Tag Archives: Verve

Jazz label

Jazz Loves Disney – Who Would Have Thought This Actually Is A Great Album?

Verve

Verve obviously is one of the great classic record labels of the Jazz history, where Norman Granz to produce all the classics from Billie Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald to Oscar Peterson.

These days, Verve, as most other traditional Jazz labels, is part of one of the big players, in this case Universal Music. However, in spite of being part of this large multinational company, and some major restructuring, Verve still puts out some beautiful recordings

They also able to pull together artists from other labels to do some great compilations. Interestingly enough, these compilations aren’t best-of’s of previously recorded material, but actually new productions that were done just for these albums. A great example is the beautiful album Autour de Nina, reviewed here.

Walt Disney

Well, I must admit, for my side, I’m not a huge disney fan. OK, I liked the Jungle Book as a kid, but hated Mickey Mouse.

That said, Disney truly cared about music in his movies.

Did you actually know that the Jazz standard Someday My Price Will Come made famous by Miles Davis actually came from Disney’s Snow White? I must admit, I completely forgot about that.

Walt Disney’s movie A Silly Symphony from 1935 is another great example of the usage of classical music in a movie.

Anyway, I wasn’t prepared at all to actually like the following album:

Jazz Loves Disney (Verve 2016)

Jazz Loves Disney 24/44 Verve 2016 Gregory Porter Jamie Cullum Stacey Kent Melody Gardot

Well, first of all, look at the names of the artists here: We’ve got Melody Gardot and Stacey Kent, two of the best current Jazz singers out there, but the other names are equally impressive.

As usual with this kind of album, the production is quite perfectionist. So this could all feel as artificial as being trapped as a character of Arielle, but it actually doesn’t.

It really swings nicely, and really shows a whole new aspect of these songs.

My absolute favorite is The Bear Necessities in a beautiful duet by Raphael Gualazzi and Melody Gardot (yes, Jungle Book again), but there really isn’t a really weak track on this album

Check out these trailers to get an impression:

Check it out!

My rating: 4 stars
You can find it here (Qobuz) and here (Acoustic Sounds)

Charlie Haden’s Nocturne – Music for the Tropical Summer Nights

For us here in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is finally on it’s way.

The ideal location for this album is outside, in the warm breeze of a tropical evening, sipping a nicely aged Dominican rum, a Pisco Sour, or maybe even just a Gin and Tonic (no Schweppes please though…).

The ideal place would be sitting by a pool, with the sea not too far away. And obviously, the essential part would be sitting there with your favorite other half.

Got the picture? If you’re not there right now, get onto your streaming service of choice and play this album, at least mentally you’ll be there in no time:

Charlie Haden – Nocturne (Verve 2001)

Another way to give you an idea about this beautiful album is a reference to Ray Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club, that during some points of the late 1990s you simply couldn’t get away from in any bar or restaurant you walked in pretty much anywhere on the planet.

This really overdosed me for the next decade, and I only recently rediscovered the new high-res release of Buena Vista, and now enjoy it again, but in moderate doses.

Charlie Haden Nocturne Verve 2001

However, Nocturne has been with me and on regular rotation since I first discovered it in 2004.

But by now you really get the picture, I assume. Charlie Haden is playing soft latin rhythms, inspired by Cuba and Mexico, and this is really made for the late night.

Charlie Haden

I’ve only seen Haden live once in Paris, but was very fond of him, so his recent passing made me sad. I really don’t know why I haven’t written about him yet, he has done so many beautiful albums, and is one of my favorite bass players. Well, watch this space.

Outstanding Musicians

Charlie has assembled an outstanding team of musicians here. Gonzalo Rubalcaba is a great pianist (saw him once live in solo, great experience), Ignacio Berroa on drums, Pat Metheny (that I’m generally not that fond of, except when he plays with Haden), Federico Britos Ruiz on the violin. Joe Lovano (excellent, he also played when I saw Haden live in Paris at Vincennes Jazz) and David Sanchez keep relatively low profile on this album, but are there when you need them to.

So by now you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Please, given the title of both the album and several songs (Noche de Ronda, Nocturnal, Moonlight, Nightfall), really listen to this album late at night, that is when it does all it’s magic.

Usually receiving a Grammy isn’t necessarily a safe gauge of quality (I still need to figure out what criteria they use, but they not very often get close to my taste), but in this case, the 2002 Grammy for best latin album was spot on.

My rating: 5 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) or here (Spotify), or quite overpriced at Amazon.

Oscar Peterson’s Night Train

Oscar Peterson

I’ve written previously about Oscar Peterson twice already, mentioning his Exclusively For My Friends MPS box in my 25 Essential Jazz albums, and also reviewing Oscar Peterson Plays The Cole Porter Songbook. He is one of the three godfathers of the Piano Trio, together with Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett.

Peterson to me represents the archetype of the Jazz Trio type 3 of my personal classification (see here), that I called  It Don’t Mean A Thing if It Aint’ Got that Swing. 

If we needed another example to illustrate this, let’s take this Verve album from 1963, which actually was the second or third Peterson album I ever bought.

Night Train (Verve 1963)

You get classic Oscar Peterson here. The legendary trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, and produced by Norman Granz, who played an important role in Peterson’s career.

Oscar Peterson Trio Night Train 24 96 Verve 1963

The title track, Night Train, is a good warm-up, but things really start grooving with the great C-Jam blues, uptempo blues at it’s best.

The ballad standard Georgia On My Mind is probably one of the best versions I own. Bag’s Grove is obviously taken from Miles Davis, and honestly, here I prefer the original, the horse are missing a bit. That said, Ray Brown’s soloing manages to keep this song interesting.

Easy Does It is another one of my personal favorites on this album, in spite of it’s apparent simplicity. And then there is the final track, Hymn to Freedom, where Oscar Peterson opens the melody, but the relaxed swing that follows when Brown and Thipgen kicks in, make this track truly memorably.

The only criticism I have with this album is that the tracks are all a bit short. The trio really excels on longer tracks when each of the brilliant musicians get’s more time to solo.

Little anecdote: Apparently Night Train was one of the albums that made Diana Krall wanting to play Jazz (see video below). And she plays it quite well, although I still prefer the original.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (HDtracks)

My Top 5 Vocal Jazz Albums of 2015

Following my recent post on my top Classical albums of 2015, let me now follow up with my top 5 Vocal Jazz albums for this year.

Note there are a couple of “only” four star albums here, which means I don’t consider them absolutely essential. That said, I very much like all of the below and would recommend them without hesitation.

 

Cecile McLorin Salvant: For One To Love (Mack Avenue 2015)

Cecile McLorin Salvant For One To Love MackAvenue 2015

My Jazz album of the year by an outstanding young talent (review here). I’ve seen her live and this was probably one of my best concerts of the year .

 

Sarah McKenzie: We Could Be Lovers (Impulse 2015)

Sarah McKenzie We Could Be Lovers Impulse 2015

Sarah McKenzie is my other discovery of this year (reviewed here). Less innovative than Cecile McLorin Salvant, she does just old fashioned 1960-style vocal jazz. The thing is, she does it with so much charm and also includes her own originals, I’m convinced we’ll continue hearing from this young artist.

If you can catch her live as I did (see here), go for it, she’s even better live than on this album.

 

Cassandra Wilson: Coming Forth By Day (Legacy Records 2015)

Cassandra Wilson Coming Forth By Day 2015

I’ve said it before, I have a love-hate relationship with Cassandra Wilson. Quite often, she just gets too close to a style that I just don’t like. On this Billie Holiday album, all is well from my perspective (see my review here).

 

Melody Gardot: Currency of Man (Universal 2015)

Melody Gardot - Currency of Man

 

To be fair, this is more Soul than Jazz, but in any case, I really like this album. See my review here.

 

Autour de Nina (Verve 2015)

Autour de Nina Verve Compilation Sophie Hunger Melody Gardot

A beautiful Nina Simone Tribute album from a variety of artists. One of my favorite vocal jazz albums of the year, reviewed here.

Oscar Peterson Plays the Cole Porter Songbook

Oscar Peterson is one of the Gods of the jazz piano universe, playing and recording for over 60 years. This modest Canadian was discovered by the famous producer Norman Granz. Thanks for that, Norman!

Peterson has played with so many great artists. The world-famous Ella and Louis albums wouldn’t be the same without him! Obviously you could fill at least 10 blog posts with him and his enormous discography (maybe I should start that at some point, let’s see).

I’ve already listed Oscar Peterson in my 25 Essential Jazz Albums. There I mentioned his MPS sessions in the late 1960s, where he plays with several different bass players and drummers.

However, his best known trio formation is probably the classical setting with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen. This is classical swinging piano trio, which really lives from the pianistic brilliance of Peterson with the enormous swing of Brown.

There are many nice albums from the late 1950s to the early 1960s on Verve (Night Train, West Side Story, the slightly overplayed We Get Requests), and obviously the sister albums from the “Songbook” series.

This in any case is one my favorites, and I recently purchased it again as a new remaster:

Oscar Peterson Plays The Cole Porter Song Book

Oscar Peterson Plays the Cole Porter Songbook Verve 1959 24/96

I already love the cover art, which is very unlike most of his other albums of the period (but repeated on other “Song Book” albums). Unfortunately, the recent download I purchased of this doesn’t come with any booklet, and the original CD I ripped is buried somewhere in my basement, so I wasn’t able to find out who did this, if somebody could point me to a source.

Then there is the music. Cole Porter was obviously a genius of songwriting. It’s amazing how a guy who mainly wrote musicals could influence Jazz so much. Certainly the same didn’t happen with today’s musicals, or how many Andrew Lloyd Webber jazz standard are you aware off (probably better this way)

I know many jazz aficionados get bored by standards. I don’t. I just love when you recognize a tune, and then see what the musicians do with it. Call me simple-minded. I’ve Got You Under My Skin, In The Still Of The Night, Love For Sale, Just One Of Those Things, I Love Paris, It’s De-Lovely, etc. etc. One more beautiful than the other. If you’re into avantgarde jazz, look elsewhere. This is as mainstream as it gets. But who cares? It is immensely enjoyable.

My rating: 4 stars

You can download it here (Qobuz), and here (HDtracks)

Autour de Nina – an outstanding Vocal Jazz complilation

Hommage albums are popular these days. Cassandra Wilson and José James just recently released their Billie Holiday inspired albums (see my review of Cassandra Wilson’s album here), but here we are dedicating an entire album to another Vocal Jazz legend: Nina Simone.

Autour de Nina cover

This album, while it was released on Verve, got significantly more press coverage in France then elsewhere. Even the website, and their Facebook page, is written in French. This is a pity, as this album is outstanding and would benefit from being better known globally.

This is a compilation including some relatively well known international celebrities, the most popular probably being Gregory Porter and Melody Gardot (who will release here new album tomorrow by the way). You may also have heard of ACT-label singer Youn Sun Nah.

Then we have some names that are probably more familiar to a French/European audience, including Camille, Lianne La Havas,Olivia Ruiz, and the Swiss rising singer songwriter Sophie Hunger (more about her certainly later in another post).

The quality of this album is outstanding throughout. Olivia Ruiz manages to put a new twist on the TV-commercial-abused “My Baby Just Cares For Me“, Gregory Porter is great in “Black is the Color (Of My True Love’s Hair)”, and Liane La Havas does a great “Baltimore“. The only weak spot to me is “Feeling Good”, which I (shame on me) prefer by our Great Cheesy Canadian, Michael Bublé, Ben L’Oncle Sam’s version just doesn’t make me feel as good (sorry for the bad pun).

I Put A Spell On You

However, let me flag my personal favorites: “Plain Gold Ring” by Youn Sun Nah (one of my favorite Nina Simone songs, from her famous debut), “Four Women” by Melody Gardot, but most of all, Sophie Hunger’s “I Put A Spell On You“, a version that for me personally even beats Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (please don’t stone me…).

Very highly recommended, 5 stars.