[UNRELEASED RECORDINGS]… This collection of Ellingtonia features mostly previously unreleased material from two sources: the Sun Ra Music Archive, maintained by Michael D. Anderson, and the Experimental Sound Studio (ESS)

Despite the fact that Sun Ra has over 1,000 titles copyrighted in his name, a good part of his concert and recorded repertoire consisted of works by other composers. He arranged—in his idiosyncratic way— tunes by Monk, Gershwin, Henderson (Fletcher and Horace), Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and countless others. But no one breezed into Sun Ra setlists more often than the “Duke”—Edward Kennedy Ellington.

Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Herman Poole “Sonny” Blount (born 1914) came of age in the 1930s, when big band “Swing” jazz was in vogue. When he later formed his Arkestra, Sonny drew on this legacy, though he re-shaped the big band format into something his own—a singular (afro-)futuristic reinvention that somehow echoed the music of his youth. Ra as an artist looked forward and backward. He relished innovation, but revered tradition. Paradoxically, the older he got—by the 1970s and ’80s—the more Swing Era chestnuts he revived in his work. Despite the fact that many of his admired composers matured to create more advanced works after the 1930s—Ellington a perfect case in point—Ra’s taste remained rooted in the ’30s. Of the 12 titles in this collection, all but two dates from that decade—”East St. Louis Toodle-oo” is even earlier (1926), and “Duke’s Place” dates from 1942.

John Szwed, writing in the biography, SPACE IS THE PLACE: THE LIVES AND TIMES OF SUN RA offers an interesting Ellingtonian vignette. In his twenties, Sonny was listening to, studying, transcribing, and performing contemporary big band jazz with a passion. Yet, writes Szwed, “Swing music was by now easy for him, formulaic and predictable. But he had another book of arrangements which [his] band rehearsed but never performed and whose purpose he never explained. … The compositions and arrangements in this book were inspired by dreams or made up of ideas derived from reading ‘Popular Mechanics,’ pieces … built on complex and oddly shifting rhythm patterns.”

Szwed continues: “When Duke Ellington was in town, Sonny took his book of arrangements backstage to show him. They talked for over an hour, Ellington gracious and regal in his black silk dressing gown. At one point the Duke pulled out his own arrangements. Sonny saw that Ellington also used dissonance in his writing, only it never seemed dissonant. Sonny was thrilled to see his own ideas confirmed.”

This collection of Ellingtonia features mostly previously unreleased material from two sources: the Sun Ra Music Archive, maintained by Michael D. Anderson, and the Experimental Sound Studio (ESS), Chicago. As with any Sun Ra compilation, audio fidelity varies from the sublime to the near-ridiculous. However, as any Ra fan will attest, the fidelity is usually secondary to the excitement of the performance. The collection opens with an early (1951), intimate Ra duet with Wilbur Ware, recorded at Ra’s Chicago apartment. From there things get raucous and reckless with concert recordings and two home-taped jams featuring Ra and a small ensemble of Arkestrans messing around with “Caravan” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing”; the year and location of the latter session are unknown. There’s more where that came from.—I.C. ~BandCamp

Released: May 27, 2022

All keyboards by Sun Ra. Arkestra personnel varies, but the following soloists have been identified:

3. Nöel Scott
5. Michael Ray, John Gilmore
6. Craig Harris, John Gilmore, Michael Ray
7. Marshall Allen
8. Ahmed Abdullah, Marshall Allen, Bruce Edwards
10. Marshall Allen
11. Tyrone Hill, John Gilmore
12. Walter Miller, John Gilmore

Cover art and design by Tony Kellers/Twelve3

Tape transfers: Haruhi Kobayashi and Matt Mehlan of ESS, and Michael D. Anderson/Sun Ra Music Archive
Master rights: Sun Ra LLC

The compilation, audio restoration, annotation: Irwin Chusid

[COMPARED TO WHAT?]: Circle offers a sweeping anthology of Miles Davis recordings from 1955 to 1970 that show the restless genius of jazz

Circle offers a sweeping anthology of Miles Davis recordings from 1955 to 1970 that show the restless genius of jazz undergoing swift changes as thoroughgoing as the era where they took place. “Two Bass Hit” was recorded at his first Columbia session. “Love for Sale” features the “Kind of Blue” lineup of John Coltrane on tenor, Cannonball Adderley on alto, Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The title track shows Miles stretching into new conceptual worlds with Wayne Shorter on tenor, Herbie Hancock on celeste, Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on drums, and Joe Beck on guitar. The set closes with Miles’s fusion band playing an atmospheric version of David Crosby’sGuinnevere.” ~John Swenson | Amazon

Original Release Date: ‎1979

At your leisure, spin “CIRCLE IN THE ROUND” by Miles Davis.

[COMPARED TO WHAT?]: Jarrett says in his liner notes, “These are great love songs played by players who are trying, mostly, to keep the message intact.”

Jasmine marks Keith Jarrett’s first recorded collaboration in decades other than with his standards trio and reunites him with the great bassist Charlie Haden, a close partner until the mid-seventies. Intimate, spontaneous, and warm, this album of love songs recorded at Jarrett’s home, has affinities, in its unaffected directness, with his solo collection The Melody At Night With You. These deeply felt performances should inspire any listener “to call your wife or husband or lover in late at night,” as Jarrett says in his liner notes, “These are great love songs played by players who are trying, mostly, to keep the message intact.”

The program on Jasmine includes such classic songs as “Body and Soul”, “For All We Know”, “Where Can I Go Without You”, “Don’t Ever Leave Me” as well as a rare Jarrett cover of a contemporary pop song, “One Day I’ll Fly Away”. Jarrett and Haden play the music and nothing but the music – as only they can. As Keith Jarrett says in his liner notes: “This is spontaneous music made on the spot without any preparation save our dedication throughout our lives that we won’t accept a substitute. ~Editorial Review | Amazon

Original Release Date: March 12, 2010

At your leisure, listen to “JASMINE” by Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden

 

[COMPARED TO WHAT?]: Page One introduced the jazz world to the unusually mature and original young tenor saxophonist, Joe Henderson

While Joe Henderson seemed to arrive fully formed on his auspicious 1963 debut Page One, the album was really a showcase for the transcendent collaboration between the tenor saxophonist and trumpeter Kenny Dorham who would form a potent frontline team on numerous classics. Besides, Durham the incomparable McCoy Tyner, bassist Butch Warren, and drummer Pete La Roca are on hand to add the proper punch and balance needed.

The album opens with a pair of indelible Dorham compositions (Blue Bossa/La Mesha), the 6-song set penned by Henderson includes “Recorda-Me.” Page One is also available on Blue Note Classic Vinyl Edition is 180g all-analog, mastered from the original tapes. ~Editorial Review | Amazon

Listen to this amazing classic “PAGE ONE” by tenor hornist Joe Henderson.

COMPARED TO WHAT?: Accomplished pianist Kenny Drew’s definitive 1960 Blue Note release Undercurrents

Kenny Drew was a brilliant pianist who worked with the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Buddy DeFranco, Dinah Washington, and Art Blakey. By 1960 when he recorded Undercurrent for Blue Note, Drew had already recorded ten albums of his own, mostly with duos and trios. Oddly enough he only had the opportunity to only record two albums in his life for Blue Note, an early effort from 1953 and the classic Undercurrent. Matched in a quintet with the young firebrand trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and the always-stimulating tenor-saxophonist Hank Mobley, the 32-year old pianist was ready to truly make his mark.

All six songs on this album are his, and in his accompaniment of the passionate horn men and in his soulful solos, Drew shows that he was one of the major hard bop stylists. Kenny Drew’s playing on Undercurrent, a superb and very well-recorded Blue Note album that is arguably his finest work, is timeless. The definitive versions of Blue Note are on XRCD24 – the optimization of CD mastering and manufacturing. Plays on all standard CD players. ~Editorial Reviews | Amazon

Spin this classic, “UNDERCURRENTS” by Kenny Drew

Compared to What? Latin Soul feature’s the formidable percussionist and bandleader Poncho Sanchez

As jazz enthusiasts, we are generally overly critical of this beloved music, especially to who plays it, or anyone who doesn’t partake (listen) to it. Without question, classic jazz and its kindred spirited brethren encompass a unique montage of original recordings from a period in time that is simply unmatched by a host of exceptional artists. It’s not productive, unnecessary, unfair, and a waste of time to “compare” any of today’s artists to what’s previously been created, played, and recorded.

In the past two decades, conguero Poncho Sanchez has emerged as the West Coast’s foremost Latin-jazz bandleader. Latin Soul–his 19th release for the Concord Picante label–is a cooking set recorded live at the Conga Room in Los Angeles and Yoshi’s in Oakland. This is no loose-blowing session, but a showcase for Sanchez’s road-tight nonet featuring the Banda brothers Ramon and Tony on bass and timbales, plus a powerful four-piece horn section. Sanchez’s conga solos are seldom flashy, just rock solid.

He pays homage to the inspiration of Mongo Santamaria on “Watermelon Man” and “Besame Mama” and recalls the golden age of mambo with Tito Rodriguez‘s Mama Guela.” He sings an invitation to dance on “Ven Pa Bailar” and turns the horns loose on Eddie Cano’s boppish “Ican.” The soul side of the equation is represented by a funky medley of Eddie Harris‘s “Listen Here” and “Cold Duck Time.” ~Rick Mitchell | Amazon

At your leisure, be sure and spin the intoxicating “LATIN SOUL” by Poncho Sanchez 

Compared to What? Guitarist Wes Montgomery’s flawless approach on So Much Guitar! is supreme!

Wes Montgomery appeared as leader or co-leader on a dozen Riverside albums, in a wide variety of formats ranging from organ trios to one with full string orchestra. Some of the most rewarding simply placed him in a studio with a superior rhythm section and let him deal with the mixture of ballads, blues, and swingers. So Much Guitar!, his fourth album for the label, is a notable example of this straightforward approach.

Recorded in 1961, it features the flawless support of Ron Carter (in one of his very first sessions) and Hank Jones and includes Montgomery’s only entirely unaccompanied recording While We’re Young. An added bonus in this Original Jazz Classics Remasters edition are eight selections recorded that same year during a Montgomery Brothers tour. ~Editorial Reviews | Amazon

At your leisure, listen to “SO MUCH GUITAR!” by guitar master Wes Montgomery 

COMPARED TO WHAT? Miles Davis, Milt Jackson Quintet/Sextet

As jazz enthusiasts, we are generally overly critical of this beloved music and anyone who doesn’t partake in it. True enough, classic jazz recordings encompass a unique and rare montage of original recordings by one-of-a-kind and exceptional artists. Let’s face it, no one can or should for that matter “compare” or attempt to “overshadow” what’s already been played and recorded. That’s why I say, “COMPARED TO WHAT?” because this generation’s voice was authentically supreme. Let’s cherish and savor each spin with gratitude as if was the last time we listened to it.

Although they were both seminal figures in the development of modern and cool jazz (and although both played together a lot at Birdland in the early fifties), Miles Davis and Milt Jackson only recorded together on a few occasions. As to be expected, their conjunct recordings produced splendid music. Their studio works originally appeared divided into three different albums. While their 1955 session (included here) was issued in its complete form on the LP Miles Davis All-Star Sextet/Quintet, the results from the famous Miles/Milt/Monk encounter were divided onto two different albums, one titled Bags’ Groove (containing only the two takes of the title track plus a quintet session with Sonny Rollins recorded on June 29, 1954) and Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants (which had the rest of the music from that session plus a version of “Round Midnight” recorded at the same sessions as the music from the celebrated Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’… series with John Coltrane).

The only other preserved encounter by Miles and Milt took place in Germany, during a tour that featured the members of the Modern Jazz Quartet (Milt included, of course) with Miles and a weak, sick Lester Young. ~Editorial Review | Amazon

At your leisure, spin this “SELF-TITLED” masterpiece by Miles & Milt.

COMPARED TO WHAT?: The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus

This 1963 recording occupies a special place in Mingus’s work, his most brilliantly realized extended composition. The six-part suite is a broad canvas for the bassist’s tumultuous passions, ranging from islands of serenity for solo guitar and piano to waves of contrapuntal conflict and accelerating rhythms that pull the listener into the musical psychodrama. It seems to mingle and transform both the heights and clichés of jazz orchestration, from Mingus’s master, Duke Ellington, to film noir soundtracks.

The result is a masterpiece of sounds and textures, from the astonishing vocal effects of the plunger-muted trumpets and trombone (seeming to speak messages just beyond the range of understanding) to the soaring romantic alto of Charlie Mariano. Boiling beneath it all are the teeming, congested rhythms of Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond and the deep morass of tuba and baritone saxophone. This is one of the greatest works in jazz composition, and it’s remarkable that Mingus dredged this much emotional power from a group of just 11 musicians. ~Stuart Broomer | Amazon

At your leisure, check out “THE SAINT AND THE SINNER LADY” by bassist/composer Charles Mingus 

COMPARED TO WHAT? …TRIO 65 by Bill Evans Trio

In the mid-1960s Bill Evans was involved in numerous recording projects, from film soundtrack work and playing with a symphony orchestra to duets with guitarist Jim Hall and solo and multitracked piano. As a result, he spent very little time in the studio with one of his finest working units, the trio with bassist Chuck Israels and drummer Larry Bunker.

Each of Evans’s trios found a different balance of elements, usually hinging on the pianist’s musical relationship with his bass player. Israels is less given to virtuoso flights and aggressive countermelody than Scott LaFaro or Eddie Gomez, instead of picking his notes for maximal harmonic and melodic effect, while maintaining a secure time feel. His style provides a different focus for the pianist, less reactive and more continuous, and it emphasizes Evans’s capacity for rhythmically aggressive, boppish playing.

John Carisi’s “Israel,” a tune dating from Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool, has Evans fastening on the rhythmic undercurrent generated by Israels and Bunker, and it continues with his linear approach to the solo on his own “Elsa.” With familiar musicians and tunes, Evans produces one of his most relaxed and sustained recordings of the period. ~Stuart Broomer | Amazon

If you haven’t, check out “TRIO 65” by the Bill Evans Trio