In the 20th century, the great American composers – simmering in the mighty melting pot – evoked Hollywood glamour, folksy landscapes, irresistible swing, poignant nostalgia, showbiz pzazz, sweet sentiment, streetwise sophistication, and hypnotic minimalistic drive. This 6-CD box – featuring such citizens of the world as Simon Rattle, André Previn, The Labèque Sisters, Renaud Capuçon, Hélène Grimaud and Paavo Järvi – take us on an exhilarating journey across the musical horizons of the USA.
Between 1960 and 1963 Texas tenor Curtis Amy (1927-2002) made six superb albums for Dick Bocks Pacific Jazz label, three of which, Groovin Blue, Way Down, and Tippin on Through, are included here. They were part of Bocks recognition of the emergence on the West Coast scene of a more groove-based, harder swinging approach than the cooler, considered style that preceded it. He chose well. Years of semi-obscurity in L.A. dance bands and organ combos had made Amy a thoroughly seasoned, assertive and inventive player in the mould of fellow tenor, Harold Land; these Pacific albums established him as a major exponent of the new music revitalizing West Coast jazz.
Sun Ra admired George Gershwin and paid musical tribute to the great composer's legacy countless times over his 50-year performing and recording career. This digital-only release, spanning 38 years (1951–1989), compiles some of the best recorded examples of Ra's idiosyncratic takes on the Gershwin catalog. These performances encompass a variety of styles and personnel — full Arkestra, trio with vocalist (Hattie Randolph), duo (Sun Ra and Wilbur Ware), and doo-wop (The Nu Sounds, arranged and accompanied by Sun Ra).
In what was a giant undertaking (even for producer Norman Granz), pianist Oscar Peterson recorded ten Songbook albums during 1952-1954 and when his trio changed, nine more in 1959. Both of his George Gershwin projects (one from 1952 and the other from 1959) have been reissued in full on this single CD. The earlier date matches the brilliant Peterson with guitarist Barney Kessel and bassist Ray Brown, while the 1959 session has Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen. The Songbook series found Peterson playing concise (around three-minute) versions of tunes, and he always kept the melody in the forefront. The results are not innovative or unique, but they are tasteful and reasonably enjoyable. Since five of the songs are played by both groups, a comparison between the two units is interesting.
Philadelphia jazz singer Lou Lanza had an excellent point when he asserted that jazz improvisers who ignore rock and R&B songs "are cutting themselves off from a lot of worthwhile material." Lanza wasn't suggesting that jazz artists should totally give up the Tin Pan Alley standards they've been performing all these years – actually, he's done plenty of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin gems himself – but he was saying that if you're going to use popular songs as vehicles for jazz expression, there is no reason not to interpret Sting, Billy Joel or Prince along with Harry Warren and George Gershwin.