Singer Nancy Wilson shocked audience members at B.B. King's Blues Club and Grill in New York last night by announcing that the performance would be her last club date before retiring. According to Miss Wilson's website, she has only one more concert scheduled—at the Ohio University in September.
Miss Wilson's remarks came at the start of her show and produced gasps and shouts of "no" from a startled sold-out house. "I want to go home, and stay home," she said, explaining her decision whimsically but earnestly. The 74-year-old Miss Wilson has been performing for nearly 60 years and has recorded more than 70 albums.
Miss Wilson proceeded to sing for 90 minutes, adding a rare encore of her 1964 hit, How Glad I Am. Following her announcement, both Miss Wilson and the audience seemed to understand the singular importance of last night's performance, with Miss Wilson taking on songs that were not on her official play list and the audience shouting out remarks and words of encouragement between songs.
Good news and bad news. The good news in CD land is that more new albums that cross my desk are worth listening to. The ideas are better, the artists are better informed and the concepts are more captivating. Which means it's growing harder to for me to reject music to review. [Pictured: Georgia O'Keeffe hand on back tire of Ford V8, 1933, Alfred Steiglitz]
Now the bad news. The sonic quality of the recordings is growing poorer, and I'm not sure why. In many cases, perfectly good artists are being ruined by subpar producers, engineers and studios that seem to have little clue about what they're doing. The bass is rubbery and distorts, the high end fizzles, and the mid range sounds distant.
What all of this means going forward is that I won't be reviewing albums that are poorly recorded and mixed. It's just not fair to readers who care about such things and expect better. Musicians' creative efforts are wasted today if they aren't going to prudently select studios and carefully monitor how they are being recorded and mastered. [Pictured: Fluther, 2011, Penelope Davis, Type C photograph]
My advice to musicians is this: Make sure you are using studios and engineers that truly know what they're doing. Before you engage, ask for the last three albums recorded there and give a listen. Without doing your due diligence, you're taking great digital photos but bringing them to a drugstore for printing.
Candido and (U)nity. Conga legend Candido Camero recently sat in with (U)nity, a Latin-jazz ensemble, in New Jersey. The band is comprised of Axel Laugart on keyboard, Amaury Acosta on drums, Max Cudworth on alto sax, Mike Rodriguez on trumpet, Chris Smith on bass, Michael Valeanu on guitar and Maricio Herrera on percussion. Here's the result...
Jazz Session request. Jason Crane is coming up on his 300th Jazz Session show. Jason runs what amounts to an audio jazz blog. He interviews jazz artists by phone and packages the result into free podcasts. You'll find his great site here. But like all good things these days, he's facing a cash crunch. The expense of conducting these interviews is taking its toll, and he is looking to raise capital. Jason says that if he isn't able to hit his target, No. 300 will be his final show. To see the various levels of contribution and what you will receive for your generous dollars, go here.
Michael Brecker and Bret Primack. Jazz Video Guy Bret Primack interviewed the late Michael Brecker here just after Grover Washington Jr. died in December 1999...
Don and Dave Bartholomew. Dave Bartholomew is a trumpeter who arranged and played on Fats Domino's early great hits. When I was down in New Orleans last fall to interview Fats, I had lunch with Dave and his son Don. Here's a video clip of Don's rap group, Supastarz. The song, Born in the Country, is Dave's. Don reloaded it as a rap song, and that's Dave in the beginning and throughout. Don produced the song, co-produced the video and appears in it...
Bill Kirchner and Jerry Dodgion. In 2004, saxophonist Bill Kirchner interviewed saxophonist Jerry Dodgion at Rutgers University's Institute of Jazz Studies. Dodgion shared a range of stories, including a birthday celebration with Charlie Parker and other musicians. To listen to Bill's roundtable, go here.
Buddy Holly & Co. There are plenty of "mania" groups—musicians who perform as rock legends. Beatlemania is probably among the best known. Yesterday, JazzWax reader Jo Martin in Iowa brought to my attention this one, John Mueller's Winter Dance Party, which performs nationwide and pays tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper...
CD discoveries of the week. Drummer Mike Melito leads a hardbop sextet on The Right Time, serving up one terrific track after the next. On his new release, you'll find Mike's take on John Coltrane's Pristine and Just for the Love as well as Sonny Clark's Royal Flush. Also here are Clifford Brown's Daahoud, Gigi Gryce's Nica's Tempo and three by contemporary colleagues Steve Fishwick (New Bossa), band trumpeter John Marshall (Tailwind) and bassist Neal Miner with Night Owls, featuring sharp solos by baritone saxophonist Frank Basile, guitarist Bob Sneider, pianist Dino Losito and Miner. Mike's stickwork throughout this album is driving and crisp without ever crowding out his bandmates. His brushwork is equally spot on. You'll find this one here.
Another powerful hardbop entry is Ernie Krivda's Blues for Pekar (that's Harvey Pekar, the cartoonist who died in July 2010). Krivda moves fast on the tenor saxophone with a hard-edge tone that is direct, distinct and honest. Which is clearly why Pekar adored him. Wait until you hear what the quartet (plus guest trumpeter) does with The End of a Love Affair and Dexter Gordon's Fried Bananas. The group is joined by trumpeters Sean Jones and Dominick Fariniacci on tracks. Krivda comes to play on each track, and you're rewarded by the aggression. You'll find this one at iTunes and here.
It's a shame the Latin Grammy disappeared. Jose Rizo's Mongorama would have been a shoo-in. This tribute to conguero Mongo Santamaria has all the hypnotic energy and seductive punch of Mongo's 1960s albums. The nonet is made up of Grammy winners, and special guests include Hubert Laws and Poncho Sanchez. The album was produced by Rizo and Oscar Hernandez, with arrangements by Hernandez and Francisco Torres. Dig Asi Es La Vida and Que Maravilloso. You'll find this one at iTunes and here.
Oddball album cover of the week. I have nothing against prayer or traditional values. Nor do I have anything against the heartland. I love all of it. But for a vocalist like Jo Stafford, this 1954 Columbia cover seems like a strange way to market the singer, even in her spiritual phase. If you picked up this album today, you'd think the cover subject was Jo herself. Except when this album was released, Stafford was 37 years old. Then again, working for Tommy Dorsey could age you.