Jazz musicians of any renown will eventually tour and record in Japan, but Midge Williams must be the only American artist whose recording career actually began there. She recorded in both Japanese and English in the '30s, working with local groups in China as well as Japan - all signs of the accomplished versatility that would later make her in demand with great jazz bandleaders such as Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, and Teddy Wilson. This singer was not always content to be a vocalist in someone else's band, no matter how big their names were, so she also fronted her own group known as Midge Williams & Her Jazz Jesters.
The premiere Cuban music group Irakere has played Ronnie Scott's club in London regularly since 1985. Their Jazz House CD starts out with a throwaway salsa vocal piece, then has two impressive showcases for German Velazco (one apiece on alto and soprano). "Stella By Stalight" (which in Spanish is "Estella Va A Estallar") is swung hard and the closing, nearly 17-minute rendition of Dave Brubeck's "The Duke" has explosive yet lyrical piano playing by Chucho Valdes and some shouting choruses worthy of the Count Basie Orchestra. Overall this is one of Irakere's jazz recordings that is easily recommended.
Another gem from the creative Beegie Adair and her trio. This time, she is accompanied by Jeff Steinberg and his orchestra. A loving tribute to Tony Bennett and his illustrious career. As usual, Beegie includes one selection on the album where she plays solo piano and she picked 'I Left My Heart In San Francisco'. A beautiful rendition. This is a great album tinged with jazz overtones without losing the melodic memories of Tony's original sound. The orchestra is perfectly balanced and adds just the right touch while still allowing the familiar Beegie Adair Trio sound to shine through. If you are new to Beegie's music, this album will make you a convert to her impeccable sound and those like myself, have added it as another gem to her large catalog of great music.
The three albums tenorman Bill Barron made as a leader for Savoy Records in early 60s embody every facet of this accomplished jazzman as a talented soloist, composer and arranger. And, despite the similarities in their harmonic ideas, Barron was not a slavish disciple of John Coltrane.
The Tenor Stylings of Bill Barron is the debut album by saxophonist Bill Barron which was recorded in 1961 and first released on the Savoy label. This recording displays all the why's and wherefore's as to his unsung greatness, showcasing his clever compositions and his clear, distinct, definite tenor tone that holds allegiance to no peer or predecessor. The Tenor Stylings Of Bill Barron somehow was engineered for sharper and more assertive sound reproduction, clarifying the roles of the instruments within each piece. Furthermore, the compositions on the album are based upon single themes for the most part.
Backed by some of the top bop players of the day, Al Cohn stretches out here for a program heavy with up-tempo swingers. Cut in two sessions during 1950 and 1953, Cohn's Tones finds the usually more mellow tenor great feeding off the driving drum work of both Tiny Kahn and Max Roach. Besides the ballad evergreen "How Long Has This Been Going On" and a bluesy "Ah-Moore," the eight-track set is all Cohn originals done in a Lester Young-on-the-West Coast style. Also featuring the talents of pianist Horace Silver, this early Cohn release is at once hot and cool, vigorous and lithe.
The quirky music of the Microscopic Septet defies classification, other than it is swinging jazz blended with R&B and a host of other influences, full of twists and turns, yet remaining very catchy and accessible. Their debut LP originally came out on the Press label and was finally reissued as a Koch CD in 1998. Much like the musicians that made up Spike Jones' City Slickers in the 1940s, only some very talented players could follow these demanding charts; yet unlike the comparison to Jones' records, there is nothing that is obviously or purely cornball about this music.
A new box set, collecting four albums released between 1983 and 1986, is a fascinating look at the early stages of an underrated UK post-punk act.