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Classic blues singer Alberta Hunter reissued on RockBeat Records

It’s difficult to decide which was the most remarkable facet of pioneering blues chanteuse Alberta Hunter’s incredible career. Was it her role in the vanguard of the “classic blues” movement of the early 1920s, when she recorded prolifically for Paramount and other labels during the industry’s first foray into the idiom? Her entertainment of grateful U.S. troops during not one war, but two? Or her heartwarming late 1970s/early 1980s comeback on the New York cabaret circuit after more than two decades away from singing professionally, when she was well into her 80s? One fact is inescapable: when she died on October 17, 1984 in New York at age 89, Hunter was a genuine star once more.

In 1974, the singer had largely retired from music due to health concerns. But musical pursuits called once again when club owner Barney Josephson invited her to star for six weeks at the Cookery, his hip Greenwich Village cabaret, in October 1977. The live recording of a subsequent 1981 Cookery performance resulted in Downhearted Blues: Live at the Cookery, which will be released on both CD and 180-gram vinyl August 30, 2011 on RockBeat Records, a new label focused on quality reissues and new recordings by heritage artists, distributed by eOne Distribution. Musicologist Bill Dahl contributed liner notes. (The title was previously available on CD, but has been re-mastered and will now be available on CD and 180-gram vinyl for the first time.)

Born on April 1, 1895 in Memphis, Hunter was weaned on W.C. Handy’s pioneering blues. By 16 she was in Chicago in the midst of a celebrated five-year residence at the city’s Dreamland club, singing in front of King Oliver & His Creole Jazz Band with Louis Armstrong. Hunter made her recording debut in 1921 for Black Swan Records, one of the first black-owned labels, with “How Long, Sweet Daddy, How Long” b/w “Bring Back the Joys.” From there she went to Paramount Records, cutting half a dozen sides including the original “Down Hearted Blues,” which she wrote with piano accompanist Lovie Austin and forcefully revisited on the 1981 live album.  (Bessie Smith, the immortal Empress of the Blues, ended up scoring a bigger hit with the song in 1923.) Hunter continued to record prolifically for Paramount, backed by Fletcher Henderson and, on 1923’s “Stingaree Blues,” Fats Waller.

Having conquered Chicago, Hunter moved to New York in 1923. She recorded for Gennett, OKeh, RCA Victor and Columbia. During this time she ventured to jazz-obsessed France in 1927, where she co-starred with Paul Robeson in a production of Showboat and recorded into the ’30s for HMV. When she returned to the U.S., she recorded for ARC, Decca and Bluebird.  She hosted a radio program in the ’30s and Broadway welcomed her back in 1939, when she shared the stage with Ethel Waters in Mamba’s Daughters. When World War II broke out, Hunter boldly served her country in the USO, entertaining troops across the globe. She continued into the Korean conflict.

There were scattered post-war sessions. But when her beloved mother died in 1954 and after starring in a Broadway flop, Hunter bowed out of performing to train as a nurse. Upon graduation in 1957 at age 62 — an age at which many folks contemplate retirement — she began a new career at a New York hospital. Other than recording a couple of Chris Albertson-produced LPs cut two weeks apart in 1961 (Songs We Taught Your Mother, a set for Prestige Bluesville also featuring Victoria Spivey and Lucille Hegamin) and Chicago: The Living Legends for Riverside, she kept a determinedly low profile for more than two decades — afraid the hospital would learn how far past mandatory retirement age she was and let her go.

In 1974, Hunter was forced out of her job by hospital regulations. It was October 1977 when Cookery’s Josephson invited her to headline his room. Next, legendary A&R man John Hammond cut an album’s worth of her classics (with a few new ones) for the Columbia soundtrack of director Alan Rudolph’s 1978 film Remember My Name. Dick Cavett and Mike Douglas invited her to brighten their TV talkfests, 60 Minutes profiled her, and Columbia recorded three more albums.

The live recordings that form Downhearted Blues: Live at the Cookery are from one of her many triumphant evenings at the club. Her sense of swing and theatricality remained impeccable, with longtime pianist and arranger Gerald Cook and sturdy upright bassist Jimmy Lewis providing sterling accompaniment. Hunter glided through saucy double-entendre-loaded numbers (“Handy Man,” “Two-Fisted Workin’ Man”), time-honored standards (a rip-roaring “I Got Rhythm,” the tender “Georgia On My Mind”), and the touching ballads “The Love I Have From You” (from Remember My Name) and “You’re Welcome To Come Back Home.”

Will Hoge Set To Release NUMBER SEVEN On 9/27!

Critically acclaimed Nashville singer/songwriter Will Hoge’s seventh studio album, aptly titled NUMBER SEVEN, is set to be released on Sept. 27 on Ryko.  Its eleven songs survey the struggles of the heart that are Hoge’s songwriting stock in trade while revealing enticing range and freshness on the sonic front. Acting as his own producer for the first time, Will says this album feels truer to his personal vision than any he’s made.

“We took a lot of time in making this album,” explains Hoge.  “We started laying down tracks in my living room, then stepped away from it for about six months.  We were able to come back, re-record and scrap some other stuff and I believe we came out with a much better record because of it.  It afforded us the ability to take a long hard look at ourselves and what we were doing musically.”

The lead single, “When I Get My Wings,” is set to impact radio on Mon., Aug. 1 and highlights Hoge’s full-throated Otis Redding-style vocal with a heavenly host of Memphis-inspired horns.

NUMBER SEVEN follows up on Hoge’s 2009 release THE WRECKAGE, which was hailed as “welcome and worth the wait” by USA Today,  “triumphant” by the BBC and American Songwriter noted that the “eleven tightly crafted songs retain the artist’s self-assured, Southern swagger.” The long time road warrior is planning a rigorous touring schedule with upcoming headlining dates this fall. Details and ticket information will be announced in the coming weeks.

For updates and more information, visit www.willhoge.com.

Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys @ Boulder Theater | 7/10

For over 6 decades he has become one of the most influential artists of all time. In 2002 Ralph Stanley received his first ever Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance of the haunting rendition of “Oh Death” that was featured in the movie and soundtrack of “O Brother Where Art Thou”. Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys are still touring a 100 plus dates per year, and enjoying his time at home with his lovely wife “Jimmi” of nearly 50 years. Dr. Ralph Stanley is not only an American treasure but and international Icon.

Sierra Hull: Boundaries—age, genre or otherwise—don’t hamper an artist like Sierra. She’s already earned considerable respect in the bluegrass world, the IBMA’s voting members having nominated her for no fewer than five awards over three years—there’s a good chance she’ll be the first woman to win the mandolin category. Matt Glaser—head of Berklee’s American Roots Music Program—put it this way: “She has no limitations as a musician.” Daybreak is certainly a noteworthy arrival; you can’t help but feel it’s also just the beginning.

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Young Deadhead Composes "The World As It Could Be" & More Good News

Henry Sidle, a 12-year old self-proclaimed avid Deadhead and musician, learned about the Rex Foundation when he read a review of The Wheel - A Musical Celebration of Jerry Garcia.  He contacted us, seeking to include Rex as the community service element of his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.  When I asked if he would consider learning more about The World As It Could Be project and help raise awareness about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, perhaps applying his musical talents along the way, Henry enthusiastically said, "Yes!"  Henry composed an original song "The World As It Could Be" and created a video to help get the word out about furthering human rights. Click here to read more about Henry's project, see the video and the song lyrics, and learn more about my unexpected, yet very special personal connection to Henry. Henry will be performing this song at the Gathering of the Vibes Festival, interviewed by David Gans.

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Here are upcoming Rex Musical Caravan events that reflect the wonderful support of the musical community and beyond.  Enjoy some fun, great music and kindred connection, while supporting the Rex Foundation at the same time:

July 8-10 in Tipton, PA - Pennsylvania's Mysterytrain once again supports the Rex Foundation, this time at the multi-day JesterFest at the PPG Pavilion.  Click here for details.

July 14-17 - The All Good Festival once again supports the Rex Foundation, including a Rex Jam on Saturday with Matt Butler and The Everyone Orchestra to support the Preston High School Music Program.

Saturday, August 6 - Sonoma County's own Tribal Hippie UnderGround Zone (THUGZ) are doing another show for Rex - outdoors under the stars at the rustic Rio Nido Roadhouse.  Here are the details.

Tuesday, August 9 - The SF Giants will pay tribute to the Grateful Dead with another special event package that includes support for the Rex Foundation as they face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Here is information on how to get your tickets now.

Happy 70th Birthday, Robert Hunter!

What a long, strange trip it's been indeed... June 23 marks lyricist, singer-songwriter, and poet Robert Hunter's 70th birthday. A long-time "member" of the band, Hunter first joined up with his old friend Jerry and the gang after penning the fantastical "China Cat Sunflower." He would go on to write countless lyrics for the majority of the band's original songs including the much-beloved "Dark Star," the all-time classic "Friend of the Devil," and of course, "Truckin'."

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Robert Hunter joined the Grateful Dead in the fall of 1967, when he arrived at a rehearsal just in time to write the first verse of the band's classic "Dark Star." Though he'd never play onstage, he became not only a genuine band member but its secret Ace in the hole. Though Bob Weir's words for "The Other One" would endure, most of the band's early verbal efforts would not; it was Hunter's work that would elevate their songs from ditties to rich, complete stories set to song. Hunter had fallen into the Dead's general scene in 1961 when he'd met Garcia in Palo Alto, and he'd played in several of Garcia's early bluegrass bands. But he'd always thought of himself as a writer -- probably a novelist -- and it was only in 1967 that he fulfilled his personal destiny, and enriched the Dead's. He's gone on to write several books of poetry, and is currently at work on a novel.

Robert Hunter turned 70 years old today, June 23rd, 2011.  Happy Birthday, Robert Hunter!

Chad Stokes of State Radio at the Fox Theatre

Z2 Entertainment is proud to present Chadwick Stokes at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday, September 20th.  Tickets go on sale Friday, June 24th for $17.00.

It takes a certain type of musician to hop freight trains and barrel across the vastness of North America with his brother and cousin.  Especially for an artist who, just years before, sold out Madison Square Garden for three consecutive nights. CHAD “CHADWICK” STOKES is anything but a typical rock star. So, there was the singer-guitarist for bands Dispatch and State Radio, wading across a river to escape the chasing railroad bulls and hanging in the different down and out jungles with other traveling folks. And in the end, after the three had finally reached the West Coast and were laying face down in the dirt at gunpoint care of the NSA, he says it was all well worth it.

“I had ridden the trains a little bit in the past for a day or two but I had never done it for weeks at a time,” Stokes says. “I discovered an America that I knew was out there but had limited experience with.  There's all kinds of people out on the rails:  people simply trying to get from point A to B, people running from whatever they left behind, people with nowhere else to go.  You get to see a part of America that only the trains go through -- remote stretches without any sign of mankind."  It was out on these long isolated stretches and in the inner city train yards that Stokes found the inspiration for his solo debut, titled SIMMERKANE II.

At a time when the term Indie-rock refers more to a guitar sound then doing anything truly independent, Stokes is an artist who has genuinely lived the credo. Unassisted by a major label, his band Dispatch arose from the college circuit to become an international musical phenomenon. With only a celebrated live show and a series of self-released albums the band was not only able to sell out Madison Square Garden several times but attract 110,000+ fans to a Boston concert.

While riding the rails, Stokes made a designated stop so his band, State Radio, could play an anti-war concert at the Denver Coliseum with Rage Against The Machine.  It is a DIY social consciousness that Stokes came to early in life - growing up as a pacifist, working in Zimbabwe after high school and eventually co-founding the Elias Fund, the Dispatch Foundation, and now Calling All Crows.  In 2008, Stokes was honored as Humanitarian of the Year at the Boston Music Awards.

Simmerkane II, a proper follow-up to the State Radio EP (Simmerkane I), is a marked evolution in the musician-songwriter’s creative journey. Produced by John Dragonetti (of The Submarines), the album features background vocals from Carly Simon, Matt Embree (Rx Bandits), The White Buffalo, Blake Hazard (The Submarines), and Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. The sound is an engaging mix of Americana, country, folk and rock in the service of some undeniably evocative lyrics. The songs tell a loose narrative of travel, love and loss, like some re-imagined rock-n-roll odyssey.

Simmerkane II is an ambitious album about discovery, loss and moving on. What begun as a journey across an unseen America becomes a moving musical tribute to the resilience of the human heart. “The album was initially inspired by the freight train trip with my brother and that vast underworld that exists out there,” Stokes explains. “But then it’s also about growing up on the farm and losing loved ones; a young man learning about life.” In his spare time, Stokes can still be found hopping trains with his beloved travel companion, Lefty.

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Chadwick Stokes of State Radio & Dispatch

Fox Theatre

Tuesday, September 20th

Doors:  8:30 pm

Show Time:  9:00 pm

Paper Bird w/ Dovekins at the Boulder Theater

97.3 KBCO & Westword are proud to present Paper Bird with Dovekins at the Boulder Theater on Thursday, September 8th, 2011.  Tickets go on sale Friday, June 24th for $14 General Admission tickets.

Paper Bird’s backbone is their songwriting, musicianship and a general allergy to all limitations and trends. With seven members and no leader, this band is pulled in every direction imaginable, but thanks to their unique instrumentation they are able to merge their spontaneous creativity into one, solid sound.

The members of the band- Sarah Anderson, vocals and trumpet; sisters Esmé and Genny Patterson, vocals; Tyler Archuletta, trombone; Paul DeHaven, guitar; Caleb Summeril, banjo; Macon Terry, upright bass – bring a Folk, Americana sound that pays homage to the American Bandstand of the 1950’s, with a hint of Roaring 20’s flare. But don’t be thrown off by their old-timey sound, Paper Bird maintains the Indie rock image and resonance of the current age with a progressive and complex style that keeps them on the forefront of the music scene. The band’s inception came a few years ago in Breckenridge, Colorado where they met for the first time. The members were busking in the streets where they earned a couple hundred dollars, bought some beers and dinner and decided to form a band. Shortly after they went into the studio and recorded their first self-released album Anything Nameless and Joymaking (2007), which has been a top selling record in local retail stores since its release.

The seven-piece Americana Folk band is boasted by three female lead singers and backed by outstandingly talented musicians, continually capture the hearts of new and old listeners. They were recently featured on NPR’s All Things Considered due their rare and beautiful approach to music. They were voted in the Top 10 Best Underground Bands by Denver Post two years in a row. In the last year they have played Red Rocks Amphitheater to over 8000 people and have shared the stage with Devotchka, These United States, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Brett Dennen, and Big Head Todd & the Monsters. Their haunting and authentic sound is a refreshing and breath taking experience.

The female vocals create a soulful, dynamic harmony that accentuates each singer, while giving the illusion of a single voice. The trombone, banjo, and guitar elevate the music to a higher level while the skilled notes of the bass reflect the harmonies. Each style bounces off the other, while each note appreciates the other. They make audiences feel love, excitement, and passion. A show not to be missed, a band that must be heard: Paper Bird is one of a kind.

Also, appearing is Dovekins who is made up of six goonish characters that are fun-loving and appreciate a good time.  Their shows have a range of instruments including stand-up bass, accordion, clarinet, piano, mandolin, trombone, banjo, tuba, spoons and washboard.  A psychedelic hoe-down may ensue.

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Paper Bird w/ Dovekins

& Spirits Of The Red City and The Claptet

Boulder Theater

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Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Doors:  7:00 pm

Show Time:  7:30 pm

Candye Kane's 'Sister Vagabond' album rings triumphant in challenging year

Candye Kane has been called a survivor, a superhero and the toughest girl alive. (All are also titles of her self-penned songs.) Her eleventh CD release, Sister Vagabond, will hit the streets on August 16, 2011 on Delta Groove Records. Produced by Kane and her noted guitarist Laura Chavez, Sister Vagabond is a worthy successor to their 2010 collaboration, Superhero, which was nominated for Best Contemporary Blues CD in the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards.

The jump-blues singer, songwriter and mother of two from East Los Angeles is a five-time nominee for Blues Music Awards, has nabbed ten San Diego Music Awards and starred in a sold-out stage play about her life. She’s beat pancreatic cancer in the last two years. She has performed worldwide for presidents and movie stars.

But her path to success was not always glamorous or easy. Raised in what she calls a dysfunctional blue-collar family, Candye became a mother, a pinup cover girl and a punk-rock, hillbilly blues-belter by the time she was just 21 years old. Ten CDs, six record labels, millions of international road miles and countless awards later, Miss Kane has proven to be a true survivor as she scrambled her way to the top of the roots-music heap, creating a world renowned reputation that has spanned two decades.

A colorful mixture of the traditional and the eclectic, Kane cut her musical teeth in the early ’80s onstage with Hollywood musicians and friends Social Distortion, Dwight Yoakam, Dave Alvin, Los Lobos, The Blasters, X, Fear and the Circle Jerks, to name just a few. While raising two sons, this role model for the disenfranchised championed large-sized women, fought for the equal rights of sex workers and the GLBT community and inspired music lovers everywhere. Her fans are a mixture of true outsiders: bikers, blues fans, punk rockers, drag queens, fat girls, queers, burlesque dancers, porn fans, sex workers, rockabilly and swing dancers, gray-haired hippies, sex-positive feminists and everyday folk of all ages.

In 1986, then married to Thomas Yearsley of the Paladins, she was touched by the music of Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown and more. Her self-released 1991 Burlesque Swing caught the ear of Texas impresario Clifford Antone, who signed her to a deal with Antone’s Records. Los Lobos’ Cesar Rosas and Paladin/Hacienda Brother/Stone River Boy Dave Gonzalez co-produced the first album of the deal, Home Cookin’. Picked up by Discovery (later Sire) Records, the Dave Alvin/Derek O’Brien-produced Diva La Grande was followed by Swango in the height of the swing craze.

Rounder/Bullseye Records signed her in 1995, releasing The Toughest Girl Alive, produced by Scott Billington. Four albums followed on the German RUF label, including the Bob Margolin-produced Guitar’d and Feathered. She then pacted with her current label, Delta Groove, releasing Superhero in 2010 and now Sister Vagabond in 2011.

Her full-time, 250-days-a-year touring schedule started in 1992. And today, Kane’s live shows are the stuff of legend. She honors the bold blues women of the past with both feet firmly planted in the present. She belts, growls, shouts, croons and moans from a lifetime of suffering and overcoming obstacles. She uses music as therapy and often writes and chooses material with positive affirmations that leave the audience feeling healed and exhilarated. In a show that is part humor, part revival meeting and party sexuality celebration, she'll deliver a barrelhouse-tongue-in-cheek blues tune or a gospel ballad, encouraging audiences to leave behind religious intolerance. She’ll slay the crowd with her balls out rendition of “Whole Lotta Love” or glorify the virtues of zaftig women with “200 Pounds of Fun.” She often says she is a ”fat black drag queen trapped in a white woman's body” and she dresses the part.

Kane has been included in countless blues and jazz CD anthologies including Rolling Stone Jazz and Blues Album Guide and Musichound: Blues, The Essential Album Guide and Dan Aykroyd’s 30 Essential Women of the Blues. She appeared on the influential call-to-arms of Southern California roots music, A Town South of Bakersfield on Enigma Records, alongside Lucinda Williams and Dwight Yoakam.

In addition to her musical achievements, Kane has become an activist and philanthropist in recent years. In August 2009, she appeared in Dublin, Ireland for the World Congress for Downs Syndrome with her United by Music charity. The project provides performance opportunities, blues history lessons and songwriting instruction to young people with disabilities, encouraging them to write their own blues songs to help them overcome their daily challenges.

A fighter par excellence, Candye has an authenticity, determination and optimism that keep her shows passionate, honest and irresistible.

“I take things one day at a time and today I am feeling great and very optimistic about my new CD,” Kane says. It’s been awesome to write and co-produce again with my guitarist Laura Chavez. I am grateful for every chance I get to make music live, or in the studio. Most people are given only three months to live after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and three years later, I am still here. So any opportunity I have to create music makes me humbled and grateful.

“People ask me why I want to work so hard and so much, since I tour 250 days a year. Everyone says I should stay home and relax after my health struggle. But music is my life and neuroendocrine cancer is a mostly manageable disease. I will continue to work as much as I can because I know life is fragile anyway. I would be fine if I died onstage doing what I love like Country Dick Montana or Johnny Guitar Watson. I’m not planning on going anytime soon, but when I do exit this plane, I hope it’s making someone else feel inspired by the powerful words in my songs.”

Rebirth Brass Band at Fox Theatre | 07.22.11

Z2 Entertainment is proud to present Rebirth Brass Band at the Fox Theatre on Friday, July 22nd. Tickets go on sale Friday, June 17th at 10:00am.

Hailed by the New York Times as “a New Orleans institution,” the Rebirth Brass Band have been at the forefront of the brass band revival that they helped kick off almost 30 years ago. Formed by the Frazier brothers, Phil and Keith, along with Basin Street labelmate Kermit Ruffins in 1983, The Rebirth Brass band has gone from playing on corners in the French Quarter to selling out concert halls across the world and appearing in David Simon’s HBO hit “Tremé.”

It’s been a long road, but The Rebirth Brass Band has become one of the most beloved brass bands in New Orleans and around the world.

Since their founding, they’ve developed a signature brand of heavy funk that they expand upon on their latest effort, Rebirth of New Orleans. Opener “Exactly Like You” starts the album off with a rollicking, Mardi Gras stomp. “The Dilemma” and “Do It Again” find the group locking in to a down-tempo, Latin-influenced grooves, anchored by Phil Frazier’s tuba. And “Shrimp and Gumbo” and Feelin’ Fine” find the band effortlessly perfecting the New Orleans-style brass lines that put the city on the map.

Rebirth Brass Band were featured in the opening scene of David Simon’s hit HBO show “Tremé” as well as on the GRAMMY® nominated soundtrack. No band exemplifies the essence and soul of New Orleans like Rebirth Brass Band.

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Rebirth Brass Band

Fox Theatre

Friday, July 22nd

Doors:  8:30 pm

Show Time:  9:00 pm

Tony Bennett's 'Best of the Improv Recordings' coming on Concord

In the decade between the end of World War II and the advent of rock ’n’ roll, Tony Bennett emerged as one of the premier pop singers of his generation — the heir apparent to figures like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and other iconic balladeers whose versatile and engaging vocal styles had already translated to huge successes in the 1930s and 1940s.

Despite his popularity in the postwar era, though, Bennett had grown restless by the 1970s. The time had come for him to explore something new, preferably on his own terms, and in an environment of his own making. After more than 15 years on Columbia and a short stint at MGM Records, Bennett struck out on his own and launched Improv Records, a label that lasted only a couple years but generated several fine recordings during the mid-1970s.

Concord Records gathers 16 tracks from his brief period on Improv into a single collection, Tony Bennett: The Best of the Improv Recordings. The compilation, which is culled from the four-CD boxed set, Tony Bennett: The Complete Improv Recordings, is set for release on July 12, just three weeks prior to Bennett’s 85th birthday.

“These tracks capture the moment in Tony Bennett’s career when he had complete artistic freedom,” says Nick Phillips, Vice President of Catalog and Jazz A&R at Concord Music Group. “As the head of his own label, he was the person who was calling all the shots and running the show. He was free to record what he wanted to record — music that was really important to him and resonated with him . . . I think the results are nothing short of stellar.”

Will Friedwald, who wrote the liner notes for the collection, admits that Improv was short-lived and not a commercial success, releasing about ten albums before shutting its doors after only two years. However, the period was an artistic high mark in Bennett’s overall career.

“Tony Bennett’s own recordings for his label would fall roughly into three categories,” says Friedwald. “Orchestral sessions with his regular musical director at the time, Torrie Zito; quartet sessions with the Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet; and most famously, duet sessions with pianist Bill Evans.” Each of these categories is well represented in this collection.

Despite the label’s less than stellar commercial performance during its short existence, says Friedwald, “the Improv sessions would result in some of the most amazing music of Bennett’s career.”

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TRACK LIST:

This Can’t Be Love
Make Someone Happy
Isn’t It Romantic?
Life Is Beautiful
Blue Moon
Thou Swell
You Don’t Know What Love Is
My Romance
The Lady Is a Tramp
You Must Believe in Spring
Reflections
I Could Write a Book
Maybe September
As Time Goes By
While We’re Young [live]
I Left My Heart in San Francisco [live]