Randy Wood, founder of Dot Records died last week at age 94. Depending on whom you ask, Wood was either the most blatant exploiter of black r&b or the shrewdest r&b leverage specialist. The truth is he was probably both.
Dot's formula in the '50s was to have white male artists like Pat Boone cover singles by black artists for mass market appeal. Before Motown, the gimmick worked, and Dot had hit after hit, often topping the originals in chart placement and sales. Some black artists found this strategy reprehensible while others found imitation the sincerest form of flattery, especially when Dot's singles brought fresh attention to their own versions.
However you categorize Wood and Dot's exploits in the '50s, the label did record quite a few good jazz albums. Among them were Count Basie's Straight Ahead, Pete and Conte Candoli's The Brothers Candoli, Eddie Costa's House of Blue Lights and Buddy DeFranco and Nelson Riddle's Cross Country Suite.
JazzWax Insider. The April issue is being prepared for release as I write this post. To receive your copy of this free, monthly e-newsletter featuring items that didn't fit in daily JazzWax posts, you simply have to sign up for it here.
Take 6 Million. Doug Ramsey, award-winning Rifftides blogger and author of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, featured a particularly fascinating post on Friday. Doug detailed the royalties earned by Desmond's Take Five since the alto saxophonist's death in 1977 and where they have gone. Go here.
Greetings from Ethiopia. JazzWax reader Arefe Fantahun is a blogger in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who writes on jazz. Thanks to the Internet, the world keeps shrinking as jazz and jazz recordings continue to become the universal language of like-minded, joyous, kind and fun-loving people everywhere. Sometimes I feel like JazzWax is hosting one giant global jazz picnic. [Pictured: Drummer Teferi Assefa] To read Arefe's blog, go here.
Robben Ford. In the wake of my review of Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton's concert last week, JazzWax reader Stephen Feldman sent along a clip of blues guitarist Robben Ford [pictured]. If you're unfamiliar, dig this.
B.B. King. I thought I'd throw my own hat into the blues ring with this one featuring B.B. King at New York's Sing Sing prison. He performed there in 1972 with Joan Baez. Go here.
Matt Dennis. Here's a clip of the singer-composer-pianist in The Bigamist (1953) with Ida Lupino and Edmond O'Brien. Call me crazy, but I think Lupino could have done a bit better, no?...
Paul Weston. As many readers know, I totally dig Paul Weston's band arrangements. Here's Linda with Matt Dennis backed by Weston's orchestra in the late '40s. Catch Weston's yawning reeds at the end with the double-timing trumpets. What did Weston look like? Here's the answer (sorry the voice and image are out of sync). Be sure to hook your ear to Weston's arrangement as Jo Stafford sings...
Lena Adasheva. Jazz photographer and new New Yorker Lena Adasheva is interviewed by Bret Primack, the Jazz Video Guy, here...
Manny Albam radio. Jazz musician, writer and educator Bill Kirchner hosts Jazz From the Archives tonight on New York's WBGO. His focus will be the great arranger Manny Albam in a variety of settings. Tune in on your computer from anywhere in the world at 11 p.m. (EDT). Go here.
Rockabilly. Ed Leimbacher, host of the blog I Witness, has a fabulous post this week on Rockabilly—the early '50s fusion of rock 'n' roll and country. Go here.
JazzOnline. A relatively new site JazzOnline.com is offering a one-stop shop for jazz surfers by featuring excerpts from many different jazz blogs and sites. Go here.
Roger Singer. Poet Roger Singer sent along a link to his online works at the Outlaw Poetry Network. Go here.
CD discoveries of the week. One of the smartest vocal albums that has crossed my desk this year is Charito's Heal the World. In an earlier music world—when radio mattered more—this album would be a huge adult-contemporary hit. In today's environment, however, it's anyone's guess. So I'm telling you, this album is fabulous. Charito is a vocalist with honey-pure intonation. Here she covers songs made famous by Michael Jackson. No joke. While Jackson certainly brought a certain electricity to everything he took on, Charito actually turns these works into gorgeous torch songs. This is jazz at its best—finding new standards and providing heartfelt, high-quality interpretations. Hats off to producer and drummer Harvey Mason. Sample Rock With You, Man in the Mirror, Human Nature and Never Can Say Goodbye. Trust me, these songs will all have new meaning when you hear them. You'll find this one from Zoho Music at iTunes or here.
There's a lot of Memphis in Magic Sam. And a few other cities, too. The guitarist recorded West Side Soul in 1967, and what you hear is a fascinating mix of soul shouting, blues lines, Stax rhythms and vivid Motown licks. The beauty of this album is it won't sit still. For example, it opens with the Detroit skipper That's All I Need, followed by B.B. King's electric blues I Need You So Bad and the washboard rockabilly Feelin' Good. You put this one on and you'll wind up unable to take it off. It's that addictive. You'll find this one from Delmark at iTunes or here.
Ray Charles Live was recorded at Los Angeles' Shrine Civic Auditorium in 1964. Coming off of his Genius + Soul = Jazz for Impulse in 1961, Charles held onto his big band, using Quincy Jones' book of arrangements. The band included trombonist Julian Priester and saxophonists Hank Crawford and David "Fathead" Newman.The standouts here include Margie, You Don't Know Me, Baby Don't You Cry and What'd I Say. Though One Mint Julep seems to have been miked incorrectly, it, too, is a funky gem. You'll find this one from Concord at iTunes or here.
Offering a first album for free is a smart marketing strategy, especially if you can sing like Brad McNett. It doesn't hurt he has a marvelous pianist behind him in Scott Gwinnell. On this free five-track downloadable album—Introducing Brad McNett—the singer covers Have You Got Any Castles, Baby? Charade, Blackberry Winter, I Wish You Love and Moonlight Saving Time. There's a late-'50s sensibility in his voice—touches of Mel Torme and Frank D'Rone. Again, this one is free to download, and it's really good stuff. Go here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Alto saxophonist Earl Bostic certainly could get you up and dancing with that infectious strip-time beat of his. What's puzzling to me about this cover, though, is why someone would feel so taken by his sound that they'd want to slip into a negligee and head to the nearest stage. Assuming those aren't house curtains, this LP could easily have been retitled, C'mon and Dance to an Audience of Drunks Down at the Docks.