Jazz greats gather; reproduction poor
J.A.T.P. Carnegie Hall, 1949
A word to the wise: Proceed directly to track two of this live recording of 53 years ago made in Carnegie Hall. Otherwise, you’ll never get past the first cut, an introduction of the evening’s proceedings by impresario Norman Granz that is nearly a total wipeout.
However, by midway into the second number, audio engineers have spun enough knobs to capture the sound of one beauty of a jam bash by some of the biggest names in jazz at the time.
Of course, Granz had a way of rounding up jazz’s elite for his Jazz At the Philharmonic concert series, which he took on the road, as well as those he staged at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium.
So, it’s no surprise the Carnegie cast included such luminaries as reedmen Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Criss and Flip Phillips, trumpet player Fats Navarro and rhythm-makers Hank Jones (piano), Ray Brown (bass) and Shelly Manne (drums).
And little-known trombonist Tommy Turk and Phllips let the audience know the all-stars came to play when they, and the others, let fly on “Leap Here” to open the concert. And if you think “Leap Here” is entirely original, then let it be known the tune’s based on the chord changes to “Perdido.”
An intriguing intro that sets up the old warhorse, “Indiana,” follows at a furious pace with Parker and Criss out front. “Lover, Come Back To Me” is the program’s longest jam, with Phillips and Turk laying the fire before Parker’s explosive chorus and Navarro’s own take ignite the kindling.
Enter Hawkins for the second set – it follows another Granz introduction – and exit the other reedmen and Turk, leaving Hawk, Navarro and the rhythm section to carry on. It’s a four-song affair with the quintet frying “Rifftide,” another knock-off of “Lady Be Good,” to initiate its part of the program. And then comes Hawkins, a consummate ballad player, placing his own stamp on Ellington’s harmonically challenging “Sophisticated Lady,” after which Navarro essays a lovely version of “The Things We Did Last Summer.” What else to finish up with other than Hawkins’ catchy riff tune, “Stuffy,” which like a lot of other songs is a variant of “I Got Rhythm.”
As mentioned at the top, the sound is OK after the first cut, but only OK. But you can’t expect much more from live recordings made better than 50 years ago, when sound engineers were working with relatively primitive gear.
My Passion For the Piano
By recording an album of jazz on which he plays piano, Cuban trumpeter/fluegelhornist Arturo Sandoval joins a short list of musicians who have set aside their main ax in favor of a second instrument. Bix Beiderbecke, a silver-toned cornetist, showed his flair for the piano with his ethereal “In a Mist” and bass boss Charles Mingus also recorded an album on the keyboard.
As a rule, record companies don’t like to gamble by satisfying an artist’s inner urge, but with Sandoval, it really isn’t much of a gamble. The man whose hectic flight from Cuba has been portrayed on film is a classically trained musician whose love for the trumpet and fluegel won out over than his passion for the piano when he began his professional career.
Sandoval is accompanied by a trio on his first recorded outing on piano, with tenor saxophonist Ed Calle an added attraction on two of the 12 tracks – “Departure” and “Time Before.” It should be noted that Calle is an up-and-coming hornman whose recorded work with his own group has been quite impressive as it is on this disc.
The performances of pianist Sandoval and trumpeter/fluegelhornist Sandoval embody somewhat the same characteristics: great sweeping flourishes, rich harmonies and an understanding of the importance of dynamics. Not alike, however, are the influences. Dizzy Gillespie’s imprint is evident on Sandoval’s horn playing, while his piano playing has been shaped by listening to Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson as well.
Sandoval takes an adventuresome route here. That’s for sure. Eight of the 12 tracks are originals, contributed either by Sandoval or a member of his group: two are by bassist Dennis Marks and six by the pianist. Only “All the Things You Are,” “Stella By Starlight” and “Windmills of Your Mind” fall into the standards category.
The balance includes a lovely “Marinella Says Goodbye,” which Sandoval composed in honor of his wife; “Blues in F” and “Blues En Fa,” the first and last tracks and both written by Sandoval; and the previously mentioned “Time Before” and “Departure,” both penned by Marks.
While Sandoval is certain to return to the trumpet and fluegel for future recordings, don’t bet against other piano albums, too. The man can play.
Cam Miller is a free-lance jazz critic in Lake Wildwood. You may write to him care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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