Stan Getz & Jimmy Rowles: The Peacocks

Rowles was on a roll in the 1970s. After years of accompanying singers and languishing in obscurity, Rowles relocated to New York in 1973, and found himself fêted and fussed over, profiled in The New Yorker, and (in his late 50s) heralded as one of the most celebrated new pianists on the Manhattan scene. It was a great decade for this journeyman musician, but the high point came on this session -- with a major label in his corner, and Stan Getz producing and stepping out of the booth to join in as a sideman. Rowles contributed this deeply poignant ballad, a haunting melody that would become a jazz standard, recorded by everyone from Wayne Shorter to Bill Evans. But this is still the definitive version of "The Peacocks," a ballad performance that ranks among the most memorable jazz moments of the decade.

November 21, 2007 · 0 comments

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Sonny Rollins: Where Are You?

In 1962, returning from one of his periodic sabbaticals, Sonny Rollins met a mixed reception. For some, jazz's increasing experimentalism had rendered Rollins passé. One young jazzman dismissed the elder's comeback album as outmoded, scoffing, "We all knew Sonny could play pretty.” This was like declining free samples from Fort Knox by saying, "We all knew they had gold there." In five golden minutes, Sonny reminds us that ballads aren't about navigating tricky chord changes. They're about rafting the far trickier currents of the human heart. Sonny Rollins was a raftsman par excellence.

November 20, 2007 · 0 comments

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John Coltrane: I Wish I Knew

There are precious few recordings where a musician's opening notes bypass our eardrums and strike directly at the soul. This is one of those tracks. After Tyner's intro, Coltrane's entrance doesn't merely tingle the spine, it galvanizes the central nervous system. People long remember exactly where they were upon learning of some signal event (usually a national tragedy). Other, more personal experiences are momentous in a different way. They make us forget where we are. Like the instant when we realize that someone we love, loves us, too. John Coltrane's "I Wish I Knew" is such an epiphany.

November 20, 2007 · 0 comments

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Hank Mobley: I Should Care


    Hank Mobley
Artwork by Michael Symonds

Hard bop and ballads were strange bedfellows. Many hard-bop drummers didn't own wire brushes for their snares, preferring sticks the size of Hank Aaron's bat. Another Hank, surnamed Mobley, was one hard-bop stalwart with a soft spot for pretty tunes. Moreover, at the time of this recording, Hank and his cohorts were either current or former sidemen of Miles Davis—a preeminent balladeer. Even when resorting to the jazzman's time-honored recourse of double-timing over a slow tempo, as he does here, Mobley's slightly overcast tone was mobilized in the service of lyricism. And, yes, Philly Joe uses brushes. Another knockout.

November 17, 2007 · 0 comments

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John Coltrane: Nancy (With the Laughing Face)

On an album of beautiful balladry, the closer, “Nancy (With the Laughing Face),” is the crème de la crème. It’s only three minutes long, and Coltrane solos through all of it. By no means is this a wild solo. Anyone could play these notes, but it’s hard to imagine them being played with as much feeling as Coltrane infuses. He’ll bend a note downward when you think the passage is over (listen to what he does at the 49-second mark), or he’ll add a few upturned notes onto a phrase (listen again at 1:03). He’ll rush ahead of the beat and then wait as it passes by and he falls behind. You hear the emotions he feels, and it sounds so perfect.

November 05, 2007 · 0 comments

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