Many, though certainly not all, musicians of most genres dream of composing, crafting, birthing a hit recordone they will forever be known for, and that will make them enough money that they'll never have to sleep on another hard floor or friend's stained couch as long as they live. Very few fulfill this dream, and those who do often don't know why or just how it happened.
Anita Johnson, soprano; AnnMarie Sandy, mezzo-soprano; Chauncey Packer, Robert Mack, tenors; Edward Pleasant, high baritone; Darren Stokes, Frank Ward Jr., basses; others; Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Singers, Rick Benjamin
New World 80720-2 (2 CDs). 2012. Judith Sherman, prod., eng. DDD. TT: 99:06
The great ragtime composer Scott Joplin had grander ambitions than just the magnificent miniatures for piano he's famous for. When he died, in 1917, he had spent much of the previous 10 years polishing and campaigning for his full-length opera, Treemonisha, the piano-vocal score for which he had published in 1911. Joplin had studied classical composition and notation with a German scholar who had happened to settle in his hometown of Texarkana, Arkansas; lore has it that Julius Weiss gave young Joplin lessons in exchange for Mrs. Joplin's services as a laundress. Treemonisha is through-composed, with sophisticated harmonies clearly influenced by European teachings, but it also incorporates early-jazz beats, proto-blues sounds, odd syncopations, occasional Victorian-type ballads, African-American folk and pop music, and moments that recall field hollers and revival meetingsin short, all of the music of the Black experience in America is represented.
For all those who hold dear the notion that jazz has seen its best daysthat, like classical music, it now lacks star power (no more Birds, Mileses, or Coltranes on the marquees), has already said much of what it had to say, and what's left is merely esoteric noodling or soulless bop-by-rote mopping upthere is Terence Blanchard. Once the archetypal sideman, this New Orleanian contemporary of Donald Harrison and Wynton Marsalis has become a successful leader. His poise, generous spirit, and workaholic lifestyle not to mention his instantly recognizable trumpet tonehave quietly made him one of the leading figures in today's jazz mainstream.
Wynton Marsalis: Marsalis Standard Time, Vol.1
Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Marcus Roberts, piano; Robert Leslie Hurst III, bass; Jeff Watts, drums
CBS CK 40461 (CD), FC 40461 (LP). Tim Geelan, eng.; Steve Epstein, prod. DDD. TT: 62:54
When someone has garnered as much hoopla as has Wynton Marsalis over the last five years, it becomes harder and harder for a critic to believe that the hype continues to be justified. Nor does winning Grammys in the jazz and classical categories help the situation's believability. Worse, Marsalis's own bristly demeanor and portentious pronouncements on the state of jazzsee "Book Reviews" elsewhere in this issuemake it all the more important that he put his money where his mouthpiece is. (As Miles Davis, never known as the soul of tact himself, groused a while back when leaving a Grammy Award ceremony at which Marsalis had held forth: "Who asked him?")
CHARLIE PARKER: Bird (Original Soundtrack)
Charlie Parker, Charles McPherson, alto saxes; Red Rodney, trumpet; Monty Alexander, piano; Ray Brown, Ron Carter, basses; Charlie Shoemake, vibes; John Guerin, drums; others
Columbia SC 44299 (LP), CK 44299 (CD). Bobby Fernandez, Neal Spritz, engs.; Clint Eastwood, Lennie Niehaus, prods. ADA/ADD. TT: 41:21
Unlike Round Midnight, which encased Dexter Gordon's Bud Powell character in a soft-focus, romanticized, soundstagily mythic NY/Paris jazz juncture that never quite was (Herbie Hancock's music direction was deliberately inauthentic for that or any time or place other than the film studio), producer/director Clint Eastwood's labor-of-love Bird attempts to place Charles Christopher Parker Jr. squarely in the bebop world he created. The modern musicians he "plays" with here blow strictly in that tradition, accompanying Parker's solos, as peeled off the original Savoy, Verve, and home recordings with audio wizardry (massive EQing, dynamic noise filters, etc.).
Steam Locomotives, Jet Fighter Aircraft, Military Exercise (with live ammunition), WWII Aircraft, Comic Relief I & II, West Mountain Inn, Diesel Train, Steam Train with Rain & Thunder
Bainbridge BCD6276 (CD only). Produced & mixed by Brad S. Miller. DDD. TT: 58:00
KEITH JARRETT: At the Blue Note: The Complete Recordings Keith Jarrett, piano; Gary Peacock, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums ECM 1575-80 (78118-21575-2, 6 CDs only). Manfred Eicher, prod.; Jan Erik Kongshaug, eng. DDD. TT: 7:03:37
Little Feat: Hotcakes & Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat Warner Archives/Rhino R2 79912 (4 CDs). 1970-2000. Russ Titelman, Ted Templeman, Lowell George, Van Dyke Parks, Erik Jacobsen, George Massenburg, Bill Payne, Paul Barrère, Bill Wray, Ed Cherney, Frank Zappa, Michael O'Bryant, Richard Moore, orig. prods.; Gary Peterson, Bill Payne, Paul Barrère, reissue prods.; Bill Inglot, reissue sound. AAD. TT: 5:13:48 Performance ***** Sonics ****
COLDPLAY: A Rush of Blood to the Head Capitol 5 40504 2 (CD). 2002. Coldplay, Ken Nelson, prods.; Mark Phythian, Ken Phythian, engs.; Rik Simpson, Jon Withnal, Ben Thackeray, Jon Bailey, Andrea Wright, asst. engs. AAD? TT: 54:14 Performance ****½ Sonics ****