Saturday, July 18, 2009

Various Artists – Hommage a Neushi (Rhino Handmade, 2009)

It’s not often that a record producer and A&R man is recognized and has a commemorative boxed set dedicated to him, but Neushi Ertegun wasn’t your typical producer. Founder of Atlantic Records jazz division and producer of some of its most memorable jazz and R&B sessions, he was a passionate advocate for the music and musicians. This set was the last project completed by Ertegun’s protégé Joel Dorn, and Dorn’s liner notes also annotate much of the material. The music included on this five disc set is a who’s who of famous jazz and rhythm and blues. From the progressive end of the jazz spectrum are tracks from John Coltrane, “Cousin Mary”, “Giant Steps” and Charles Mingus, “Hog Callin’ Blues” and “Passions of a Man”. Soul jazz and swinging mainstream are well represented throughout the set by the likes of Sonny Stitt and Eddie Harris and several tracks from the Modern Jazz Quartet. The only music that did not appeal to me were the jazz singers, usually draped in heavy string section accompaniment. Jimmy Scott, Chris Connor and Ray Charles were undeniably talented, but the heavy velvet drape of the strings smothers a lot of the emotional impact of the music for me. That is just a personal quibble for me, and overall, the music included in here is some of the finest recorded during the classic era of post-bop jazz in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Ertegun cast a towering shadow in the music business and this set is a fine tribute to him. Deep pockets are required to buy this collection on disc as the price clocks in at $150, but if you don’t mind a digital version, it’s quite a bargain at under thirty dollars including a full color PDF scan of the liner notes.
Hommage à Nesuhi -

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