Last week, the European Union agreed to extend the copyright law to protect recorded music to 70 years—up from the current 50-year period. While the European extension still falls short of U.S. copyright law for recorded works—95 years—the move is big news.
Why? For jazz recorded in the '40s and '50s, the proverbial horse is out of the barn. Since the 1990s, companies based in European countries have been releasing American jazz albums on LP and CD without fear of copyright law restrictions. That's because the 50-year period there made American recordings fair game starting in 1990, enabling European companies to go hog wild. Think Fresh Sound, Gambit, LoneHill and many others.
But as this 50-year rolling wave of expirations neared the really big money—American rock and soul recordings of the '60s—one has to assume that record-label conglomerates (many of which are now foreign owned and transnational in behavior) surely exerted enormous influence and pressure on European lawmakers to change the game-board rules. Otherwise, Spain's Fresh Sound would be releasing its own version of Capitol's Meet the Beatles in 2014.
American subsidiaries of the major record companies have been in a cold sweat and hedging their bets for years. To head off European company ambushes that would have started shortly if the law hadn't been changed, many labels like Sony, EMI, Universal and Concord have been issuing boxes featuring an artist's complete works. The move was, to some extent, a business decision to complete sales before European companies with racks of hard drives, a clever art director and smart lawyer got into the act.
The good news is that prized recordings of rock and soul records won't be released by Europe's micro labels (some call them pirates). The bad news for Americans is that box sets might now slow to a crawl as labels begin to realize that they have another 20 years to sell us the same recordings over and over again with alternate takes.
But if there's a silver lining to all of this (besides artists making money), here it is: No longer fearful of a feeding frenzy by European buccaneer labels, major record companies holding vast catalogs of American music are now more likely to develop a new higher level of fidelity that allows for finer sounding releases to stimulate interest. After all, sonic quality will once again be a selling point, making new remastering technology worthy of corporate investment.
Jon Hendricks radio. My boy "Symphony" Sid Gribetz is hosting a five-hour radio broadcast today showcasing the career of Jon Hendricks, the viceroy of vocalese. Tune in today, from 2 to 7 p.m. You can listen in from anywhere in the world on your computer by going here. And you can read my interview with Jon Hendricks here.
More Sinatra-Basie. Following my post last week on the new Sinatra-Basie set from Concord that combines the two studio albums that the pair recorded in the early '60s, JazzWax reader Peter Sokolowski sent along this clip of the Chairman and the Count...
Experiment in Excellence. Back in the early '60s, director Raymond De Felitta's father Frank directed and produced a series of television documentaries for NBC. Here's Mr. De Felitta's Experiment in Excellence, an in-depth look at a Pittsburgh teacher and her technique for enriching her students. The narration is naturally dated in places. But focus on Mr. De Felitta's careful eye for photographic detail and cinematic perspective. You also start out disliking the teacher, but watch as students respond and grow as a result of her firm, helpful style. Go here.
Marie-Fatima Rudolf. Canadian filmmaker Randy Cole looks at pianist Marie-Fatima Rudolf in a video documentary here...
A verse vacation. Take a breather during the day by digging the prose of Kimberly Kaye at her blog, The Trouble With Poet. I'm a regular visitor. Her poems always allow your mind to think freely in the middle of a rigid, get-it-done day. Think of her works as jazz for the eyes. Go here.
Basie stories. Former Down Beat managing editor and JazzWax reader Jim Szantor sent along a couple of Basie stories:
"As great a player as Frank Foster was, he was never the main soloist during his long tenure with Basie. It was either Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis, Eric Dixon or Billy Mitchell. Basie always thought Foster was too modern-sounding and preferred guys like Jaws—which he states at the Albert Murray biog.
"Here's a great story told to me by tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico when I interviewed him for Down Beat (June 25, 1970 issue). Nistico was hired in 1964 to replace 'Lockjaw' Davis, but Jaws wanted to return earlier than was planned.
"When Basie called Nistico in to tell him he was out of a job, they had a nice long talk, which ended with Basie saying, 'Sal, you're a great player, but Eddie gives me that church thing that I need.' To which Nistico replied: 'I think we went to different churches!'
Speaking of humor.... Here's comedian Louis C.K. on life's changes...
Crime Jazz. In the wake of my post last week on five favorite jazz albums devoted to crime and action TV shows, JazzWax reader Bill DeBauche wrote to inform me that Darrell Brogden in Lawrence, Kan., recently hosted an Internet radio show devoted to this genre (don't you just love the web?). Go here.
Hal Blaine-TV. Here's a magical clip sent along by Wrecking Crew drummer and Las Vegas entertainer Hal Blaine.
CD discoveries of the week. Chris Connor Sings Gentle Bossa Nova (Just a Memory) was a point of departure for the jazz vocalist. But the newly issued CD is groovy just the same. Recorded in 1965, this was Chris' first stab at 60s pop after nearly a decade of recording superb jazz albums. There are 12 tracks here—all arranged in a sultry bossa nova tempo by Pat Williams. What's fascinating about this album are Chris' breathy and unusual note choices, particularly on Downtown, A Taste of Honey and A Hard Day's Night. She also delivers powerful, feline renditions of The Shadow of Your Smile and Who Can I Turn To. My three favorites: Can't Get Over the Bossa Nova, A Quiet Thing and Stranger on the Shore. All are out of sight. Mix the whiskey sours! You'll find my interview with Chris here. And you'll find this one at iTunes and here.
Singer-songwriter and pianist Jon Regen has an original jazz-soul style on Revolution (JRM) that leverages the introspective Saturday-night spirit of Billy Joel and Leon Russell. Regen's approach on his album's originals is smoky, with a gentleness that's missing from many new albums today. Dig the mid-tempo ballad Excuse Me But It's Not Supposed to End Like This. Or the rocking instrumental Fighting for Your Love. Regen's quite a songwriter. And singer. And keyboard player. This album brings all of his many talents together for good-time feel that's never oppressive. Songs are compact but also deeply sentimental. You'll find this one at iTunes and here.
Pianist Michel Camilo is tasty without being tempestuous. On Mano a Mano (Decca), he takes on a wide range of jazz standards as well as originals—giving all a tropical feel. On the album, Camilo works with bassist Charles Flores and, interestingly, conguero Giovanni Hidalgo. By steering clear of the trap drums, Camilo's sound on the keyboard is more pronounced and vulnerable. His chops are gently percussive, especially with the conga along for the ride. Listen to the curvy and softly dramatic renditions of The Sidewinder, Rice and Beans and Naima, a mind-blower. You'll find this one at iTunes and here.
Trumpeter and flugelhornist Claudio Roditi deserves much more praise and attention than he has received thus far. His playing is always razor sharp, and his ideas are lyrical and deeply touching. On Bons Amigos (Resonance), Roditi once again taps into his inner Brazilian and emerges with a breezy collection of originals and songs by composer-friends. Want to fall in love with Roditi's playing? Sample Eliane Elias' Para Nada. Or Johnny Alf's Ceu e Mar. Or Antonio Carlos Jobim's rarely heard Ligia, on which Roditi contributes an achingly beautiful vocal. You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
As we move into the season where you have to generate your own heat, a good place to start is with the Mambo Legends Orchestra, which is comprised of former members of the Tito Puente Orchestra. On its new two-CD set Watch Out! (Zoho), this old-school band is steeped in mambo, rumba and cha-cha-cha as well as '70s son and salsa. But there's plenty of jazz here, too, with horns galore. Sample the finger-snapper Rareza Del Siglo. This band is so prolific and percussively pungent that one CD wasn't enough. And you know what? It's a good thing! You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Back in the early '60s, air travel was the equivalent of today's iPad. You didn't have to do much to be amazed, and everything you experienced seemed otherworldly. A huge thing with wings that weighed tons lifted off and flew to the other side of the country or across oceans in just hours. During this early age of jet travel, someone in the record business decided that consuming the world in a short period of time was even more exciting and attractive than just arriving in one place in one piece. A sequel to this album might have been 1001 Meals in a Half Hour.