By Scott Yanow
ENLIGHTENMENT’S FOUR-CD SETS
The Enlightenment reissue series of jazz sets is an easy and fairly inexpensive way to acquire jazz gems of the past. Among their recent releases are four-CD sets featuring the music of Horace Silver and Dizzy Gillespie from specific periods.
Horace Silver (1928-2014) was a major force as a pianist, composer and a bandleader. During a period when most young pianists were strongly influenced by Bud Powell, Silver came up with his own way of playing his instrument, infusing bebop with the inspirations of gospel and soul. His “funky” style, which was liberally sprinkled with song quotes, became an influential force in the soul jazz movement of the late 1950s and ‘60s. He was a skilled songwriter whose bluesy pieces invariably included a memorable melody and a catchy rhythm, adding to the repertoire of jazz standards. And as a bandleader, he helped popularize the tenor-trumpet quintet, expecting his sidemen to play concise solos that were built off of a piece’s theme rather than just following its chord changes.
Silver’s The Classic Blue Note Collection reissues all of the music from eight albums that he recorded for the label. It begins with the first album that he recorded with the original version of the Jazz Messengers during a time when he co-led the group with Art Blakey. Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers has the quintet with trumpeter Kenny Dorham and tenor-saxophonist Hank Mobley performing such Silver compositions as “Room 608,” “The Preacher” and “Doodlin’.”
Also included are seven of Silver’s first nine albums for Blue Note as the leader of his own quintet, skipping Further Explorations and Horace-Scope. 6 Pieces Of Silver and The Stylings Of Silver (both from 1957) have the pianist leading groups that feature Donald Byrd or Art Farmer on trumpet and Hank Mobley or Junior Cook on tenor. Among the highlights are “Cool Eyes,” “Senor Blues,” and “Home Cookin’.” The other albums (Finger Poppin,’ Blowin’ The Blues Away, Doin’ The Thing, The Tokyo Blues, and Silver’s Serenade) date from 1959-62 and feature the classic Horace Silver Quintet with trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor-saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, and either Louis Hayes, Roy Brooks or Joe Harris on drums. With such Silver originals that became standards as “Cookin’ At The Continental,” “Come On Home,” “Blowin’ The Blues Away,” “Peace,” “Sister Sadie,” “Filthy McNasty,” and “Tokyo Blues,” this is a package full of classic music.
Dizzy Gillespie (1917-93) made his greatest impact as a trumpeter, innovator (co-founding both bebop and Afro-Cuban jazz), and bandleader during the second half of the 1940s. However his trumpet solos in later years were always very advanced and he was in one of his prime periods in the early 1960s. 1961-1964 The Classic Philips Albums includes a few essential albums along with some that are merely very good.
Dizzy On The French Riviera is one of the great ones. Gillespie’s quintet of the period with Leo Wright on alto and flute, pianist Lalo Schifrin, bassist Chris White, and drummer Rudy Collins is augmented by guitarist Elek Bacsik, percussionist Pepito Riestria on percussion, and veteran Charlie Ventura on tenor and his very effective bass sax. Jobim’s “No More Blues” and “Desafinado” are highlights.
The New Continent has Schifrin contributing a six-part suite for Gillespie with a big band; it is fine but not as memorable as the pianist-arranger’s Gillespiana. However New Wave
has the same personnel as Dizzy On The French Riviera plus Bola Sete joining Bacsik on guitars and two additional percussionists. Gillespie’s fresh and lively versions of “In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town,” “Careless Love,” and “One Note Samba” are among the bright moments.
Later in 1963 Gillespie had a new quintet that included James Moody on tenor, alto and flute, and pianist Kenny Barron, plus bassist White and drummer Collins. Something Old, Something New was their finest recording with classic renditions of such numbers as “Bebop,” “Good Bait” and a medley of “I Can’t Get Started” and “’Round Midnight.” The same quintet is featured on Dizzy In Hollywood (a series of movie themes), The Cool World (Mal Waldron’s film score for the movie of the same name), and Jambo Caribe which is a set of melodies that would be perfect for a Caribbean-themed party. Also included on this four-CD set is Dizzy Gillespie and the Double Six Of Paris which has new versions of songs from the classic bebop era featuring a French vocal sextet (double tracked to be 12 voices) scatting plus Gillespie in a group that includes pianist Bud Powell. Both of the Enlightenment sets (and many others) are available from www.amazon.com and from MVD Distributors at www.mvdb2b.com.
TOSHIKO AKIYOSHI AND VI REDD
Pianist-arranger Toshiko Akiyoshi and altoist Vi Redd both spent important parts of their careers in Southern California, and they both have important releases that were recently put out by the Fresh Sound label (www.freshsoundrecords.com).
Toshiko Akiyoshi, the first major Japanese jazz musician, was actually born in China, moving with her family to Japan when she was 15 shortly after World War II. ended. She discovered jazz through the recordings of Teddy Wilson and became very influenced by Bud Powell. Discovered by Oscar Peterson in 1952 who told producer Norman Granz about her, she made her recording debut in 1953 with Peterson’s rhythm section and soon moved to the U.S. Overcoming double prejudice against the Japanese and female jazz instrumentalists, she made several records in the 1950s, developed into one of jazz’s great arranger-composers, and spent the 1972-82 period living in Los Angeles where she and her husband Lew Tabackin had one of the top big bands of the decade. Akiyoshi has since moved to New York and remained active.
Toshiko Akiyoshi’s 1950s recordings for Norgran, Storyville, and Verve have been rare for decades, but now all of them have been reissued on the two-CD set Toshiko’s Blues 1953-1957. Akiyoshi sounds very much like Bud Powell (no mean feat) on her 1953 album which also has guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer J.C. Heard. She had mastered bebop, sounding relaxed at blazing tempos while showing bits of her own musical personality on the ballad “Laura.” However by the time she recorded her second album in 1956, Powell was still an influence but no longer dominated her playing. Her originals reflected the inspiration of her Japanese heritage and on ballads she had developed her own chord voicings while still hinting strongly at Powell on the faster material.
Toshiko’s Blues reissues the very scarce albums Toshiko’s Piano, George Wein Presents Toshiko, and The Many Sides Of Toshiko. In addition, it includes the four songs that she performed at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival, two numbers from the 1958 television show The Subject Is Jazz, and her trio features from Toshiko, Her Trio Her Quartet. The numbers with altoist Boots Mussulli from the latter album were recently reissued on a Fresh Sound CD of the altoist’s music.
With Paul Chambers, Oscar Pettiford, Gene Cherico or Ed Safranski on bass, and Ed Thigpen, Roy Haynes or Jake Hanna on drums, musicians of the era certainly thought highly of the young Toshiko Akiyoshi. Now, finally, today’s listeners have the opportunity to hear just how talented she was back in her early days.
Vi Redd (1928-2022) was a bluesy and boppish alto-saxophonist with a powerful sound and a driving style. She should have had much more fame and work but she was based in Los Angeles rather than New York during much of her life, and also faced the discrimination against female instrumentalists. While she had stints with Earl Hines, Max Roach, and the Count Basie Orchestra, Redd spent much of her life as an educator and made remarkably few recordings despite her talents. She made a single with trombonist Al Grey, appeared on a couple of obscure live albums with Basie, had guest appearances on a song apiece with Johnny Almond, Gene Ammons and Howard McGhee, and was featured on her last recording in 1977, playing in an all-female quintet with Marian McPartland.
Otherwise, Vi Redd only led two albums of her own, Lady Soul in 1962-63 and the slightly earlier 1962 album Bird Call. The latter has been reissued by Fresh Sound. Bird Call showcases Vi Redd with two groups: a sextet with trumpeter Carmell Jones, vibraphonist Roy Ayers, pianist Russ Freeman, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Richie Goldberg (her husband), and a quintet with Freeman, Goldberg, guitarist Herb Ellis, and bassist Bob Whitlock. In addition to her lively Charlie Parker-inspired alto solos, Redd also shows on some of the selections that she was an effective jazz singer.
Other than performing Leonard Feather’s “I Remember Bird” and “I’d Rather Have A Memory Than A Dream,” all of the songs on this album had been recorded years earlier by Charlie Parker. Vi Redd sounds in prime form throughout and makes one regret that her career did not go a lot further.
Several major musical events take place in September. The great Buddy Guy, the last of the immortal veteran bluesmen, will be featured at the Hollywood Bowl on Wed. Sept. 6 during his final tour. The up-and-coming Kingfish Ingram will be opening for him.
The great trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is featured at Catalina Bar & Grill on Friday and Saturday Sept. 8-9. British jazz singer Claire Martin makes a rare Southern California appearance at Wallis in Beverly Hills on Wednesday Sept. 13. Key members from Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band plus Quartet San Francisco pay tribute to the unique music of Raymond Scott at the Write-Off Room on Sat. Sept. 16. And the Monterey Jazz Festival (which has a killer lineup) takes place from Friday Sept. 22 through Sunday Sept. 24.
I have a new book that is available from amazon.com. Life Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist. It is subtitled My Jazz Memoirs and is my 12th book and first in a few years. I discuss in an often-humorous fashion my early days and discovery of jazz, my period as the jazz editor of Record Review, the story behind my involvement with the All Music Guide, and I reminisce about some of my adventures as an amateur musician. Included are vintage interviews with Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, and Maynard Ferguson, encounters with Clint Eastwood, summaries of the Monterey and Playboy Jazz Festivals (including a full-length review of the 1985 Playboy Festival), memories of other events (such as the IAJE Conventions), and brief snapshots of many memorable club and concert performances. There is also background information about my other books, evaluations of the jazz critics who inspired me early on, and my thoughts on jazz criticism which includes advice to up-and-coming jazz journalists. Rounding out the book is a chapter on how the jazz writing business has changed over the past 50 years, and appendixes that include the jazz greats of the past, 86 jazz giants of today, 21 young performers to look for in the future, jazz books and DVDs that everyone should own, and a dozen enjoyable Hollywood jazz films.
Life Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist, a paperback book, sells for $26 through Amazon.com Signed copies (which will take 2-3 weeks) are also available for $30 (which includes free postage) by sending the money via Pay Pal to firstname.lastname@example.org and by sending your mailing address to that E-mail.