Thursday, March 18, 2010

Norman Granz' Improvisation

Last night I decided to rewatch (for at least the twentieth time) Improvisation, which was intended to be a follow-up to Norman Granz' Academy Award nominated Jammin' The Blues. The earlier video is included in its entirety on Disc #2 of the Improvisation set. For more about Norman Granz, listen to Nancy Wilson's Jazz Profiles spotlight on Granz, as well as the 18-Part series from a BBC broadcast titled, Out of the Norm.

Disc #1 contains a significant amount of footage that was never made into the follow-on to Jammin' The Blues, so you are seeing a lot of unedited, raw history. The first session is interesting for a number of reasons: it captures the first session that Bird and Coleman Hawkins played together, and that session was pre-recorded in a studio, then shot in a different location requiring the musicians to mime their playing to the recording - something that they pulled off very nicely. Here is a clip from that session:

Another clip that is early into the DVD is this remarkable session:

In my last post, Basie (and Bass) I expressed my admiration for Ellington, while stating that it was Basie who touched my soul. In that post the clip titled, Nob's Blues, is from Disc #1, as well as this great clip of Ellington in a trio setting. Here the Duke plays off John Lamb in much the same way Basie played off Ray Brown, and I love Sam Woodyard's brushwork:

Disc #2 contains Jammin' The Blues, and with two of my favorite drummers - Papa Jo Jones and Big Sid Catlett - you can be assured that this video will please any drummer. Check the spot where Jo Jones takes over the drum chair from Big Sid.

This chip contains a few remaining seconds from a smoking performance, then segues into one of the most beautiful events in which Lady Day and the Prez reunite for what was to be their last session together. This one touches me on a number of levels, not the least of which is how wonderful Billie Holiday and Lester Young are together.

The bottom line is Improvisation contains some great music, made by some of the greatest musicians in our history. If you love jazz this DVD set should be in your collection.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Basie (and bass)

The Duke may have been the genius who added immeasurably to the repertoire of great American music, but Basie is the one who is deep in my soul. No analysis here - just some great examples that will (or should) bring a smile to your face and get your feet tapping:

This one, Basie Boogie, smokes. Gus Johnson is one of my favorite drummers, and he especially shines here.

Basie's employs ingenuous use of the rhythm section, and especially bass, in his compositions and performance. This is shown in the following clips, starting with I Don't Know with Basie, Freddie Green on guitar, Norman Keenan on bass and Sonny Payne on drums. Pay careful attention to Payne's usual antics and his incredible playing.

This one is from the 1955 Rhythm and Blues Revue and is an outstanding example of Basie's interplay with bassists (Gus Johnson has the drum chair):

This clip is another that features the rhythm section (Freddie Green, Norman Keenan and Sonny Payne.) Payne's subtle brush playing here is a departure from his usual high energy, highly visual style of playing.

Another example of Basie and his penchant for interplaying with bassists is this amazing clip with Basie and Ray Brown (Jimmie Smith is on drums):

Another duet, this time with Cleveland Eaton during the 1981 Carnegie Hall Concert:

Here is the second set from the 1955 Rhythm and Blues Review with the band doing One O'Clock Jump (see my 9 March 2010 post for more about this great song). Gus Johnson on drums is swinging, and the interplay between Freddie Green on guitar and Jimmy Lewis on bass is a highlight for me:

One final clip - this one with the original All American Rhythm Section with Papa Jo Jones, Walter Page and Freddie Green: