Lennie Tristano: Don't Blame Me

Charlie Parker was in the studio the day this was recorded (as part of an all-star band assembled by Barry Ulanov), and Bird had just recorded his definitive version of this ballad earlier in the week. Sad to say, the altoist stays on the sidelines during this track. But Tristano does not disappoint. He constructs an ethereal sound collage above the harmonies of "Don't Blame Me," sometimes getting so far away from the tonal center that he appears about to sever the umbilical cord and drift away into another song. It's catch-as-catch-can for Billy Bauer, who has the unappealing task to trying to match his guitar chords to Tristano's mind-bending solo. Anticipating the moves of this pianist is like trying to predict the navigational patterns of a butterfly. Wherever you go, Tristano just left. But the band somehow holds together, and delivers a diaphanous version of this 1932 standard.

July 17, 2008 · 0 comments


Elli Fordyce: Don't Blame Me


A lyric should last a thousand years. Jon Hendricks

and a singer should sing it like she's lived a thousand years. Less mature singers tend to substitute impersonation and pretense for life experience. Not Elli Fordyce. She knows whereof she sings. Penned to last in 1933, this song covered by Ethel Waters, Monk, Sarah, Nat Cole, and more loses none of its swing or sexy sweetness in this sage singer's telling. Fordyce's forte is the way she plays space like the often ignored instrument it is; she gives herself and us the time to picture the lyric. Choosing notes wisely, she and her astute trio create a laid-back yet layered scene. These subtle techniques take time to live and learn, and the less experienced will just have to watch and wait. Maybe the world moves far too fast to fathom art that lasts. Maybe some of us give up too soon. Take a tip from Elli: dig the space, the emotion, the depth, and the detailed beauty of life, and try to make it last a thousand years.

May 13, 2008 · 1 comment


Charlie Parker: Don't Blame Me

This track may not be as well known as Bird's version of "Embraceable You," recorded a few days earlier, but it still ranks as one of Parker's finest ballad performances. Miles tackles the intro, but the altoist takes center stage with an opening chorus that barely touches on the melody. Parker handles this song with such effortless mastery and with so many melodic ideas flowing from his horn that anything the other musicians might add would be anticlimactic. Miles makes the smart decision, and follows the leader with an understated solo that looks forward to his cool stylings of the next decade. Somehow this track gets left off the "greatest hits" compilations, but it may be the closest thing we have to a definitive alto sax treatment of the Jimmy McHugh standard.

April 29, 2008 · 0 comments


Toots Thielemans: Don't Blame Me

Sometimes Toots Thielemans plays so soulfully that you forget his "instrument" came from Woolworth's toy department. His agility, of course, was not so readily acquired. This 2-minute track amply illustrates both aspects of Toots's craft. As he movingly interprets an old standard, the tooter's technical mastery serves rather than subsumes his lyrical objectives. Indeed, Toots's imagination is even more impressive than his deftness. From conceiving that full-blown jazz might be played on a gadget that fits in the palm of your hand, to exercising such expressive control over said gizmo, Toots Thielemans reigns as the Wilbur Wright of palm pilots.

December 07, 2007 · 0 comments


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