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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

How it all began (for me) by Ann Alex

When I first became interested in jazz in about 2007, a friend with very wide tastes in music compiled a CD for me as an introduction to jazz. So I thought I’d outline the tracks as a suggestion of what to play for someone new to jazz. It certainly worked for me.

1/ Blue Ortani -  Herbie Hancock  
A tune new to me, lots of flowing piano, but with a strong melody which never gets lost among the improvisation. My idea of ideal jazz.

2/ Stormy Weather -  Billie Holiday
Heartfelt singing, a lesson for all singers, it’s all been said already.

3/ Summertime - Booker T & The MGs (note to Lance, NOT SUNG) Featuring guitar, bass and B3 (I think) very effective, strong turnarounds at the end of each section. Great stuff.

4/ Autumn Leaves  - Stan Getz  Pleasing straightforward tenor sax.

5/ St James Infirmary - Jack Teagarden  This is big band swing with clapping and a male chorus which still manages to get the pathos of the song across. ‘Hush, hush, hush, darlin’ baby’ they sing.

6/ New Orleans Function -  Louis Armstrong  New Orleans funeral music, camped up to the hilt, amusing, clever trumpet/cornet (?), slow as they approach the graveyard them fast and rollicking as they leave to the tune of Oh Didn’t He Ramble.

7/ Body And Soul - Coleman Hawkins. Not sung, but I later had to learn the song so I had a head start despite the fact that the melody is only suggested. Featuring piano and tenor sax with a steady beat from the rest of the band.

8/ On Green Dolphin Street - Herbie Hancock, alternate version. Absolutely beautiful, superb improvisation played to a gentle repeated riff.

9/ Seven Minds - Jimmy Ponder  I’ve no idea who Jimmy Ponder is, but this is the CD’s longest track, involving guitar, keys, brushed drums, vibes, bass and clarinet, with the frontline instruments taking the tune in turn as expected, effective jazz.

10/ Danse Norvegienne - Django Reinhardt. A jazz version of a Grieg (?) composition, with clever guitar improvisations.

11/ Flamenco Sketches Miles Davis.  My introduction to Miles and cool jazz. Needs no comment for BSH readers, and others who – if any - don’t know this music should simply listen to it, and it really does have flamenco influences.

12/ Take Five - Dave Brubeck Quartet. I’ve loved this piece since childhood. Tricky 5/4 timing of course, and the drumming is fascinatingly unpredictable.
13/ Blue In Green - Miles Davis. Ditto track 11 above, without the flamenco.

14/ Run the Voodoo Down - Cassandra Wilson.  A marvellous piece of singing. I don’t know how she kept to the timing as there are no obvious leads from the band of guitar, sax, drums and bass, who do creepy ‘voodoo’ sounds. The spirited song is powerful ‘When it comes to makin’ music (travel, love) I’ll run the voodoo down’ she sings.

15/ Where Flamingos Fly - Gil Evans.  A delightfully singable tune from reeds and piano.

16/ I Put A Spell On You - Mica Paris.  A soul version rather than jazz, with an orchestra and rock style guitar solo. All stops out for the last chorus, a fitting finale to the CD.

A pretty good introduction to jazz, I thought. Personally, more vocal tracks would have made the listening even better, although I know that others will disagree, but still very enjoyable. Now start to plan your own mix tape/cd to persuade non-jazz people into the fold.

Ann Alex

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