Raya Yarbrough: Early Autumn

Ralph Burns's impressionistic composition "Early Autumn" is much beloved by an older generation of jazz fans, but rarely covered by the youngsters. Then again, it is hard to top Stan Getz's gorgeous solo on the original recording. But Yarbrough delivers a gem in this reworking of a 60-year-old piece, with a delicate, understated vocal. I am generally suspicious when they bring in the string orchestra on a jazz vocal CD - I can almost smell easy-listenin' in the air. No need to worry here. Producer Steve Bartek has cooked up a brilliant string arrangement. It's like Lou Harrison was called in by mistake to handle a Nelson Riddle gig. In fact, this is the most interesting use of strings in a vocal CD that I have heard in a long time, and is what pushes my rating from the high 80s into the 90s. Check it out!

February 29, 2008 · 0 comments


The Soft Winds: Early Autumn

Upon their release in 1949, Woody Herman's "Summer Sequence (Part 4)" on Columbia and "Early Autumn" on Capitol served up a double whammy for 22-year-old tenorman Stan Getz, featured on both versions of what was in fact the same composition by Ralph Burns. While each of these discs would've been influential on its own, together they established Getz as a star and made "Early Autumn" a jazz standard.

During this same period, a piano/guitar/bass trio called The Soft Winds offered early proof that "Early Autumn" required neither tenor sax sublimity nor big band backing to be effective. What's most striking about this track is how closely The Soft Winds approximated the sound of George Shearing's Quintet, a vastly more popular group with the same instrumentation plus vibes and drums. Partly it's the plush piano/guitar unisons and Lou Carter's block chords; partly it's the gauzy beauty of Ralph Burns's tune, which lends itself perfectly to such intimate orchestration. (Surprisingly, Shearing himself did not record this made-to-order vehicle until 1960.)

The Soft Winds wafted their separate ways in the early '50s, but their guitarist soon fluttered back into the piano/guitar/bass fold, joining Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown for an unforgettable 5-year run. One listen to The Soft Winds' "Early Autumn" was probably enough to convince Oscar and Ray that Herb Ellis was as empathetic an ensemble player as ever blew into town.

February 10, 2008 · 0 comments


Woody Herman: Early Autumn

During the 1950s, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz became the most popular of Lester Young's followers. But his breakthrough came as a result of his probing solo on the Woody Herman Orchestra’s 1948 recording of Ralph Burn’s gorgeous ballad “Early Autumn,” which showed off his lovely sound and advanced sense of lyricism. Getz remained popular even after other tenor styles overtook his in fashionability.

October 31, 2007 · 0 comments


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