Monday, September 3, 2012

CD Review: The Concord Music Group Strikes Again With New "Best Of" Releases

The Concord Music Group recently released its second wave of discs in the “Very Best Of Jazz” series. This time around, we get four “best of” albums from some of Jazz’s best pianists including Dave Brubeck, Vince Guaraldi, Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk. But we begin with saxophonist extraordinaire Cannonball Adderley.

As one of the members of Miles Davis’ sextet, Cannonball Adderley went out on his own in 1958 with his first two solo albums “Portrait of Cannonball” and “Things Are Getting Better.” You can hear in those early songs, his bebop prowness in “A Little Taste” and his ability to share the limelight with fellow musicians as he worked alongside Milt Jackson and Bill Evans. He experimented more, later on in his recording career as you notice the funk-filled “Jive Sabma” and “Inside Straight.” Adderley’s life was cut short by a heart attack at age 46, but this ten song “best of” gives us just a glimpse of what he added to the world of jazz. The new release also offers new liner-notes by music journalist Ashley Kahn.

“The Very Best of Thelonious Monk” gives us the highlights of his musical period between his time on the Blue Note label and his time with Columbia Records. Monk recorded eight solo albums in his six years on the Riverside record label and also appeared on twelve other albums. Some of the songs appearing on this new release are the powerfully simple “Blue Monk” and his version of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady.” With the help of other Jazz greats like John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins, Monk’s music easy stood the test of time with “Bemsha Swing” and “Well, You Needn’t,” but his solo rendition of “Round Midnight” shows us what talents he had to offer. Also included in this release, are newly written liner-notes from Neil Tesser.

Pianist Bill Evans created some of his best solo work with the Bill Evans Trio consisting of Evans on piano, Schott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums. During 1959 and 1961, the Bill Evans Trio released two solo albums and two live albums. The albums “Explorations” and “Portrait In Jazz” including Evans’ versions of Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean?” and Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love.” However, the Bill Evans Trio was more soulful when they were recorded live, as demonstrated in “My Foolish Heart” and “My Man’s Gone Now.” Neil Tesser also writes the liner-notes for “The Very Best Of The Bill Evans Trio.”

“The Very Best Of Dave Brubeck: The Fantasy Era” allows you to discover Brubeck before becoming famous for mixing time signatures on “Take Five.” This release offers fifteen of Brubeck’s greatest performances between 1949 and 1953. He takes songs “Blue Moon” and “My Heart Stood Still” from songwriters Rodgers-Hart and instilled them with he keen sense of melody and passion. The live songs “Stardust” and “Give A Little Whistle” shows a musician on the prowl with something to prove, just before his career really begins to take off. New liner-notes for this release were also supplied by Neil Tesser.

Last, but certainly not least, especially around Christmas time is the timeless sound of Vince Guaraldi. His performance of “Linus And Lucy” is a classic that every generation knows through the holiday cartoon “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” But, Guaraldi added a little spice into his catalog with the Latin sound of “Treat Street” and the smooth lounge-style of “Star Song.” But, ultimately it would be his work with Charlie Brown that made Vince Guaraldi such a household name in music. Author Derrick Bang supplied the liner notes for “The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi.”

The Concord Music Group does an excellent job entrusting these classic songs to be mastered by Joe Tarantino as they continue to make Jazz music sound as alive and fresh as ever. For more information on these “best of Jazz” releases, please visit concordmusicgroup.com.

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