Recorded during his five year "vacation" from Duke Ellington's orchestra, this Johnny Hodges set features his band sticking mostly to standards. With trumpeter Harold "Shorty" Baker, trombonist Lawrence Brown, baritonist Harry Carney, pianist Call Cobbs, or Richie Powell, bassist John Williams, drummer Louis Bellson, and either Jimmy Hamilton or John Coltrane (who unfortunately does not solo) on tenor, Hodges had a particularly strong group. High points include "On the Sunny Side of the Street," the title track and a seven-song ballad medley.
Composer John Adams' album Road Movies contains five pieces that Adams' considers "travel music, (…) passing through harmonic and textural regions as one would pass through on a car trip." Indeed, during Leila Josefowicz's spirited and appropriately brusque reading of the "40% Swing" movement from the title work, one hears what sounds like a passing auto in the left channel. Is it mere coincidence or the album concept channeling onto the master tape?
These distinctive small-group sessions, featuring Duke Ellington as pianist in a blues context, are part of a group of recordings issued under the confusing titles Back to Back and Side by Side, and further reissued under the not particularly distinctive name of Blues Summit. But there should be no confusion about the high quality of music that came out of these sessions – it is all "cooking with gas" as the expression goes. From the jazz world, it would be difficult to find more profound soloists on traditional blues numbers than the Duke or his longtime collaborator Johnny Hodges, who does some of the most soulful playing of his career here.
All right, he's made a record with his wife and a record with his pickup band where democracy is allegedly the conceit even if it never sounds that way, so he returns to a solo effort, making the most disjointed album he ever cut. There's a certain fascination to its fragmented nature, not just because it's decidedly on the softer side of things, but because his desire for homegrown eccentricity has been fused with his inclination for bombastic art rock à la Abbey Roa…
The viola was Hindemith's instrument (though he could play almost any), and he wrote some of his most expressive chamber music for it. This two-disc set includes all four of Hindemith's sonatas for solo violin and the three for viola and piano. I prefer the wildness of Hindemith's earlier music to the sometimes arid calm of his later music, so listeners like myself who like Hindemith can have a feast here as most of these are early works. They are played with energy and passion by an outstanding violist and a fine pianist.
2007 four CD Proper box featuring 108 tracks recorded by the famed duo. Les Paul pioneered electric guitar design and multi-track recording and along the way invented the synthesizer. He was also a very fine guitarist himself and with vocalist Mary Ford had considerable chart success with songs of varying styles, all included here. Les Paul's influence as a guitarist is acknowledged by musicians ranging from B.B. King, Jerry Garcia and Eric Clapton to James Burton, Frank Zappa, Keith Richards and Jeff Beck.
The Poulenc Violin Sonata is still a relative rarity on record. I'm baffled by this, as it is one of Poulenc's most unique and musically rewarding works. This performance by Lin and Crossley is excellent; indeed they nearly match the superlative recording made by Kolja Blacher and Eric Le Sage for RCA. The brighter, more lively RCA recording adds a little extra sparkle and energy to the latter. However, in both instances, each violinist has the benefit of being joined by pianists who have made a specialty of Poulenc.
After the breakup, Beatles fans expected major statements from the three chief songwriters in the Fab Four. John and George fulfilled those expectations – Lennon with his lacerating, confessional John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Harrison with his triple-LP All Things Must Pass – but Paul McCartney certainly didn't, turning toward the modest charms of McCartney, and then crediting his wife Linda as a full-fledged collaborator on its 1971 follow-up, Ram…