I'm often baffled by people who scrunch up their faces after being asked if they enjoy jazz. Do jazz lovers hear things that fans of other types of music cannot? Is jazz like some sort of dog whistle that only some people respond to? And if so, why doesn't jazz have the same impact on everyone?
Of course, one can attribute ambivalence to a lack of exposure to jazz and distaste to overexposure to more advanced forms of jazz. But then when you play Billie Holiday, Count Basie or Hank Mobley for people and they have this reaction or no reaction, I'm often baffled.
How can someone not be moved by those artists and this music? My guess is that some people can hear the poetry and texture in jazz and be moved by them while others cannot. It's akin to some people going to the museum, looking at modern art and loudly asking, "Why is this here? My kid could have done that." [Untitled (Red and Gray), Ad Reinhardt, 1950]
The truth is some people can feel jazz in their hearts. Others cannot. No crime. Just a shame.
Brook Benton. I came across this YouTube clip on Friday. Thought I'd share...
Maynard Ferguson. Bret Primack, who wrote the liner notes to Mosaic's The Complete Roulette Recordings of the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra (now out of print and going for upward of $700 eBay), sent along this killer clip...
Dave Brubeck Octet and Trio. David Brent Johnson, host of WFIU's Night Lights, has posted a podcast of his most recent radio show, Playland at The Beach: Dave Brubeck’s Early Octet and Trio. If you're unfamiliar with these groups from the late '40s and early '50s, give a listen. It's free. Go here.
Johnny Staccato. Ed Leimbacher at I Witness this week had a super post about the late-'50s TV series Johnny Staccato and Elmer Bernstein's jazzy score. Go here.
And here's a taste of Bernstein's jackhammer theme and John Cassavetes hipster holster cabbing and subwaying around New York on behalf of his finger-snapping, with-it clients. This classic is ripe for a TV update.
CD discoveries of the week. Smokey Robinson left the Miracles in 1972 to devote all of his energies to songwriting as a Motown Records' executive. Robinson, of course, was one of Motown founder Berry Gordy's oldest friends, confidants and earliest recording artists back in 1960. But within two years of taking a desk job, Robinson came down with stage-itis—craving a return to performing and recording. His third effort as a solo recording artist was A Quiet Storm in 1974. The pre-disco soul album became a classic and has just been remastered and reissued. Among the highlights are the title tune, The Agony and the Ecstasy and Baby That's Backatcha. The album has been teamed with Smokey's Family Robinson on a two-fer CD (Hip-O Select) available at iTunes or here.
I don't know John Heneghan but he's delightfully obsessive. Heneghan is a collector of obscure 78-rpm records from the '20s and '30s who then cleans them up in a digital transfer and releases them on albums. His latest effort is a three-CD set called Baby, How Can It Be? The unifying theme here is love, lust and contempt. In the days before jeans, midriff T-shirts and costume malfunctions, carnal fantasies were held largely to records cranked up on Victrolas. Of that ilk, this set is the mother lode. Here you'll find obscure artists such as Norridge Mayhams and His Barbeque Boys (If I Had My Way), Lonnie Coleman (Wild About My Loving) and Hartman's Heart Breakers (Let Me Play With It). Listening to this set makes you realize how different our culture is today—and how much it has remained the same. You'll find Baby, How Can It Be? (Dust to Digital) here.
Looking for a clean, simple jazz album with solid musicianship? 251 teams master bassist Dan Dean with a range of keyboard pros: George Duke, Larry Goldings, Gil Goldstein and Kenny Werner. Standards include One Note Samba, Georgia on My Mind and In Walked Bud. You'll find 251 (Origin) at iTunes or here.
Oddball album cover of the week. While 101 Strings was filed in the "easy listening" section rather than jazz, it seems the two styles of music had a lot in common when it came to album cover designers. This one is almost quaint. It has been a long time since music was preferred over TV for relaxation. Then again, it's tough to remember a time when workdays had a so-called finish line. At least he appears to be listening.