"BILL CHARLAP PLAYS GEORGE GERSHWIN"
Pianist Bill Charlap and his dynamic rhythm section of Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington take on 10 golden George Gershwin compositions.
They don't do them all alone, however, as they are joined by alto saxophonist Phil Woods, tenorman Frank Wess, trumpeter Nicholas Payton and Slide Hampton on trombone.
The groove hits right away on the opener, "Who Cares," a trio-only arrangement. The horns get their first turn on "Somebody Loves Me." "Liza" is played at breakneck speed with a brief horn unison intro followed by the trio, featuring some stunning brush work by Kenny Washington.
Phil Woods stakes out "Bess, You is My Woman" with his opening solo. Charlap is gentle and melodic in his follow-up. It's hard to imagine a prettier interpretation of that Gershwin classic.
"DIZZY GILLESPIE-CHARLIE PARKER, TOWN HALL 1945"
This is a remarkable recording on many counts. The year was 1945, a watershed year for bebop and for the relationship forged between Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
The recording's original acetate tapes were only just recently re-engineered and put on CD. The two giants are blowing unrestricted by the usual time limits of 2 ½ to three minutes per tune. The result is the exposure of the depth of their chops as they turn in a 7:05 version of "Bebop." Parker was late for the gig, so substitute Don Byas is heard first on tenor. After his and Gillespie's solos, Bird arrives and his is also heard. "Night in Tunisia" follows, with both Parker and Gillespie turning in epic performances.
A very hip rhythm section of pianist Al Haig, bassist Curley Russell and drummer Max Roach do what they do best. Big Sid Catlett replaces Roach on "Salt Peanuts" and "Hot House." "Groovin' High" and "Fifty-Second St. Theme" are also included.
Aside from the first 30 seconds or so of the first track, the sound is ideal — far better than many of the two star's subsequent releases.
"ELLA FITZGERALD AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG FOR LOVERS"
This is a love story — of two famous style-setting musicians singing their love of music.
Both Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald are in their prime as they perform 11 standards which should trip many memories. "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)" is one tune minus Fitzgerald. We hear Armstrong's vocal and then his trumpet solo. He is supported by pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Louie Bellson. That group is reminiscent of a Jazz at the Philharmonic rhythm section.
Solid gold numbers include "The Nearness of You," "Stars Fell on Alabama," "Moonlight in Vermont," "Under a Blanket of Blue" and more.
Four excellent trombonists salute brass instruments on this nine-cut exploration of some legendary works.
J.J. Johnson's "Sutter-Bug" provides the beginning. The bones recreate his solo from that 20-bar blues with aplomb. Another standout is "Hum," a Bob Brookmeyer composition which features a tribute to Clark Terry, whose solo was a key ingredient on the Brookmeyer-Terry recording, "Tonight."
"Caravan," written by Juan Tizol when he was with Duke Ellington, gets a long treatment, 9:22, and some special hand percussion. Jim Ridl, piano; Mike Mc Guirk, bass; and drummer Andy Watson comprise the rhythm section.