Dutch Jazz Orchestra: Easy Living Medley (Easy Living/Everything Happens to Me/Moon Dreams)

For my last choice I'm going to offer something that 99% of you will not have heard, because it seems not to have been recorded until recently. To have a new work by Gil emerge out of the ether is to be bestowed with a gift more valuable than gold. Here is one such magical gift. In the liner notes of this album, they say he was experimenting with a new band that he'd only rehearsed. The instrumentation of this work consists of 3 flutes, 5 reeds, 2 French horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, guitar, piano, bass and drums. It seems far more likely that this is actually something from the Claude Thornhill band collection that was never recorded, or for which the tapes were lost. This piece has the precise instrumentation of “The Troubadour” and several other of Gil's arrangements that Thornhill recorded in the same period (1946-1947). That offers a big clue. Never mind, though—the point is, it's gorgeous. Of course, we all know “Moon Dreams” from Birth of the Cool, but here it is in even fuller orchestration. And clearly, then, the nonet version was a paring-down of this much more orchestral version written probably around three years before Birth of the Cool. This medley exhibits every characteristic that I've talked of until now: the exquisite inner melodies, the airy tuba parts, the delicate details that dovetail into each other moving from color to color in the orchestra. Just sit back, shut your eyes, and bathe in the sheer gorgeousness of this long-lost Gil Evans treasure.

July 10, 2009 · 0 comments


Clifford Brown: Easy Living

This was Brownie’s first date as a leader for Blue Note Records and came about after Brown’s outstanding playing on the Jay Jay Johnson Blue Note record date just a month prior. For sidemen, he chose new musical friend Gigi Gryce (with whom, by this time, he was working with in Lionel Hampton’s Band), Art Blakey (who was recommended to hire Brown earlier by none other than Charlie Parker), and Blue Note regulars Heath, Lewis and Rouse. In addition to this beautiful ballad, the session includes material by Brown himself, Gigi Gryce, Hampton trumpet mate Quincy Jones and the bebopper’s test piece “Cherokee,” which Brown had an affinity for playing. This date took place only days prior to Brown’s departure for a European tour with the great Lionel Hampton Orchestra, which was chock full of young modern jazz talent of the day. A wonderful Francis Wolff photograph from this session shows Brown and Gryce donning stickers on their chest in testament to both having been properly immunized for their impending trip overseas!

Ralph Rainger’s Easy Living, a tune often associated with songstress Billie Holiday, is relaxed and loping, and Clifford expresses the mood brilliantly. The introduction, over a bowed bass, has Gryce on a flute lead, and though it sounds much like another flute, I believe Rouse is playing the saxophone delicately and transparently underneath. Brownie enters with the melody line and presents it gracefully in a vocal style, twisting and bending notes to add color and nuance. His two A-sections of the 32-bar tune are full of rapid embellishments and additions to the melody, and he shows off his double-timing ability, which is complemented admirably by Blakey, an excellent choice for the date. During the bridge, Blakey sets up an attractive rhythmic pattern that gets picked up in a variant by Lewis. Their “chatter” surrounding Clifford’s melody is quite appealing. Brown finishes the melody with a remarkable modulation back to the B-section that falls into a double-time feel for Brownie’s melodic improvisation. Clifford takes the melody out and the introduction material recurs, providing a coda that harmonically concludes with a sound that is, to this day, quite funny to my ears!

The product as a whole is a thoughtfully arranged, highly sensitive reading of the song which leaves one with a melancholy yet wholly satisfied feeling, much like releasing a heavy sigh. As a matter of fact, in Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia of Jazz, which was released in 1955 (with interviews conducted by mail in 1954), Clifford listed “Easy Living” as his best solo to date on record.

July 03, 2009 · 0 comments


Lisa Hearns: Easy Living

Being a guitar nut, I find myself going back & forth on this: is it Lisa Hearns's voice, full of expressive inner detail and coy vibrato? Or did the name Howard Alden first attract my attention? Well, Alden does deliver a very fine solo, but Hearns's voice finally drew me in. There are so many female jazz vocalists out there, all vying to be heard above the long shadow projected by the likes of Abbey Lincoln, Ella, and Billie Holiday, that a singer must have that kernel of distinction. Hearns provides this with phrasing that reminds my ear of Billie with the modern spin of a Katherine Whalen. OK ... and Howard Alden doesn't hurt either.

January 01, 2009 · 0 comments


Marc Copland & Greg Osby: Easy Living

This version of "Easy Living" is very quiet and relaxed in its beginning, and Copland's piano maintains a slow, understated pace while Osby gathers momentum and intensity during his solo. The alto explores textures and harmonies in a refined way, its exposure of the theme slowly becoming a solo as its search carries on. When it stops and the piano briefly plays alone, the atmosphere hardly changes. The partners are about sound, and they play their instruments in such a personal way that one at times almost forgets the original theme just to follow them where they lead us.

March 21, 2008 · 0 comments


Steve Coleman: Easy Living

It begins as an improvised alto solo where you recognize here and there bits of the melody or harmonic twists of "Easy Living" among the poised flow of notes blown at medium tempo. Then Andy Milne's piano enters after almost 1:30 and builds an angular counterpoint to the alto's lead while Coleman gathers speed. Both ultimately wind up exploring the sides and turns of the tune on parallel paths. The result is a fascinating reading—both abstract and full of tenderness—of this classic by two musicians who must know it very well to be able to take is so far away, while respecting its essence.

February 04, 2008 · 0 comments


Clifford Brown: Easy Living

While there is much injustice in the world, the death of Clifford Brown reads like a truly bad dream. Twenty-five years old, known for rejecting the inclination towards substance-abuse practiced by some of his contemporaries, a family man and a real giant of the jazz trumpet, Brown had everything going for him. He died on a wet highway with Richie Powell on the way to the next gig less than three years after this session. This track shows a certain ease of execution that shows up on Brown ballads. The solo playing here is mesmerizing, and while the ensemble work by all is well done, the spotlight is on "Brownie”—as it should be.

November 05, 2007 · 0 comments


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