Stéphane Grappelli & Oscar Peterson: Them There Eyes

Stéphane Grappelli was extremely active in 1973, with at least eight recording sessions that year alone, and the date with Oscar Peterson was probably the best. Peterson was in the rhythm section for the 1957 Violins No End album that featured Grappelli and Stuff Smith, but it wasn't until 1973 that Stéphane and Oscar got to go at each other one on one, as on this duet track (Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Kenny Clarke filled out the quartet elsewhere). Peterson's rollicking intro precipitates Grappelli's sizzling entrance, immediately improvising on the melody. His breakneck lines are beautifully structured, with many engaging riffs sprinkled about. Peterson's following solo is very bluesy, with a ringing tone and a great variety to his attack as he builds in intensity and creativity, very cogent and controlled. The violinist takes the out-choruses swinging hard, again using catchy riffs to great effect, ending with another highly embellished reprise of the theme. Grappelli always regretted not getting to the U.S. before one of his early inspirations, Art Tatum, passed away. Peterson was as close as Stéphane would get to that great pianist's style, and one can sense the excitement he felt at this opportunity, which Peterson clearly reciprocated.

March 25, 2008 · 0 comments

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Al Cohn & Jimmy Rowles: Them There Eyes

Six-and-a-half minutes of sheer fun. Al Cohn and Jimmy Rowles have a blast with this corny standard from 1930, and you can imagine them chuckling in the studio after they were finished with it. Few performances do a better job of capturing the spontaneity and irreverence of the jazz idiom. This song is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up, and the blueprint was drawn on the fly. I have never heard Rowles play better than on this track, but Cohn matches him chorus for chorus. A neglected classic from the 1970s well worth hearing . . . if you can track down a copy.

November 20, 2007 · 0 comments

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Melissa Stylianou: Them There Eyes

"Them There Eyes" is one of the hokiest, silliest tunes in the American popular songbook, and only a fool or a genius would try to bring it to life today. (Speaking of genius: I still recall with delight Jimmy Rowles and Al Cohn deconstructing this song in a now-forgotten recording from thirty years ago - someone please get that disk back into print!) But the very stylish Stylianou rises to the occasion, and tosses everything from surreal scatting to Middle Eastern modes into this vibrant performance. This vocalist is one of the best-kept secrets in jazz, but secrets like this deserve to be shared.

November 20, 2007 · 0 comments

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