VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases
11 FEB 14 CONCORD MUSIC GROUP
Four-time GRAMMY winner Dianne Reeves has released Beautiful Life, her eagerly anticipated first album in five years. New to the Concord Records imprint, yet established as one of the classiest vocalists around, Reeves powerfully sustains her genre-defying tradition with elements of jazz, contemporary R&B, classic soul, modern pop, and vintage funk. Through her two sublime originals, "Cold" and "Satiated (Been Waiting)," along with covers by Marvin Gaye, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley, and Ani DiFranco, Reeves covers a lot of musical ground—and incorporates a lot of talent, too.
Beautiful Life features an A-list supporting crew, including production by Terri Lynne Carrington and musical appearances by Esperanza Spalding, Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper, and George Duke. A soulful and sophisticated rendering with a sweet, sexy, and celebratory underlying tone, Beautiful Life is an inspiring affirmation not to be missed.
21 DEC 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Search the Concord website for "Burt Bacharach" and the engine returns no results. But the brilliance of his collaborative songwriting with lyricist Hal David, especially in the 1960s and early '70s, shines throughout this catalog.
Lushly remade, "Walk on By" kicks off Isaac Hayes' solo breakout Hot Buttered Soul (Stax, 1987, and now available on vinyl, too). But it was (much) differently addressed by saxophonist Sonny Stitt on Soul Classics (Original Jazz Classics, 1991), was reinvented by the Wynton Kelly Trio on Full View (OJC, '96), and also turned up on Brothers-4 (Prestige, 2005), which marks the last time that soulmates Don Patterson and Stitt recorded together.
"Close to You" was addressed opulently by Hayes on Black Moses (Stax, '89) and tastily by Ella Fitzgerald on Ella A Nice (OJC, '90), but also appears on funky Prestige Legends of Acid Jazz compilations from Houston Person ('96) and Leon Spencer ('97), and was more smoothly rendered by Gerald Albright (Pushing the Envelope [Heads Up, 2010]).
Hayes also surveys "The Windows of the World" Live At The Sahara Tahoe (Stax, '89) and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" appears on Quartets & Orchestra (Milestone, '89), which compiles the last two albums that pianist-composer Bobby Timmons recorded for Milestone.
Plus there's Dionne Warwick's retrospective My Friends & Me (Concord, 2006), where the primary voice of these and other Bacharach-David classics revisits them in the company of old friends and new, including Gladys Knight, Angie Stone and other vocal contemporaries.
12 DEC 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Jim Hall, whose gentle but strong guitar style inspired contemporaries with whom he played and generations of guitarists who followed after, died in his Greenwich Village home on Dec. 10 at age 83. This "guitarist's guitarist" first emerged from the original Chico Hamilton Quintet in the late 1950s, and provided a strong voice in Sonny Rollins' first quartet when the saxophonist ended his hiatus from performing and recording in the early 1960s. Thereafter, Hall primarily recorded and performed as a leader of his own groups.
His sensitivity as an accompanist seemed to fully bloom as a duet partner with other guitarists and bassists: Dialogues (Telarc, 1995) featured Hall with saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarists Bill Frisell and Mike Stern; Jim Hall & Basses (Telarc, 2001) showcased his electric and acoustic guitar in conversations with Christian McBride, George Mraz, Dave Holland and Charlie Haden. Excellent duet recordings with ace bassist Ron Carter include the double-disk Telepathy (Concord Jazz, 2001), which pairs two previous standalone live recordings, and Alone Together (Original Jazz Classics, 1990), their first duet set.
Hall's sound and style greatly influenced the pastorally elegant yet homespun sound of Pat Metheny and similar, subsequent guitarists. Although Hall's wife told The New York Times that Jim Hall died of heart failure, the genuinely brilliant heart that beats throughout these and other recordings will never fail.
11 DEC 13 JASON SERINUS
One of America's most beloved holiday creations, the Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas, has returned. Now in a deluxe package from Fantasy.
It's housed in a colorful cardboard sleeve that doubles as an easy-to-assemble Christmas house complete with stand-up figures of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and Snoopy, the 14-track CD includes three delicious tunes ("Greensleeves," "Great Pumpkin Waltz," and "Thanksgiving Theme") that were not part of the original LP issue of the soundtrack to the 1965 animated CBS-TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. And thanks to Joe Tarantino's excellent new digital remastering, it also offers sound far superior to that on the original CD issue.
Given that I supplied the whistling "Voice of Woodstock" to the 1980 animated CBS-TV special, She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown, the fact that the Library of Congress honored the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas in 2012, when the recording's "cultural, historical or aesthetic significance" led to its preservation in the Library's state-of-the-art Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, counts for a lot in my book.
The Library has acknowledged that A Charlie Brown Christmas introduced Guaraldi's light and lovable original jazz themes from that TV special, as well as his jazz versions of both traditional and popular Christmas music, to an entirely new audience. It also guaranteed that Charles Schulz' heart-warming Peanuts family would become an indelible part of American folklore. As you listen to this irresistible album, it becomes clear that Guaraldi performed a minor miracle.
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