It's been far too long since my last Sunday Jazz installment, but I'm compelled to post now to mourn the loss of one of my all-time favorite musicians -- the great Joe Sample, who passed away yesterday at age 75. Sample's contributions to the music world are immeasurable, but primarily I will remember him both for his work with the Jazz Crusaders and for some of his great solo music. What once was contemporary jazz is now known (derisively by some) as smooth jazz. Writers far better than I will have much more profound thoughts to share on Sample's music, so I'll just share some of my favorite moments from his long career. First up is a fine Jazz Crusaders side, "Tortoise and the Hare," from the group's 1962 LP Lookin' Ahead. It's a prototypical slice of the particular brand of sou...
One of the things I've always loved about Cannonball Adderley's approach to jazz is how he seamlessly infused elements of R&B and (later) soul into his arrangements. While he could play straight hard bop with the best of them, I think his best output comes from his willingness to expand and experiment. And so this week I want to highlight a song from Cannonball's his first album of the 1970s, Country Preacher (Capitol Records SKAO-404, 1970). It was recorded live in Chicago in October 1969. After a fiery introduction by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Adderley's quintet -- Cannonball on alto sax, Nat Adderley on cornet, Joe Zawinul on piano, Walter Booker on bass, and Roy McCurdy on drums -- busts out a greasy funk-inspired groove on "Walk Tall." This brilliant mix of late '60s funk and...
This piece originally ran in June 2012. I'm running it again as a very small tribute to the late Dave Brubeck, who passed away on Wednesday, December 5 at age 91. I'm in the midst of a fairly comprehensive attempt at helping newcomers to jazz build a good music collection. I'll offer a spoiler here and say that one of the albums on the list is the landmark 1959 Dave Brubeck Quartet record, Time Out. Time Out was one of the albums that really drew me into jazz when I was in the early days of my exploration, and for good reason. It's both cerebral and swingin', and accessible without compromising artistic integrity one bit. The Paul Desmond composition "Take Five" is probably the group's most-known song, but I've always been partial to the opening cut -- Brubeck's "Blue Rondo
One of the downsides to so much good music coming out this year is that I don't get nearly enough time to enjoy or write about everything I want. And so I've been remiss in mentioning one of the many great new albums from this year -- On the Way by Negroni's Trio. I very recently discovered the trio -- Puerto Rican-born pianist José Negroni and his son Nomar on drums, as well as a rotating bassist -- through the magic of the internet and they are my favorite current jazz act. In many ways they've supplanted The Bad Plus as my go-to group for adventurous, muscular jazz. If you really want to get technical, you can consider their music Latin jazz, but that's just a label. What it is is stirring, melodic, daring music that any music fan can appreciate. On the Way -- the group's seventh
I offered up a selection of four tracks for a Halloween jazz playlist last year, and I'm back for more this year. These tunes are perfect for setting a spooky, fun mood -- whether you're setting out for trick or treat or holding a classy (and classic) retro Halloween party of your own! Each of these selections has a YouTube video that's up for now, and I've also embedded a Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post. Speaking of which... (Spotify users — you can listen to these and other featured Sunday Jazz songs by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.) Kay Starr -- "The Headless Horseman" Artie Shaw -- "Nightmare" The Casa Loma Orchestra -- "The House Is Haunted" The Boswell Sisters -- "Heebie Jeebies" Henry Hall and his Orchestra (vocals by Val Rosing) -
I see at least half a dozen PR emails a day concerning albums and projects I have little interest in. So it figures that I missed the February release of PolCat, the debut album from a project featuring Chris Poland, one of my all-time favorite guitarists. The name, I'm certain, comes from Poland and tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano, who make up half of this astoundingly talented quartet. How I stumbled upon this album is not important -- I'm just glad I did. It's one of the freshest, most enjoyable releases of any genre I've heard this year, and hopefully points the way to more output from this group. I haven't heard much of anything from Catalano prior to this album, but his sax playing is agile and tuneful. Likewise, the rhythm section of bassist Sean O’Bryan Smith and drummer
School is almost out for the summer for a lot of kids in the U.S., but they can still learn! And what better topic to learn about than jazz? That's what Julian "Cannonball" Adderley must've thought, as he narrated a 1961 album called A Child's Introduction to Jazz. It was released on Riverside Records (RLP 1435) as part of their "Wonderland" series, designed to teach kids about a variety of topics in an entertaining way. Throughout, Adderley narrates the history of jazz and talks about the genre's roots in work songs, blues, and ragtime, and brings the listener through Dixieland, Swing, and Bebop. He also explains the instrumental makeup and musical structure of jazz. Numerous songs and clips back up his lessons, which makes the whole experience rather rich and informative. Some of t
I'll cop to not being a huge fan of the Swing Era of jazz. I certainly appreciate it for its rich history and cultural importance, but the jazz I love the most starts with the Bebop era in the mid-1940s. Still, one of my favorite tunes ever is "Swingmatism" by Jay McShann & His Orchestra, particularly the rendition I'm presenting today. Now according to the video, this cut of "Swingmatism" was recorded with Charlie Parker on alto saxophone. I'm not enough of a historian to know any better, but it matters little. It absolutely sizzles and swings like few compositions from the era. So enjoy! (Spotify users — you can listen to this and other featured Sunday Jazz songs by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)
The historic Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) concert series started by Verve impresario Norman Granz debuted at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on July 2, 1944. It was a star-studded affair, featuring legends such as Buddy Rich, Lester Young, Nat King Cole, Illinois Jacquet, Les Paul, J.J. Johnson, and others. The fascinating thing about the recordings from this show is they serve as an excellent document of the bridge period between the late Swing era and the dawn of Bebop. I've updated by Spotify Sunday Jazz playlist with some choice cuts from the excellent compilation album The Complete Jazz at the Philharmonic on Verve, 1944-1949. Additionally I'd like to share some photos of that first JATP show, taken by Life magazine photographer Gjon Mili.