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Showing posts from August, 2013

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane: An Impulse Records Classic You May Have Missed

Duke Ellington and John Coltrane:  The Impulse album from 1963, is one of a string of self conscious albums done by John Coltrane after his recent Village Vanguard concerts of 1961.

Both critics and fans were not universally enamored with the new tones coming out his horn.

 Ballads, this album, and his pairing with the silky smooth  Johnny Hartman, were decidedly more palatable to the critic. All of these albums sold well, and reaffirmed Coltrane's roots in the tradition.

I also happen to think all of those records are quite underrated.

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane begins with the simplest of piano accompaniment from Duke:  "In a Sentimental Mood" bleeds romance, the up front in the mix piano sets this almost ominous mood to me. Coltrane enters and just sings the plaintive lyrics with his tenor in a way only Trane could. Understated, and tasteful.

Only Dexter Gordon affects me the same way Coltrane does, as far as a sax tones go. The sound just goes straight to that …

Xavier Cugat's Cugi's Cocktails: A Jazzy/Lounge Dance Album Circa 1963

Xavier Cugat (1900-1990) first showed up on my radar during an episode of the 1970's Emmy Award Television Show ALL in the Family.

Cugat was mentioned during a game between Archie (Carrol O'Connor) and Meathead (Rob Reiner) where they would mention a band leader's initials, and then the other would try to guess the name.

Anyway, Archie submitted E.C., when Meathead could not come up with name, Archie replies Eggsavier Cugat of course, Meathead went nuts repeating "Xavier begins with an X".

Funny what kids remember? When I noticed this vinyl copy of Cugi's Cocktails, I immediately harkened back to that All in the family episode. Turns out this is a pretty good pop big band album as well.

Drinks like "Zombie" for you Walking Dead Fans, "One Mint Julip" for you folks from Louisville, and "Cuba Libre"my personal Favorite.

Cugi's C0cktails is just a sublime jazzy lounge/dance album. Many of these songs are meant to be dance number…

Chet Baker, She Was too Good to Me - CTI LP: Nice 70's Jazz Session From the Jazz Cult Icon.

Trumpeter Chet Baker may have the biggest cult following in jazz history, he may also be the music's most tragic figure.

Baker had it all, rugged good looks, and a smooth as silk singing voice, and a sensitive ballad style on trumpet second only to Miles Davis, if not directly lifted from Davis..

Chet Baker could have been a household name, yet outside of jazz, he was more known for his dances with heroin and death, while being pursued by the long arm of the law than he was for his music, that is the sad fact.

I would consider myself a member of the baker cult, his vocals can be an acquired taste though.

The underrated trumpeter was actually a fine cool jazz and bop player, who even dabbled a little into the funk fusion realm, with albums to follow this one, that actually are quite good for the genre.

This album, She Was Too Good to Me, was a comeback album, that did have commercial aspirations,  using pop elements like strings to augment the straight ahead jazz throughout, but d…

Billy Paul War of the Gods LP: Killer Soul Vinyl

Billy Paul is a beast of a soul singer, and one of the most underrated of all time in my mind.

Known primarily for his Grammy  winning "Me and Mrs. Jones" #1 hit from 1972, and this all time classic album War of the Gods.

Billy Paul can deliver a vocal in a higher pitched sweet style as well as a lower gruff bluesy voice.

War of the Gods is known most for the combination of elements it comprises, Funk, Jazz, Soul, and electronic psychedelic styles.

All tracks on the album were composed by the duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

The title track, a soul funk and electronic synthesizer jazz influenced epic complete with religious end times over tones is worth the price of the album alone.

The intro to the title track is so 70's, you just have to love it with the wash of over the top synths delivering a fanfare to allow all who hears know, "listen up"

Then a soothing acoustic piano brings it back down and female background singers enter to pave the way for Billy.

Oh …

John Coltrane's Giant Steps Was Not Released in 1959: Try 1960 Instead

I suppose the effort to shoe horn in John Coltrane'sGiant Steps among the historically great jazz albums from 1959 seemed like a good idea?

 After all, How could such a legendary year for jazz not have a Coltrane album right?

Giant steps was released in the year 1960, in the month of January.

I know, I know, it looks good seeing the album on the same list as Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, and Dave Brubeck's Time Out.

Not to mention Charles Mingus and his masterpiece Mingus Ah Um, and maybe the biggest ground breaker of them all in 1959, Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come.

 I know the Atlantic Records release is every bit as groundbreaking as all these mentioned records, and Coltrane pretty much moved the saxophone ahead 100 years by himself with the album. Coltrane actually eclipsed the Great Charlie Parker as the guy everybody had to sound like, has anyone eclipsed Coltrane since?

There really is a fantastic DVD out right now that highlights the jazz year 1959, …

Charles Mingus Tijuana Moods LP 1957-1962

Tijuana Moodsis a strange album to me, I don't think it sounds like the typical Mingus album. At least not the way I think of Mingus.

I think about Blue & Roots, and Mingus Ah Um, and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.

Tijuana Moods is still an exceptional piece of music.  Judging by the amount of edits needed to piece it together, this album had to have been a labor of love for Mingus.

Mingus does mention on the back cover no less, that Tijuana Moods was the best album he ever made.

One wonders exactly when Charles was meaning this best album claim, as this music was made in 1957, and not released until 1962, did he mean this for 1957 or 1962?

 I like Tijuana Moods, its an interesting, if some what flawed listen.  I certainly don't consider it as great as Mingus Ah Um or The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, the latter in my estimation the greatest of all Mingus works. But I hold so much of his legacy so high that you begin to grasp at straws trying to pick a best Mingus…

One Down One Up: John Coltrane Live at the Half Note 200 Gram Vinyl

Here is one of my favorite vinyl reissues:

One Down One Up is a lavish 200 gram double vinyl set that really adds something special to the experience.

Thick Audiophile quality LP's pressed on 200 gram virgin vinyl, with a 12 inch  brimming with life booklet that also makes the CD look puny by comparison.

The title track, by in large a duet between drummer Elvin Jones and John Coltrane is the centerpiece of the album, the track offers some atonal inside out playing that was legendary on the bootleg circuit.

John's son Ravi Coltrane gave the OK for an official release, and I was excited, as I had not heard this stellar music. The sound quality album wide is still very good, and hard to complain about, if you understand that these are indeed not audiophile quality.

I happen to think the sound is better than average, and except for a few drop outs here and there, not bad at all.

 The music is indeed of historic proportions, as the quartet had just come off of A Love Supreme and th…