This collection of 78 rpm singles, all recorded on June 6, 1950, was originally issued in album format in 1956. Several things distinguish this from numerous other quintet recordings featuring these two bebop pioneers. It was recorded during the period that Parker was working under the aegis of producer Norman Granz, whose preference for large and unusual ensembles was notorious. The end result in this case is a date that sounds very much like those that Parker and Gillespie recorded for Savoy and Dial, except with top-of-the-line production quality. Even more interesting, though, is Parker's choice of Thelonious Monk as pianist.
A reissue of the original 1952 Clef recording session, this is one of the few instances in Charlie Parker's later career where he played with something other than a small bebop group. Under contract at the time to Clef's Norman Granz, Parker was encouraged by the label to make recordings that took him out of his familiar settings and put him in with string arrangements, Latin rhythms, and larger band formats. This recording is the result of one of these experiments. Though Joe Lipman's arrangements are stellar, the musicians assembled for the sessions are an odd mix of pop-oriented big-band players and improvisers.
An idiosyncratic, girlish voice, snappy, flawless deliverance, and an irrepressible sense of light-hearted swing made Blossom Dearie one of the most pleasant singers of the vocal era. Her tenderness and glisten ensured that she'd never treat standards as the well-worn songs they often appeared in less competent hands. And though her reputation was made on record with a string of excellent albums for Verve during the '50s, she remained a draw with Manhattan cabaret audiences long into the new millennium.
Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington did not team up in concert until relatively late in their careers (although she did record her Ellington Songbook with him in the '50s). This live double-LP actually finds Fitzgerald singing six numbers with the Jimmy Jones Trio and only "Mack the Knife" and a scat-filled "It Don't Mean a Thing" with the orchestra. Ellington has eight numbers for his band, mostly remakes of older tunes (including a guest appearance by former associate Ben Webster on "All Too Soon," a remarkable Buster Cooper trombone feature, and a rowdy version of "The Old Circus Train Turn-Around Blues"). This is a spirited set of music that with better planning could have been great.
During the three years that he recorded for Verve, flutist Herbie Mann's playing changed from straight bop to incorporating elements of Latin, African and South American music. This CD reissues all of the music from one former LP (Flautista) and several of the selections from two others (The Magic Flute of Herbie Mann and Herbie Mann's Cuban Band). Whether it be with a standard quartet, backed by a string section, jamming with a sextet that includes two percussionists or interacting with a brass section, the flutist is heard in explorative form, satisfying his fertile musical curiosity; he even plays bass clarinet and piccolo on one song apiece. Highlights of this excellent overview of Mann's Verve period include "Baia," "Oodles of Noodles" (Jimmy Dorsey's theme song "Contrasts"), "The Peanut Vendor," "Cuban Patato Chip" and "Caravan."
This single-disc Concert in Japan by John Coltrane's 1966 quintet is a reissue of the original double LP that was released as IMR 9036C in 1973. Its three selections include two long instrumental pieces and a spoken introduction of the musicians in Japanese. These performances are compiled from two Tokyo dates. This set is not to be confused with the four-disc document that includes both Tokyo concerts in their entirety. The band here performs a 25-minute "Peace on Earth," a ballad that Coltrane wrote especially for the tour, to express his empathy and sympathy for the nuclear destruction Japan experienced during WWII. The tune moves outside, but stays well within the realm of spiritual boundary-pushing that the band was easily capable of.
Recorded on August 26, 1965 (and not released until after his death in heavily edited form), Sun Ship was the final recording by John Coltrane's quartet with drummer Elvin Jones, pianist McCoy Tyner, and bassist Jimmy Garrison. After nearly four years together, this band had achieved a vital collective identity. When Coltrane moved toward metrically free styles of rhythm and melody (with tunes often based on one chord or a short series of notes as themes), the quartet's rhythmic pulse and collective interplay evolved accordingly. The title track opens with a splintered theme. Garrison and Jones group dramatically around the leader's call, then rhythmically abstract the pulse; they imply a central rhythm more than state one.
There's no sense of "transition" here – as the album's an incredibly solid one, and stands with John Coltrane's best mid 60s work for Impulse – even if the session wasn't issued by the label until after his early death! The work builds strongly on the Love Supreme vibe – soaring, searching, and finding whole new space in jazz – but all with a unified conception that's driven by an unbridled sense of energy. The group here is the quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums – and we're still quite puzzled why Impulse never managed to get this one released until a few years later! Titles include "Transition", "Dear Lord", and the side-long "Prayer and Meditation" suite.