Jan 28, 2016

Miles Smiles Mono or Stereo: Which Pressing Sounds Best?

Miles Smiles LP CoverOther than Kind of Blue, Miles Smiles is probably Miles Davis' greatest acoustic jazz achievement. Think about it, what's better and more groundbreaking?

Quite simply a perfect modern jazz album, an enthralling blend of mildly avant-garde styles with post bop modal jazz.

I have always thought Miles Smiles was like Kind of Blue in how the music really opens up.

I also get this feeling of suspended time on tracks like "Circles," just some gorgeous Miles muted playing as well.

Over the the last 15 years I have grown to believe this was the greatest working jazz group ever assembled. When you consider the creativity of Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on Drums, and Herbie Hancock on Piano, can you think of any better on their instruments?

Even if I do have to concede Hancock not being the best, he sure fits like a glove with this group, Carter and Williams I don't believe have been surpassed on their instruments at all 45 years later.

Shorter is the heart and soul of this band, being equal to Miles in my opinion.

 I have often felt that Wayne was the real indispensable one in this group, "including Miles himself," if that were even possible.

Check out "Footprints," Wayne Shorter's vehicle with the hypnotic droning bass. The killer Williams' ride cymbal, the latter is Williams having a conversation with himself.

Williams' creativity is off the charts. Wayne comes in with that combination Coltrane and Hank Mobley tone, I just recently started hearing shorter in that light.

The Eddie Harris composition "Freedom Jazz Dance" gets a new coat of paint; and surprisingly, this version is only slightly, but noticeably altered.

The down home vibe is stripped, and this off kilter Eric Dolphy like wobble reshapes the tune. "That's my way of saying avant-garde/free jazz.

It's just not easy to describe music this good, you need to hear it to understand. I picked up both of the pictured LP copies for 10 bucks a piece, both in near mint condition.

I am not typically a mono/stereo guy, meaning I don't have to have both, but when they were both available I jumped on both vinyl copies of Miles Smiles.

A lot of people swear by the sound of mono, my experience tells me 50/50, sometimes mono is better, I personally prefer the stereo version of Miles Smiles.

Jan 27, 2016

Lonnie Liston Smith's Cosmic Funk and Quiet Storm

Lonnie Liston Smith Vintage LP Covers

Underrated Lonnie Liston Smith

One of the more underrated artists of the 1970's was jazz funk artist Lonnie Liston Smith.

 Smith was a fine jazz pianist who got his start playing straight ahead jazz with the likes of Roland Kirk, Betty Carter, and Pharoah Sanders.

Lonnie also contributed to a couple of Miles Davis albums, Big Fun and On the Corner before he went out on his own.

By this time the landscape had changed, and if you wanted to make any money you had to adapt. Popular sounds like soul, R&B, and funk permeated top 40 radio. So to be heard on a large level, you better fuse these element into your jazz.

Lonnie not only did that, he came up with his own brand of laid back funk jazz, that was bent toward the quiet storm genre. This came to a head on the Columbia label.

I could certainly see Venus Flytrap spinning these Lonnie Liston Smith tunes on his late night radio show on WKRP in Cincinnati. Most of the 70's albums fused a solid jazz foundation. "This foundation for Lonnie would later become decidedly funk"- That jazz element is always there, Smith also fuses world music and various drums and keyboards.

On his album "Renaissance" he chooses to lay down these colorful pallets, a landscape of cosmic sounds using synthesizers and his brother Donald's flute.

Lonnie will then play the acoustic piano over the groove, and it works perfectly, the piano cuts right through the wash of colors and it stands out like a lighthouse beacon on a foggy evening, that is something Lonnie does a lot that really stands out to me.

Lonnie's first album Astral Traveling is probably the most straight ahead modern jazz album he ever did, each album after adds a little more commercialism, but even his most commercial Columbia albums never completely go over the cliff into disco drivel.

A few times the wheels may be hanging over that cliff, but these Columbia albums are the forgotten ones as far as Smith goes. Those Columbia albums fit very comfortably into the quiet storm genre.

Lonnie's 70's albums are perfect to listen to consecutively, as they seem to form a concept of sorts, they never seem to veer off too much.

You're going to get some laid back smooth grooves, and a few upbeat heavy on the drums cookers, a few island groove type numbers and some above average singing by Lonnie's flute playing brother Donald.

The vocal numbers that usually appear 2 or 3 per platter are your typical laid back soul, with female backing vocals over the exotic colorful groove pallet I mentioned earlier.

If you like quiet storm or jazz funk and don't mind a few R&B ringers, you'll have a nice relationship with Mr. Smith. I know I return to his music quite often just to chill. Below "Enchantress" is a perfect example of what I consider quiet storm to be.

Lonnie's music draws you in and over time shows its rewards. Years later I have grown to like this music more and more as a meditation feel good music, with enough challenging jazz styles thrown in to keep a staunch modern jazz fan interested.

These jazz funk albums have become very popular to modern contemporary artists, who seemingly find an endless supply of beats to lift from dusty vinyl copies for their hip hop and DJ activities.

 I bet you could get every vinyl copy in Lonnie's discography for under $150 if you shopped around a bit.

(Photo my own)

A CTI Soul Jazz Classic: Salt Song From Stanley Turrentine 1971

Salt Song Turrentine Review
Salt Song is One of the better CTI Jazz releases from the 1970's. It was given to us by the underrated tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine.

An album with a thoughtfully arranged orchestra from Eumir Deodato, that never seems over produced.

I love the bass grooves, and tasteful electric piano, that sets the tone for the soul drenched sax playing from Turrentine.

This is one of those records that demands a complete spin, a track here and there won't d0. It has the vibe of a concept album and needs to be appreciated in its entirety. The production on these better CTI classics,  do add something special, instead of taking away from the music, like so many over-produced records can.

Some may say over-production is the word, and there is indeed a fine line between taste and schmaltz, but this record is not one of them, a great tasteful record this is. "Gibraltar" below is a nice start the album, and sets the island mood throughout, the Ron Carter bass and Airto percussion colors set the tone. Also guitarist Eric Gale offers some nice solo guitar, particularly on  "Gilberte" below.

The solemn gospel blues "I Told Jesus" is a moving piece, the Deodato strings augmenting the track do just what is required, nothing more. The vocal exclamation of "I Told Jesus by the trio of singers, Margaret Branch, Brenda Bryant, Patsy Smith works very well, the only way this track could get better is if Ray Charles were singing it.

The title track "Salt Song" starts with an ominous vibe, Airto offers some nice percussion backing, and Ron Carter does some slippery bass as the tune morphs into a clear Bossa Nova vibe, it picks up the pace as the track rides on... Pay attention to Airto here, he really does some fine varied work to make the track shimmer.

"I Haven't Got Anything Better to Do" is an uber ballad with a flirt with sappy schmaltz on the strings side of things. The electric piano is very tasteful,  I do like the sound, but the strings burst worried me at first.

Not that I mind strings or orchestra flourishes, but too much of it and It becomes so saturated, that it drowns out the rest of the music. Stanley shines brightly here, though the track is easily my least favorite on record.

"Storm" is another Airto friendly track, reminds me of Santana more than Stanley Turrentine, until that sugar sweet tenor sax arrives riding the shaker/percussion wave.

Turrentine sure could make anything sound sultry, yeah sultry, that's the way to boil this album down to one word, it does have a sexy hot vibe. I envision a mood at night, in humid 90 degree heat, just as the sun begins to disappear under the sea.

Maybe a light breeze blowing off the ocean too, a far cry from the 27 degrees and light snow I am experiencing here in Dayton Ohio today.

The final track "Vera Cruz" is very much in the same vein as the previous track, island sounds with hot saxophone work, tasteful Deodato arrangements, and tasty electric piano. I like the sound of the electric piano a lot here.

Make no mistake about it, Salt Song is a jazz record, not an over produced fusion album. If you like the Freddie Hubbard CTI records, you'll like this.

 If Bossa Nova is your thing, more the better, and if you're into the original Chick Corea Return to Forever band, the one with Joe Farrell on sax, and Flora Purim singing, you'll dig this soul jazz classic.

If you are more of a Blue Note Turrentine fan that's OK,  you will certainly tell a marked difference between albums like  Blue Note's Jubilee Shout and CTI's Salt Song.

Jan 17, 2016

Art Pepper's 1981 Lost Strings Classic Winter Moon

If anyone told you they hate strings albums, I bet they never heard this absolute masterpiece of the style.

Some how, not an ounce of pretense. Art Pepper experienced a career renaissance in the 1970's, he never played better in my opinion than he did during this stint.

Winter Moon was recorded in September of 1980, less than 2 years before Art's death at the age of 56.

Ironically the one format Art always dreamed of playing, strings, was one of his last, and as it turns out, pound for pound one of the best of his career.  The thing about Winter Moon other than Art's shimmering alto is indeed the perfect use of strings, subtle, yet there, but never in the way. That is a big deal for an album like this.

 The strings complement and perhaps enhance, but never feel like the star of the show, that mantle belongs to Art, he is the show here. Art even plays a  number, "Blues in the Night" on clarinet that just delight the ears.

Guess who's one of the arrangers on Winter Moon? Ever heard of Bill Holman? The same Bill Holman that wrote and arranged some of the best loved Stan Kenton charts, and albums like the killer Contemporary Concepts.

 A confident in his abilities kind of guy is Holman, and why not, he sure did a great job here.

When I think about this gorgeous record I think about the best of Miles Davis, yeah, it's that good, really has this Kind of Blue vibe. It's not a clone of that album, but the mood is similar.

Art gets  has fine support from pianist Stanley Cowell, Howard Roberts on guitar, and Cecil McBee on bass.

My favorite track on the record is "The Prisoner" which was the theme for the motion picture The Eyes of Laura Mars in 1978, Art nails it here. 

The strings are more upfront than usual, but never over done, just a dark and brooding mood, but not hopeless if that makes sense. I like the tasteful Spanish sounding guitar intro here from Robert's as well.

The title track is also very good, but honestly the whole album from start to finish has a suite like quality to it.

I have a hard time listening to individual tracks, I feel like I need the whole thing to really appreciate it. I suggest you do it this way too, and get the entire album and not just a few tracks.

Also, it's worth noting, all of the Galaxy records stuff that was released in the mid to late 70's and early 80's of Art's is as good, if not better than the 50's stuff, I'm not kidding about that.

It is high time the jazz community understood how classic his later period music was, let alone the mainstream music press.

Art Pepper was and is a giant in jazz, I cherish all of his music. I don't think he ever made a bad record, when you think about his much rough drug addicted life and how many lost years he had, that is either a miracle or a shame, probably both.

Jan 15, 2016

Why is the Music of Miles Davis Important to Me?

Vintage 1969 LP COVER of a Miles Davis Jazz Rock Classic
The bottom line for me is this: I look at my music listening experience as before Miles and after Miles.

After I heard Kind of Blue for the first time, it completely changed the way I listened to music.

In Fact, I remember boasting how I hated instrumental music for the most part. I couldn't stand music without vocals.

 The problem was, I had not listened to modern jazz before. You see, there's good instrumental music and there's bad instrumental music.

Miles on the other hand really blew my mind, I had no idea the scope of the music he played. I had no concept Miles was as important as he was to contemporary music in the 20th and now 21st Century.

I began paying more attention to detail after I discovered Miles, the nuances of the music, what was in between the notes in some respects.

This awakening would have been in the mid-1990's, and before that, my listening repertoire would have consisted of 80's thrash and glam metal, which I still enjoy from time to time.

The thing about modern jazz, especially the great music like Miles' second great quintet, or the classic John Coltrane Quartet, was how thought provoking it is, the music demands your complete attention. Somehow it remains modern half a century later.

Once Miles went electric, my favorite time period by a hair, I was completely mesmerized by the experimental style, and the uniquely funky sound Miles developed throughout the 70's, up until his lost period.

Maybe I am off base, but the electric period funk style after 1972 was like a new form of music. It will suck you into the groove before you know it, you're looking at the clock wondering how 15 minutes just passed so fast. The music will completely draw you in.

I am pushing 20 years with Miles right now, and I never quit listening, that says a lot. I never get tired of it that's for sure. If you want to study post WWII jazz, just buy everything recorded from Miles Davis from 47-91, you won't need any other musicians to understand the history, really that's not hype either.

Miles worked with practically anyone who was important. He either invented, or was a major innovator in practically every style in post WWII jazz.

Miles' music is also perfect for the iPod playlist generation:

Davis was so innovative, that much of his 70's electric music is just now being understood. With so many genres of jazz, and entirely new music he touched on or helped invent, just about anyone could find something to like.

I eventually became a vinyl record collector because I wanted to own these iconic album covers in the 12 inch format, Miles and the Blue Note Label. Once I realized how much better jazz, especially acoustic jazz sounded on vinyl, I was hooked.

Listen to the opening of "So What" below, from the Iconic masterpiece Kind of Blue: The intro sounds composed, but was an improvised introduction of piano (Bill Evans) and bass (Paul Chambers).

The way the song develops, when Miles' comes in with the trumpet's spoken "So What," man, it's really that good.

For me Miles' music never loses it's freshness, the music reveals new things to me all the time, I hear things I don't remember hearing from years ago, or at least new ways to listen to music in general.

I know it's cliche, but "So What" was indeed the track that I first realized, "man I have missed out on a lot of great music". I do remember vividly that first complete CD listen of Kind of Blue, it was at night in the car in front of a Barnes and Noble circa 1997.

It was a rain soaked foggy night. I am telling you this whole mood and music thing took me in like an enigmatic force I couldn't control. Ordinarily cliches like this I laugh at, but like so many others with Kind of Blue, it happened to me. One of the few times the hype lives up to its reputation. Imagine the mentioned foggy atmosphere then"Blue in Green" comes on?

It still took me a few years to fully aquire the taste for modern jazz, but oh did I do just that. The mixed reviewed Ken Burns Jazz documentary came in 2000, and gave be a very good start with the music... while Burns was not nearly complete in his version of what jazz was, I was introduced to Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Wynton Marsalis for better or worse through the series.

The companion CD's and 10 DVDs, were a pretty good start for  someone ready to dive head long into the music. Imagine how shocked I was when I heard Bitches Brew or Jack Johnson for the first time? I mean, that music was really in my wheel house,  I didn't know Miles went electric like that.

Thankfully Miles' music took hold when it did, I could not imagine my life without him, or jazz.

The Afro-Cuban Music of Mongo Santamaria

The Afro Cuban Music of Mongo Santamaria always delights, much the same way a Cuban pressed sandwich tantalizes the taste buds.

The meat of the Cuban folk music melding perfectly with the tartness of the jazzy brass sounds.

Mongo's latin funk is music that always leaves you satisfied.

Cuban born Mongo Santamaria (1917-2003) is probably best known for the jazz standards "Watermelon Man" and "Afro Blue", the former penned by pianist Herbie Hancock, the latter was even given the royal treatment by jazz saxophone legend John Coltrane.

Here's a list of the most purchased Mongo Santamaria albums.

"Afro Blue"

This rendition of Afro Blue is really faithful to the Cuban tradition, certainly has an authentic Cuban folk vibe, and really doesn't feel like jazz proper at all to me. Mongo's original is done in 12/8 time, with a softer edge.

John Coltrane's version below is done in 3/4 "waltz" time, and really is one my personal favorite Coltrane soloing vehicles, all the live versions from Coltrane always boil over into God-like territory.

Something about the haunting Santamaria melody and Trane's soprano sax. I lean toward this Live at Birdland version being the definitive performance of Afro Blue.

If there is but one album of Mongo Santamaria music in your Collection, this Columbia Records compilation is the one to get. Almost all of the albums this best of draws from are from out of print CD's or never have been reissued on CD at all.

Some of the hottest tracks of Mongo's career were laid down on vinyl during the 60's for Columbia, James Brown's "Cold Sweat" gets the Cuban treatment, as well as Richie Valens' "La Bamba", Otis Redding's "Sittin on the Dock of the Bay" gets a slightly heated make over.

 "Cloud Nine" and "Green Onions" get conga groove makeovers as well.

Not a dud on the whole compilation, the CD reissue has remastered sound plus adds a 10 minute live version of Mongo's standard "Afro Blue", that is worth a repurchase if you already have it on vinyl.

I urge any fan of Afro beat or Latin funk to get as many of the original Columbia vinyl copies of Mongo's 60's albums as possible, for they are the Rosetta Stone of Latin Funk in my mind.

"Watermelon Man"

Mongo's version of "Watermelon Man" was initially issued as a single, and as mentioned above, a mega hit, quickly a long player was rushed out to capitalize on the success of the single.

Mainly the early Mongo tunes are in the 2-3 minute range, offering more of same good time dance grooves, and for me, the trumpet of Marty Sheller stands out the most, with a delightfully cliched trumpet.

 This guy can party down with the best of them, you won't confuse him with Dizzy Gillespie, but he fits perfectly on top of Mongo's groovin' beat.

Mongo, a virtuoso conga player, which is a Cuban drum that is played with your hands rather than sticks, the commercial success of Watermelon Man pushed Mongo in a more pop direction.

Columbia Records and bogaloo music

Santamaria then moved to Columbia Records, which saw him join the boogaloo movement, almost all of Santamaria's Columbia output has been long neglected on Compact Disc, only the Greatest Hits is widely available right now, but what a sampler that is.

I believe this particular style influenced Carlos Santana and his band Santana a great deal, Mongo also throughout the 70's, melded the Afro Cuban styles with funk to form his own unique form of Latin funk.

Any of Mongo's albums from 1959 to 1976 are worthy of any jazz or R&B collection, one such album, is Afro Indio, a very tough to find session in its original vinyl form, the album has some very ahead of it's time synthesizer mixed in with the Afro Cuban Latin funk.

One of my personal favorites is the Atlantic Records release Mongo '70, a heavy duty Latin funk workout, with just enough of a 70's action film vibe to drive you wild.

Jan 13, 2016

Nick Brignola's On a Different Level is Indeed on a Different Level

Nick Brignola Bari
Nothing in the world of jazz gets my hair standing on end more than a killer baritone sax player.

Gerry Mulligan don't do that either, I like the baritone players that have a deep husky tone.

Pepper Adams, Ronnie Cuber, and the subject of this review Nick Brignola (1936-2002) are what I have in mind.

This album, On a Different Level from 1989, at the risk of hyperbole, kicks ass!

I found this CD at a local Dayton Ohio Goodwill for $1.99 and let me tell you it was forth 10 times the price.

A typical straight ahead pop date in  material, but not so typical is the high-quality playing from Brignola and his rhythm section.

Oh yeah ever heard of these guys: Dave Holland on Bass, Jack Dejohnette on drums and Kenny Barron on piano, yeah pretty damn good huh... they and Brignola offer one of the best bari showcase albums I ever heard period.

Standards like "Hot House", "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love", "Sophisticated Lady"and "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" are darned near definitive readings in my mind.

It's only been 6 months since I discovered Brignola and this album, but I have returned to it at least 10 times, and the album truly is a special one for those who like expertly played traditional Bop jazz. If you are a fan of the baritone, and Brignola isn't on your radar, he should be now.

Brignola never seems to run out of ideas, and his husky tone dances along the rhythms like a John Coltrane on soprano. The production is clean and crisp, quite simply a perfect jazz record. On Different level is an audacious title and absolutely true.

Out of the Cool: A 1961 Masterwork of Progressive Orchestral Jazz By Gil Evans

Undoubtedly, Gil Evans is best known for his breathtakingly wonderful Miles Davis collaborations.

Hyperbole? Perhaps... but one listen to 1958's reading of the Gershwin Classic Porgy & Bess would prove the point.

After all, isn't the Davis/Evans reading considered the definitive rendition?

There's omething about that album: I don't think Miles' vulnerable unpretentious sound ever sounded more inviting. Miles actually gaining rapport with the lonely as he plays.

Is this album, Out of the Cool, a 1961 Impulse Records release as good as Porgy, Miles Ahead, and Sketches of Spain? I think it fits comfortably with those masterworks even without Miles. I would only choose Porgy over Out of the Cool myself. The albums centerpiece is "La Nevada", a track recorded 2 years earlier for Pacific Jazz, a shorter version with thinner sound in my opinion than this release.

 That whole Great Jazz Standards record is pretty good, but the production is light years from the full rich sound of Out of the Cool in my opinion.

I don't know why, but when I listen to "La Nevada" I picture in my mind a hot and humid day, perhaps a muggy evening watching the sunset?  Odd, since Nevada is known for its desert climate. I also like that thick bass and drum sound out in front.

Most say it's lyrical impressionism that Evan's is known for. Perhaps that being a little less noticeable on Out of the Cool, is what makes it a stand out.

 That "Monet sound-scape" if you will, does enter very much on "Where Flamingo's Fly", a summer-time walk in the park is what I think of here. This also has a bit of a psychedelic vibe to the opening of the track as well.

If you're just know collecting vinyl, a mono or stereo pressing will only set you back about $40 max, it's supply and demand, but these older Van Gelder Impulse pressings are rising more and more.

With early Blue Note vinyl so astronomically priced, people are turning to other labels to collect. Better get them while you can.

Jan 6, 2016

Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady: Emotional Large Band Masterpiece

 Charles Mingus and his masterpiece The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady should easily be considered one of the 10 greatest recordings in Modern Jazz history.

 Recorded in 1963 by an eleven piece band, "Black Saint" is Mingus' crowning achievement, It's also more than any other of his works, the most gracious example of Ellington flattery.

 If ever there was ever a doubt about the influence of Duke Ellington upon Charles Mingus, Black Saint and the Sinner Lady should put any arguments to rest.

 The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is a microcosm of the entire Mingus discography, almost like a jazz history lesson of sorts. One of the things about Mingus and his best music has a feeling of recklessness, as if the music is a runaway train that could derail at any second, yet somehow manages to always make it back to the station.

The train might be beat up a bit, but somehow it arrived in one piece. I will spare you any track by track analysis, or bore you with any music theory, which by the way I would have to lift from another source anyway, a former bar band guitarist does not a music theorist make.

 As a 20 year listener of jazz music, and a real connoisseur of big band and orchestra music, you will be hard pressed to finding a more moving large band jazz album.

 Though I can, and have described the moods and feelings invoked, This music has an undiluted anger to it, an anguish, a feeling of desperation. Yet like Ellington, a softer romantic color at times.

 If by chance you're a vinyl record collector as I am, you owe it to your self to hear this timeless classic in the vinyl format. A first press mono preferably. It might set you back 100 bucks, but worth every penny.

 Black Saint belongs in every jazz collection, along with Mingus Ah Um and Blues n' Roots, Modern Jazz rarely delivers better on the emotional level like Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.

Jan 5, 2016

Sketches of Greatness: The Miles Davis and Gil Evans Collaboration

Miles Davis and Gil Evans, or was it Gil Evans and Miles Davis, does it Matter?

I think history has been kind to Gil Evans actually. I do believe most people give Gil the credit he deserves regarding these collaborations.

One thing is certain: Miles was the perfect foil for these lush Gil Evans arrangements, his cracked and vulnerable tone is like a beacon calling out to the lonely people.

Whether it was Porgy and Bess, or Miles Ahead, Miles' romantic trumpet playing and Evans' arrangements meld together seamlessly. Hauntingly beautiful is the music, especially Sketches of Spain. Miles Davis actually met Gil Evans in 1948.

Davis and other like minded musicians, including Gerry Mulligan were meeting in Gil's basement/apartment. They began experimenting with new styles, similar to the work Evan's had done for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra.

The "Cool" recordings were not released until 1957 as Birth of the Cool on Capitol Records. It angered Miles that these sessions were not released until 1957, and white players like Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan were getting all the credit for the invention of cool jazz.

These recordings are very important to jazz, as here, melody and nuance were more important than soloing and complex chord changes. The Birth of the Cool was definitely a move toward hard bop, but really a sign of what could happen beyond hard bop.

Miles Davis and Gil Evans, The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings 6 CD Box Set-

Admittedly these box sets, aren't the ideal way to be introduced to this music, but it was how I decided to digest most of Miles music the first time back in the late mid to late 90's.

With its chronological ordered style, Outtakes and studio chatter, It was interesting to me listening to this music as it was being perfected, piece by piece and splice by splice.

With the end result being just a wonderfully lush and fully realized music. I have since of course listened to the original albums as they were first released to the public.

That Box set really gives you a sense of being there during the creation process, and these types of box sets score big points in that regard.

The extremely well made liner notes are a historical lesson of not only the music being made but also the production process. Very interesting to say the least.

The Davis Evans music has stood the rest of time: 

Over the past 20 years, digging into orchestrated jazz and big band music like I have, I have really grown to appreciate just how good this music was.

The big 3, of "Sketches", Miles Ahead", and, "Porgy" have grown to equal even Kind of Blue if that's possible within the legacy of Miles Davis.

I've listened to almost every major work of Duke Ellington, and this music rivals, if not surpasses much of that music.

Perhaps that's a haughty statement, but certainly I return to these 3 orchestra works than anything within Ellington's discography, though I do tend to find a lot of stuff to savor in the 60's from Duke, like The Far East Suite, that one stands the test of time for me.

Photo used with permission via Amazon.com. Check out the 6 CD metal spine box yourself.

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