,
iTunes seems to have created a collection of mystery recordings by notable artists. Little else is offered in terms of information. But whenever I pop the hood on albums in this series, I
invariably find treasure. For instance, this one holds much of the tenor
saxophonist's leadership sessions for EmArcy Records between 1951 an
1952. Great stuff from the Vice Prez.
For more Hidden Jazz Downloads, scroll down the right-hand column to the "Hidden Downloads" heading. There you'll find Volumes 1 through 13.