Sweet little jazz primer from CBS, compiled in 1984 to promote their I Love Jazz series. We got Charlie Mingus. We got Thelonious Monk. We got Miles Davis. We got The Duke, The Count and Satchmo. We even got Toots Thielemans and his harmonica. Let’s hear it for the girls too: Aretha, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn.
One of my colleagues featured a Stan Getz record quite recently, and here’s another one. The original Verve album was released in 1964, but this must be a repress (hence the Our Price sticker) that faithfully reproduces the original artwork and gatefold sleeve.
Recorded live at Cafe Au Go Go (the legendary Greenwich Village jazz coffehouse) this album is…unbelievably great. As Gene Lees states in the sleeve notes “…the audience was electrified. There was something about the sound which was so sure, so complete – it was as if four men had been molded into one unbelievable musical unit.”
I usually prefer my latin grooves instrumental, but actually Astrud Gilberto’s vocals are just perfect on this.
More velvety-smooth vocal latin vibes, from Enoch Light’s Command label, which I get the impression was one of the quintessential labels for stereophonic easy listening in the States, but not as well-known over here and consequently you don’t see too many of them in English bins, even when they’re UK Pye pressings like this one.
The attention to detail is sumptous, with ‘technical data’ and a booklet containing detailed recording notes, including Ray Charles’ own comments about the arrangements.
The inner sleeve also treats us to an advertisement for Pye’s Achoic Box…
“…with it’s six powerful speakers facing sideways instead of forwards it produces six feet of stereo separation. These speakers, in conjunction with solid state electronics, allow the Achoic Box to exploit a room’s acoustic potentialities as they have never been exploited before. Here, with all its full bodied richness and astonishing realism, is Stereo in Depth”.
So here we have the legendary Count Basie and his Orchestra having a pop at the Lennon-McCartney songbook (as it stood in 1966), released on that quintessential British label Music For Pleasure. I guess even jazz legends needed to do these things to pay the bills sometimes.
What I like about these big band renditions is the way they sound as though Basie had never actually heard the originals. They sound completely unrelated, as though Basie (and arranger Chico O’Farrill) worked from the written score and just re-imagined how those notes and chords were meant to be organised. The only song that sounds even vaguely faithful to the original idea is “Yesterday”, which is also the only track to feature vocals, care of Bill Henderson.
Matt Bianco, eh? One of those ’80s groups you just accepted the existence of without really paying much attention to. This near-mint copy of their debut album had been lying around unloved in the local PDSA shop for weeks, yet it hadn’t occurred to me to actually buy the damn thing. It’s like I had a blind-spot on Matt Bianco. Then last week it just suddenly leapt out at me and shouted “Hey! I’m only 49 bloody pence, so why not give me a try?”
Matt Bianco were one of those groups, along with the likes of Modern Romance and Everything But The Girl, who tried to graft a bit of the old latin magic onto the new dance pop of the ’80s, bringing those South American grooves back in from the cold after they were so thoroughly vanquished during the disco-boom of the mid-late ’70s. The title track of this album, along with “Half A Minute” and “Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed” were big hits back in the day, very familiar to these ears and consequently high on instant nostalgia gratification. The rest of the album keeps up a pretty high standard – listening on headphones I’m particularly enjoying the densely layered percussion of “Matt’s Mood” and the sequenced basslines are surprisingly fat and funky throughout- is that the tell-tale swerve of a TB-303 I hear on “Sneaking Out The Back Door”?
I reckon the male vocalist, Mark Reilly, was outclassed by the rest of his group, but there’s no mistaking the talents of the female vocalist Basia Trzetrzelewska, who’s super-clean spangly harmonies really lift the roof off. All round, a surprisingly enjoyable experience.
Hurrah! – a near-mint Nonesuch record for a quid! Admittedly, this isn’t one of the label’s more collectible or esoteric releases, in fact it’s probably one of their biggest sellers in the UK. Released in 1970, I guess this record must’ve played an important part in reviving interest in the Ragtime pianist and composer Scott Joplin. Tunes like “Maple Leaf Rag” soon became staple numbers in the repertoire of many professional pianist throughout the 1970s, and who could forget Les Dawson’s deliberately wonky attempts to play “The Entertainer”?
Joplin’s music is performed by Joshua Rifkin (that’s him on the left) who also wrote the detailed sleeve notes – that’s the great thing about labels like Nonsuch – the rear sleeves are like Wikipedia pages, exhaustively researched facts and figures for the listener to gently absorb in tandem with the actual music. Rifkin himself was something of a musical scholar, his education included a stint as a student of Karlheinz Stockhausen, though he began playing Ragtime at the prococious age of 10!
How long has it been since you heard the sound of burning-bright Mediterranean sunshine? When did you last listen to the colour-splashed beaches of a blue-bordered Spanish bay? Have you ever let your ears take in the magnificent beauty of a Latin girl’s flowing black hair? Do you long to hear again the panoramic splendour of a luxuriant Italian valley? These and hundreds more audio pictures will leap out of your ears, grasp the attention of your mind’s eye, conjure up past memories and future dreams, when you play this irresistable new Mantovani programme.
So, here we have The Mantovani Orchestra‘s first Latin album, but this ain’t yer typical South American easy vibes. The focus here is on the more classically inclined music of Southern Europe, and the sound is big, brash and beautiful.
According to Tony Barrow’s sleeve notes, this album came about as a result of a competition, where fans of Mantovani were invited to submit an album title and tracklist for his next record. The winner, a Mr. Angelo Ruggerio of Milford, New Jersey, was flown to London in 1963 to meet Mantovani and watch him work on the recording of this album. He was also given an exciting sight-seeing tour of the UK capital.
Turntable + vinyl + sofa + attractive (slightly tipsy?) female = the perfect recipe for a quiet night in.
This record was “designed simply and solely as a showcase – a shop window for a most attractive series of specially designed and recorded LPs. The wide variety of sounds and moods are a cross-section of the albums currently available in Mercury’s Super Stereo catalogue.”
Quincy Jones makes an appearance with his Big Band, and Peter Knight has a crack at orchestrating “Lovely Rita”, but the best track by a mile is “Tally Man” by Big Jim Sullivan, taken from an album called Sitar Beat, which I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s quite a kitschy collectable among psychedelia fans.