Abdullah Ibrahim: In a Sentimental Mood

Ibrahim enjoyed the rare distinction, back in the early 1960s, of having his career take flight under the sponsorship of Duke Ellington. Here he returns the favor by interpreting one of Ellington's best known songs. But this track is a disappointment. The piano sound is murky, and though the recording engineer bears some responsibility, Ibrahim's pedaling and piano touch also contribute to the problem. Throughout this CD, and especially on this track, Ibrahim relies on a fractured rubato. Again and again, he hits a chord at the start of the bar, adds a very concise right hand phrase—the phrases here rarely cross the barline, as though it were some insurmountable obstacle—then the sounds die out while Ibrahim pauses to consider his follow-up move. Eventually the next bar starts, with another chord and another phrase stumbles out of the starting gate, only to fall to the ground before reaching the finish line. To add to the austere sensibility, Ibrahim has excised most of the recognizable elements from Ellington's original composition. There is neither much sentiment nor mood in this version of "Sentimental Mood." Some of the harmonic textures are interesting, but there is not enough substance here for them to cohere into anything substantial.

February 04, 2009 · 0 comments


Tuck & Patti: In a Sentimental Mood

Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart met thirty years ago (through the intercession of my old bandmate Michael Stillman), and soon found their musical bliss in the relatively untapped format of jazz guitar and vocal duets. Fast forward three decades and this pair is still working as a twosome, and remain committed to the American popular song tradition. Not much has changed with their music but, frankly, who wants to tinker with such a winning formula? Tuck Andress is a brilliant guitarist who needs no bass and drums to anchor his efforts. The under-produced sound of this release is the perfect setting to appreciate his artistry. Here he hints at Duke Ellington's accompaniment to John Coltrane from their famous recording of this tune; but he also adds some bluesy touches of his own invention. Patti Cathcart continues to delight with her sweet, soulful voice. For music fans, Tuck & Patti are still a match made in jazz heaven.

October 15, 2008 · 0 comments


McCoy Tyner: In a Sentimental Mood

Musicians today have little sense of the pressure on jazz artists to jump on board the Free Jazz bandwagon during the late 1960s and 1970s. It was leaving town, turbocharged by the inexorable force of History with a capital H, and you didn't want to be left behind, stuck with old-fashioned chord changes. ("Chord changes, we don't need no stinkin' chord changes.") McCoy Tyner had helped set the Free Jazz movement in motion with his 1960s work alongside John Coltrane, but the pianist mostly remained within the bounds of tonality during his post-Coltrane career. Yet even an artist of this stature wrestled with the conflict between staying inside or moving beyond the harmonies.

No Tyner performance is more revealing of this tension than his solo piano rendition of "In a Sentimental Mood" from the memorable Atlantis live date from the summer 1974. There are long stretches here where Cecil Taylor seems to have taken over the keyboard, buzzing and hammering and obliterating the tonal center. Then Ellington's beautiful pentatonic melody will rise above the fray, like some towering monument to structure and order. But Tyner eventually moves beyond these external influences, and constructs his own rhapsodic vision of this song. This music is intense and beautiful by turns, and some moments are absolutely breathtaking. Solo acoustic jazz piano was making a comeback during this decade under the influence of Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Cecil Taylor and others, but even in an era of keyboard masterpieces this track stands out from the crowd.

September 04, 2008 · 0 comments


Duke Ellington & John Coltrane: In a Sentimental mood

The early 1960s was a controversial time for John Coltrane as fans and critics tried to keep up with his evolving music. In response to negative criticism, Impulse producer Bob Thiele decided to feature Coltrane on several albums in a more accessible setting. Paired with Duke Ellington, the result was an extraordinary meeting of musical minds. From the very first note, Ellington sets the pensive mood as Coltrane flexes his melodic muscle, morphing the Ellington melody into something uniquely his own. Ellington's solo fits together like a beautifully constructed puzzle, while the overall performance captures the song title perfectly.

July 02, 2008 · 1 comment


Sarah Vaughan: In a Sentimental Mood

After Hours may finally have satisfied Sarah Vaughan's detractors. In an intimate setting with just guitar and bass accompaniment, Vaughan subtly embellishes the melodies throughout, with commandingly controlled tone and vibrato, limiting the glissandos that some saw as mere vocal tricks or acrobatics. Discerning listeners could still enjoy the way she emphasized certain words, or even just syllables, to enhance the meaning of the lyric and/or the beauty of the melody. In any case, in the early 1960s Vaughan was clearly coming into her own as a mature and complete jazz singer.

With the understated yet substantial support of the tasteful Lowe and Duvivier, Vaughan glides lovingly through "In a Sentimental Mood," picking her spots for improvisation, singing "every kiss" repeatedly to great effect, and toying with the word "divine" in each chorus, hitting a resonant bass note the first time around. She ends her interpretation with a wordless mini-coda, strikingly intoned. Vaughan's three short years as a Roulette recording artist were artistically superb, and After Hours may have been the high point. Whether she reaped much financial benefit is another story. She and other Roulette artists complained about the lack of royalties, among other problems.

April 22, 2008 · 0 comments


Milt Jackson: In a Sentimental Mood

"All music is folk music," observed Louis Armstrong. "I ain't never heard a horse sing a song." Without contradicting Satchmo, we might also say that all music is mood music—not cocktail-hour Easy Listening or waiting-room New Age, but art with the emotional depth to transform a listener's state of mind. While Coltrane’s Ascension (1965) may incense us, another Coltrane track may soothe us. Certainly the group known as Quadrant here captures Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" with a bluesy wistfulness that's as calming as a gentle summer rain on a lazy afternoon. It's enough to make even a horse sing along.

November 08, 2007 · 0 comments


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