JazzWax is a democratic space. I write six days a week, and you are invited to agree, disagree or add information in the Comments section below each post. I just have two rules: No four-letter words and no abrasive remarks. How can you access this section? It's simple. Just go to the bottom of a daily post. There, you'll see a blue Comments link. Click and follow along.
From time to time, you may notice that your comment hasn't been posted. That's usually not your fault. I have a sophisticated spam filter programmed with a wide range of words to halt all retail junk posts. If you do not see your comment shortly after hitting the button, send me an email. It's probably stuck in my spam filter, and I'll free it. Please know that comments I disagree with—even those that take me to task—are eligible for posting. It's all part of this site's commitment to freewheeling.
Jordi Pujol. Speaking of comments, my interview with Fresh Sounds Records owner Jordi Pujol [pictured] last week drew quite a range of remarks—some posted under the Comments section and many others sent directly to me by email. Most readers were gratified to learn more about Pujol and the European copyright laws from the perspective of a business owner. Others took me to task for giving him space. Negative comments ranged from calling the interview a "press release" to charging me with "climbing into bed with a thief."
For those not in the know, Pujol releases American jazz albums from the '50s here on CDs that are in the public domain in Europe under their copyright laws.
I think the negative remarks sort of missed my point. This blog isn't an agent for jazz artists or their relatives, though I love them dearly and I'm friends with most of them. It's also not a cheerleader site for the record industry. The sole reason why I write six days a week is to inform the music-buying consumer—the JazzWax reader—who is looking for great music, seeks a bit of history and wants informed, unbiased recommendations.
In fact, I always try to see things from the reader's perspective first—not from the viewpoint of jazz artists, record companies or jazz cliques. Frankly, I can't think of a single jazz musician who has ever complained to me about their earlier works being re-issued by Fresh Sound. Most have told me they're happy that the label has kept their names and music alive when American record labels have failed to do so.
What's more, I don't set Europe's copyright laws. All I know is that Fresh Sound's CDs are available for sale legally in the U.S. at major online retailers. I have no financial arrangement with Pujol—no ads, no liner-notes projects and no free product arriving by mail. I just think consumers (you) have a right to know what's out there so you can buy what you wish—free from the politics of jazz.
And let's not forget that if it weren't for Pujol and Fresh Sound, we'd never know how most of the jazz albums recorded in the 1950s sound. You don't like that these CDs from Spain are sold here or that Pujol operates under another continent's set of copyright laws? Don't buy them. However, people who love the music and can't afford collectors' prices for LPs want them, which compels me to write about them and Pujol. If you harbor a beef, it really should be directed at American record companies that have steadfastly refused to release these albums, granting Pujol a smart business niche.
Note to grumpy Fresh Sound detractors: Want the rare Presenting the Buddy DeFranco/Tony Gumina Quartet and the equally rare Pacific Standard (Swingin'!) Time by the same group on Mercury? Go here for the first LP and here for the second. They'll cost you $69 and $50, respectively, plus shipping.
Note to the rest of you: Both albums are now available on one Fresh Sound CD selling legally for $14.76. You do the math.
WDR Big Band radio. Tonight, jazz musician Bill Kirchner hosts Jazz From the Archives on New York's WBGO with a focus on the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany. Since the 1980s, the WDR band has collaborated with many guest singers. Bill will be spinning WDR Big Band discs featuring vocalists Patti Austin, Fay Claassen, Kevin Mahogany and Helen Schneider with arrangements by Michael Abene, Bob Brookmeyer and Bill Dobbins. Bill's show will air tonight from 11 p.m. to midnight (EST). You can listen on your computer from anywhere in the world by going here.
Daniela D'Ercole (1979-2011), an Italian jazz vocalist who had recently moved to New York with hopes of recording and gaining visibility, died after being struck by an SUV on Broadway and 106th St. Friday night. She was 32. The accident occurred just moments after she exited a cab and reportedly dashed across the street against the light carrying an umbrella. The driver who hit her remained at the scene and wasn't charged. According to a doorman quoted in the New York Post, "She had one eye open, took a deep breath and that was it. It seemed she didn't even see that car coming it happened so fast." What a sad, sad story. Here's D'Ercole's website, where you can hear her sing I'll Close My Eyes.
Gordon Beck (1935-2011), a British jazz pianist who played most often as a sideman on a range of superb jazz albums led by other musicians, died Nov. 6. He was 76. One of Beck's finest outings was on Tubby Hayes' Down in the Village, which was recorded live at Ronnie Scott's club in London in 1962. He also played organ on Herbie Hancock's Blow-Up soundtrack, recorded with Phil Woods, and accompanied singer Helen Merrill on three splendid albums, No Tears...No Goodbyes (1984), Music Makers (1986) and the Irving Berlin Album (1987). Here's Beck with Tubby Hayes in '62...
CD discoveries of the week. The last time Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Gene Wright and Joe Morello performed together as a quartet before disbanding was on December 26, 1967 in Pittsburgh. Dave, fully aware of the concert's historic significance, recorded it. Now Sony has released Brubeck: Their Last Time Out, a two CD set capturing the gig. All of the usual song suspects are here, including Someday My Prince Will Come, Swanee River, These Foolish Things, You Go to My Head and Take Five. But perhaps the most gripping tune of all is Wright's Set My People Free, which perfectly captures the civil rights tone at the time. You'll find this one at iTunes or at Amazon.
I'm generally not a big fan of the jazz harmonica. The instrument always sounds like it's trying too hard to fit in and in the process drags everyone else into sticky, sentimental territory. But Hendrik Meurkens' Live at Bird's Eye (Zoho), recorded in Basel, Switzerland, works beautifully—largely because of his bossa nova choices. What's more, it turns out Meurkens is quite an accomplished and lyrical vibraphonist. This is a beautiful album that will warm your heart. Dig Amazonas, Estate and Voce Val Ver. You'll find this one at iTunes and at Amazon.
Delicate drummer Duduka Da Fonseca's Plays Toninho Horta (Zoho), was recorded in 2009 and swings with florid passion. The music of this trio is as pretty as rain rolling off roses. Da Fonseca is joined by pianist David Feldman and bassist Guto Wirtti. Works by Brazilian guitarist-composer-singer Horta are exceptionally spirited without slipping into cliches. What I like most about Da Fonseca is his tender heat and soft insistence. Dig Aqui Oh!, Waiting for Angela and Retrato Do Gato. You'll find this one at iTunes and at Amazon.
Another new upbeat, Brazilian-themed CD is Essentially Hermeto from vibist Erik Charlston. His JazzBrasil group includes Ted Nash (reeds and flute), Mark Soskin (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), Rogerio Boccato (drums) and Cafe (percussion). Nearly all of the tracks are by Hermeto Pascoal, a Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist. Dig Paraiba, Frevo Rasgado and Viva O Rio De Janeiro. You'll find this one at iTunes and at Amazon.
Oddball album cover of the week. Clearly Philadelphia's Wyncote Records was too small to afford proofreaders. Or the art director was pink-slipped and, as a parting gag, lined up this shoot for the album title. I actually have this recording, and it's pure space age Hammond showroom stuff, circa 1960. Hey, sometimes an organ album is, well, just an organ album.