Lester Young: Crazy Over J-Z

Two months before his fortieth birthday, Young is having the time of his life at the Royal Roost—unaware, perhaps, of his impending undoing via his ever-present whiskey bottle. Still, “Crazy Over J-Z” (a reference to New York jazz radio station WJZ) ranks easily with Lester’s work in his prime. Even the heavier touch he’d exhibited just after the war is gone: The sax is merrily agile, dancing over the rhythm section’s comping and darting between horn riffs. He even toys with the new sounds of bebop: Some licks in his responses to the riffs, and one early in his second solo, sound suspiciously like phrases from Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology.” (Incidentally, behind Young is the early snap-crackle of drummer Roy Haynes, who would in a few months would join Parker’s quintet). The fact that it would go downhill so fast from here may amplify its effects, but either way the record catches Prez in a moment of inspiration.

August 16, 2009 · 0 comments

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Miles Davis: S'il Vous Plait

When I was preparing edited scores for the Birth of the Cool folio, one of my hopes was that enough parts still existed for John Lewis's "S'il Vous Plait" so that it could be included. Alas, this was not the case and the title had to be dropped. Lewis's blues with a bridge is an up-tempo piece that could be opened for solo space, and on this occasion, Konitz, Davis and Mulligan (a bit awkward here) really jump.

March 03, 2008 · 0 comments

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Miles Davis: Moon Dreams (live)

Claude Thornhill's big band featured extended medleys for dancing. One of these, arranged by Gil Evans, consisted of "Easy Living," "Everything Happens to Me," and "Moon Dreams." Extracted for what was perhaps the Miles Davis Nonet's first arrangement, "Moon Dreams" is essentially a re-orchestration of Gil's Thornhill arrangement, with a few changes in harmony. Incidentally, Evans originally envisioned clarinet instead of alto sax in the instrumentation, and while such a part exists, the Nonet (here actually an octet with pianist John Lewis sitting out) settled on alto sax. This live recording comes from a broadcast at the Royal Roost during the ensemble's only extended live gig. The band never did play this arrangement – one of Evans's most dissonant settings to that time – correctly; when it was over, audiences must have been totally bewildered.

March 03, 2008 · 0 comments

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Charlie Parker: White Christmas

Two turtle doves (an indecisive species; are they turtles or doves?) happened to perch one Christmas night at Manhattan's Royal Roost, a 1940s jazz joint known to aficionados as the Metropolitan Bopera House. Having satisfied themselves that "Roost" referenced fried chicken, with neither turtles nor doves on the menu, the turtle doves cooed politely at the emcee's joking introduction of "White Christmas" as a turkey that a magician promisingly named Bird would raise from the dead. Sure enough, the sublimely sax-tooting Bird soon had Irving Berlin's terminally overdone song trotting about like a gobbler Lazarus. Talk about miracles of Christmas!

November 11, 2007 · 0 comments

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