Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Waxing" Nostalgic in Digital Form

When I worked in radio, the station had some great old vinyl recordings that never seemed to get released on CD (and believe me, I've been looking over the years, in every used CD store and a lot of online sites like Amazon). During the past few weeks, I've finally been able to find a few, either as imports or on the iTunes store. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Phil Woods: I Remember (DCC Compact Classics). Phil and his quartet (Mike Melillo, Steve Gilmore, Bill Goodwin), along with an orchestra, play Woods originals dedicated to the memory of Julian (Adderley), Paul (Desmond), Charles Christopher (Parker) and a lot more. The Cannonball and Bird tributes are my personal favorites, but the whole album holds up well; some of Woods' orchestral excursions--which were common during the '70s--sound dated, but this music is timeless. (Available as an import or through iTunes)

  • Phil Woods: The New Phil Woods Album (RCA). The full name of this is quite amusing: "The New Phil Woods Album: Improvisations on Songs Old and New, Some of His Compositions, Mostly His Arrangements with His Group, Strings and Brass." Two tracks alone are worth the price: "The Sun Suite" (an extended opener that goes through all kinds of meters and feels; some of the orchestra parts may sound dated, but then Woods' Birdlike licks come in over the top and all is right with the world) and "Chelsea Bridge/Johnny Hodges" (an original of Woods' sandwiched in between the Billy Strayhorn chestnut, featuring multitracked Woods solis on both tunes; the one on "Hodges" sounds--to my ears, anyway--like three sopranos and two altos). Also includes a cover of a '70s pop tune ("At Seventeen") and a nice original from Melillo ("Gee"). (Available as an import, with bonus points for packaging the CD to look like the original album, complete with little plastic sleeve inside.)

  • Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Big Band: Long Yellow Road (RCA). I had the fortune to play some of Toshiko's music while in lab bands at UNT, and it's a shame that her music isn't available more widely or performed more often (though, granted, a lot of it is pretty hard). Her compositions are presented by a hard-driving big band that features husband Lew Tabackin on tenor, Bobby Shew on trumpet and Britt Woodman and Dick Spencer on trombone. Highlights include the title track and the gospel waltz "Quadrille, Anyone?" Along with Kogun, which I hope to acquire soon, this is my favorite Toshiko album from college. (Available as an import CD, which once again was made to look like a record.)

  • Tom Harrell: Stories (Contemporary). The trumpeter and flugelhornist--who spent quite a bit of time in Woods' quintet--is another jazz composer who deserves wider recognition. I would have bought this solely on the strength of one composition, "The Water's Edge," a gorgeous jazz waltz. Other highlights include the Mintzer-ish "The Mountain" and the extended title track. Featured players include Bob Berg on tenor and Niels Lan Doky on piano, along with special guest John Scofield on guitar on three tracks. The CD reissue includes a bonus selection. (Available used through Amazon Marketplace or as a download from Amazon and iTunes)

  • Jack DeJohnette: Parallel Realities (MCA). Unlike the rest of the recordings documented above, this was one that I actually owned on CD until someone "borrowed" it quite some time ago, and it has proven difficult to find until now. Despite DeJohnette's name in the leader's spot, this is a true three-way collaboration between the drummer (who also plays an understated keyboard bass on this date), Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock. Metheny's contribution alone should make it a double-billing as he wrote or co-wrote half the tunes here. I enjoy the whole CD immensely, but personal favorites include "Nine Over Reggae," the opening "Jack In" and the title track, which goes into extended exploratory mode. I need to pick up the live recording (which adds bassist Dave Holland to the mix) from the tour supporting this CD. It's great to have this one in my possession again. (Available used from Amazon Marketplace, as well as in download form at Amazon and iTunes)
Tomorrow: Digital downloads? We gots more options now...

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