Sunday, June 13, 2010

Travelling tunes

This weekend I was traveling with my father, driving all around upstate and central New York, visiting family and old colleges. Dad isn't much of a jazz fan but he was a sport about the music I was playing throughout the trip, and it kept me from going insane listening to the non-stop sports talk radio he prefers. Here are some of the selections we listened to over the course of the trip:

The Complete Recordings of Stan Getz Quintet w/ Jimmy Raney (Mosaic, 1990) I thought this would be a good way to start off the trip, since Getz is one of the few jazz musicians Dad knows due to his popularity in the 1950's and 60's. His group with Raney is wonderfully melodic and easy to listen to. The early Stan Getz album entitled Play was one of the first albums to entrance me when I was young and I continue to enjoy the music. The Mosaic set is well out of print, but the music is available in several other collections. Some of the music recorded live at the Storyville jazz club in Boston is quite exciting and the band runs through a variety of tempos from flat out bop to breathy ballads. It's a joy to listen to Getz play with the melody to "Pennies from Heaven" and the rest of the set is just as fine. Dad seemed to like it but the music did get a little sleepy after a while of driving for three hours in the pouring rain.

Horace Silver - Song for My Father (Blue Note, 1964) This is certainly a classic and a good choice when driving around with one's father. Silver's aggressively percussive piano, and the punchy front line of Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone and Carmell Jones on trumpet woke us up and got the energy level back up. Highlights were the title track with the famous piano opening that was poached by Steely Dan and Joe Henderson's excellent composition "The Kicker." Silver uses a variety of rhythms and tempos here which makes the music continually interesting. This one was a big hit with Dad commenting on how much he liked it and patting along on his knee in time. I think I'll send him a CD of the album for Father's Day.

Wayne Shorter - Juju (Blue Note, 1964) This one was for me because it is my favorite Shorter LP, and I think it was about as outre as I could get music wise without annoying my passenger. With Shorter playing just tenor saxophone with a killer John Coltrane associated rhythm section of McCoy Tyner on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, it is some of Shorter's most forthright work on record. I know the critique of this album is that it is a Coltrane Quartet knock-off, but there are enough differences in Shorter's saxophone styling and his compositions so that it stands very well on his own. This album and Adam's Apple are my favorite Shorter albums because he is alone on the front line, and briefly abandons the enigmatic nature that is his default musical persona to be more gregarious and direct with his approach. He nears the avant garde on the title track with a very exciting sharp edged attack, and presents one of his most interesting and overlooked compositions with "House of Jade." This one only got a non-committal grunt from my father, as expected. He's loves a good melody, and while there are fine melodic statements to be found here, they are sometimes lost amid the very stringent improvisation.

Stanley Turrentine - That's Where It's At (Blue Note, 1962) This soulful slab of music got things back on track. The two of us actually saw Turrentine at the Van Dyck jazz club in Schenectady many years ago. Blues and soul is the nature of the music here, it is very sunny and friendly music, with Les McCann's percussive piano comping and melodies, and Turrentine contributing gales of accessible blues based saxophone. My father seems to like music with defined melodies and accessible improvisations that he can tap his toe to and follow along. Music that tells a story, if you will. Turrentine's tenor saxophone and McCann's soulful, gospel drenched piano were a perfect match, and it is surprising this album has fallen under the radar somewhat, because it is quite good. This bluesy and soulful hard-bop was a big hit and was well received.

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