Music Reviews

Jazz - Part 11 - February, 2000

Dennis Davis




"The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson Volume 3"

Jay Jay Johnson

Blue Note 5070; TOJJ-5070

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This is one of a continuing series of Blue Note 10 inch vinyl releases by Toshiba-EMI, which has always been the premier Japanese label for vinyl jazz reissues.  Toshiba-EMI has been releasing batches of the 10 inch records over the past year.  At the same time, Blue Note has released many of the same records as CD “two-fers”.  Each of the three “The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson” features a different group.  This third volume features Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone, Paul Chambers on bass, Horace Silver on piano, and Kenny Clarke on drums.  Like most Blue Notes, the group is a mix-and-match group of Blue Note stars rather than a working band.  Johnson waxed lots of great titles over the years, especially on Columbia Records, but on his handful of Blue Note releases, he is accompanied by an unparalleled lineup of jazz legends.  Most of the playlist is made up of Johnson compositions. 

Johnson is one of the great jazz trombone players, known especially for his fluid sound.  All three volumes of this series are available as 10 inch reissues, and all are indispensable examples of mid-1950s Blue Note jazz. Volume One (BLP 5028) features Clifford Brown on trumpet.  Volume Two (BLP 5057) has Charles Mingus on bass.  It doesn’t get any better than this, and none of the volumes should be passed up.  The one drawback is expense.  The mail order houses sell these for up to $40 each.  Some Tower Records stores carry them for about $28.  If you surf the internet, there is a dealer who is constantly listing these on the e-Bay auction web site for a minimum bid of $25.  If you want to hold out for originals, you could spend your life searching for them, and then spend several hundred dollars each.

How do they sound?  Generally speaking, I think the Toshiba-EMI Blue Notes are the best Blue Note reissues available.  Unless you have an original, or other very early pressing, look for these Japanese issues.  The later American reissues, and the French reissues, are dreadful by comparison.  I have compared only one of the recent reissues to its companion CD “two-fer”, and the vinyl beats the CD handily.  The sound on this record, as well as the two earlier volumes (and most of the 10 inch reissues) is excellent.

For reference, full track listing:

1. “Daylie” Double

2. You’re Mine You

3. Pennies From Heaven 

4. Groovin’

 5. Viscosity

 6. Portrait Of Jennie

- DD -



Ron Carter Sextet

Blue Note; 7243-5-22490-2-2

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Ron Carter is one of jazz’s great bass players, and has played with the greats since the 1960s.  He was part of the second famous Miles Davis quintet from 1965 through 1968.  The list of great recordings with Carter as a side-man is impressive, and he has produced a prodigious list of records as a leader throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.  This set of Brazilian influenced tunes finds him teamed with Bill Frisell on guitar, Houston person on tenor sax, Stephen Scott on piano, Payton Crossley on drums, and Steve Kroon on percussion.  The match-up of Frisell, with his very distinctive guitar sound, and Carter, perhaps the most elegant bass player ever, is magical.  It’s difficult to listen to this music without thinking of Stan Getz.  Houston Person, whose sound is fuller and more soulful, does not disappoint.  The sextet plays two Maria-Bonfa compositions along with five others composed by Carter.  Carter has played in Brazil many times and plays this music as though he owns it.  I can’t think of any Brazilian jazz album I have liked as much since Stan Getz’s albums of the 1960s.

The sound of this album is, to my ears, about as good as one can expect from a compact disc.  This is not surprising, with Joe Ferla as recording engineer and Jim Anderson as mixing engineer.  The instrumental balance is perfect.  The saxophone sounds gorgeous.  This is a beautiful performance, beautifully recorded.  Don’t pass this one up.  If you like Carter, also try his “Mr. Bow-tie”, a 1995 Blue Note release. 

For reference, full track listing:

1. saudade

2. manha de carnival

3. por-do-sol

4. goin’ home

5. 1:17 special

6. obrigado

7.  samba de orfeu

- DD -


"Songs for Wandering Souls"

Dave Douglas

Winter & Winter; 910-042-2

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1999 has been quite a year for Dave Douglas.  He won four out of twenty-five categories in New York City’s Jazz Awards show.  He was the recipient of the 1999 San Francisco Jazz Festival Commission.  He leads seven different groups of his own and performs regularly as part of John Zorn’s group Masada.  Douglas plays here with Brad Shepik on guitar and Jim Black on drums.  This group has recorded on three previous records under the name Tiny Bell Trio, but this album abandons that name.  As with all Winter & Winter releases, this compact disc comes in an attractive cardboard case, although the packaging features good looks at the expense of detailed information about the recording and artists.  Like the Carter album, it was recorded at Avatar Studies by Joe Ferla, but, unlike that album, it was mixed in Germany.

This album may seem more predictable than some Douglas albums, but after many listenings, I’ve not become bored with the music and find more surprises with each listening.  It’s more subtle than some of Douglas’ albums, but does not lack in presentation of ideas, and it’s as eclectic as any Douglas or Masada album.  It contains one Rahsaan Roland Kirk composition, but is otherwise wholly composed by Douglas.  I saw the group play at the 1999 San Francisco Jazz Festival to an enthusiastic crowd.  Each of the three musicians is an outstanding performer and has a stage presence to match.  The crowd was an older one than showed up to hear Douglas play with Masada at the Festival in 1998.  The younger Zorn crowd missed a great performance from Douglas.  This music is more mellow than the hotter Masada style.  For a similarly quirky performance, pick up Charms Of The Night Sky, another Douglas album on Winter & Winter.

The sound is very similar to what I have become accustomed to from Winter & Winter: well recorded, but perhaps missing a degree of warmth.  Carter’s Orfeu in comparison is lush, but lushness would not be appropriate for this album.  The instruments do sound like they do live, the balance is fine, although the instruments do not quite float in their own space.

For reference, full track listing:

1. Sam Hill

2. At Dusk

3. Prolix

4. Loopy         

5. One shot

6. Breath-A-Thon

7. Nicht so schnell, mit viel

8. Gowanus

9. Wandering Souls

10 Ferrous

 - DD -

Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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