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Review: Pablo 40th Anniversary Series with Gillespie, Ellington, Tatum, Peterson, Grappelli and Sims

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Pablo Reissues

When impresario Norman Granz founded the Pablo label in 1973, fusion, funk and Latin sounds were at the forefront of jazz.  Granz, founder of the Verve, Norgran and Clef labels, initially launched Pablo as a platform for his management clients Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass, but soon its roster was filled out with the equally starry likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan.  Granz’ new label was an instant success and a safe haven for traditional jazz in this period of rapid musical change.  Pablo’s very first LP – Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass and NielsHenning Ørsted Pedersen’s The Trio – even netted a Grammy Award.  To celebrate Pablo’s fortieth anniversary, Concord Music Group has reissued five classic titles from its catalogue.  Three albums feature guitarist Pass, two in collaboration with pianist Peterson and one with bassist Pedersen.  The fourth and fifth – archival showcases for the legendary Art Tatum and Duke Ellington – were recorded in the 1950s but released on Pablo in the 1970s.  Best of all, all titles have been remastered, and all save the Tatum premiere previously unreleased bonus material.

Before Dave Brubeck, before Bill Evans, before Bud Powell, there was Art Tatum.  Though inspired by the stride piano style (in which, generally speaking, the left hand plays a four-beat pulse with a single bass note, octave, seventh or tenth interval on the first and third beats, and a chord on the second and fourth beats) of Fats Waller as well as by Earl “Fatha” Hines, Tatum made the instrument his own, and is frequently recognized today as the greatest jazz pianist of all time.  There’s ample evidence why on the first volume of Pablo’s Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces (OJC-CD-34620-02).

Almost every one of the sixteen songs on this introductory volume – recorded in 1953 and 1955 – is a standard, but Tatum’s boundless imagination for improvisation renders nothing at all “standard” about them.  69 Solo Masterpieces performances were recorded over two days in 1953; more sessions commenced in April 1954 and concluded in January 1955, yielding a total of 125 masters.  On November 5, 1956, Tatum was gone, a victim of kidney failure.  The tracks were originally issued on Granz’s Clef label as boxed sets and 13 individual albums.  When Pablo was founded in 1973, one order of business was to reissue these seminal recordings.  The newly-remastered Volume One combines the first and ninth original Pablo LPs onto one disc.

Tad Hershorn’s new liner notes explore the theory that Tatum may have made it all look too easy, which might explain why he never achieved international stardom during his all-too-short lifetime.  Indeed, the notes recount producer Granz bringing Pabst Blue Ribbon and a portable radio tuned to the UCLA basketball game to get Tatum in the mood for the sessions.  Though the results sound far from tossed-off, the fact of the matter seems to be that the inventive improvisations heard here did come naturally to Tatum.  There’s a bounce and a carefree verve to these tracks – even unlikely ones such as Cole Porter’s 1930 “Love for Sale,” originally a streetwalker’s lament.  Tatum puts the soul into “Body and Soul,” lightly swings “My Love Affair,” and embellishes “There’s Only a Paper Moon” with a barrage of zesty notes that enliven Harold Arlen’s sweet melody.  Though he transformed the style with elegance, muscularity and musical wit, the stride technique admired by Tatum is still very much present throughout.  Tatum even takes on two compositions by another renowned pianist, Duke Ellington (“Just A-Sittin’ and A-Rockin’” and “Sophisticated Lady”) with aplomb.

Though this is very much an exuberant set, Tatum also has a way with a ballad.  As he dissects the melody of Rodgers and Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones,” interpreting it in various styles, it’s impossible to say what Rodgers would have thought.  Though the famed composer was a notorious stickler for playing the notes as written, Tatum’s virtuosity is undeniable.  “Stay as Sweet as You Are” has a romantic feel, while Tatum is surprisingly dark on “Willow Weep for Me.”  The title of one of these Solo Masterpieces, “Too Marvelous for Words,” could certainly describe Tatum’s animated instrumental performances!

After the jump, we’ll explore titles from Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Stephane Grappelli, Zoot Sims and others! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 7, 2013 at 10:21

Release Round-Up: Week of September 17

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The Band - Academy of MusicThe Band, LIve at the Academy of Music: The Rock of Ages Concerts (Capitol/UMe)

This five-disc box set (four CDs and a DVD) features selections from The Band’s famed four-night run in New York in 1971. Though these shows would create the live Rock of Ages album, this box instead features highlights from the shows on two discs (including guest appearances by Bob Dylan), another two discs of the complete soundboard mix of the final concert on New Year’s Eve 1971, and a DVD with 5.1 surround mixes and newly-discovered film of two of those performances.

4CD/1DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD highlights: Amazon U.S.

Sunshine Daydream packshotGrateful Dead, Sunshine Daydream (Rhino)

One of the most sought-after Dead shows, from the summer of 1972, is released in full on CD and in 5.1 surround sound.

3CD/1DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Dead.net deluxe version with 40-page booklet and Grateful Days documentary: DVD / BD
4LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Alternate MonroMatt MonroAlternate Monro (Parlophone U.K.)

Twenty-seven alternate takes of classic songs from the underrated British crooner. (Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.)

I Robot Legacy EditionThe Alan Parsons Project, I Robot: Legacy Edition (Arista/Legacy)

The Alan Parsons Project’s sophomore album (and first for Arista) featured the band’s second Top 40 hit, “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You,” amid a narrative structure on artificial intelligence. This Legacy Edition features a bonus disc with all the tracks from the 2007 reissue plus even more bonus material.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.K.

Roy Orbison In DreamsRoy Orbison, In Dreams: Greatest Hits (Legacy)

A rare example of acclaimed re-recorded versions of an artist’s earlier hits! In Dreams, first released in 1987 after Orbison’s unexpected popularity boost by way of Blue Velvet, was the catalyst to a remarkable comeback for the Big O – one that lasted well beyond his sudden passing in 1988. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Pablo ReissuesDizzy Gillespie, Dizzy Gillespie’s Big 4 / Zoot Sims, Zoot Sims and The Gershwin Brothers / Art Tatum, The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Volume 1 / Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, The Ellington Suites / Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli, Skol (Original Jazz Classics)

Five titles originally released on the Pablo Records label and featuring some of the century’s biggest names in jazz are reissued on CD; all but the Tatum title have been expanded with unreleased material!

Dizzy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Zoot: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Tatum: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Duke: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Oscar: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Glen Campbell ICON ChristmasGlen Campbell, ICON Christmas (Capitol/UMe)

Typically, news of an ICON title gets flung into the sun; however, this disc features, for the first time on CD, Campbell’s 1968 album That Christmas Feeling. The product line comes through! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Pablo Records’ 40th Celebrated with Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, More

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Pablo Reissues

Concord Music Group’s Original Jazz Classics line recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer’s famed Riverside Records label with five reissues from Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Wes Montgomery, Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan, and Cannonball Adderley and Milt Jackson.  (Expect a full review of all five titles soon!)  On September 17, the OJC series will turn its attention to the 40th anniversary of jazz impresario Norman Granz’s Pablo Records with the reissue of five classic albums from Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli, Zoot Sims and Art Tatum:

  • Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Ray Brown and Mickey Roker, Dizzy’s Big 4 (1974)
  • Zoot Sims, Zoot Sims and the Gershwin Brothers (1975)
  • Art Tatum, The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 1 (1975)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, The Ellington Suites (1976)
  • Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli, Skol (1979)

Granz founded Pablo roughly one decade after having sold his Clef, Norgran and Verve labels to the MGM dream factory.  The producer, manager and entrepreneur initially made Pablo a home to artists he also managed like Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Pass and Oscar Peterson, later adding many other familiar names to his roster.  In fewer than fifteen years, Pablo released over 350 albums, but in 1987, Granz sold the label to Fantasy Records, today a part of the Concord Music Group.  Each of the upcoming titles save Art Tatum’s Solo Masterpieces, Volume 1 has been expanded with previously unreleased material.

After the jump: more details and pre-order links for all five titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 5, 2013 at 14:28