MY TOP TEN: Robert E. Jensen
These are all jazz albums, much of it mono, too old to be part of the generation brainwashed and with damaged ears from a steady diet of rock.
1) Stan Kenton – “Kenton in Hi-Fi”
A July 1958 re-recording of earlier Kenton classics in hi-fi and stereo, bringing together most of the key original musicians in this 22-piece band. Unfortunately, Capitol lost most of the original stereo tapes, and the CD reissue is mostly in mono. I still have the original stereo LP in excellent condition, although it’s been played a hundred times.
2) Shorty Rogers – “Short Stops”
This reissue CD combines original mono recordings from at least two LPs plus tracks from the Marlon Brando movie “The Wild Ones.” Tracks are taken from five separate recording sessions using mostly ex-Kentonite sidemen and finds Maynard Ferguson (the world’s greatest high-note trumpeter) and Art Pepper in absolutely peak form.
3) Miles Davis – “Round About Midnight”
This was a close call with Miles’ classic, “Kind of Blue,” decided primarily on the group’s pianist. I like Red Garland better than the critics’ choice, Bill Evans, a less swinging and more cerebral guy than Red.
4) Chet Baker – “Let’s Get Lost”
Chet in his absolute prime before drugs and bad choices of sidemen depreciated his talent. After Chet left Pacific Jazz, he made a lot of mediocre records under his own name and occasionally joined other groups for recordings, showing flashes of his great sense of melody and time.
Chet both plays and sings on this CD in absolutely top form. He also recorded some of his greatest works as a member of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet on both Pacific Jazz and Fantasy.
5) Woody Herman – “Keeper of the Flame”
This reissue on Capitol of Woody’s Four Brothers Band was originally recorded in 1949, and features a young Stan Getz about to be catapulted to jazz stardom for his solo on “Early Autumn.”
This was a great band full of young and wild beboppers. Also featured are vocals by the talented-but- mostly overlooked Mary Ann McCall.
6) Marty Paich Big Band – “Moanin”
Marty was mostly an arranger for other big bands. This CD combines the recordings from two LPs. It’s in stereo, very well recorded, and features absolutely top talent. Art Pepper and Jack Sheldon handle most of the solos. Vibes are played by Victor Feldman sounding exactly like Terry Gibbs. This was basically a studio band with great tunes and great arrangements.
7) Charlie Parker With Strings – “The Master Takes”
Parker perhaps at his most commercial but also most enjoyable. The critics howled, but Charlie said his recording of “Just Friends” was his personal favorite. Can you imagine that Mitch Miller both played and arranged on this date?
8) Michael Franks – “The Art of Tea”
A close call between this and ‘Sleeping Gypsy.” This is Franks at his absolute freshest, both in writing and in singing, with absolutely drop-dead instrumental backing by such giants as Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, Dave Sanborn and Michael Brecker. And to think that most of these guys recorded with rock groups – guess you have to put food on the table.
9) Angel Wings – “Jack Sheldon and His West Coast Friends”
Never, to my knowledge, has this excellently recorded LP in stereo been reissued on CD. The most important of “Jack’s West Coast Friends” was Art Pepper. If you heard this LP without knowing the title, you’d swear it was an Art Pepper LP. He dominates and plays in absolute top form; from corner to corner there is not one track that is not superb. I guess this was payback by Art for the many times Jack played as a sideman in Art’s group.
These two played better together than Bird and Diz, and certainly as good as Mulligan and Chet.
10) Stan Getz – “The Bossa Nova Years”
This is a four-CD package starting with Stan’s original Jazz Samba recording with Charlie Byrd and progressing through his recordings with Jaoa Gilberto, Astrude Gilberto and ultimately with Laurindo Almeida and several others, recorded in the heyday of bossa nova, 1963-64. Stan and bossa nova were made for each other.
“My Top Ten” appears each Tuesday. Want to share your top 10 – songs, movies, TV shows, books, whatever? Send your list to My Top Ten, The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945 or e-mail it to email@example.com.
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