Jazz Cassettes

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Joe Turner - The Trumpet Kings Meet Joe Turner - Cassette tape on Pablo Records
This album features a most unusual session. Veteran blues singer Joe Turner and his usual rhythm section of the mid-'70s (which includes guitarist Pee Wee Crayton) are joined by four notable trumpeters: Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Harry "Sweets" Edison, and Clark Terry. On three blues (including the 15-minute "I Know You Love Me Baby") and "Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do," the group stretches out with each of the trumpeters getting ample solo space. It is not a classic outing (a little more planning and better material might have helped), but it is colorful and unique enough to be easily recommended to straight-ahead jazz and blues fans.

Rory Block - Angel Of Mercy - Cassette tape on Rounder Records
Block moves completely away from the blues form on this release, doing original pieces that evoke the familiar themes of alienation, anguish and romantic conflicts, but in a production climate geared more toward folk and singer/songwriter arrangements than 12-bar settings. She still plays excellent guitar solos and accompaniment, but her vocals are now powerful or mournful, questioning or declarative, and she's unconcerned with trying to capture the quality of someone else's compositions. The disc's final selection, the nine-minute-plus "A Father and Two Sons," reworks the biblical Prodigal son tale with a contemporary focus, featuring wonderful vocal interaction between Block and her son Jordan. This album showcases Rory Block's own sound and vision and deserves widespread praise and attention.

The Legendary Blues Band - Red Hot N Blue - Cassette tape on Rounder Records
For their second album, the Legendary Blues Band -- featuring members of Muddy Waters backing band, including Pinetop Perkins, Peter Ward, Calvin Jones, Jerry Portnoy and Willie Smith -- nearly captured the big, powerful sound of Muddy at his peak. Perkins and Jones don't have the same presence as Waters, but they're fine vocalists in their own right, and the band itself has the same intoxicating rush that made such latter-day Muddy efforts as Hard Again so enjoyable. And that means that Red Hot 'N' Blue is as close to Waters as you're going to get without Muddy himself and that means it's one of the better Chicago blues records of its era.

Sonny Rollins - Here's To The People - Cassette tape on Milestone Records
Sonny Rollins will go down in history as not only the single most enduring tenor saxophonist of the bebop and hard bop era, but also the greatest contemporary jazz saxophonist of them all. His fluid and harmonically innovative ideas, effortless manner, and easily identifiable and accessible sound have influenced generations of performers, but have also fueled the notion that mainstream jazz music can be widely enjoyed, recognized, and proliferated. Born Theodore Walter Rollins in New York City on September 7, 1929, he had an older brother who played violin. At age nine he took up piano lessons but discontinued them, took up the alto saxophone in high school, and switched to tenor after high school, doing local engagements. In 1948 he recorded with vocalist Babs Gonzales, then Bud Powell and Fats Navarro, and his first composition, "Audubon," was recorded by J.J. Johnson. Soon thereafter, Rollins made the rounds quickly with groups led by Art Blakey, Tadd Dameron, Chicago drummer Ike Day, and Miles Davis in 1951, followed by his own recordings with Kenny Drew, Kenny Dorham, and Thelonious Monk.

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Dizzy Gillespie - Dizzys Big 4 - Cassette tape on Pablo Records
Easily recognized by his puffed-out cheeks and unusual angular trumpet, Dizzie Gillespie was one of the key figures in the birth of "bebop" jazz. Nicknamed "Dizzy" because of his comical antics, Gillespie played trumpet in the 1930s in bands led by Teddy Hill and Lionel Hampton. Throughout the '40s and '50s Gillespie led his own bands, both big and small, and toured the world playing his complex and upbeat music. With Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, Gillespie ushered in the era of brash, speedy, lopsided jazz known as bebop. In the 1950s he began using a trumpet with the bell angled upward at 45 degrees, a quirk which became his signature. He toured and performed right up to his death in 1993. Among his most popular tunes were "A Night in Tunisia" and "Salt Peanuts."

Count Basie - Kansas City Septem / Mostly Blues And Some Others - Cassette tape on Pablo Records
Count Basie's final small-group studio session (one of a countless number for Norman Granz during Basie's last decade), this outing features trumpeter Snooky Young (who was last with the orchestra in the early '60s), tenor great Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and the dependable guitarist Joe Pass (along with rhythm guitarist Freddie Green). The repertoire lives up to the album's title: blues and swing standards all played with joy and spirit.

Ike Turner And The Kings Of Rhythm - Here And Now - Cassette tape on Iron Records
As a pianist in the early '50s, Turner helped lay the groundwork for rock & roll; he was also a distinctive guitarist with a biting, nasty tone, and was one of the first to make the whammy bar an integral part of his sound. It's true that he was nowhere near the singer Tina was, and it's probably also true that she was his ticket to stardom; moreover, his songwriting, while sometimes inspired, often possessed a generic quality that made consistent chart appearances difficult. But as a bandleader, his disciplinarian approach -- when it wasn't manifesting itself in darker fashion, that is -- resulted in undeniably tight, well-drilled ensembles and some of the most exhilarating live shows the R&B world ever saw -- centered around Tina, yes, but spectacles nonetheless. If Turner isn't exactly the most defensible character around, in the end his musical strengths and weaknesses deserve the same objective appraisal as anyone.

Joe Turner - Stormy Monday - Cassette tape on Pablo Records
This release contains six selections taken from Big Joe Turner's 1974-78 Pablo sessions but never previously released. The veteran blues singer is joined by a variety of famous and obscure musicians with guitarist Pee Wee Crayton and pianist Lloyd Glenn appearing on the majority of the tracks. The most interesting selection, "Stormy Monday," is taken from a 1974 encounter with trumpeters Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Harry "Sweets" Edison. The first half of the ten-minute performance works well, with each of the trumpeters getting a solo, but then it rambles on aimlessly, demonstrating why the performance went unreleased. The other five numbers (which include one appearance by altoist Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson) are more coherent and Turner sounds consistently strong. Overall this is a worthwhile set for Big Joe Turner fans.

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Charlie Watts Quintet - Tribute To Charlie Parker - Cassette tape on Continuum Records
Watts has always thought of himself as a jazzman, and between Stones tours he played in the 1980s with a travelling jazz festival. His solo albums have all been jazz. In the 1990s, he formed the Charlie Watts Quintet, which has gradually expanded to a tentet, specializing in standards like "I've Got a Crush on You", "Stairway to the Stars", and "In the Still of the Night".

Chet Bakers - With Fifty Italian Strings - Cassette tape on Fantasy Records
In 1959 while in Italy, Chet Baker was showcased playing trumpet and (on five of the ten songs) singing a set of ballads while backed by a large string section.

Terry Gibbs - The Latin Connection - Cassette tape on Pablo Records
Vibraphonist Terry Gibbs sounds fine on this Latin jazz date, which also includes altoist Frank Morgan, pianist Sonny Bravo, bassist Bobby Rodriguez and three percussionists, including Tito Puente playing timbales on three of the nine numbers. Most of the tunes are bop and swing standards (such as"Scrapple From the Apple," "Groovin' High," "Good Bait" and "Sing, Sing, Sing") and have excellent spots for Gibbs, Morgan and the percussion section. A fine date.

Duke Ellington - In The Uncommon Market - Cassette tape on Pablo Records
Duke Ellington started as a pool hall piano player and grew to become one of the great figures in American jazz performance. One of the first to use classical themes in jazz, Ellington is considered one of the its most innovative composers as well. (Many of his later numbers were written with his longtime collaborator Billy Strayhorn, who wrote Ellington's signature tune "Take the 'A' Train.") At the height of his career Ellington toured the world with his orchestra and composed many standards. His best known numbers include "Mood Indigo," "In A Sentimental Mood," and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)."