Louis Prima/Carmen McRae
Armstrong and Monk Revisited
Louis Prima: Zooma Zooma: The Best of Louis Prima (Rhino '90)
A Vegas fixture for a quarter century before he died at 67 in 1978, this Storyville-born Sicilian singer-trumpeter shared his entertainment philosophy as well as his Christian name with Armstrong and Jordan. He crossed over r&b with 1950's "Oh, Babe!" but it was the honking tenor and rough vocal cameos of his compatriot Sam Butera that added rock and roll anti-class to a jazz act that pitted Prima's jocular leads against the sensible musicality of his consort Keely Smith. Prima was a go-for-the-gut clown whose signature musical tactic was to intersperse flat-out novelties like "Robin Hood" and "Jump, Jive an' Wail" with two-song medleys that moved the crap-shooting punters on to "I Ain't Got Nobody" before "Just a Gigolo" got old. Since 1990, when Rhino assembled these 18 tracks (14 on cassette, remember that one?), there have been more straight reissues, reshuffled comps, radio transcriptions, and live exhumations than I want to hear or count. More likely to cost four bucks than the 40 some chiselers are charging, this out-of-print 18-track laff-fest is probably the best, probably because it keeps the rock market in mind. The best alternative I've heard is the 1991 Capitol Collectors Series, which has eight more tracks but omits the nostalgic "Robin Hood" and the fat "Them There Eyes"/"Honeysuckle Rose." Forget Capitol's 26-track 2007 Jump, Jive an' Wail: The Essential Louis Prima, with its non-NAACP "Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo)," pre-IIADL "Luigi," and bored run-throughs of "Hello Dolly" and "Cabaret." The pura the zooma the betta. A
Carmen McRae: Carmen Sings Monk (Bluebird '02)
For those of us who admire the eminently capable McRae primarily for what she isn't‑-that is, a self-aggrandizing improvisor like Betty Carter or a nightclub hack like Nancy Wilson‑-this expanded reissue of the 13-track 1988 original is welcome because it honors Monk the melodist. Believe me, Johnny Mercer is not on board here; more than half the lyrics are by Jon Hendricks, who thinks "body loose" is a dandy rhyme for "loose goose," although his biographical takes on "Monk's Dream" and "In Walked Bud" speak enjoyably to what he knows best, which is music. The same goes for McRae, who burnishes and reshapes these great tunes subtly enough to let you know how deeply she's thought about them. Although pianist Eric Gunnison gets through way too many notes, the Al Foster-George Mraz rhythm section adds more than most of those the master gigged with, and longtime Monk saxophonist Charlie Rouse is so intimate with the material that there are times when he tops the headliner even though he never tries to upstage her. Note if you like that when I loaded this onto my iPod, where it certainly belongs, I omitted the five perfectly acceptable alternate takes, which have the effect of making the music go on too long. For an hour, it's a gift to the dead. A MINUS
Cecil was pounding away on the low end of the piano while Elvin was giving a masters class in cymbals and high hat. Elvin passed on less than six months later. What a night.
"...but fence-straddlers like David Murray and James Carter make me suspect that both sides won."
Monk is also a fence-straddler, when you get down to it. That's part of his genius.
And I get what you're saying about the oligarchies--I always remember that one young one white woman who's clearly been away from home for college and trying to figure out what her relationship is to all the activity. And there's that great/chilling scene in her family's kitchen where she doesn't seem to notice all the *work* that is being done around her by the African American staff.
I have not seen him on stage.
So take it for what its worth that what I reach for first is the Three Classic Albums reissue (Looking Ahead, Love for Sale, Hard Driving Jazz), though I have more than a dozen other titles.
Sharpsm, you mean Wynton, no?
(Personally, I never really minded that comment in the Ken Burns thing. I mean, what Wynton was calling Taylor out on was pretentious (although Wynton Marsalis calling ANYone else out for being pretentious is a bit much) and I can't imagine too many potential Taylor fans being put off the man's music because of it (it'd have to be in the low tens). On the other hand, it is the only direct criticism in a program that lionizes for ten hours an artform that is, all in all, divisive.)
"Solo" which is an Amazon download for $3.97. It was recorded around the time of Spring of 2 blue jays (1973) . I believe the story goes that Cecil had flown into Tokyo the previous day and couldn't sleep, so he went over to the studio and put down these four bite size (for him) tunes in the wee hours of the morning. The other recording is "For Olim". Again, Cecil solo. About $7 on amazon. Other solo favs after those: "Wilisau", "Indent" "In East Berlin" "The Tree of Life" In terms of band work, my favorite is "Momentum Space" with Dewey Redman and Elvin Jones.
Been thinking bout the difference between Taylor and Malmsteen and Gubbel's word "souless" nails it. (Though I disagree with "pointless" since I think there is no such thing as pointless art. Creating art merely as product is a point. Creating art with no point is a point...) Anyhow Gubbel, you helped me see the light: that while Taylor makes music from an artistic curiousity (if you will), what I hear in our friend Yngwie is just the desire to shred and be rad.
By the way, just downloaded Jazz Advance and am digging it greatly. Thanks.
And Jeff, the only way I've so far enjoyed the Deerhunter album is when I hear stray tracks when shuffled on a newer albums playlist on the ol iPod.
The tragedy of this is that the box, as well as many 50s-70s jazz LPs and a few other CDs also handed down by my father-in-law, were stolen out of a garage where they were being stored for a few months. I mean a really great tragedy, both sentimentally and (potentially) economically, although I would never have sold any of them.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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