Wynton Marsalis: A Foggy Day

The opening bars seem to herald a relaxed rendition of an old standard. But thirty seconds into the track, bassist Hurst briefly superimposes a five-beat pulse on the underlying 4/4, and the games begin. Wynton & Co. had been experimenting with odd metrics on the albums leading up to Standard Time, and the band displays here that they could apply these progressive techniques to the traditional repertoire. But the most impressive thing here is the subtlety with which the cross-rhythms are employed. A casual listener might not hear anything out of the ordinary, and put this track on for light background music. Send that tin-eared transgressor to jazz re-education camp forthwith! The combo playing here is happening at a very high level and has earned a place at the forefront of your attention. Marsalis's sidemen challenge him at every step, but the trumpeter stays in total control of the proceedings. Check out the placement of his phrasing against the rhythm section starting at the ninety-second mark and continuing for ten scintillating seconds . . . and then go back and enjoy it again. Just a tiny snippet, but it sounds like a mariachi band joining Monk during the last set at the Five Spot, and each ensemble asserting the primacy of its own conception of time. Then the music settles down again at the top of the form . . . but nothing is ever settled for very long on this performance. This is how you keep the old sentimental songs sounding fresh and unbridled fifty years after they were composed. By the time we get the coda, the band is changing meters so often, even Lovely Rita couldn't keep up with them. Meanwhile, the fog has dissipated and the sun is shining everywhere.

February 03, 2009 · 0 comments


Benny Carter: A Foggy Day

Charlie Parker was the king of the saxophone when this track was recorded, and every alto player was under Bird's sway. Well, not every one . . . Benny Carter was laying down some heavy alto lines like bebop never happened. And it's hard not to be captivated by the proceedings here. Carter's tone, his ideas, his sense of swing were delightful then, and still are today. As with so many Carter solos, this is one that, after you hear it a few times, you will start singing along with the record. And if Carter is the Cosmopolite that gives this project its name, then Oscar Peterson is the ultimate gentleman, pulling out the Nat King Cole imitation that he saved for moments such as this, guiding the rhythm section and maintaining the Swing Era ambiance of the date.

June 05, 2008 · 0 comments


Charles Mingus: A Foggy Day

Don't be fooled by the album cover. Max Roach is not on this track. The introduction is promising -- an avant-garde grumbling and rumbling seems to announce the arrival of Free Jazz. Cecil Taylor would not issue his first recording until the following year, and Mal Waldron seems anxious to get the jump on him. But it only lasts twenty seconds. Perhaps the musicians were trying to imitate a foghorn to announce the arrival of their foggy day in London town. The rest of the track is fairly conventional, and one of Mingus's lesser efforts. Those looking for a more invigorating dose of the great bassist should fast forward a few years -- to "Haitian Fight Song" (from 1957) or "Better Git It In Your Soul" (from 1959) for better examples of his artistry.

December 07, 2007 · 0 comments


Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald: A Foggy Day

The 1950s boasted many illustrious pairs: Barbie & Ken, Boris & Natasha, Fred & Ethel, Huntley & Brinkley, Ike & Mamie, Lucy & Ricky, Martin & Lewis, Ozzie & Harriet, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Watson & Crick. None, however, outclassed Ella & Louis. Here, from the vicinity of Hollywood & Vine, they cover George & Ira's tribute to the land of Fish & Chips. He & She are as complementary as Bread & Butter and as iconic as the Stars & Stripes. "The age of miracles," each sings agelessly and miraculously, "hadn't passed." Thanks to Ella & Louis, it never shall.

December 05, 2007 · 0 comments


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