Nancy Wilson's not the first name in bluesy jazz (check out Dinah Washington and Joe Williams for that), but she usually can enliven the form with her sophisticated and sultry style. That's made clear on her rendition of "Stormy Monday Blues," where she eschews blues clichés in favor of a husky airiness, at once referencing a lowdown mood and infusing it with a sense of buoyancy. This split is nicely essayed on Capitol's Blues and Jazz Sessions, as half the tracks ooze with Wilson's cocktail blues tone and the other find the jazz-pop chanteuse in a summery and swinging mood. Ranging from the big band blues of "I've Got Your Number" to the lilting bossa nova "Wave," Wilson handles all the varying dynamics and musical settings with aplomb. Featuring cuts from her '60s prime with the likes of Cannonball Adderley, Oliver Nelson, George Shearing, Gerald Wilson, and a host of top sidemen, this best-of disc offers a fine, off-the-beaten-path overview of Wilson's Capitol heyday.
Vocalist/cornet player Al Basile's longtime friend Duke Robillard gets front cover billing, as well he should, as co-producer and guitarist on this impressive outing. The album, Basile's fifth, was even recorded at the guitarist's Pawtucket, RI studio called the Mood Room, hence the album's title. Musically, it's a combination of old-school R&B ("Baby Sister," "Be a Woman"), swamp-tinged rock & roll ("I'm in a Mood"), mid-tempo, Chuck Berry styled groovers ("Coffee and Cadillacs"), grinding blues ("Picked to Click") and even a jump blues throwback to the duo's Roomful of Blues days ("She's on the Mainline"). Robillard keeps the sound full yet stripped down – most of the tracks feature a standard three-piece – bass/drums/guitar setup – which leaves space for Basile's sly vocals and snappy lyrics. Basile, a teacher and fiction author who also has a Master's degree in creative writing, not surprisingly crafts lyrics that are far more imaginative and original than most blues artists'. But they never detract from these melodies that glide along sparked by Robillard's tasty licks.
Very nice set of Mingus' legendary Candid recordings – produced in 1960, after Mingus angrily departed Columbia records, and was finally given the freedom to work in the way that he wanted. The recordings are some of Mingus best – and they feature a righteous anger and sheer jazz power that's unmatched by few other recordings.