Curson came up at a time in jazz when the music was exploring a range of new forms, all but ignoring the steady rise of rock and the bourgeois needs of jazz audiences. In the '60s, many jazz artists left for Europe, where they were welcomed and celebrated. In Curson's case, he visited Finland frequently, residing for part of the year and playing jazz festivals there annually.
As disco and jazz fusion grew repetitive in the very early '80s and lost their heat, Curson had greater visibility in New York. Acoustic jazz underwent a revival, largely driven by younger audiences who sought the music's original club sound.
Here's Ted's Tempo from Jubilant Power. The session personnel: Ted Curson (tp,piccolo-tp,flhrn), Chris Woods (as,fl), Nick Brignola (bar,saxello), Andy LaVerne (p), David Friesen (b), Steve McCall (d) and Sam Jacobs (cga)...
Asked to play trumpet in Miller's civilian band when an existing member became ill, Whitey impressed the trombonist-leader. When World War II started, Whitey was stationed at Fort Bragg, where he again met Miller, who was in the service recruiting an orchestra.
Miller chose Whitey for the trumpet section of his Army Air Force Band, and Whitey was soon transferred to Atlantic City, N.J., for rehearsals and then New Haven, Conn., where Miller's band was based until transferring to England in the summer of 1944. Few bands evoked the sentimental sound of home in a more touching and motivating way for many U.S. servicemen during World War II than Miller's Army Air Force Orchestra, and Whitey was an integral part of that sound. Whitey's grandson tells me Whitey continued to play valve trombone up until about three weeks ago.
Read my 2012 interview with Whitey here.
In tribute to Whitey, here's the April 1944 recording of Holiday for Strings...
CD discoveries of the week. Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton's 'Round Midnight (Challenge) is impossibly tasteful. Grad students of Zoot Sims, Stan Getz and all of the other swinging, Prezzed Hermanites, Allen and Scott barrel-roll through a wide range of fun material, from straight-uppers like My Melancholy Baby to mid-tempo change-ups like Hey Lock! They're so easy-peasy that the songs here are almost irrelevant, since you know they could do this kind of minxy blowing on Beethoven's 9th. Baubles, Bangles and Beads is given a sandy bossa nova and Lover is taken up-tempo. But the high point for me is Flight of the Foo Birds, the atomic Basie standard by Neal Hefti. These guys are like two pro bowlers lay down strike after strike. If your ears had wings they'd fly away.
I'm not a huge Porgy and Bess fan—I find almost all versions dated and unmoving. But French trumpeter Mederic Collignon's Porgy and Bess (Minium) from 2006 has managed to get to me. The approach is imaginative, touching and remarkable. Perhaps it's Collignon's patient horn or Franck Woeste's Fender Rhodes or the smart, airy arrangements. Whatever the reason or formula, this is gorgeous stuff, proving that my initial reaction to Gershwin's opera ain't necessarily so.
MusAner's Once Upon a Time (Lucent) is being billed as Armenian folk-jazz fusion. But don't think for a second that this group's album is exotic restaurant music or some kind of Folkways experiment. The musical journey packs ethnic soul, pastoral imagery and loads of technique. While traditional Armenian instruments are used throughout, the music manages to sit squarely in the jazz camp. All of the songs were composed and arranged by pianist Ara Sarkissian, which is remarkable considering how the efforts straddle two different esthetic worlds. This album proves that every culture's music has jazz tucked away inside, and it's not such a bad thing when the jazz dominates a bit. Trust me, this album is going to knock you out. Also perfect for the holidays.
Recorded nearly five years after Thriller, Michael Jackson's Bad produced five No. 1 hit singles, a sixth in the top 10 and a seventh in the top 20. For fans of the album, Legacy recently released Bad25, a four-disc box celebrating the album's quarter-century anniversary. Produced by Quincy Jones, Bad is the overlooked third home run by Jackson (Off the Wall being the first). In retrospect, I find Bad more interesting, collectively, than Thriller. There's more bite and surprise on Bad, and the songs are musically more sophisticated. Re-listen to Man in the Mirror, the sly groove of Don't Be Messin' 'Round and the instrumental tautness of Dirty Diana. Personally, I never quite got the kitschy appeal of Thriller's Halloween-themed title song. Bad25 features the original album; a disc of bonus tracks, unreleased tracks, demos and remixes masters; the live Wembley Stadium concert of July 1988; and a DVD of the same performance. Say what you will, the poor guy really was something.