Welcome to Guitars & All That Jazz
Welcome to Guitars & All That Jazz
Guitars & All That Jazz was a radio station that webcast via Live365 for 11 years, ending in June 2011. The playlist consisted of guitar instrumentals, jazz, big band, early rock 'n' roll, lounge music and classic easy listening.
I hope to share some of this music with you via this blog. Most of it will be taken from the original vinyl (LPs and 45s) , cassettes and the occasional commercially unavailable CD.
Here's hoping you'll find something to enjoy. Please note files are available only for a limited time.
I urge you to purchase the digital version of the albums featured, either on CD or via download, wherever possible.
Listen to the Music
There are now two music streams. Click the appropriate player to the right.
1. Guitars & All That Jazz: Five hours of the best in jazz, guitars and other instrumental gems. New songs are added weekly.
2. Tiki Shores: Music to sweep you away to a tropical isle, a South American dance floor or a bossa nova on the beach at Rio. About 4.5 hours of classic exotica music, Latin rhythms and bossa nova.
Saturday, December 06, 2014
Like many of pop organist Lenny Dee's early LPs, Dee-lirious! (Decca, 1956), his second release, is laced with vintage boogie-woogie, swing and jazz tunes. (For more on Dee's 1950s albums, read this earlier post.)
Among the standards on Dee-lirious! are Chinatown, My Chinatown, Caravan, Twelfth Street Rag and Coquette, a 1928 classic with music by Johnny Green and Carmen Lombardo and lyrics by Gus Kahn. Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, with Carmen on vocals, recorded it that year for Columbia. RCA Victor had a competing version by Paul Whiteman and his orchestra.
Coquette has found its way onto scores of records since, including versions by Django Reinhardt, Louis Armstrong and Billy Eckstine. Here's Lenny Dee's take.
Information on the availability of digital versions of Dee's early LPs that was included in the earlier post is still valid. And don't forget that his LPs make frequent stopovers in thrift store bins. Look for the ones released from 1954 (DEE-Lightful! Hi-Fi Organ Solos With A Beat) to about 1965 (Sweethearts on Parade). Most of his recordings after that are mainly easy listening mush.
Here's another selection from Dee-lirious!, That's My Weakness Now. Composed in 1928 there were contemporary popular recordings by Helen Kane and Cliff Edwards, who often recorded under the name Ukulele Ike.
Thursday, December 04, 2014
Macy's, a rockin' sax-organ combo piece by the Jack Cole Quintet, sounds very much like Plas Johnson's singles for Capitol in the 1950s. You can also hear the influence of Earl Bostic's fine sides for King.
It's not surprising that Cole (I'm assuming he's the sax player) sounds very much like Johnson. On the "A" side of this single is a cover of Sax Fifth Avenue, which Johnson took into the charts, using the pseudonym Johnny Beecher, in the spring of 1963. Both versions were released around the same time.
Sax Fifth Avenue and Macy's appear to have been the only two sides recorded by the Jack Cole Quintet.
Neither side of this single has appeared in a digital format.
Monday, November 24, 2014
The Carnaby Street Set might have had the original version of I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman (CBS [U.K.], 1967), as claimed on the picture sleeve of this 45, but the hit recording, on the Deram label, was credited to the fictitious Whistling Jack Smith.
The claim that the Carnaby Street Set were first out of the gate with this novelty tune seems somewhat dubious since the Whistling Jack Smith version was the product of the song's composers, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. It's not likely that the songwriters would have let someone else have the initial crack at the song if they were planning their own version.
What is certain is that both records were issued around the same time in 1967 and both were recorded by mostly anonymous groups of British studio musicians. Here's the recording credited to the Carnaby Street Set.
I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman
I prefer the oompah-marching brass sound of the Carnaby Street Set to the whistling-dominated hit recording. I believe whistling novelty tunes should be taken in small doses or perhaps ignored entirely. Some sources suggest Mike Sammes, leader of the Mike Sammes Singers, well known to British fans of easy listening, was the whistler on the Whistling Jack Smith recording. Another musician posed as Smith for public appearances.
If you look hard (and really, really must have it) I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman by Whistling Jack Smith is available on the major download sites, but the Carnaby Street Set version seems to be confined to vinyl singles and, of course, YouTube.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Great Themes from TV and Motion Pictures appeared on Columbia's Harmony budget label in 1969 as the tenure of Jerry Murad's Harmonicats with the company ended. The 10 tracks were assembled from LPs released on the main Columbia label over the previous few years.
Several came from The Love Song of Tom Jones and Other Great Movie Hits (1964), which you can read about and listen to a sample in this previous post. The earlier blog entry also has a bit of background on the group.
The Pink Panther Theme, of course, is very familiar thanks to Henry Mancini's hit version from the original soundtrack that featured the sax of Plas Johnson. Surprisingly the substitution of harmonica for sax works quite well in the Harmonicats' version, which was on both Great Themes and Love Song of Tom Jones.
The Pink Panther Theme
The content of Great Themes does not appear to have been released digitally.
Note in the video below that the cover for the British release of the LP (on Hallmark) was changed to highlight Theme from "The Avengers," the highly popular U.K. TV series that ended its run of eight-plus years in May of '69.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Chicago-based pianist and organist Floyd Morris, who released just this one LP and a handful of singles between 1965 and 1972, spent most of his time backing other artists (Gene Chandler, The Impressions, Etta James) in recording sessions. For more details on Morris and the album The ConSoul of Floyd Morris, read this earlier post.
Saxophonist Buddy Lucas shares the spotlight on the stomping title tune.
The ConSoul of Floyd Morris remains unavailable in a digital format, so here's Big News, another sample from this fine LP.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Alto saxophonist Curtis Peagler (1929-1992) and a group billed as the Jazz Disciples recorded this one-off single for Columbia in 1961 after he had recorded two well-regarded LPs for the New Jazz label. The group was known as the Modern Jazz Disciples for those albums.
For background on Peagler and to hear the flip side of this 45, It's a Blue World, go to this previous post. There's no indication whether the personnel on the single is the same as it was on the LPs.
The quality of this recording is not the greatest. The speed sounds a bit wonky and it's possible this side of the single was pressed a bit off-center. I don't have it handy to check. Unfortunately neither side of the 45 has received a digital release.
Peagler played with Ray Charles's orchestra in the mid- to late '60s and followed that with a seven-year gig with Count Basie. In later years he performed as a solo act, mainly in southern California, and played with the San Diego-based Sweet Baby Blues Band.
The first of the two Modern Jazz Disciples LPs for New Jazz was a self-tiled effort released in 1959. At the time Peagler did not receive a separate billing from the group. Disciples Blues was written by Peagler and another group member, William Kelley.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Vibraphonist Red Norvo had one of the longest careers among swing era musicians, beginning in Chicago with a group called The Collegians in 1925 and continuing until the mid-1980s when a stroke forced him into retirement. He died in 1999 at age 91.
Among the bands graced by Norvo's talents were those of Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet and Woody Herman. As well, Norvo led a popular big band of his own from 1936-1942, scoring two No. 1 hits in 1938, Please Be Kind and Says My Heart, both with vocals by Mildred Bailey.
In 1949, when Norvo ran into trouble forming a big band, he put together a trio with the novel combination of vibes, guitar, and bass.
Red Norvo in Hi-Fi (RCA Victor, 1958), a big band date, came just past the mid-point of his remarkable career. The LP featured vocals by Helen Humes on tunes like I Was Doing All Right, a Gershwin tune from 1937.
I Was Doing All Right
Red Norvo in Hi-Fi has not received a CD release and the download version is from the dub-it-quickly-from-vinyl Hallmark outfit. Unfortunately, used vinyl copies of this album are pricey.
Here's Red Norvo with a nine-piece group. Under a Blanket of Blue, released on a Capitol 78, was recorded in 1947, featuring Eddie Miller on tenor sax.
Saturday, November 08, 2014
Beginning with Continental Visa in 1958, a handful of orchestral LPs credited to Raoul Meynard were issued by Warner Brothers. The releases ended in the early '60s.
There appear to be no other Meynard releases on Warner Brothers or any other label. As well there is not a shred of biographical information in the album notes on any of the LPs, other than a vague, and quite likely fibbed, reference to European hotel appearances.
This leads me to suspect that these recordings may well have been done not in Europe but in the U.S., a suspicion reinforced by the fact that the producer of the third Meynard release, Continental Visa Renewed (1959), was Alvino Rey, the American guitarist and bandleader. It stretches credibility to believe that he would have been sent to the Continent to record a European orchestra.
In any case most of the Meynard LPs evoke echoes of Europe through generous use of mandolins, accordion, etc., as well as titles like the previously mentioned Continental Visa pair, Carte Blanche/Continentale, Strolling Mandolins and Continental Host.
The Poor People of Paris is the first track from Continental Visa. In France this song was known as La goualante du pauvre Jean (The Ballad of Poor John) and was a big hit for Edith Piaf. In English markets most recordings of The Poor People of Paris have been instrumentals, with Les Baxter's version topping the U.S. chart in 1956. In Britain pianist Winifred Atwell had the hit recording. Here's the Raoul Meynard version.
Several of the Raoul Meynard LPs, including Continental Visa, are available via download from most of the major sources. The releasing company is listed as Marathon Media and tellingly there's no sign of the Warner Brothers logo on the cover art. That undoubtedly means these releases were put together without access to the master recordings and without the blessing of whoever owns the Warner catalog these days.
Funiculì, Funiculà is a famous Neapolitan song composed in 1880 to mark the opening of the first funicular (inclined railway) on Mount Vesuvius. Raoul Meynard's version comes from his 1961 LP Continental Host. It's also on the download released pictured in the video.
Thursday, November 06, 2014
Arranger and conductor Joe Reisman (1924-1987) recorded a number of tracks in the 1970s that were packaged into easy listening box sets that Reader's Digest sold through mail order. Although Reisman did include a few standards among his recordings most were cover versions of recent easy listening hits.
Reisman's take on the Carpenters' 1970 hit (They Long to Be) Close to You turned up in the various artists set Sweet with a Beat, released in 1972.
(They Long to Be) Close to You
Generally speaking, the Reader's Digest LP boxes have not been transitioned directly into digital releases, but the individual tracks have been repackaged in a number of compilation CDs and downloads. Reisman's Close to You, for instance has turned up on both CD and download. Those vinyl box sets are also frequent visitors to the bins at thrift and record stores. Whatever format you choose you'll find that most Reader's Digest recordings are technically excellent.
Reisman was a producer and arranger at RCA Victor and Roulette Records from the 1950s to the '70s. After that he formed his own production company. Among the artists he worked with were Henry Mancini, Patti Page, Sarah Vaughan and Perry Como. As well, he recorded several LPs under his own name. And Reisman composed the instrumental Joey's Song, a hit for Bill Haley and the Comets in 1959.
Isle of Capri was recorded by Reisman for a Reader's Digest session on Jan. 7, 1971. It was included on the 1978 eight-LP box Thanks for the Memories, although it may well have been included in other sets as well.
Monday, November 03, 2014
Duane Eddy had a surprise hit in the U.K. in 1975 when Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar made the Top 10. The song was written by producer Tony Macaulay, who had worked with the Fifth Dimension, and Keith Potger, a former member of the Seekers.
The sound of the record, with its female vocal chorus, hearkened back to Eddy's 1962 hit (Dance with the) Guitar Man. For more information and to listen to Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar, go to this previous post.
Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar was followed in short order by two more singles, neither of which gained any notice. One of them, Love Confusion/Love is a Warm Emotion, was a one-off release on the Target label. It again was written and produced by Macaulay and had a very similar sound to the hit.
The only appearance of the Target single in a digital format that I'm aware of was on a bootleg CD of poor quality issued around 2008. No legal download version exists. However, copies of the vinyl single seem to be fairly common and often quite reasonably priced.
Duane Eddy appeared on an episode of American Music Shop in 1990 and played the western swing classic Detour, with Denis Solee on sax and Mark O'Connor on fiddle. Eddy had included Detour on his first LP, Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel, in 1958.
Saturday, November 01, 2014
Judging from the cover of this late 1950s release from Waikiki Records, it was aimed squarely at the crowd of mainly U.S. tourists who were flocking to the islands as Hawaii approached statehood, which became effective on Aug. 21, 1959. The music would make the ideal background for that Tiki party back home.
Poolside Music Hawaiiana is credited to Pua Almeida and his Polynesians and like all releases from Waikiki Records the album features genuine Hawaiian musicians. The label was founded in 1958 by engineer Young O. Yang and businessman Tommy Kearns and churned out Hawaiian LPs and singles from its Honolulu studio until about 1966.
Almeida was a steel guitarist, composer, arranger, singer and bandleader who began playing in clubs in the Hawaiian capital before World War II. Beginning around 1945 he performed with his group the Sunset Serenaders for about a dozen years at the Moana Banyan Court. Almeida also played for 17 years on the Hawaii Calls radio show from Waikiki. He died in 1974.
From Poolside Music Hawiiana comes Hula Blues, written by John Avery Noble (music) and Sonny Cunha (lyrics), and published in 1920. The song is a prime example of what came to be known as the hapa haole style, which combined traditional Hawaiian music with English lyrics.
It doesn't appear that any of the material recorded by Waikiki Records has had a legitimate digital release. However, it's possible that some of the company's recordings have found their way onto the multitude of poorly credited (in some cases that's deliberate) compilations being sold as downloads. Many LPs on the Waikiki Records label command collector prices.
Pua Almeida also recorded for MGM in the 1950s. South Sea Island Magic came out as a 10-inch LP in 1955 and two years later as a 12-inch. Note the dance band style brass on the title tune.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Although RCA Victor issued the soundtracks for the first two films in the "Dollars" trilogy the score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly came out on a United Artists LP in 1967.
For those who didn't want to shell out real money United Artists used their Unart budget label to issue Great Music from A Fistful of Dollars, etc. This collection of tracks from all three films was released in 1968. It was billed as by the Hollywood Soundmakers, but was recorded at a studio in Miami, Fla. There are no meaningful credits on the LP cover or label -- just the name of the recording engineer.
Still, this is a very listenable interpretation of Ennio Morricone's music, despite the rather odd instrumentation on some tracks. Take for instance the organ on The Story of a Soldier from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Granted this is a dirge like melody, but the tone of the keyboard reminds me of something you might have heard in your neighborhood church or roller rink in the 1950s. The guitar's pretty good, though.
The Story of a Soldier
Strangely this collection from the Hollywood Soundmakers has turned up on CD and as a download. However, the cover art looks suspiciously like a cheap bootleg and the release certainly didn't come from whoever controls the United Artists catalog these days. You can check out this release on just about any of the major sites.
My advice would be to look for a cheap copy of the LP. They seem to turn up quite frequently.
Here's how The Story of a Soldier sounded on the original soundtrack album.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Jerry MacNeish, who played bass in a later edition of The Fireballs and became the group's historian, recorded this tribute to the group in Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, N.M., where The Fireballs recorded their hits like Torquay, Bulldog and Vaquero in the early 1960s. The group's sound helped lay the foundation for surf music.
On the LP Jerry MacNeish Plays the Fireballs (Nor Va Jak, 1986) he plays all the instruments, with the exception of piano, some of which was provided by Vi Petty, Norman Petty's widow. Here's MacNeish's take on Chief Whoopin-Koff. It's very close to The Fireballs' original, which was on the flip side of Vaquero, released in July 1960.
Jerry MacNeish Plays the Fireballs was reissued on CD, on a very limited basis, in 1996 by NPR Records in Germany.
The title was altered slightly and there were five bonus tracks. Both the CD and LP are long out of print, but copies turn up now and then online at widely varying prices. No download version is available.
The original Fireballs seem to be fairly well represented in digital formats with several download and CD collections.
And yes most people remember The Fireballs as the band backing vocalist Jimmy Gilmer on the No. 1 hit Sugar Shack in 1963. But here they are in instrumental mode with the "A" side of the Chief Whoopin-Koff single.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Billboard reported on April 3, 1965, that both pianist Floyd Cramer (on RCA Victor) and orchestra leader Hugo Winterhalter (on Kapp) had released singles of Long Walk Home, "an intriguing piece of material with a New Orleans flavor" by Nashville songwriter and session player Chip Taylor. "Either or both should be winners," opined the music industry journal. Neither made the charts, unfortunately.
There was an equally interesting tune on the flip side of the Cramer 45, something called Town Square by fellow Nashville keyboardist Jerry Smith. Neither side of the single was on a current LP, but both did turn up two years later on Night Train, a budget release on RCA Camden.
Here's Long Walk Home taken from a Canadian pressing of the original single.
Long Walk Home
Long Walk Home and Town Square don't seem to have made it onto any of the multitude of Floyd Cramer CD and download releases, but it's possible I've missed one or two. However, cheap copies of the Night Train LP appear to be plentiful. To read more about Night Train and to listen to Town Square, read this earlier post.
From YouTube: This version of the Bob Wills standard was a hit for Cramer in 1961 and was included on his album On the Rebound.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
This collection of Gene Krupa tracks, featuring some of the famous sidemen who appeared with the drummer-bandleader's orchestra, was first issued by Columbia in 1955. The LP cover looked like this:
The cover pictured at the beginning of this post is from a 1974 reissue. Among those featured on the album are Benny Carter, Anita O'Day, Helen Ward and Gerry Mulligan. Mulligan is spotlighted on How High the Moon, but as an arranger not a soloist. This arrangement, Mulligan's first for Krupa's band, was recorded in 1946. Featured soloists are Charley Kennedy on alto sax and Red Rodney on trumpet.
There has been no CD release for Gene Krupa's Sidekicks and the couple of download versions that are available are of the dubious European out-of-copyright variety, taken from less than pristine vinyl, no doubt. Far better to look for a good copy of the 1974 re-release LP, which seems generally to sell for a reasonable price.
In 1941 Krupa and his band appeared in Ball of Fire, a musical comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper in which the orchestra played Drum Boogie. I'm not sure whether the Krupa track called Ball of Fire was also used in the movie, but it was released a single on Columbia's Okeh label around the same time. Roy Eldridge is the trumpet soloist.
Monday, October 20, 2014
The Sugar Man was the last of five albums that tenor sax great Stanley Turrentine (1934-2000) released on Creed Taylor's fusion-oriented CTI label after his long tenure with Blue Note. Although the LP came out in 1975 all of the tracks had been recorded four years earlier.
Three of the five selections feature Turrentine in front of a big band arranged by either Deodato or Chico O'Farrill. The other two are with a sextet in which guitarist Kenny Burrell plays a prominent role. The Stretch is one of the small group tracks.
Although the bulk of Turrentine's CTI output has been released on CD and is available via download, The Sugar Man has not appeared in either form, perhaps because of its somewhat grab-bag nature.
Gibraltar comes from Sugar (1970) the sax man's first CTI album and has George Benson on guitar.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Roger Neumann's full-time job as a jazz educator in Los Angeles allowed him to record only infrequently. As well he's an in-demand arranger for artists as diverse as Count Basie, Ray Brown and the Beach Boys.
Neumann's Rather Large Band has made only two albums, with the debut, Introducing Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band, coming in 1983 on the Sea Breeze label. First released as an audiophile LP, it was re-released very briefly on CD a decade later and now commands collector prices ($20-80) for a copy. It's not available as a download.
Among the three standards on this outstanding date by the 19-piece big band is Ray Noble's Cherokee, a tune most associated with Charlie Barnet during the swing era. Featured on this track are pianist Tom Ranier, Bob Enevoldsen on valve trombone, Dave Edwards on soprano sax, Jack Coan on flugelhorn and Bob Hardaway on tenor sax. The MP3 is taken from the vinyl LP.
Best bet for obtaining (legally) this album at a reasonable price is probably checking around for a vinyl LP. I've seen copies online in the $10-15 range. There are also copies selling for twice that.
In the meantime here's the lead-off track from Introducing Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band, a driving version of a well-known TV theme, (Meet) The Flintstones. The then-unknown Eric Marienthal has an alto sax solo on this.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
British trombonist Chris Barber is into his 65th year as a bandleader (in 2014), fronting the Big Chris Barber Band on a U.K. and European tour.
In 1953, along with clarinetist Monty Sunshine and vocalist and guitarist Lonnie Donegan, Barber joined forces with trumpeter Ken Colyer in Ken Colyer's Jazzmen. This group, minus Colyer, morphed a year later into Chris Barber's Jazz Band, one of the driving forces behind the "trad jazz" movement in the U.K.
Over the years blues became an important part of Barber's repertoire and the group evolved into the eight-member Chris Barber Blues and Jazz Band. In 2001 three more musicians were added to form the Big Chris Barber Band.
The one Barber record everyone remembers is Petite Fleur, featuring Sunshine's clarinet. This version of a Sidney Bechet composition was a worldwide hit in 1959. The followup single also dipped into the Bechet catalogue for Lonesome (Si Tu Vois Ma Mère [If You See My Mother]), again with Sunshine in the solo spotlight. The MP3 is taken from the original single.
There is a bewildering array of digital releases from Barber's catalogue, with almost all his recordings for Pye and Columbia in the U.K. being available in some form. If you can, sample any downloads before purchasing.
Here's a recording made shortly after the Chris Barber Jazz Band formed in 1953. The personnel is Barber, Sunshine, Donegan, Pat Halcox on trumpet, Jim Bray on bass and Ron Bowden, drums.
Monday, October 13, 2014
While Hawaiian Paradise (1959) is a classic slice of vintage tiki sounds its background is a bit of a mystery. The only documented release of this LP is on a British label, Fidelio, but it appears to be American in origin due to the presence of arranger and conductor Jim Timmens and vocalist Anita Darian.
Timmens made several jazzy LPs for Warner Brothers in the late 1950s, including the highly regarded Gilbert and Sullivan Revisited. He also worked on a bunch of children's recordings, some in the company of Darian, an operatic style soprano who graces a few of the tracks on Hawaiian Paradise. She first gained notice with the Sauter-Finigan Orchestra in the mid-'50s.
As for Bill Jaffee and His Islanders, this is likely a moniker made up for this studio recording, as there are no other releases under Jaffee's name. Here's one of the instrumental tacks from the LP.
House of Jade
Hawaiian Paradise is not available in digital form, but used copies of the LP have been known to turn up on eBay, Amazon and elsewhere at reasonable, and sometimes downright cheap, prices.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Trumpeter Billy Martin was from New York, but he and his fine funk band the Soul Jets did most of their recording in Montreal, Quebec.
Martin played in New York and Europe and studied at conservatories in Manhattan and Frankfurt, Germany. In the late 1960s he and his group toured Eastern Canada, staying in Montreal for a while. While there they recorded at least two albums -- Doin' Their Thing (London, 1969) and Strawberry Soul (Trans-World, 1970). Both were released only in Canada, are hard to find and have not been released digitally.
There was a third Billy Martin album of uncertain origin, I Turn You On, released on the Onion label in 1974. It possibly was made during the same period as the Canadian LPs. However, unlike those two releases it's a mainly vocal affair.
On the strictly instrumental Doin' Their Thing Billy Martin and the Soul Jets are in great form throughout, as evidenced by The Strut.
Billy Martin seemed to disappear from the music scene after making the records in Canada. It doesn't appear that there were any further recordings with the exception of I Turn You On, which may or may not have been done later. Here's a sample from that LP.
Thursday, October 09, 2014
Most people know Michel Legrand for his popular movie scores (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Thomas Crown Affair, Summer of '42) and the hit songs from them (I Will Wait for You, The Windmills of Your Mind, Theme from Summer of '42). Yet his first love is jazz and he began his recording career with a series of best-selling instrumental albums for Columbia.
The success of I Love Paris in 1954 spawned a dozen or more LPs in a similar vein -- Holiday in Rome, Castles in Spain, Legrand in Rio, etc. Legrand apparently did not benefit financially from the popularity of the albums. He was paid a flat session fee for the recording sessions that took place in his native France.
I Love Movies came along in 1958. The movie themes therein were mostly well known, but there were several from French movies that may not have been familiar to North Americans.
The standard Cheek to Cheek was written by Irving Berlin for the 1935 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie Top Hat. Astaire's recording of the song with Leo Reisman's orchestra was deemed to be the top hit of the year. Here's Legrand's version.
Cheek to Cheek
I can't begin to sort out the bewildering array of download versions of Legrand's Columbia recordings. Most, if not all, are the usual European out-of-copyright releases that should be approached with caution. As far as I can determine the tracks from I Love Movies are not available in a digital format.
On CD you should look for Legrand Piano: I Love Paris released by Sony in 1990 and available for under $5 on Amazon. There's also a release from Polygram in Europe of what is undoubtedly Legrand's finest Columbia recording, Legrand Jazz, with the participation of the likes of Miles Davis, Ben Webster and Hank Jones. There are plenty of cheap copies on Amazon and elsewhere. Make sure you get the Polygram release as there are also out-of-copyright versions floating around.
Here's something else from I Love Movies.
Saturday, October 04, 2014
Moods (1960) comes from the classic period of The 3 Sounds when the trio of pianist Gene Harris, bassist Andrew Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy were at the peak of their popularity. (For more on The 3 Sounds read this earlier post.)
Critics of the period generally weren't fond of the group's light touch, but record buyers made the trio one of the Blue Note label's top sellers.
For jazz DJs and juke boxes the record company issued Li'l Darlin'/Loose Walk as a promotional single. Both sides of the 45 were the full length album tracks, an unusual move for the time. The MP3 below is taken from the single, in mono of course.
Like other LPs by The Three Sounds Moods was released on a standalone Japanese CD that's now out of print. However, Moods is also included the four-CD out-of-copyright collection The Three Sounds: Eight Classic Albums from the European Real Gone Jazz label. Amazon has new copies starting at about $8, so you may want to take a chance even though these have likely been remastered from vinyl.
Out-of-copyright download versions of Moods also are widely available.
Here's Tammy's Breeze, another track from the album.
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Not a surf record as you might expect from the group's name but a tasty slice of Detroit instrumental soul from 1966.
Very little is known about the group, which recorded a half dozen or so singles for at least four labels. Credits on the record labels indicate the involvement of Buffalo, N.Y., DJ and record man Tom Shannon and Carl Cisco, who had both relocated to Detroit and were associated with another Swan recording group, the Rockin' Rebels (Wild Weekend). For further information (and some well-informed speculation) on the Buena Vistas read this post on the excellent Funky 16 Corners blog.
Hot Shot came out in May 1966 and was a minor hit on both the Billboard (#87) and Cashbox (#82) charts.
The flip side of the single was T.N.T., an organ driven number that reminds me somewhat of Dave (Baby) Cortez (The Happy Organ, Rinky-Dink).
Both sides of this single are being peddled as downloads from all the major sources, but I'd be willing to bet they've been dubbed from vinyl.
Hot Shot is also included on the 1996 CD compilation Swan's Soul Sides: Dance the Philly from the highly-regarded Ace label in the U.K. It's available at a reasonable price from Amazon and other online sellers.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Jazz and R&B guitarist Wilbert Longmire gained a bit of notice after he joined pianist Bob James's Tappan Zee label in 1978. Longmire and George Benson knew each other and it was Benson who brought him to the attention of James.
Longmire's third Tappan Zee release, With All My Love (1980), contained the radio friendly track Hawkeye, which scored some airplay.
Longmire had begun his recording career as a solo artist in 1969 with the LP Revolution for World Pacific, and the LP pictured above also predates Longmire's Tappan Zee signing. The Way We Were (1975) came out on Astra Records, but the minimal packaging and black-and-white cover indicate this was probably a private release.
Longmire is joined on The Way We Were by keyboardist Bill Mason, Billy Kaye, percussion, bassists Lee Tucker and Robert Evans, drummer Larry Langston and rhythm guitarist Mark Shulte. Longmire's playing on the title track reminds us just how beautiful this tune is.
The Way We Were
The Way We Were has never had a digital release and vinyl copies go for $40 and up on the collectors' market. However, two of Longmire's Tappen Zee albums, Champagne and With All My Love, have appeared on an import CD that's available from Amazon and other online sellers.
Longmire apparently has not recorded as a leader since his Tappen Zee days. As of 2011 he was living in the Cincinnati area and playing local gigs.
Here's the track that got Longmire some national attention in 1980.
Friday, September 26, 2014
Most of arranger and composer Pat Williams's work has been in the recording studios and for the movies and TV, so he remains largely unknown to the general public.
His work in the studios began in New York in 1961 and when he moved to Los Angeles seven years later, he began composing for film and television as well. Some of the TV shows he scored included Mary Tyler Moore, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco and Columbo. On the big screen, Williams's scores enlivened The Cheap Detective, Cuba and Cry-Baby, among many others.
He has worked with such singers as Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Billy Joel and Frank Sinatra, as well as finding time to record albums of his own, including three for Verve in the late 1960s.
Heavy Vibrations came out in 1969 and spotlighted brassy arrangements of current hits like Get Back, Son of a Preacher Man and River Deep, Mountain High. Also on board were several Williams originals, including the gently swinging Catherine.
None of Pat Williams's Verve LPs have received a full digital release, but a couple of tunes from them have surfaced on iTunes. These apparently have been sourced from vinyl, with audible clicks and pops, and are not recommended.
Here's Williams's funky take on Get Back from Heavy Vibrations.
Monday, September 22, 2014
The 1960s certainly proved to be a hotbed of dance crazes. The twist, the watusi, the monkey, mashed potato -- the list goes on and on.
Dance records seemed always to be on the charts, thanks in large part to powerful AM radio stations that covered much of the U.S. and network T.V. dance shows like American Bandstand. The countless local dance shows and promotions also played a significant role.
The success in 1968 of the dance instrumental The Horse by Cliff Nobles & Co., a No. 2 pop hit, inspired a raft of horse-themed singles, most of which passed unnoticed at the time and have now been largely forgotten.
Many of these records, like Cliff Nobles's original, emanated from soul labels in Philadelphia. Still others popped up from recording studios elsewhere.
Horsing Around by the Soul Brothers, led by Benny Gordon, came out of New York City sometime in '68. Although the group hailed from South Carolina most of their sessions took place in New York.
What sets Horsing Around apart from the other horse records is the dynamic drumming and the really tight horn section.
Horsing Around was among the 21 tracks gathered in 2011 for the excellent northern soul CD compilation Dynamic Grooves: Funk and Groovy Soul from the Vaults of Scepter, Wand, Dynamo and Musicor. It's on the BGP (Beat Goes Public) label, an imprint of Ace Records in the U.K., and is widely available from Amazon and elsewhere at a reasonable price.
And here's The Horse that started it all, from Cliff Nobles & Co.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
The 1950s and '60s were awash with big band compilations and box sets for those who wished to relive swing's heyday in the '40s.
RCA Victor, Columbia, Reader's Digest and Longines Symphonette were all into this sort of thing, as were the budget labels. Releases on the cheap labels were all over the place quality wise, ranging from unlistenable to surprisingly good.
Parliament, one of the bevy of budget labels headquartered in New Jersey, wasn't known for the quality of its LPs. But the company outdid itself with Dance Time, a five-record box set with excellent sound. I believe this was issued in the mid-'60s. Many of the tracks are in true stereo, which means the recordings must have been fairly recent.
All of the names would be recognizable to fans of swing, jazz and Latin bands with the exception of the first, Paul Fontaine. The only Paul Fontaine I can find reference to in a musical context was a trumpeter with the Woody Herman band in the '60s and later taught at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
He's unlikely to have been responsible for the tracks included here as most are soft dance band melodies. Carolina Moon, for instance, has muted brass and strings, not unlike Jackie Gleason's recordings for Capitol. But the guitar player (not identified, of course) contributes an all-too-brief break and does some fine comping (easily audible) throughout that really set the tune apart.
Carolina Moon - Paul Fontaine
The Dance Time box naturally hasn't had a digital release, although it's possible some of the tracks may have been issued in other compilations. Best to visit the vinyl bins at your local thrift stores as this set is just the sort of thing that's liable to turn up.
Finally a bit about Carolina Moon, written in 1924 by Joe Burke and Benny Davis. Crooner Gene Austin had a No. 1 hit with it in 1929. Thirty years later a version by Connie Francis gained some notice when it was included on the flip side of her hit Stupid Cupid.
Here's Gene Austin's original.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Director Claude Lelouch and composer Francis Lai had a very successful collaboration with the film A Man and A Woman in 1966. The film, soundtrack and title song were all critical and popular hits, so it's no surprise that the two worked together the following year on Live for Life.
The title song again was a hit as was the soundtrack LP. The film, however, was less successful, with many critics saying Live for Life was both dull and pointless.
United Artists released the soundtrack albums of both A Man and A Woman and Live for Life. As well the company issued versions of the scores credited to the Motion Picture Studio Orchestra on its budget Unart label. There are of course no credits on either of these LPs, as was usually the case for budget releases.
But these albums by the Motion Picture Studio Orchestra are far from cheap knockoffs. These are fine studio musicians performing great arrangements. The sound quality is excellent. Here's a sample from the Live for Life LP.
Theme de Catherine
For comparison here's the same tune from Francis Lai's original soundtrack. The Motion Picture Studio Orchestra's take on Theme de Catherine is a bit livelier while Lai's original has a a more subdued, classical feel.
There were a couple of other Unart releases in the late '60s that were credited to the Motion Picture Studio Orchestra. One was a collection of film themes of that era and the other was an updated take on the score of Around the World in 80 Days. None of these LPs have surfaced in a digital format.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Les Fingers was a French instrumental band of the 1960s whose sound was influenced by Britain's The Shadows and to a lesser extent, The Ventures from the U.S.
The group got together in 1962, with Jean-Claude Olivier on lead guitar, Marcel Bourdon on rhythm guitar, Yvon Rioland, bass guitar, and Jean-Marie Hauser, drums. Olivier and Bourdon stayed with the band throughout the '60s.
Many of the tracks by Les Fingers were covers of popular hits or adaptations of folk songs. The EP pictured above was among their earliest releases, coming out in '62. The main attraction was Telstar, a cover of the Tornados' recent hit. Then there is a tune called Les Cavaliers du Feu (Riders of Fire), as it says on the front cover, or Les Cavaliers du Ciel (Riders in or of the Sky), as it's listed on the back.
In any case this does not sound to me like the familiar Ghost Riders in the Sky, popularized in the 1940s by Vaughan Monroe, and revived in the '60s by the Ramrods as an instrumental. The Les Fingers tune certainly bears a strong stylistic and thematic resemblance to the more familiar number, however.
Les Cavaliers du Ciel
For comparison's sake here's the Ramrods doing Ghost Riders in the Sky.
In 2005 Magic Records of France released a double-CD set by Les Fingers entitled Complete 60s Instrumentals. This was available only for a brief period and now commands anywhere from $35 to $80 for a copy. None of this great French band's material appears to be available as a legal download.
Apparently Les Fingers' biggest hit was something called Special Bluejeans. I'm not sure what all the pinup girls have to do with the subject at hand as none of them appears to be wearing jeans. Probably best not to view this video at work.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Many listeners tend to dismiss organist Lenny Dee (1923-2006) as a purveyor of bland easy listening. It's true that most of his albums from the late 1960s on tend to fall into that category. But his detractors probably aren't familiar with his early recordings for Decca, with whom he signed in 1954.
Dee's early LPs are laced with vintage boogie-woogie, swing and jazz tunes. For instance, his first album Dee-lightful! (1954) contains versions of Birth of the Blues, Little Brown Jug and Sweet Georgia Brown. It also includes his own Plantation Boogie, which made the Top 20 in 1955. Dee wrote the song in honor of the Plantation Inn in Nashville, where singer Red Foley had heard the organist playing and recommended that Decca sign him.
Dee's second LP, Dee-lirious! (1956) includes Chinatown, My Chinatown, Caravan and Twelfth Street Rag. And from the third, Dee-licious!, also released in '56, comes Honky Tonk Train Blues, the famous boogie-woogie from pianist Meade (Lux) Lewis.
Honky Tonk Train Blues
Many of Lenny Dee's early Decca tracks have been released on a pair of double-CD releases from the U.K.-based label Jasmine, Double Dee-Light and Lenny Dee in Dee-mand. Don't pay the inflated prices on eBay and Amazon. Used copies of both can be had for less than $5 from independent sellers on Amazon and elsewhere.
As well, a lot of Dee's vinyl LPs, including the early ones, still turn up frequently in thrift stores and bargain bins at record stores.
To close, here's Dee's only significant chart entry, Plantation Boogie.