Archive for the 'CD' Category

Recent Howard Roberts Re-Issues

March 24, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Howard Roberts may not be as well known as Kessel, Pass, Farlow, Smith et al., but for many jazz guitar afficionados he belongs in that league. Roberts combined the drive of Farlow, the earthiness of Kessel, and the technical mastery of Smith. And added his own distinctive touch.

I heard Howard Roberts play in the Montmartre in Copenhagen around 1981-2. If I remember correctly, he played a Gibson L5S (but perhaps it was really the Gibson HR Fusion, which I think must have been out at this time). His technique was absolutely astonishing and I remember some of the local guitarists (I am pretty sure a young Doug Raney was on stage with Howard) literally dropping jaws in awe of his amazing dexterity. HR’s The Real Howard Roberts (currently on sale at Amazon for 60 USD!!!) is among my top-5 jazz guitar albums. For the ultimate HR resource, check Mike Evans’ fabuloussite.

Roberts’ recordings have until recently been difficult to find. Luckily, much material has been re-released within the last decade. I just received my copies of Mr. Roberts Plays Guitar (first released in 1956; re-released in 2008) and Good Pickin’s (released in 1959; re-released in 2006).

I am still digesting these two great albums, but they are clearly distinct. “Mr. Roberts” comes complete with a string quartet on a number of the tracks, and is general much more arranged and polite than “Pickin’s” which has much more straightahead blowing. The distinctive Roberts style with its “funk” was clearly developed already at this early stage of his career (Roberts was 27 when “Mr. Roberts” was recorded but clearly a very mature player). The blues was always a strong force in Roberts’ playing, and the source of that is revealed in the liner notes to Good Pickin’s: Playing the blues, and nothing but the blues, in the 2-3 “negro jazz clubs” of Phoenix in the years immediately after the 2nd World War. Both CDs are terrific and highly recommended.

New Oscar Aleman CDs

October 4, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Until recently only a relatively small portion of Oscar Aleman’s recorded output appears to have been available in the CD format. However, a series of new CDs have recently appeared with “los cincos caballeros,” “ritmos de brazil”, etc. featuring tracks that, as far as I can ascertain (I am not an Aleman specialist), have not previously appeared on CD. Djangobooks.com has them all.

Susie Arioli Swing Band Feat. Jordan Officer

September 29, 2007

Nicolai Foss

I had never heard of the the Susie Arioli (Swing) Band when I borrowed their 2001 CD, Pennies From Heaven, last week. Listening to it has been a delightful experience. Arioli has a very good voice, the great late stride pianist Ralph Sutton is featured on a couple of tracks, and the solo voice on guitar, young Jordan Officer (25 when the CD was recorded), plays brilliantly, reminiscent of George Barnes or Bucky Pizzarelli’s approach to single-string playing (he can also a hefty blues guitar). He is pictured with a pick-up-less Gibson L7C, but it sounds as if he adds a Dearmond pickup for his playing. The rhythm guitar backup is excellent (as is the occassional acoustic solo). If you are into light intimate swing, the hot club style, and early jazz in general, this record is very highly recommended!

Tiny Grimes: Food for Thought

May 20, 2007

Nicolai Foss

This is surely one of the most mis-titled CDs out there. In addition to Tiny (of course), there is Jay McShann and George Kelly and a bunch of mainly French back-up musicians, going over about a dozen tunes, mainly riffy Grimes blues items. The result is by no means anything like “food for thought” but rough, uncomplicated music with a rock’n roll tinge.

I blogged about a month ago on Tiny’s early work, praising it, but his work on this CD, recorded in 1970, just isn’t on par with his earlier work. According to the liner notes, “… because of his numerous talents, Tiny Grimes, along with Charlie Christain, was the greatest of all guitar players.” Why is it that liner notes on French recordings tend to be so ridiculously over the top?

Progressions: 100 Years of Jazz Guitar

April 20, 2007

Nicolai Foss

I recently blogged on boxsets on jazz guitar. It turns out that I overlooked Progressions: 100 Years of Jazz Guitar.

This boxset stands out among jazz guitar boxsets for three reasons: First, it features only one cut by any performer. In contrast, other boxsets or collections of jazz guitar may allocate more tracks to Lang, Reinhardt, Christian etc. than to the more unknown players. Second, its reach in terms of time period covered is larger than any other jazz guitar collection, beginning in 1906 and ending in 1998 (not quite 100 hundred years, but who cares…). Third, it has a booklet which at a whopping 146 pages is actually more than a booklet. In addition to the tracklistings, there is an endorsement/introduction by John Schofield, a learned and excellent overview of the (almost) 100 years of jazz guitar history covered by the collection, a section where guitarists pick their jazz guitar heroes and favorite albums and tracks (the most consistently picked album is Wes’ Smokin’ at the Half Note), and even half a dozen pages with analyses of select solo fragments.

The only minus, and it may be a huge one depending on your musical tastes, is that the jazz content in a number of the tracks is small or even negligible. I completely fail to see the jazz content in Hendrix, for example. Half of the tracks feature the major innovators from the period 1967 – 1998, so if your preferences are more towards Raney, Farlow, Hall, Burrell, Green, etc. and less to Ritenour, Bailey, Sharrock etc. then this may not be your favorite collection. Still, it provides an invaluable overview of the history of jazz guitar.