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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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THE JAZZ BOX

Metro METRTCD 818

 

 


CD1

1. Sonny Stitt - I Can't Get Started
2. Thelonious Monk - Epistrophy
3. McCoy Tyner - Monk's Dream
4. Gary Burton - African Flower
5. Donald Byrd & Herbie Hancock - Currio's
6. Art Blakey - Au Privave
7. Cannonball Adderley - Straight Life
8. Dave Brubeck Quartet - Blue Rondo à la Turk
9. Wynton Marsalis - My Funny Valentine
10. Paul Horn - Samba de Orfeu
11. Art Pepper - The Breeze And I
CD2

1. Ahmad Jamal - Autumn In New York
2. Charles Mingus - Fables Of Faubus
3. John Coltrane - I Want To Talk About You
4. Stan Getz - Autumn Leaves
5. Stephane Grappelli - Anything Goes
6. Sonny Stitt - Lester Leaps In
7. Carmen McRae - How Long Has This Been Going On?
8. Sonny Rollins - Toot Toot Tootsie
9. Chick Corea & Lionel Hampton – Moment’s Notice
10. McCoy Tyner - Giant Steps
11. Dave Brubeck Quartet - Lover Man
12. Dexter Gordon - Lullaby Of Birdland
CD3

1. Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five
2. Quincy Jones - Watermelon Man
3. Ahmad Jamal - Waltz for Debby
4. Stan Getz - Heartplace
5. Stephane Grappelli - It Might As Well Be Spring
6. Carmen McRae - My Foolish Heart
7. Sonny Rollins - Brown Skin Girl
8. Dexter Gordon - I Should Care
9. Art Blakey - Moanin'
10. Gerry Mulligan - Song For Johnny Hodges
11. Charles Mingus - It Might As Well Be Spring

Boxed compilations like this often seem to be thrown together from whatever was available for the record company. Yet they also provide a bargain-price collection of miscellaneous items which is almost certain to contain some tracks of interest. And the very diversity of these compilations is a salutary reminder of the breadth of jazz. Even a three-CD set of what might be categorized as "modern jazz" embraces a wide variety of material.

The contrasts start at the very beginning, with Sonny Stitt playing a ballad on tenor sax with a breathy tone reminiscent of Ben Webster. This tender performance is followed by a typically edgy track from Thelonious Monk, playing his composition Epistrophy with a largish ensemble which includes tenorists John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins, who each play solos that illustrate two ends of the saxophone spectrum.

Another Monk composition – Monk’s Dream – follows in a solo piano performance by McCoy Tyner, using his most percussive technique. Gary Burton’s African Flower starts with gently swaying vibes in one of Duke Ellington’s most lyrical numbers before stoking up the heat with help from a dynamic drummer who sounds like Daniel Humair – but, as in most such compilations, personnel details are sketchy. And so the procession continues, with boppish tracks from Donald Byrd with Herbie Hancock, and Art Blakey in a piano trio with James Powell. Cannonball Adderley’s Straight Life is a rip-off of the tune Easy Living but his rhapsodic improvisation shows why he deserves much greater acclaim than he usually receives. Bill Evans’s sensitive piano adds to the tenderness.

Dave Brubeck’s quartet gives us a live version of their familiar updating of Mozart, and James Powell crops up again - backing Wynton Marsalis in a version of My Funny Valentine which displays Wynton’s prodigious talent. Flautist Paul Horn is often dismissed as a pretty player who pleased hippies but his hustling take on Samba de Orfeu has plenty of guts. The first CD closes with altoist Art Pepper taking The Breeze and I for a sedate ride. This track and the Thelonious Monk one suffer from fuzzy recording quality, although most other items on this compilation have an acceptable sound standard.

It would be tiresome to consider each of the remaining 23 tracks in detail, especially as several of them come from the same sessions as those on the first CD, so that you get (for example) more Sonny Stitt, McCoy Tyner and Dave Brubeck. But highlights include Ahmad Jamal playing piano with his customary adventurousness; Charles Mingus’s classic Fables of Faubus (a sideswipe at a certain American state governor who opposed racial integration); Carmen McRae working her vocal magic on songs by Victor Young and the Gershwins; and a couple of tracks by Stan Getz - the sweetest sound you’ll ever hear. Several tracks come from the late seventies recordings made by Lionel Hampton with a variety of different musicians – very nice but often reissued.

So, like many boxed sets, this is a curate’s egg: good in parts and worth getting if you can find it at mid-price.


Tony Augarde

 



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