Vocals. Patti Page has always been hit and miss for me. I love the timbre of her voice but she always seemed a hostage of dreadful producers throughout the 1950s. Then a few weeks ago I received From Nashville to L.A.: The Lost Columbia Masters 1963-1969 (Real Gone). While not everything on here is a gem, there are enough to knock you out. Sample I'm Losing You, To Wait My Love, Pickin' Up the Pieces, and Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye among others. If only Page had recorded albums of Bacharach-David's material. You also get to hear who Karen Carpenter must have listened to while polishing her sound.
Sarah Vaughan made several significant recordings in 1958, including No Count Sarah, After Hours at the London House and Vaughan and Violins. In April she was in Amsterdam performing with her trio: Ronnell Bright on piano, Richard Davis on bass and Art Morgan on drums. Fortunately, someone recorded it and the material has just been released on Sarah Vaughan: If This Isn't Love (MCN). Vaughan in her prime in concert. You'll find this recording at Barcelona's Jazz Messengers retail site here. It doesn't appear to be at Amazon and other U.S. online stores.
We tend to think of singer Dionne Warwick as the definitive interpreter of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's songs and one of the most signature pop-soul voices of the '60s. But after her years at Scepter, Warwick recorded extensively for Warner Bros. from 1972 to 1977. Some of the singles were released and some weren't. Now you can grab them all on The Complete Warner Bros. Singles and We Need To Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros. Masters (both Real Gone). Both sets feature Warwick's powerful husky sound.
Jazz (vintage). Zoot Sims and the Gershwin Brothers has just been remastered and re-issued by Concord. Originally issued on Norman Granz's Pablo label in 1975, this album swings from start to finish. Sims is joined by Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, George Mraz and Grady Tate. The CD features three previously unissued bonus tracks. It's hard to figure out whose playing you'll love more here—Sims' or Peterson's. Gorgeous work all around.
Today, Cat Anderson is usually thought of only as one of Duke Ellington's superb high-note trumpeters in the 1940s. But in 1958 and 1959, he recorded as the leader of a big band and a small group of five Ellington bandmembers, and both are superb. The albums were Cat on a Hot Tin Horn and Ellingtonia. Arrangements for the former were written by Anderson and the great Ernie Wilkins while the latter were likely handled by Anderson. You'll find them both on Cat's in the Alley (Fresh Sound). To hear just how gifted Wilkins was, sample You're the Cream in My Coffee.
Another Pablo album that has been remastered by Concord is Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli's Skol, recorded in 1979 in Copenhagen. The pianist and violinist are backed by Joe Pass, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Mickey Roker. Grappelli here is at his absolute best, wrapping enormous sensitivity with tremendous technique and swing. Song choices include Nuages, That's All and I Got Rhythm.
Jazz (contemporary). When Ahmad Jamal dials back his stormy, percussive playing style on Saturday Morning (Jazz Village), he's engaging and sensual. These tracks include I'll Always Be With You, Saturday Morning, I'm in the Mood for Love and I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good. Even on the more jarring pieces, Ahmad has an enormous bag of tricks in his fingertips. He's backed by Reginald Veal on bass, Herlin Riley on drums and Manolo Badrena on percussion. Personally, I wish Ahmad would return to his pretty roots in the '50s but I also realize artists have to move on and break new ground.
Guitarist Bob DeVos has a nifty organ trio album out, Shadow Box (American Showplace), with tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen on several tracks. DeVos knows a thing or two about funky organists. He began his recording career in the late 1970s on albums led by Groove Holmes and Charles Earland. He also gigged with meaty organ groups, including Holmes and Sonny Stitt, Jimmy McGriff and Hank Crawford, and Trudy Pitts and Bill Carney. You hear Grant Green in there but I also hear Joe Diorio. Dig Pensativa, Basie in Mind and Maine Stay. A cooker all the way, with Dan Kostelnik on organ and Steve Johns on drums.
Do you like the way Lisa on the Simpsons plays saxophone? Thank Doug Webb. He's been recording movie and TV music for years as well as with Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard and a wide range of pop artists, including Rod Stewart, Carly Simon and Kenny Rogers. On Another Scene (Posi-Tone). Webb shows off his chops with speed and intensity. Many are originals but he includes Benny Carter's Only Trust Your Heart, Thad Jones' Bird Song and Dave Brubeck's Southern Scene among other off-beat standards. One of my favorites, Antonio Carlos Jobim's Double Rainbow, is also here. Peter Zak is on piano, Dwayne Burno is on bass and Rudy Royston is on drums.
The last time you probably heard the word "dectet" was when Marty Paich arranged one for Mel Torme in 1956. Back then, Paich's "Dek-tette" meant 10 musicians. On guitarist-composer Justin Morell's Subjects and Complements (Sonic Frenzy), you get to hear between 7 and 11 highly trained musicians operate in tight formation on jazz and jazz-classical pieces. This is a fascinating album for anyone who appreciates arranging and a near-cinematic approach by a medium-sized ensemble. Morell's father is John Morell, who worked with Shelly Manne, and his grandfather was Carl Fischer, composer of You've Changed and other standards. Morell now teaches music at Lebanon Valley College in Hershey, Penn. Lucky students.
Pianist Tom McDermott is the Leonard Zelig of jazz pianists. He plays beautifully on Bamboula (Minky) and proves he can slip easily into any milieu. He turns on the classical charm on Opulence but has no trouble with the 1920s on Irresistivel. And then there's a French turn on Musette in a Minor and an Argentine influence on Tango Ambiguo. This is music that comes at you from all directions. The album was curated by Van Dyke Parks, who also wrote the liners. To quote Parks: As a composer, Tom's compositions each read like a good short story, filled with motifs, anecdotes and suspended sub-plots that all resolve in conclusion.
Saxophonist Adam Rongo's Tell Your Story (D Clef) is a hard bop album with occasional ballad detours. Rongo has solid taste in song choices and strong acceleration on up-tempo songs such as Johnny Griffin's Fifty Six, Michael Dease's Good & Terrible and Steve Wilson's Turnin' the Corner. He's also a sharp composer. Sample his Doppelgänger. Solid playing from a newcomer who's on his way.