Count Basie at Birdland. This video clip made the rounds last week among jazz insiders, so I thought I'd share it with you. It features TV personality Steve Allen visiting Birdland in July 1956 (ignore the incorrect date at YouTube) to hang with Count Basie and his orchestra. Dig the sax soli on Blee Blop Blues, the second track. Go here.
Art Pepper. Laurie Pepper says she is digitizing her collection of Art Pepper cassette recordings. In the process, she says she's coming across music with audio quality that is too marginal for release. But the music quality is another matter. This week, if you hurry, you can hear a rare recording from 1981 of Red Car captured at Parnell's in Seattle. Art is with Milcho Leviev, David Williams, and Carl Burnett. Go here (the play button is at the top of the page in light green).
Don Byron radio. Jazz musician and historian Bill Kirchner will be focusing on clarinetist-composer-arranger Don Byron tonight on Jazz From the Archives on New York's WBGO. Bill will feature Byron on several of his recordings as a leader plus some of sideman dates with New Orleans pianist Allen Toussaint. The show airs tonight from 11 p.m. to midnight (EDT). You can tune in on your computer from anywhere in the world by going here.
Choppertone. JazzWax reader and Nat King Cole's record promoter Dick LaPalm sent along this clip featuring Nick Francis, a gentleman for whom a stereo system clearly wasn't enough! Go here.
CD discoveries of the week. When gospel and soul overlap, the result is pure magic. This is the case on an album called Like a Ship (Without a Sail), featuring Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir. Recorded in 1971 and self-released by the reverend, the album made it onto CD last year and the result is spectacular. Like the Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1969 with Oh Happy Day, this album features a youth gospel choir backed by a soul ensemble that's so well orchestrated that it nearly steals the show from the vocals. As soon as you sample this one, you'll feel the enormous spirit and feeling of hope in the lyrics and music. Thanks, Harry. You'll find this one (from Light in the Attic) at iTunes or here.
Guitarist Randy Johnston is out with his first leadership CD since 2004. People Music (Random Act) showcases his bluesy side and heady attack, featuring lightning fast runs and a wailing groove. The album's saucy tone is enhanced greatly by organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Carmen Intorre Jr. Tracks include mostly originals but also includes Chick Corea's Humpty Dumpty and Eddie Harris' Cold Duck Time. Turns out Randy also has a terrific singing voice, particularly on Mose Allison's blues Parchman Farm. You'll find this one at iTunes and here.
Pianist Sir Roland Hanna is such a song player that he always sounds like he's pushing the piano around the room. An enormous gifted pianist with a complex technique, the late Hanna brought restless imagination and elan to virtually every song he took on. This is certainly true of his final solo outing, Color From a Giant's Kit (IPO) from 2002. Whether he's rolling Robbins' Nest, tearing through Moment's Notice or digging deep for Naima, Hanna here is exceptional on many levels. My favorite track is Cherokee, which he takes at mid-tempo, teasing out the song's melodic joy without turning it into a rat race. You'll find this one at iTunes and here.
Oddball album cover of the week. JazzWax reader Jim Eigo of Jazz Promo Services sent this one along. I have no idea why this group was called Clancy's Clowns or what kind of music is featured here. What I do know is that the album was recorded in 1961 and produced for Capitol by Lee Gillette. Apparently the musicians worked at Disneyland. Being in the dark, I also have no idea whether the music will make you laugh or cry. Judging by the cover, they certainly don't seem like friendly clowns. For more information, go here.