Ella Fitzgerald: Every Time We Say Goodbye

Perhaps the most enduring song from the whole Songbook series, “Every Time We Say Goodbye” from The Cole Porter Songbook dispensed with the big band-isms that provided the backdrop to the series. Instead, the haunting sound of oboe and strings and Ella’s liquid vocal give this piece its timeless feel. Ella could never quite understand why it was one of her most popular songs with European audiences, and to this day it is regularly played on European radio stations – not least by the BBC. The Cole Porter Songbook set effectively launched Norman Granz’s Verve label, the famous “4000” series initiated with Ella in mind. Its subsequent success when released in 1956 – it went straight to 15 on the Billboard chart, and Down Beat listed it as the second best-selling jazz album – ensured Verve's financial viability and ultimately went on to become one of the best-selling albums of all time, remaining almost constantly in print since its release.

February 19, 2008 · 0 comments


Fred Hersch & Bill Frisell: What Is Thing Called Love

In the CD insert, a black and white photo gives a clue about the approach to standards Hersch and Frisell have chosen here: they're standing side by side with Hersch holding an upright fork in one more parody of Grant Wood's famous American Gothic painting. Sophisticated songs treated in a mock "country boy" way, then. Both musicians simply turn around the melody in parallel lines on a light bouncing rhythm, sounding like good old times. Of course this wouldn't work if Hersch and Frisell didn't feel a sincere tenderness for the song and genuine nostalgia for its period. And so do they obviously feel, while remaining men of their time.

February 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Ahmad Jamal: What Is This Thing Called Love

At the club he then owned, Jamal and his partners give one of their classic performances of the late '50s and early '60s, maintaining constant suspense with a song everybody knows by heart. First, they don't clearly quote the melody before one minute, after having circled it in many ways. Then they carry on this hide-and-seek game until there's no resting place for the ears of those who've grasped that anything can happen at any moment. This trio is a real orchestra, and Jamal acts as an arranger. Or should one say a stage director, who dispatches sound effects. Who could believe that in those days some called Jamal a lounge pianist?

February 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Stan Getz & Kenny Barron: Night and Day

After a short up-tempo intro, Getz and Barron launch the theme in a brisk, radiant manner that could lift the spirits of the most depressed listener. This is among the last of Getz. He's sick, and he knows it. Still he wants to give his utmost to the audience of Copenhagen's legendary (and now defunct) Montmartre Club that gave him so much over the years. What's more, Getz is with his favorite accompanist of this late period, the great Kenny Barron. The empathy between them is immense, and each plays with his heart as well as his fingers. Few of us were at the Montmartre in March '91, but we can listen to them at home now, night and day.

February 04, 2008 · 0 comments


Dianne Reeves: Love for Sale

On this live track the interaction between Dianne Reeves and her rhythm section is tremendous. They shift speed without notice, the singer goes from words to scat with an incredible ease, and she lets her pianist and drummer improvise in a way that seems to flow naturally in the course of the performance, far from some of those formally announced solos. Above all, though they are tackling a song with meaningful words, their interpretation is based on rhythm more than on meaning. Yet their incredible rhythmic drive fits the re-harmonized melody like a glove, and makes sense too.

January 29, 2008 · 0 comments


Paul Motian: Just One of Those Things

When Paul Motian decided to reread the Broadway repertoire on a long-term basis, he was not driven by nostalgia. A musician like him, who has been considered a modernist over the last 50 years, had to have something new to say about these standards. Indeed, the sound of his trio with Frisell and Lovano was already that of a group of individuals with their own sense of phrasing and improvisation. Adding a second horn and a bass to this unusual trio could have transformed it into an almost “normal” quintet. But, with Konitz and Haden, it instead multiplied the possibilities of interaction between strong personalities who avoid clichés, and put their mark on a song that never sounded so young and fresh.

January 21, 2008 · 0 comments


James P. Johnson: What Is This Thing Called Love

Only a few months after Cole Porter launched this tune as part of his 1929 musical Wake Up and Dream, James P. Johnson records this cover version in a stride adaptation. Johnson aims to transform Porter's minor key lament into a boisterous rent-party number. Jazz fans who are familiar with these chord changes as a springboard for bop pyrotechnics will find this Harlem piano version of the song a bit strange. "What Is This Thing Called Love" is not the best example of James P. Johnson's artistry -- check out his "Carolina Shout" or his classical works if you are new to this artist -- but even this track demonstrates the pianist's ability to put his own personal stamp on a popular standard.

December 08, 2007 · 0 comments


Diana Krall: I've Got You Under My Skin (live in Paris)

What extraordinary patience and care Krall puts into her vocals. She never strains for effect, never gets caught up in superficialities. She just digs deeper and deeper into the emotional heart of a song. You may have heard this Cole Porter standard a thousand times before, yet Krall will make you believe that you are experiencing its feeling state for the first time. She lets this exquisite performance float by at the tempo of a heartbeat for a full 7 minutes. This is what jazz singing sounds like when you get beyond the notes and into the soul of the composition. Highly recommended.

December 08, 2007 · 2 comments


Irving Aaronson: Let's Misbehave – as heard in Woody Allen's <i>Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex</i> (1972) and <i>Bullets Over Broadway</i> (1994)

In 1922, between cocktails, F. Scott Fitzgerald christened the Jazz Age, which thereupon lived up to its moniker with gay abandon—bringing us to Cole Porter, whose song "Let's Misbehave" shows how promiscuously jazz by the late 1920s had debauched Western civilization. Here is a popular dance band laden with such antiquities as fiddles, tuba and splash cymbals, yet their rakish syncopation and scat vocal chorus are as modern as the Chrysler Building. "Let's Misbehave" ain't jazz, but sure is jazzy. Plus it's more campy fun than Cole Porter's coming-out party, which we hear was simply to die for, darlings.

November 20, 2007 · 0 comments


Jane Monheit: In the Still of the Night

Monheit has all the tools for greatness - perfect intonation, great range, nuanced phrasing. And I've never heard a prettier version of this Cole Porter song. But is prettiness the right attitude for Porter's classic song? This "still of the night" landscape is mostly an empty horizon, with little happening on an emotional level. Monheit has the potential to rank among the finest singers of her generation, but the psychological content of her songs doesn't yet match the slickness of her technique.

November 18, 2007 · 0 comments


Dexter Gordon: Love for Sale

The man called “Long Tall Dexter” possessed a tone as striking and unforgettable as his 6’5” frame. He commanded the tenor saxophone; once his robust, metallic, authoritative tone is heard, listeners will know exactly what the instrument is supposed to sound like. Gordon’s swing is remarkable. His time is rock-solid—consistently behind the beat but never sluggish. His self-assured yet understated take on the head of “Love for Sale” and melodically inventive, long-phrased improvisation prove him to be the master bebop tenorman. This performance also demonstrates how he inspired and influenced all of those who unjustly overshadowed him in the 1960s. Essential to any collection.

November 16, 2007 · 0 comments


Stan Getz & Bill Evans: Night and Day

The inclusion of Elvin Jones on this recording may seem odd, and though it has some stimulating moments, it is certainly not a perfect fit. The execution of the arrangement—extended solo breaks and alternating Latin and swing grooves—is far from flawless. Evans, used to subtler drummers, has difficulty comping with Jones and their playing is at times discordant. However, this sloppiness is partly due to experimentation outside of musical comfort zones, and that alone is intriguing and makes the successes more enjoyable. Getz relishes in Jones’s presence. His playing is more pressing than normal, rhythmically animated, and altogether edgier. An interesting experiment in small group jazz.

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments


Clifford Brown: What is This Thing Called Love

This lengthy, minimally arranged track provides an opportunity to compare and contrast the improvising styles of three popular trumpet players of the day, the veteran Clark Terry and younger stars Clifford Brown and Maynard Ferguson. Brown’s superbly crafted solo illustrates why he was one of the most influential trumpeters of all time. All the others get extended solos as well, including pioneering bebop drummer Max Roach and two hard-driving West Coast saxophonists, altoist Herb Geller and tenorist Harold Land.

November 07, 2007 · 0 comments


Paul Motian: My Heart Belongs to Daddy

Once again the magic of Cole Porter is transformed into a vehicle for quality jazz players to blow. This ensemble (not always with Haden) has been convening, from time to time, for over 25 years. This early outing (relatively speaking) confirms what Sonny Rollins has always known about taking on some of the less well-known gems of the Great American Songbook. Not only is there gold in them there hills but great springboards for jazz improvisation, which all these participants take on with a vibrant playfulness as well as probing the ‘outer’ edges of the tune.

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments


Artie Shaw: Begin the Beguine

"I hate the music business," groused Artie Shaw. "I’m not interested in giving the public what they want." This from a man with eight million-selling singles in the 1930s and '40s. His first such hit, "Begin the Beguine," left him rich, famous and utterly disgusted with the "morons" who insisted he play it at every appearance. Count us among the morons. Cole Porter's song is enchanting. Jerry Gray's arrangement is beguiling. The band's execution is immaculate. Shaw's clarinet is unashamedly romantic. So what's to hate? Jazz's greatest ingrate preferred every cloud to its silver lining. Some guys just can't say thanks.

October 31, 2007 · 0 comments


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