ArtSpoken & Reviews

Jazz by the book and on CD

Don Albert
08/16/2012 09:21:43

Jazzaholic by Don Albert: The dilemma when buying a present for a jazz enthusiast is, should one buy a CD which the recipient could already have in their collection?

Alternatively would one be safe with a good red wine (or preferably if it were for me, a single malt!)?

If you're currently facing this earth-shattering conundrum, I have just come across a jazz book titled ‘JAZZ Body and Soul’ with photographs and recollections by Bob Willoughby.

I love the dramatic ambience of black & white shots (some slightly out of focus) of musicians in action. The shot of Bob Cooper and Howard Rumsey is a good example of this technique.

I have been buying jazz books for almost 70 years, and when I look back I laugh at the prices (pre ZA R). Seven shillings and sixpence or fourteen shillings for hardcover imported books!

As jazz is my passion and my job I have seen many pictures of jazz musicians, so I was impressed with the work which includes various recollections and which has a forward by Dave Brubeck.

Some of my favourites include those of Wardell Gray, Gene Krupa, Ray Nance and the shot of Armstrong in the mirror. Terrific shots of some of the Kenton musicians and the backstage pics taken at the filming of The Benny Goodman Story especially Stan Getz. We see Miles relaxing and one of Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby listening to Louis Armstrong on the set of “High Society”.

However there is one major unfortunate error in the Charlie Ventura story in that the accompanying picture is not Ventura, but is actually Flip Phillips. A shame because there actually aren't too many pictures of Ventura around.

The plus side of this mistake is that there aren’t too many pics of Flip Phillips around either! He was the tenorman who came to prominence with Woody Herman in the mid-forties and then as a regular with Jazz at the Philharmonic from 1946-57. His fame came with his solo on “Perdido”.

The book comes in a strong cardboard protective sheath, and despite the goof, it’s well presented and reproduced on high class paper, making it a fine present to yourself, or for a fellow fan.

Jazz Body and Soul is published by Evans Mitchell Books and retails in South Africa at R370.

As an afterthought I feel I must mention two other books with glaring errors.

I’ve just read ‘The Baroness’ about Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter who befriended many jazz musicians, most famously Thelonious Monk. It was in her hotel suite that Charlie Parker died. In the book, spread across two pages, is a picture of her and Teddy Wilson, which has obviously been reversed, as can be seen by Wilson’s pocket handkerchief on his incorrect right-hand side.

I’m busy reading a book about Norman Granz of Jazz at the Philharmonic fame as well as such great jazz record labels as Norgram, Verve and Pablo. The author talks about the line-up of a JATP concert and names the trumpeters as Corky Corcoran, Neal Hefti and Shorty Sherock. Corcoran was not a trumpeter but a tenor saxophonist who spent years with the Harry James Orchestra.

On the CD side ‘Mary Lou Williams - The Next 100 Years’ is a fitting tribute to Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) possibly the most highly respected female jazz musician, arranger and composer. Well known for her work with Andy Kirk, she also wrote arrangements for Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey and composed “Zodiac Suite” and “Mary Lou’s Mass” which was choreographed by Alvin Ailey. One of her other compositions was “What’s You’re Story Morning Glory” done in 1938 and which was recorded by both Andy Kirk and Jimmy Lunceford. Later it appeared as “Black Coffee” under a different composer for which she apparently only received a pittance.

This tribute from the Virginia Mayhew Quartet with guest Wycliffe Gordon do a splendid modern-mainstream versions of 8 MLW songs including the above, and two by Mayhew. I first heard Mayhew with Diva in 1995, her tenor sound is big and along with Gordon’s trombone they complement each other. I was particularly impressed with guitarist Ed Cherry. This is an unassuming, yet excellent CD. For more info www.VirginiaMayhew.com and www.RenmaRecordings.com

Virginia Mayhew can also be heard on ‘Single Petal of a Rose’ by the Duke Ellington Legacy which comprises Edward Kennedy Ellington II guitar; Norman Simmons (piano and arranger); Virginia Mayhew (tenor sax and MD); Jami Dauber (trumpet); Noah Bless (trombone); Tom DiCarlo (bass); Paul Wells (drums); Sheila Earley (percussion) and Nancy Reed (vocals) plus special guest Houston Person (tenor sax). Simmons opens with a solo version of “Single Petal of a Rose” which he dedicated to Duke’s mother. Of the 13 main tracks there are 6 compositions by Ellington, 4 by Billy Strayhorn, 2 by Simmons, who is at his slow-drag blues best on “After Hours” written by Erskine Hawkins. “Johnny Come Lately” is freshly dressed in a Cuban inspired outing on which Mayhew plays a wailing solo. Jami Dauber is in sterling form, Person seem to really be enjoying himself, actually there are no slackers here. A super album. More info www.dukeellingtonlegacy.com and www.renmarecordings.com

Arranger Mark Masters and baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan have an empathy that makes magic. It was evident on Smulyan‘s “High Noon” CD, and here‘s that spark again on ‘Ellington Saxophone Encounters‘ in which Master has assembled a section of wonderful sax players, Gary Foster, Don Shelton, Pete Christlieb, Gene Cipriano plus Gary Smulyan stoked along by the enthusiastic rhythm section of pianist Bill Cunliff, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe La Barbera. This is an Ellington tribute like no other. Master’s mainly uses his own voicing of the sax section rather than just cloning Ellington’s sound except for the nod on “Rockin‘ In Rhythm. The tribute is in the choice of tunes, some Ellington others by Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Jimmy Hamilton and Ben Webster, then there’s the energy and the love of Duke’s music itself. Twelve passionate tracks filled with sculptured solos including Cunliff who often drops in a sly reference to Ellingtonia. With Smulyan playing on fully charged batteries, this is another contender for my CD of the year. Info www.caprirecords.com


Don Albert is a saxophonist and jazz journalist. He spent 12 years with The Star Newspaper on the Tonight! section writing about jazz. Currently he writes jazz CD and book reviews for Financial Mail and is the South African Correspondent for Downbeat (USA) and Jazz Journal International (UK). He has presented radio programmes on jazz and served awards.as judge at prestigious competitions. He has also won numerous awards.