Peggy, Miles, and Trane on Speakers Corner
Peggy Lee’s Black Coffee is a shiveringly sensuous album, recorded for Decca, first as an EP in 1953, then expanded to an LP in ’56. Capitol did the same with June Christy’s Something Cool, and the two albums have more in common than the fact that both singers were Hitchcock blonds who’d spent time fronting Stan Kenton’s big band. Both albums are drenched in sophisticated sex and mystery (though the Christy plunges deeper into melancholy). The arrangements, with Jimmy Rowles on piano and Pete Condoli (identified on the album as “Cootie Chesterfield”—for contractual reasons?), are rich and just a little dissonant without losing their swing. The mono sound is clear; Lee’s voice is in your face, and appealingly so.
Miles Davis’ ’Round About Midnight was the trumpeter’s first album for Columbia, in 1956, and featured John Coltrane on tenor, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums—the same band that backed him on the Prestige “marathon” sessions just months earlier. A couple of the earlier albums are more consistently top-notch (Workin’ and Relaxin’), but this one is just as hard-driving on the uptempos and as crisp and moody on the ballads, especially the title track (maybe the most galvanizing version of Monk’s anthem), “All of You,” and “Bye, Bye Blackbird.” Columbia’s sound was equal to that of Rudy Van Gelder’s as well.
John Coltrane’s Impressions, was a follow-up to his Live at the Village Vanguard, both on Impulse. Two of its four tracks were recorded live at the same club, a few months later, in 1961 and ’62, with the same quartet (McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums, with, on one of the tracks, “India,” Reggie Workman added as a second bass and Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet). The others were studio quartet dates, one with Jones on drums, one with Roy Haynes—and for that reason the album is slightly less mesmerizing than the first live album, though just slightly; both albums, together, contain some of the most thrilling jazz on disc. Van Gelder’s live sound is captivating, especially those crashing cymbals. (If you want more of this, check out the four-CD box-set, The Complete Live at the Village Vanguard; it’ll leave you sweating.)