The last time New York was in such an agitated psychological state, the date was September 11, 2001. Starting on Friday with a steady drumbeat of fear by the media, city residents began snapping up batteries, radios, water, food, food and more food in advance of Hurricane Irene. Duct tape flew off hardware store shelves as did rolls of plastic, flashlights and battery operated lamps. The news has been scary for days, but perhaps for good measure. Who knows how this will play out by day's end? The truth is we New Yorkers don't quite know how to prepare or deal with natural disasters or storms with winds in excess of 70 mph.
We're good in a man-made crisis. But when something happens like an earthquake or a hurricane, we flip out. We're not used to stuff being bigger than us, and the winds, flooding and flying debris are things we see on national news reports but don't expect ever to happen here.
As my wife and I stopped to chat with a store owner in our neighborhood Friday afternoon, we listened as the shopkeeper tried to figure out whether to put wood panels outside the store or inside. "First an earthquake, now a hurricane," she said. "At least that's about all we can experience, right?" We all were quiet for a few seconds then exchanged nervous glances. "Oh yeah," she said, "a tsunami." [Photo: Michael Appleton for The New York Times]
So I did what any jazz fan would do in such a situation. I put on Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey from the early '40s. Hey, if those tracks were able to settle down a nation inching toward a world war, they seemed perfect for a historic hurricane.
Nick Ashford (1941-2011), whose songs written with his wife Valerie Simpson resulted in some of the most uplifting and optimistic pop-soul hits of the 1960s, died on August 22. Here are two of my favorite Ashford and Simpson compositions. The first is California Soul and the second is Ain't No Mountain High Enough...
Ross Barbour (1928-2011), a founder of the Four Freshmen and the last member of the original quartet, died August 20. In addition to envisioning the concept of a hip tight-harmony group, Barbour was responsible for its swinging rhythm. Here are the Four Freshmen in the early '50s with Barbour on drums, Bob Flanigan on bass, Don Barbour on guitar, and Hal Kratzsch on trumpet...
Bootsie Barnes. Here's the tenor saxophonist at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival earlier this year, courtesy of Bret Primack...
CD discoveries of the week: Alto saxophonist Herb Geller has lived in Germany for some time and has recorded there extensively. His latest release, Halle Opera House 2002 (Hep), is a strong album with alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano, who died in June 2009. The two '50s legends work through a full slate of standards that includes All the Things You Are, Stella by Starlight and Spring Is Here. This is listening music, since you will want to hear how these two giants interact and clash. It's a bit of a wrestling match, too, since you sense each artist grabbing hold and trying to flip over the other with a strong solo. For my interview with Herb, go here. You'll find this one here.
Producer and jazz-gold prospector Dr. Robert Sunenblick has done it again with Doin' the Gigi (Uptown)—a new CD of rare Gigi Gryce recordings. The tracks were recorded between 1957 and 1961, and feature the alto saxophonist with different groups and in different settings. The 1957 date was recorded at the Golden Thread Cafe at the Hotel New Yorker. Hugh Downs announces, and Gryce is joined by Cecil Payne, Duke Jordan, Wendell Marshall and Art Taylor. The 1960 date is from a demo disc for the Willard Alexander Agency at Nola's Penthouse Sound Studios. Gryce's quintet includes Richard Williams, Richard Wyands and an unknown bassist and drummer. In 1961, Gryce recorded at the A&R Recording Studio with Williams, Eddie Costa, Wyands, Julian Euell and Mickey Roker. Finally, the same group is featured live at Birdland. The sound quality is very good throughout and the playing is superb. As you'll hear, Gryce is at the top of his game. You'll find this one here.
Flashpoint (Mister Shepherd), David White's new album, is a shocker. First, you're probably not familiar with David, a first-rate trombonist, composer and arranger. Second, his big band album is a head snapper. The arrangements have a hushed Ellingtonian elan and sophistication, which says a great deal about David's taste and ability to deliver. All of the tracks were composed by David as well. Sample Love in a Blue Time, Secrets and First Lullaby. You'll find this one at iTunes and here.
Deep Purple: MKIII The Final Concerts (Eagle) is just one of several remastered double-CD albums from the British hard rock band from the early 1970s. Deep Purple was among the first bands in the late 1960s and early 1970s to figure out how to fill new arenas with a tremendous electric sound. Back then, arenas such as Madison Square Garden in New York and The Forum in Los Angeles had just opened. Built for local basketball and hockey teams, rock bands began to book the dark nights. Deep Purple was among the best of the genre. This set features the band's best rendition of Smoke on the Water. You'll find this one at iTunes and here.
Oddball album cover of the week: Women from outer space were always portrayed as wide-eyed aliens and easy planetary prey. Perhaps it was their Neptunian naivete or Saturnian curves, but when placed on earth, these galactic gals were an easy mark for male earthlings. Here's one of those Venusian vixens now for a 1956 album by Muzak maestro Sid Bass.