The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history. Charles Mingus consciously designed the six-part ballet as his magnum opus, and – implied in his famous inclusion of liner notes by his psychologist – it's as much an examination of his own tortured psyche as it is a conceptual piece about love and struggle. It veers between so many emotions that it defies easy encapsulation; for that matter, it can be difficult just to assimilate in the first place. Yet the work soon reveals itself as a masterpiece of rich, multi-layered texture and swirling tonal colors, manipulated with a painter's attention to detail. There are a few stylistic reference points – Ellington, the contemporary avant-garde, several flamenco guitar breaks – but the totality is quite unlike what came before it. Mingus relies heavily on the timbral contrasts between expressively vocal-like muted brass, a rumbling mass of low voices (including tuba and baritone sax), and achingly lyrical upper woodwinds, highlighted by altoist Charlie Mariano.
After both John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley left Miles Davis' quintet, he was caught in the web of seeking suitable replacements. It was a period of trial and error for him that nonetheless yielded some legendary recordings (Sketches of Spain, for one). One of those is Someday My Prince Will Come. The lineup is Davis, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and alternating drummers Jimmy Cobb and Philly Jo Jones. The saxophonist was Hank Mobley on all but two tracks. John Coltrane returns for the title track and "Teo." The set opens with the title, a lilting waltz that nonetheless gets an original treatment here, despite having been recorded by Dave Brubeck. Kelly is in keen form, playing a bit sprightlier than the tempo would allow, and slips flourishes in the high register inside the melody for an "elfin" feel. Davis waxes light and lyrical with his Harmon mute, playing glissando throughout. Mobley plays a strictly journeyman solo, and then Coltrane blows the pack away with a solo so deep inside the harmony it sounds like it's coming from somewhere else.
Hank Mobley was a perfect artist for Blue Note in the 1960s. A distinctive but not dominant soloist, Mobley was also a very talented writer whose compositions avoided the predictable yet could often be quite melodic and soulful; his tricky originals consistently inspired the young all-stars in Blue Note's stable. For this CD, which is a straight reissue of a 1965 session, Mobley is joined by trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Curtis Fuller, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Billy Higgins (a typically remarkable Blue Note lineup) for the infectious title cut, three other lesser-known but superior originals, plus Wayne Shorter's "Venus Di Mildew." Recommended.
Here is Vince Guaraldi's breakthrough album – musically, commercially, in every which way. After numerous records as a leader or sideman, for the first time a recognizable Guaraldi piano style emerges, with whimsical phrasing all his own, a madly swinging right hand and occasional boogie-influenced left hand, and a distinctive, throat-catching, melodic improvisational gift. The first half of the program is taken up by cover versions of tunes from the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Luiz Bonfa score for the film Black Orpheus, recorded just as bossa nova was taking hold in America. These are genuinely jazz-oriented impressions in a mainstream boppish manner, with only a breath of samba from Monty Budwig (bass) and Colin Bailey (drums) in the opening minute of "Samba de Orpheus"; an edited version of this haunting song was issued as a 45 rpm single. But DJs soon began flipping the single over to play the B-side, a wistful, unforgettably catchy Guaraldi tune called "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" that opens the North American half of the album.
This strong debut benefits greatly from the expertise of veteran producer Bruce Botnick as well as the likes of former Steve Miller bassist Lonnie Turner and saxman Tom Scott. Guitarist Jimmy Lyon was to Money what Keith Scott was to Bryan Adams. Money, son of a New York City cop, had a rock & roll epiphany en route to following his dad's career path. The debut album, long on craft but not without inspiration, deservedly shot radio-ready tunes "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Baby Hold On" up the charts, the latter helped by former Elvin Bishop songmate Jo Baker. The key tune is the spirited "Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star," which spells out the game plan.