Last Tuesday night, my friend Kevin from Memphis was in town and we went off to see Elvis Presley in Concert at Radio City Music Hall. This one-night performance featured Elvis on a series of large screens singing about 25 songs from multiple concerts. The footage was primarily from material shot for the MGM concert films Elvis, That's The Way It Is (1970) and Elvis on Tour (1972) and from the 1973 global TV special Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii. [Photo by Marc Myers]
On stage accompanying the vivid vocal track were members of Elvis' original Taking Care of Business backup band. The TCB band last week included legendary guitarist James Burton, pianist Glen D. Hardin and drummer Ronnie Tutt as well as the Sweet Inspirations and Stamps vocal groups. And brass and strings.
Mind you, I'm not an Elivismaniac. But I do appreciate the charismatic candle power this guy had and continues to exhibit in film, and the grand-slam sound of his voice. [Pictured: long-time TCB guitarist James Burton]
Before you mock me, here's Elvis singing You've Lost That Loving Feeling in a show that's nearly identical to the one I saw last week, only a few years back. You decide...
Ben Webster radio. Symphonic Sid Gribetz of New York's WKCR is hosting a five-hour radio program today devoted to Ben Webster's recordings in the 1950s. The show starts at 2 p.m. (EST). You can access the show on your computer from anywhere in the world by going here.
Itiberê Orquestra Familia radio. Jazz musician and writer Bill Kirchner hosts Jazz From the Archives tonight on New York's WBGO starting at 11 p.m. The subject of his show will be Brazil's Itiberê Orquestra Familia. You can access the show from anywhere on your computer by going here. And here's a taste...
George Shearing interview. New York's Hamilton College sent along an email informing me that it hosts free public access to its online archive of interviews that feature jazz greats and other notables. The main archive is here. Interviews with Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Clark Terry and Milt Hinton were conducted by vocalist Joe Williams, who was instrumental in establishing the college's oral history project. Here's Joe Williams interviewing George Shearing.
Memphis doings. If you're heading to Memphis soon, be sure to check in on the I Love Memphis blog hosted and written by Kerry Crawford. Lots of neat inside stuff to hear, eat and do here.
CD discoveries of the week: One of the finest piano albums to hit my desk in some time is Chantale Gagne's Wisdom of the Water. I last wrote about Gagne back in 2009, when her first album came out. This one is a more mature work, with greater drama and panoramic imagery. Songs linger, giving the instruments time to develop ideas and converse with a folk feel. The group here is exceptional. Joining Gagne is Joe Locke on vibes, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Sample Roseline and The Light We Need. You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
Sony just reissued another set of CTI recordings from the 1970s. Two standouts are George Benson's White Rabbit and Paul Desmond's Pure Desmond. White Rabbit retains its original acoustic-electric tension and world-music orchestration. On the title track, Benson's guitar plays neatly off fusion guitarist Jay Berliner, bassist Ron Carter, electric pianist Herbie Hanock and drummer Billy Cobham. The Summer of '42 Theme still sounds grand and California Dreamin' captures the head-shop and fusion feel of the late '60s and early '70s perfectly. Hats off to Don Sebesky's arrangements. You'll find this at iTunes or here.
Paul Desmond's Pure Desmond was purposely kept spare. Recorded in 1974, the alto saxophonist was joined by guitarist Ed Bickert, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Connie Kay. The delivery lives up to the album's title, and the release was perhaps Desmond's finest during his late period. Bickert's tasty guitar feeds Desmond neatly throughout, allowing the breezy high-register reedman to float around like an autumn leaf. In many ways, the guitar was the most natural accompanist for Desmond's caressing tone, and Bickert was an ingenious choice. Sample Why Shouldn't I, the MASH Theme and Wave. You'll find this one at iTunes and here.
Oddball album covers of the week: This plexiglass astronaut's helmet really made the rounds on album covers in the late '50s and early '60s. We know now, of course, that one needs a bit more than a fishbowl on one's noggin to visit the solar system. But back then, it was all about style—and a photographer being able to capture the subject's face. Makes you wonder whether there were lots of bubble helmets or just one sitting in the same photographer's studio. The Dave Pike album is from 1965, Ted Heath's from 1957 and Mel Torme's from 1960.