various artists,
Jazz Live from New York
(Telarc, 2001)

Here's a real jazz bargain: two CDs totaling 2 hours and 17 minutes worth of well-recorded, well-played live jazz for the price of one disc. That's the package that Telarc has put together from 15 of their live albums recorded at different New York City venues in the last decade. I've always admired the lively, open sound of Telarc's discs, and these live recordings only add to their reputation. Each instrument stands out vividly, and the sound is as crisp and clear as if recorded under more controllable studio conditions.

There are 15 separate performers here (many more if you count all the individual musicians in each group), so you're bound to like some performances more than others. For example, I'm a huge devotee of jazz, but, with the exceptions of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald (primarily the Songbooks), I don't care for what passes for most jazz singing. Thus, the Mel Torme and Jon Hendricks cuts, with their hefty servings of scat, left me cold. Still, there are 13 cuts left in which I found much to enjoy.

The live recordings offer the musicians a chance to stretch out, so there are some lengthy tracks here filled with oodles of dandy solos. Slide Hampton and the Jazzmasters (among them Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis, Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart and Steve Turre) make for a super supergroup, and deliver a cooking "Night in Tunisia." Centerpiece includes Al Grey, Sweets Edison and Junior Mance, who do a nice Gillespie tribute in "Diz Related," and the main man himself is on hand in a tender 1992 rendition of "Con Alma."

Smaller groups take the stage next: the Oscar Peterson Trio plays the boppin' "Kelly's Blues," while the James Moody Quartet hosts Grover Washington Jr. in a sweet version of "It Might As Well Be Spring." Lionel Hampton gets the mood back to swing with a fiery "Flying Home."

The second disc begins with Dave Brubeck's "Yesterdays," the composition of which, oddly enough, is credited to Brubeck in the liner notes. This will no doubt come as a shock to the estate of Jerome Kern. Guitarist Jim Hall makes some beautiful music next with the fluid young pianist, Geoff Keezer. Benny Golson and the rest of the Jazz Messengers keep Art Blakey's legacy intact with "Oh, By the Way," which starts slow and moody and really takes off. It's nice to hear the late Stephane Grappelli again, playing "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" with all his consummate fiddling skill.

Oscar Peterson is back with The Very Tall Band's version of "SKJ," on which Oscar is joined by Ray Brown and Milt Jackson. Very tall, and very good. Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, and Frank Wess are the front line of the Golden Horns, who do well with a Sweets original, "Mean Greens." The disc comes to a rousing end with drummer Louis Bellson's Big Band playing "Soar Like an Eagle," bringing things home soaring and swinging.

All in all, this is a fine collection of live jazz, a great sampler for those eager to taste the treats jazz has to offer, and a swinging CD to put on during a party. Steak at hot dog prices? Delectable!

[ by Chet Williamson ]
Rambles: 8 September 2001

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