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Jazz - Part 6 - April, 1999

Dennis Davis

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"Sassy"

Sarah Vaughan

Emarcy; MG 36089

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Between 1955 and 1957, Sarah Vaughan recorded four LPs for the EmArcy label. These albums are, by and large, superior to Vaughan's two dozen (or so) recordings for EmArcy's successor, Mercury Records. That said, this is a curious choice by Speakers Corner. Why not give us one of the two first Vaughan EmArcy albums? Instead of Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown, or Sarah Vaughan and Cannonball Adderley, we are given Sarah Vaughan and Strings.

That quibble apart, this is still prime Sarah Vaughan. Vaughan's later arrangements on Mercury started getting somewhat more pop oriented. This recording predates that type of excess. Backed by an anonymous studio orchestra, the focus is all on Vaughan's vocal talent. The tunes are vintage ballads, including Strayhorn's "Lush Life" and Cole Porter's "I Loved Him". Perfect music to play for your significant other to rekindle the romance worn thin by divergent musical tastes. It's a good antidote to all the audiophile reissues of Ella Fitzgerald.

This is a nice thick slab of vinyl too. It's mono, of course, but has that lush sound of the best 1950's mono jazz recordings. The sound and packaging are up to Speakers Corners' usual standards. The original of this record is not easy to find, but it does turn up now and again, and a copy in acceptable shape will set you back at least $50 unless you get lucky. This reissue costs $30.

For reference, full track listing:

1. Lush Life
2. I'm the Girl
3. Shake Down the Stars
4. I've Got Some Crying to Do
5. My Romance
6. I Loved Him
7. Lonely Woman
8. I'm Afraid the Masquerade is Over
9. The Boy Next Door
10. Old Folks
11. Only You Can Say
12. A Sinner Kissed an Angel

- Dennis Davis -

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"Unity"

Larry Young

Blue Note; 7243 4 97808 2 8

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Blue Note has recently released several titles in the "The RVG Edition". Each title has been remastered by Rudy Van Gelder, the original engineer of the early Blue Notes. Each title in the series is transferred from analog to digital "at 24 bit resolution." This is the extent of the remastering information supplied with the CDs, which come in a plastic case enclosed in a cardboard slip case. All of the titles released are crown jewels of the Blue Note catalog, including Adderley's "Somethin' Else", Horace Silver's "Blowin' The Blues Away", McCoy Tyner's "The Real McCoy," and Art Blakey's "Moanin'."

Of all the titles released in the RVG Edition, perhaps the most eagerly awaited by jazz fans is Larry Young's "Unity." Vinyl copies are rare and CD copies have not been available in the U.S. for some time. Young on organ is joined by Elvin Jones on drums, Woody Shaw on trumpet, and Joe Henderson on tenor sax. When the session was recorded on November 10, 1965, Shaw and Henderson were youngsters starting out. Young had been recording for about five years, and Elvin Jones had been playing with John Coltrane since 1960. This is my favorite jazz organ record. Everyone's contribution is outstanding, but the momentum and synergy between Jones and Young is incredible.

Does the remastering job deserve the fancy "RVG Edition" moniker? Something is wrong here. I've not heard an earlier CD of this record, but it does not sound like any Blue Note vinyl I've ever heard. This remastering job is not in the same league with what DCC and Mobile Fidelity have been doing (at almost twice the price) with jazz classics. The sound heard over speakers is a bit too etched and edgy for a Blue Note session. An acquaintance who has listened to other releases in the series finds them superior to earlier CD releases in most respects, except that the soundstage has been collapsed. Notwithstanding the audio caveat, this is an essential recording and should not be missed.

For reference, full track listing:

1. Zoltan
2. Monk's Dream
3. If 6:42
4. The Moontrane
5. Softly As in a Morning Sunrise
6. Beyond All Limits

- Dennis Davis -

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"Introducing the Kenny Drew Trio"

Howard McGhee

Blue Note; 7243 4 95747 2 4

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This CD is released as part of Blue Note's Connoisseur 10" series, which packages two 10" records on a single CD. The initial release in this series is part 1 of 6 CDs. This entire series has been remastered using Sony's 20 bit Super Bit Mapping. Blue Note is also releasing fifty 10" records on vinyl in Japan. The first ten releases have begun showing up at audiophile mail order houses.

"Howard McGhee" features McGhee on trumpet, with J. J. Johnson on trombone, Brew Moore on tenor sax, Kenny Drew on piano, Curley Russell on bass, and Max Roach on drums. McGhee was one of the great trumpet players of the 1940s, on the level of Fats Navarro and Dizzy Gillespie. He burned out early for the usual reasons and failed to keep his name in the spotlight. This session, recorded January 23, 1950, includes seven tunes, all but one less than three minutes each. McGhee played in the trumpet section of big bands in the early 1940s, and this early bop recording has a strong feel of the big band sound. This is a good session with exceptional work from McGhee and Johnson in particular.

"Introducing the Kenny Drew Trio" showcases composer Drew on piano with Curly Russell on bass and Art Blakey on drums. Recorded April 16, 1953, the trio plays mostly standards (including only two Drew compositions). Drew was one of the great bop pianists. He played in a high school band with Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, and Art Taylor, and continued to play with a Who's Who of Jazz throughout his career. This wonderful session alone is worth the cost of the CD. Unlike his much later Blue Note classic "Undercurrent", the attention is always focused on his remarkable piano playing in this session.

The CD remastering is a more faithful rendering of the Blue Note sound in this CD than in the "RVG Edition" of Young's "Unity". One caveat is that there is a bit of pre-echo in the left channel which is not obvious when listened to over speakers. With headphones, it is a bit disconcerting, since the left and right channels do not sound like they were recorded in exactly the same acoustic environment.

For reference, full track listing:

1. Meciendo
2. Lo-flame
3. Fluid Drive
4. I'll Remember April
5. Fuguetta
6. Donnelion Square
7. Lo-Flame (alternate)
8. Yesterdays
9. Stella by Starlight
10. Gloria
11. Be My Love
12. Lover Come Back to Me
13. Everything Happens to Me
14. It Might As Well Be Spring
15. Drew's Blues
16. Yesterdays
17. Everything Happens to Me (alternate)

- Dennis Davis -



© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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