Quintette du Hot Club de France: Oh, Lady Be Good

From the very first session of the QHCF, “Oh, Lady Be Good” shows the group still getting its bearings. The swing rhythms are still a little jerky, and part of the problem is Louis Vola’s two-beat bass pattern. On the occasions where he plays four beats to the bar, the rhythmic issues straighten themselves out almost instantly. After Grappelli & Reinhardt’s opening figure, the guitarist takes his first solo, paraphrasing the Gershwin melody as he goes. This was a typical setup for the early QHCF sides and Django was very adept at alternating between melody and improvisation. What is already present here is Django’s fine sense of sequencing and developing motives, as displayed in a superbly executed sequence near the end of his second chorus. However, he didn’t have a wide range of licks, and he had not yet developed a sense of solo structure. There is a hint of future developments during his second solo as he strongly chords to designate the surprise modulations. Grappelli seems a little less polished than we might expect, but he delivers two red-hot solos that raise the intensity of the performance.

August 27, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Count Basie (featuring Lester Young): Oh, Lady Be Good

A sort of dry run for the recently signed, but not-yet-recorded Count Basie Orchestra, the “Jones-Smith” session unleashed what could be called the Lester Young Effect. The tenor sax had been hard-driven and cutting in the preceding era of jazz—the world according to Coleman Hawkins—but Young, in his first time at the recording microphone, sounded light and carefully plotted without sacrificing the instrument’s muscle. In truth, Young’s is just one of many innovations heard on “Oh, Lady Be Good”: Basie’s soft-spoken minimalism and Jones’ hi-hat-intensive drumming were also new ground. Still, it’s hard to get past Lester, weaving and bobbing his way through both comps and a featured solo like a helium balloon in the breeze. Jazz would never be the same.

August 16, 2009 · 0 comments

Tags:


Sheila Jordan: Lady Be Good

Sheila Jordan, who is celebrating her 80th birthday on the day I am writing this review, frequently apologizes for her "senior moments" during the course of her live recording in Montreal Winter Sunshine. But there is more sunshine than winter in Jordan's music these days. Except for an occasional note-bending exercise that seems to hover precariously outside of consonance, her phrasing is supple and inventive; if anything she sings with more relaxation here than she did back in the day. Her version of "Lady Be Good" is a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, who put an ineradicable stamp on this tune, but Jordan feels no compulsion to imitate the First Lady of Song. She takes Gershwin's warhorse at a very slow tempo—a real departure for this standard, which usually is played with a brisk, swinging pulse. Along the way, she tells about Ella, and throws in some bits of her own personal history. Mid-song she insists that she won't try to scat like Fitzgerald, but instead she scats like Sheila Jordan, and with such winsome charm that no one in the audience has any right to complain. This lady be great . . . and it is heartening to see her finally getting some of the honors (most recently a lifetime achievement award at an star-studded event at the Kennedy Center this past May) that have long been her due.

November 19, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


Lee Konitz: Tenorlee / Lady Be Good

It can't have been an accident that altoist Lee Konitz chose the quintessential Lester Young vehicle "Lady be Good" to pair with the title track on an album featuring (notwithstanding the cover photo) his tenor work. Konitz on tenor sounds much like a modernized Pres—the lightness of tone and articulation and the ease of swing show his kinship with the greatest pre-bop tenorist (a title to which Coleman Hawkins also has plausible claim). However, the resemblance of Lee to Lester, while profound, is paradoxically skin-deep. Konitz the tenor player is as strong an individualist as Konitz the altoist, possessed of the same distinctive sweet-&-sour tone and no-nonsense, deliberative melodic approach.

The track begins with an unaccompanied tenor solo that leads into the embroidered theme played in unison by Konitz and Jimmy Rowles (it must surely be a transcription of a Lester Young solo, though I do not have the version on hand with which to compare). Generally, the quieter the context, the more Konitz shines. That's true here. The absence of a drummer throws the subtlety of Konitz's playing into relief. It's a treat to hear his nuanced approach in all its aspects. Jimmy Rowles is a tasty, witty bop player, and bassist Michael Moore holds down the bottom capably if inconspicuously. The performance is flawed by an anti- climactic and very abrupt fade. That said, taking into consideration that Konitz hasn't recorded much on tenor—and given the good-humored, spirited reading—this is a nearly essential gem in his discography.

October 21, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


Count Basie (featuring Lester Young): Oh, Lady Be Good

Swing Era rhythm sections specialized in a monotonous thumping not unlike men with flyswatters beating determinedly on stacks of old newspapers. In this case, however, fortune intervened. First, the studio was too small to accommodate a bass drum. Second, no rhythm guitarist was present. These absences make the jazz lover's heart grow fonder, allowing for an uncommon buoyancy ideally suited to Lester Young's lighter-than-air excursions. Thus, after Basie tinkles his way through the melody, Pres glides atop the Gershwin tune for two glorious, untethered choruses, as effortlessly graceful as an eagle out for a Sunday cruise. Oh, Lester be good!

December 03, 2007 · 0 comments

Tags:


Previous Page | Next Page