CD releases and digital audio album reviews

Christmas at Our House - Dale CornA couple of weeks back…

…while lamenting the dearth of good holiday releases this year, I mentioned Dale Corn’s Christmas at Our House (EP) as one of the exceptions to this season’s underwhelming holiday music rollout.

At just three tracks, we only receive a taste of holiday interpretations under the tree from young Mr. Corn, but it’s well worth snaring if your holiday palate leans toward swing’n, big band fare.

No stranger to the dance halls and jazz club club circuit along the mid Atlantic Seaboard, Dale conducts a very fine 17 piece big band that he also fronts with his dulcet, clarinet-resonant vocals … a voice different from the bromidic crooner style and one I find very agreeable. [Read more…]

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© Tina Tyrell

The pantheon of American Song Book writers…

In my recent Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books article, I called out Burt Bacharach and Hal David (others) as song writer/composers that belonged in the same conversation with the greats that Ella and Norman Granz targeted with the Verve Records “Ella Sings…” Song Book series.

I want to follow up on that because I think it’s both important and cool to view the corpus of the Great American Song Book as a living, growing thing.

Right on the heels of the generation of foundational standards writers like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwin bros, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hart, Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer — the Ella Song Books — came another generation of equally talented composers and lyricists that took their turn with baton and pen.

I can think of few (Henry Mancini maybe?) that experienced greater success in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s than Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

As Steve Tyrell says in the liner notes of his fabulous tribute album — Back to Bacharach — Burt and Hal effectively…

“…created the modern chapter of the Great American Song Book … the new standards of the twentieth century were born.”

[Read more…]

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As I mentioned in ‘The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books’ post last week, I will review each of the eight album releases in that box set over the next few weeks as a series. First up, The Cole Porter Song Book…

The perfect place to start…

Not long after arriving at Verve Records in the mid 50’s, Ella Fitzgerald and Verve founder Norman Granz began rolling out what would become their definitive series of composer/songwriter Song Book releases.

Granz’s decision to kick things off with Cole Porter is an understandable testament to Porters fundamental place as a songwriter in American popular music.

Born to midwest wealth before the turn of the 20th century, Porter shunned the expected family business path expected of him to pursue music and song writing.

And what a wonderful decision that was!

Hitting his stride in the 1930’s, Cole Porter wrote hundreds of standards classics — mostly for broadway and later for the movies — that became huge hits in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s for folks like Ella, Sinatra and just about every other singer of the era. [Read more…]

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For some crazy reason…

…the folks at Decca Records let Ella Fitzgerald get away in 1955.

In his excellent A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers book, Will Friedwald theorizes that the Decca folks were showing deference to their star, but in an age when studios and record labels managed their talent with an iron fist it still seems odd to me.

Regardless, after selling ~22 million records for Decca, Ella partnered up with Norman Granz at his new Verve record label and began a collaboration that would last for decades and render arguably the best vocal jazz/standards recordings of all time.

Scores of Fitzgerald/Verve LP releases  — including some of the absolute best live/jam recordings I’ve ever heard — would follow but it’s the eight Song Book albums that came on the heels of Ella’s arrival at Verve that enchant me so. [Read more…]

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The first re-release…

…of Johnny Mathis’ heretofore “lost” Mercury Records recordings was released this week — the dual-CD compilation Tender Is The Night/Wonderful World of Make-Believe.

After carpet bombing the charts with dozens of hit singles and LPs via Columbia Records in the late 50’s and early 60’s, Johnny took a ~3 year flyer with Mercury Records in 1963 that yielded 10 interesting albums.

Not truly “lost”…

…but other than a Christmas LP, the Mercury recordings never made the CD release scene … that is until this week.

Sony and Columbia are cooperating to allow Real Gone Music to remaster Johnny’s Mercury years LPs as double album re-releases.

First up is this very nice Broadway and Hollywood themed double album — Tender Is The Night/Wonderful World of Make-Believe. [Read more…]

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I crawl the aether webs daily…

…scanning the “all things Sinatra” stacks as one of the ways to sniff out salient VocalStandards news, story ideas and tidbits.

About a month ago, I saw a promo for “An Evening with Susan Chastain: Susan Sings Sinatra!” … a gig that that was set for Ann Arbor on August 4.

Well, it’s been a crazy, busy few weeks since then with the trip to LA to see Luca Ellis and Mr. Davi, but I figure anyone that sells out a gig promising the following is certainly worth a look (from the Kerrytown Concert House promo):

“Susan Chastain returns to Ann Arbor for an evening of classic Frank Sinatra tunes, covering the hits he recorded throughout his career, and telling his story. …” [Read more…]

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When I heard…

Jonny Blu was cutting a ukulele album, I have to admit I figured it for probably a very fun, but lightweight release … more of an EP with maybe half a dozen numbers heavier on schtick than production value.

I was on the money regarding the fun, but could not have been more off base on the production quality of The Ukulele Experience, Vol. One. Jonny delivered a serious LP with this Dao Feng Music release.

Not serious in the academic sense — like say, a flight of Mozart’s best ukulele concertos — but serious from the standpoint that this is a supremely polished and well conceived LP release.

Jonny does a “seriously” good job creatively re-envisioning and arranging a wildly diverse set of songs for (wait for it) … yup, the ukulele.

Now if someone had just warned JB about the hazards of white linen pants and water .. yikes! [Read more…]

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Yes, Yes he does…

As I’ve mentioned many times here over the past year, I love trolling quality internet radio stations to find new (to me) artists.

Invariably when I tee up TheStandardsChannel or Martiniinthemorming, I will come across Fresh Faces that are just making the vocal standards scene … most recently guys like Luca Ellis and Joseph Leo Bwarie.

Even more exciting is the somewhat rare find of a classic era artist that for whatever reason plied their trade just out of my listening “view” … amazing talents like Frank D’Rone and Jeri Southern.

Frankie Randall is one of those classic “finds” for me.

For awhile, it seemed like every time I settled in to listen to TheStandardsChannel, Jim Raposa would spin up some cool swinging number … I’d look at the Sonos remote to find out who it was and there’d be Frankie Randall staring back at me!

I was repeatedly dumbfounded (I can be a bit dense) that a classic area artist of Frankie’s talent was off my radar. After doing some research and finding out how close Frankie was to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, I was even more surprised — he used to fill in as host on Dean’s TV show (religiously watched at our house) for god’s sake!

Fun and Frustration…

As much fun as it is to find a talented new/”new to me” artist, it can also lead to frustration. The emerging performers are usually just getting started and I get really antsy waiting for them to cough up more material (Hello Nikki Yanofsky, Robert Davi and Mr. Bwarie!).

The classic era artists have a different problem. Though they usually have deeper catalogs, often many of their records are out of print … or only available as expensive imports or vinyl. Frankie definitely fits into the latter category … Jim Raposa apparently possess a full flight of FR’s best material but sadly much of Frankie’s recorded stuff is very hard to come by these days.

That said, there is one fabulous (and widely available) Frankie Randall release out there… [Read more…]

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