thelonious

Concord Original Jazz announces six new reissues

Concord Music Group will release six new titles in the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series on June 14, 2011. Enhanced by 24-bit remastering by Joe Tarantino, generous helpings of bonus tracks (many of them previously unreleased), and new liner notes that provide historical and technical context, the series showcases some of the most pivotal recordings of the past several decades by artists whose influences on the jazz tradition is beyond measure.

The six new titles in the series are:

  • Chet Baker: In New York
  • Ornette Coleman: Something Else!!!
  • Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Alone in San Francisco
  • Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans: Know What I Mean?
  • Bill Evans Trio: Explorations
  • Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass: Easy Living


“These six releases bring us to 20 titles altogether since the launch of the series in March 2010,” says Nick Phillips, Vice President of Catalog and Jazz A&R at Concord Music Group and producer of the series. “Each occupies an important place in any quality jazz collection.”

Chet Baker: In New York

Recorded in September 1958 for Riverside, Chet Baker’s In New York features saxophonist Johnny Griffin, pianist Al Haig, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones. In addition to the half-dozen tracks from the original album, the reissue includes a bonus seventh track — “Soft Winds,” a blues composition written by Benny Goodman and Fletcher Henderson.

The recording provides a glimpse of the trumpeter “coming off a run of popularity, critical praise, and commercial success the likes of which few musicians have known,” according to the new liner notes by Doug Ramsey. By the late ’50s, Baker had won numerous awards throughout the decade for his instrumental work, and was even regarded as a romantic idol for his singing.

“Baker had been somewhat pigeonholed as a West Coast cool jazz artist,“ says Phillips, “but this recording illustrates that he was right at home playing with New York musicians — who dealt with their own stereotype of being harder edged and more aggressive. On this recording, they all seem to meet effortlessly somewhere in the middle.”

Of the ongoing tug-of-war between Baker’s artistic successes and his personal battles with substance abuse, Ramsey adds: “It will be a long time before Chet’s struggles with his demon are forgotten, but one day when the headlines have finally disappeared, the beauty of his music will still be shimmering in the air.”

Ornette Coleman: Something Else!!!

Recorded at Contemporary’s studios in Los Angeles in February and March 1958, Ornette Coleman’s Something Else!!! features Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Walter Norris on piano, Don Payne on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. The first of two albums that Coleman recorded for Contemporary, Something Else!!! marks the saxophonist’s debut as a leader. “He was a very influential but at times controversial artist,” says Phillips. “Right out of the gate he was doing something that was just so different from what people were used to hearing,” says Phillips.  ”Although structurally-speaking, the music in this recording is based on established song forms, you can hear very clearly that Coleman is starting to break free of the limitations of conventional harmony.”

Neil Tesser writes in his new liner notes that Coleman traced jazz back to its roots to rid the music of its increasingly elaborate harmonic structures and other constraints. “Without the limitations imposed by such harmonic patterns, his band would freely travel into, out of, and between musical keys,” says Tesser. “As Ornette said in the original notes, ‘I think one day music will be a lot freer. The pattern for a tune, for instance, will be forgotten and the tune itself will be the pattern . . .’ When he recorded Something Else!!! that day was still a little ways off. In these performances, you hear him in the last throes of unshackling the past.”

Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Alone in San Francisco

Recorded on Riverside in October 1959, Thelonious Alone in San Francisco was a sequel of sorts to Thelonious Himself, recorded two years earlier. In addition to the album’s 10 original tracks, the reissue includes an alternate take of “There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie.”

“With Thelonious Alone in San Francisco, Monk proved that his earlier success as a solo artist was not a fluke,” says Tesser in his liner notes for the reissue. “And in rejecting all the ‘rules’  for playing without accompaniment — as he’d rejected so many rules before — Monk expanded the entire concept of the solo piano idiom. Without Monk’s recordings as bedrock, it’s hard to imagine similarly intimate (though otherwise quite different) solo albums that would eventually come from Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea or even McCoy Tyner.”

For as unique as Monk’s style was, “he stayed pretty consistently within that style throughout the remainder of his career,” says Phillips. “That’s not to imply that there was any lack of creativity on his part. Within the unique style that he established, there was so much to explore and develop. But he still sounds unmistakably like Thelonious Monk, no matter what chapter of his career you listen to.”

Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans: Know What I Mean?

Know What I Mean? was recorded between January and March 1961, with bassist Percy Heath and drummer Connie Kay supporting the saxophonist and pianist. The reissue includes three bonus tracks that are alternate takes of “Who Cares?,” “Toy” (previously unreleased), and “Know What I Mean?”.

“This album takes two artists who were part of the legendary, historic 1958 Miles Davis Sextet and pairs them together,” says Phillips. “The modal approach that Evans was pioneering in the context of that 1958 group reveals itself in some of the material that he and Cannonball are playing on this album.”

Orrin Keepnews, who produced the original recording sessions, writes in his new liner notes for this OJC Remasters reissue, “One of the many advantages of working with a man like Julian Adderley was that he was totally stubborn about pursuing an idea he believed in. And, quite simply, he thoroughly believed in the validity of an album based on his moving very much in a Bill Evans–influenced direction.

In his liner notes to the original recording, Joe Goldberg observes that while not all of the selections are ballads, an “aura of relaxation” permeates the recording. “In this instance it can be recognized as simply a matter of four highly skilled artists away from their usual tasks and delighting in one another’s musical company,” he says. “Nothing more really need be said about the results of their meeting than that the feeling of delight comes through.”

Bill Evans Trio: Explorations

Recorded in New York in February 1961 for Riverside, Explorations was the last album this version of the Evans trio would make in a recording studio. Bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian also appear on Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby — both live recordings, released later in 1961 — but LaFaro died in a car accident shortly after the live sessions. This reissue features four bonus tracks, including previously unreleased alternate takes of “How Deep Is the Ocean?” and “I Wish I Knew.”

“Evans’ sound and approach was his own by ’61,” says Ashley Kahn in his new liner notes. “His piano style had fully matured, as had the interplay of the trio . . . Upon entering Bell Sound’s studio on February 2, 1961, producer Orrin Keepnews immediately noted the three had ‘made giant strides towards the goal of becoming a three-voice unit rather than a piano player and his accompanists.’”

What’s more, the disparity of styles between the unreleased alternate takes and their counterparts that made the final cut on the original record “illustrates that jazz masters like these are real improvisers,” says Phillips, “and no two takes are ever going to sound the same — because no two moments in jazz are ever the same.”

Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass: Easy Living

Recorded in Los Angeles in 1983 and 1986, Easy Living was one of a series of Ella Fitzgerald–Joe Pass collaborations on Pablo throughout the ’80s. In addition to the original album’s 15 tracks, the reissue also includes two previously unreleased bonus tracks — alternate takes of “Don’t Be that Way” and “Love for Sale.”

Easy Living and the other collaborations between these two veterans “worked on many levels,” says Tad Hershorn in his liner notes for the reissue. “As her voice aged and deepened, Fitzgerald discovered partial remedies in her phrasing, choices of keys and the pleasing maturity that now enveloped her still youthful voice. Pass was the perfect foil to display her diminishing resources to their best and most emotive advantage. Ella was known to incessantly toy with songs in her restless artistic striving, so one can perceive the music she made with Pass as a direct extension of her creative method. The leanness of their music underscores that even this late in her career, Ella Fitzgerald retained her bonafides as a singer for whom words did matter: not every song was merely a vehicle for her to bat notes out of the park. The allure was in the quiet majestic intimacy that focused an audience’s attention on full absorption of the musings of joy, wistfulness, and melody.”

The level of confidence with which each of these two musicians performs on this recording is hard to miss.  “The fact that Ella could walk into the studio with a bunch of lead sheets,” says Phillips, “and they could do a little rehearsal on the spot, figure out the best key for her, and he could just play it in any key behind her — all of that takes some phenomenal musicianship . . . They have a very conversational, relaxed sensibility about them, and both musicians seem very much at ease performing together and recording together in the studio.”

John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Roillins get 'Definitive'

Following up on the success of The Definitive Vince Guaraldi, Concord Music Group  has assembled three new titles in the Definitive series showcasing some of the most influential figures in modern jazz. The Definitive John Coltrane on Prestige and Riverside; The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside;The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary not only put the spotlight on the monumental work of three individual jazz players of the 1950s, but also provide an overview of the hard-bop period, one of the most significant chapters in the evolution of jazz. Each of the 2-CD collections is set for release on August 24, 2010.

The Definitive John Coltrane on Prestige and Riverside tracks Coltrane’s artistic development from his first Prestige recording session in November 1955 for Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet to his last sessions for Prestige (for Bahia) in December 1958.

Trane’s career was marked by various shifts in style throughout the ’50s and ’60s, “but if you like straight-ahead, yet inventive, hard-bop playing, then this collection of recordings from the mid- to late ’50s is definitely one of the sweet spots,” says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the Definitive series. “And yet some of what you hear in these tracks gives hints about what was to come from this restlessly creative artist.”

Extensive liner notes by veteran music journalist and Coltrane biographer Ashley Kahn provide an in-depth look at the tracks and the circumstances surrounding their genesis. “The Definitive John Coltrane offers a best-of culled from these early recordings,” says Kahn, “offering an inspiring listening session that allows for much to be gleaned: Coltrane’s talent at recasting decades-old themes with a modern touch; a penchant for brooding, minor-key melodies; the uncanny rate of his personal development — building on his strengths, articulating a signature sound; an increased ability born in the one-take fire of three-hour recording dates to toss together timeless performances.”

The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside covers an even broader span of the ’50s, beginning with trio sessions in New York featuring bassist Gary Mapp and drummer Art Blakey in October 1952 and stretching to sextet dates in San Francisco with trumpeter Joe Gordon, tenor saxophonists Harold Land and Charlie Rouse, bassist John Ore and drummer Billy Higgins in April 1960.

“This is some of the most amazing Thelonious Monk on record,” says Phillips. “Whether he’s playing a standard or one of his own compositions, he sounds uniquely like Thelonious Monk and nobody else. All of the tunes in this collection that Monk wrote have become jazz standards. Conversely, he plays standard tunes like ‘Caravan’ and ‘Tea for Two’ with such distinctive genius that you’d swear he had written them himself.”

But Monk was no overnight sensation. He made “a long, slow climb from underground to mainstream adulation, and the ten-year period represented by this collection captures that ascent,” says Kahn in his liner notes. “The one constant — creatively, promotionally, and economically — was his recordings. First for Prestige Records from 1952 to ’54, then for the Riverside label from ’55 to ’61, Monk was afforded the chance to create new music and work with a number of significant jazz peers in a number of contexts — from solo piano, to trios, to quartets, even a big band . . . Most importantly, what Monk composed and recorded during the ’50s amount to the definitive versions of some of the most enduring, joyous melodies in modern jazz.”

The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary comes out a few weeks ahead of Rollins’ 80th birthday on September 7. Like the Thelonious Monk release, the Sonny Rollins set also covers almost an entire decade, from a December 1951 session in New York for Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet to an October 1958 session in Los Angeles for Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders.

“That was such a significant period in the development of jazz in general, and Sonny Rollins was at the heart of all that was going on during that decade,” says Phillips. “Just look at the Miles Davis session where he recorded ‘Airegin,’ ‘Doxy’ and ‘Oleo,’ for example. Those are all tunes that he penned, and all remain indelible jazz standards. That’s a whole lot of jazz history that was made on just a single day in the summer of 1954.”

Liner notes for The Definitive Sonny Rollins are provided by music journalist Bob Blumenthal, co-author with photographer John Abbott of the forthcoming book, Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins.

“That the marks of [Rollins’] genius were fully apparent in the music he made over a half-century ago has been obvious to all who have followed the trajectory of his unprecedented career,” says Blumenthal. “As a contract artist with Prestige Records between 1951 and 1956, and through his work on various labels from 1957 until the beginning of an extended sabbatical two years later, Rollins laid the foundation for his status as a master improviser, saxophonist and composer; an influence far beyond his chosen instrument and idiom; and a living icon of affirmative creativity. Concord Music Group is the steward of many of the finest Rollins performances of the ’50s, and has culled them well in presenting this short course in what made Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins.” released in October 2009.

Two More Mondays of Thelonious MONK

Thelonious Sphere Monk, recognized as one of the most inventive pianists of any musical genre, he achieved a startling original sound that even his most devoted followers have been unable to successfully imitate.  His musical vision was both ahead of it’s time and deeply rooted in the tradition.  He shares with Edward "Duke" Ellington the distinction of being one of the century’s greatest American composers.

Two more Mondays left to see Laurence Holder's hit play, MONK, about the life and times of Jazz genius, Thelonious Sphere  Monk.  The play will be in performance on Feb 15th, and Feb 22nd @7pm.  at the world famous Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

For the February 22nd closing performance Rome Neal will have a special Banana Puddin' Jazz Jam & Open Mic event after the play, starting at 9pm. Purchase your tickets for the play and stay for the JAM all for $20. If you come down just for Rome's Banana Puddin' Jazz that night it's only $10!

MONK, the play received it's world premiere at the Nuyorican ten years ago and has since been seen by audiences all over the United States, from the east coast to the west coast and in the north and south.  So come out and celebrate this play which has made it's footprints in Black History/Jazz History/American History........

For advance ticket sales: www.nuyorican.org