Friday, August 17, 2012

A lot of Blakey for the buck

If you check some of my earlier posts about Art Blakey you will find my listening recommendations. Specifically, Some of my favorite Jazz Messenger albums Part 1, and a follow-on post titled Part 2.

I just stumbled across a nice compilation from some of Blakey's best live concerts: Art Blakey: Prime Source

This value-priced compilation contains some of the cream from great performances. The first set of performances is my favorite because it's the 1954 dates with Clifford Brown at Birdland: A Night at Birdland Volume 1 and the companion, Volume 2.

Another classic set of live performances that I think anyone who is a Blakey of Jazz Messenger fan should have is captured on these two albums: At the Cafe Bohemia and the companion, Volume 2. The compilation has some of the better tracks from those performances.

Finally, there are tracks from The Jazz Messengers, which I consider to be prime material too.

Another compilation I think deserves consideration (and I have previously mentioned) is Art Blakey: 8 Classic Albums

See this post for details regarding which albums are included.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Another study in tempos: stirring the soup

Playing very slow tempos is not easy. I am sure I am not alone when I say that playing fast (or even moderate) tempos is a lot less difficult than ballads. I touched upon that in my post titled Midnight Blue The (Be)witching Hour: A Study in Tempos.

This post introduces another album that is filled with tracks that are devilishly slow and present challenges to play with taste and maintain time. Indeed, if ever you needed practice in stirring the soup with brushes, this album will provide you with the sound track: Jazz Moods: An Intimate Evening

How slow is slow? Here is track 6 from Disc 1 (this is a 3-CD set):

Did you notice a slight shift in tempo at the 1:50 mark? Nail a song like this and you are well on your way to mastering not only very slow tempos, but supporting musicians who subtly stretch or compress time.

Another difficult piece (for me anyway) is this beautiful rendition of a standard played by Jim Hall. It's from track 5 on Disc 2:

One final example, this one from track 4 of Disc 3, epitomizes soup-stirring music, and with the strings can take many drummers - myself included - way outside a comfort zone. But that is what practicing to music is all about, right? A side note: Joe Morello was McPartland's drummer at the Hickory House (in NYC) throughout 1953 and played brushes practically the entire time.

Of course, the music contained in this 3-CD set can be used for more than practicing tempos. For one thing, it's relaxing and beautiful, and for another, there are times when it's OK to abandon drums and set a romantic mood. This set will do those too.