Ben Webster and Associates is one of the loveliest albums put out in the past couple years by Speakers Corner Records, the German-based audiophile reissue house. (Its LPs are distributed in the U.S. by Chad Kassem’s Acoustic Sounds.) Recorded in 1959 on the Verve label, it features Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and Budd Johnson on tenor saxophones; Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Ray Brown, bass; Jimmy Jones, piano; Leslie Spann, guitar; Jo Jones, drums.
Ornette Coleman shuffled onto the stage of Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater Saturday night, and that was remarkable enough. JALC, Wynton Marsalis’ house of jazz, is typed as a conservative institution—to some, the antithesis of the music’s inherently progressive nature—yet here was the quintessential avant-gardist, making his debut appearance in the lavish concert hall on the opening night of its 2009-10 season.
This tiny, lightweight, battery-powered jewel is loosely based on Nagra's VPS phono stage that I reviewed in October 2008 but uses bipolar transistors instead of tubes. The bottom of the company's familiar brushed-aluminum case has a grippy rubber material die-cut to spell Nagra. It's intended to keep the preamp from sliding, but stiff cables will have the BPS hanging in the air if you're not careful. The BPS costs $2399.
The trio of Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell finishes a two-week gig at the Village Vanguard this Sunday, and if you’re in the New York area, you should drop in (though call ahead for tickets, as nearly every set, including the one I saw last night, has been packed). Here are three of the most creative jazz musicians around, each playing at the top of his game, a combination that doesn’t always make for the most coherent combos (think of the many “all-star bands” of yore that amounted to little more than blowing contests), but this trio is that rare thing, a truly equilateral triangle: no player consistently dominate, all parts are equal.
On August 17, 1959—50 years ago exactly—Columbia Records released Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which became not only the best-selling jazz album of all time but also one of the best jazz albums, period, the spearhead of the “modal” revolution.
Charlie Haden, the world’s most distinctive and enticing bass player, seems to have adopted a new tradition. It started as a special occasion, a dozen years ago, in celebration of his 60th birthday, when he played a week of duets at the Blue Note jazz club in New York, each night with a different pianist. He repeated the experiment on his 70th, and this week he’s doing it again, just short of his 72nd, not a round number, which leads me to suspect he’s doing it—and may do it again, semi-regularly—simply because it’s so thrilling, so fun.
Acoustic Sounds, Chad Kassem’s Oz of analog wonders, has expanded its line of 45rpm jazz reissues to the Impulse! catalogue. Like the Blue Notes, which Kassem and Mike Hobson’s Classic Records have already covered (at 45, 33-1/3, 180g, 200g, black vinyl, clear vinyl, just about any format you might imagine), the great Impulse! albums were engineered by Rudy Van Gelder and featured the masters of their day—Coltrane, Mingus, Rollins, and, one of the most innovative big-band arrangers in modern jazz, Gil Evans.
What’s the point of having a blog if I can’t occasionally indulge in self-promotion? So if you’ll forgive my blatancy for a moment, today marks the official pub date of my new book, 1959: The Year Everything Changed. Unlike my last book, which was entirely about foreign policy, this one actually might be of some interest to the readers of this space, because it covers not just politics but also culture, society, science, sex—as the title suggests, everything. More to the point, there are three chapters (out of 25) that deal explicitly with jazz. (Key jazz albums of 1959 included Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come, and Dave Brubeck’s Time Out.) There’s also a chapter about the creation of Motown (another 1959 phenomenon), and a jazz-blues vibe infuses the whole book.