Gary Bartz: But Not For Me

Gary Bartz began his career in the '60s with the groups of Max Roach/Abby Lincoln, Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, and finally Miles Davis in 1970-71 (check him out on Live-Evil), before forming his popular NTU Troop and subsequently losing his way with more commercial, unfocused projects. By the '90s, Bartz was back in the land of hard and post bop for good, now considered an altoist with an individual and fully formed stylistic approach, if no longer thought of as a potential great on his instrument as had once been the case in his youth.

This ballad feature presents a clear picture of Bartz's influences, most prominently Coltrane, Rollins, McLean and Stitt, although it's also evident that Bartz has transcended these role models. (Coltrane's version from his My Favorite Things album comes most immediately to mind.) Bartz's perfectly rounded, succulent tone enhances his presentations of both the verse and main theme, as well as his many original ideas expressed during an effervescent, technically polished solo. Bartz is also not reluctant to coarsen or add dissonance to his sound in order to make a more emotionally intense point. Pianist Mulgrew Miller follows with a stirring solo of his own, only to be topped by bassist Dave Holland's remarkable in-the-pocket virtuosity immediately thereafter. Bartz returns for the theme and the beginnings of a heated out-chorus before a fadeout at the 9:25 mark. This is a saxophonist one wouldn't want to foolishly try to challenge or top at an otherwise friendly jam session.

March 20, 2009 · 0 comments


Ahmad Jamal: But Not for Me

One of the slickest things about this arrangement of “But Not For Me” is that it defines Ahmad Jamal’s subtleties. In the trio, each guy is doing something very specific, but you don’t think you’re listening to an arrangement—you’re just enjoying the ride. When Ahmad Jamal improvises on a form, he’s constantly playing over the barline—he’s not strictly defining the top and end of a form, but completely easing across it musically, making for an entity versus a series of choruses. You don’t think about keys or tempos or modulations or time signatures or anything like that. Another slick thing about the piece is that super-hip modulation at the top of the last chorus, where he slides right from C-major (his favorite key) into F-major. For years, I didn’t even realize that he had modulated.

May 09, 2008 · 1 comment


Chet Baker: But Not For Me

The late Richard Bock, who produced this recording (and so many other classic West Coast jazz sessions) once confided to me that Chet Baker, in his opinion, played his very best trumpet on this debut session as a vocalist. It's hard to disagree. Not since Lester Young accompanied Billie Holiday had a jazz soloist managed to add such melodically succinct interludes to a vocal date. And those who have only heard Chet Baker sing on records made late in his career need to go back to this 1954 date to experience the magic of this music. One of the great moments for jazz on the dream coast.

November 29, 2007 · 0 comments


Ella Fitzgerald: But Not For Me

     Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Brown at Birdland, photo by Marcel Fleiss

"I never knew how good our songs were," Ira Gershwin allowed, "until I heard Ella sing them." As the 1950s dawned, America's First Lady of Song wasn't yet lugging around the excess baggage of superstardom that would weigh heavily on her voluminous Song Book series later in the decade with their kitschy Las Vegas- type arrangements. In 1950, traveling light, Ella could arrive at the studio with a solitary accompanist—the impeccably sensitive Ellis Larkins—and reduce a song to its sparkling essence with the graceful simplicity of a world-class diamond cutter. We never knew how good Ella was until we heard this track. Ella-gant.

November 20, 2007 · 0 comments


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