Two classic jazz LPs (yes, the vinyl kind)
Blues in Orbit, Classic
Records/Columbia LP CS 8241, 1960/1995
Classic Duke in great sound
Obviously, this is a blues album. Most of the tunes, by Ellington or
his alter-ego Billy Strayhorn, or by band members, are based on the sturdy
inevitability of the twelve-bar blues chord changes. The Ducal favorite
"C Jam Blues," with its two-note melody, gets a fine violin solo
by triple-threat Ray Nance (trumpet being his main weapon, and his offbeat
vocals a last resort). "Blues in Blueprint" is a stunning little
sketch of the sort Duke could seemingly turn out overnight, starting with
Jimmy Hamilton's bass clarinet and Jimmy Wood's bass playing the sparse
melody in unison, punctuated only by finger snaps. Very cool. "Smada"
is a fine piece of Strayhorn exotica.
All of this is captured in quite a good recording. The stereo spread
is very natural, and the balance of the instruments is excellent. The Classic
Records reissue is beautifully flat, thick and quiet. Compared to an original
pressing, the reissue is quieter, but otherwise just as fine.
Duke made so many records it can be overwhelming to choose one. On the
other hand, there is no bad place to start with Duke, merely less exalted
places. Is this one of the top ten recordings by Duke? No. Is it worth owning?
Absolutely, especially in this fine LP reissue. - Glenn Brooks
Sonny Rollins & Co.
The Bridge, Classic
Records/RCA LP LSP-2527, 1962/1995
One of Sonny's best
The cover features a large photo of Sonny with a buzz cut, goatee and
checkered sport coat that any 1996 dude would envy. This was the first recording
Rollins made after a two-year sabbatical. A glance at the song list shows
a typical bop-date mix of tunes. And the playing shows Rollins did not make
any major changes during the sabbatical. When you consider that Ornette
Coleman was shaking up the jazz world with the first forays into free jazz
at this time, it is surprising how little change there was in Rollins' music.
Okay, so it wasn't innovative. It's still fine, one of Rollins' half-dozen
best albums. Rollins is his oblique self, carefully taking the tunes apart
for you to examine. A young Jim Hall is splendid in his solos as well as
comping behind Sonny.
How does it sound? Pretty dang fine, given the wide stereophony typical
of the era. Rollins' sax is hard right, Hall is hard left, Cranshaw's bass
is up front in the center, and the drums are spread slightly behind the
bass. The tones of the instruments are well captured. It is very easy to
tell which way Rollins is pointing his sax, and he uses on/off microphone
tricks quite effectively.
I have an original issue of The Bridge, in a Canadian pressing,
and a later U.S. issue by RCA in its paper-thin late-'70s vinyl. This reissue
is easily the best-sounding of the lot. Classic Records has recently begun
issuing gold CDs, also mastered by Bernie Grundman, so if you tossed your
old turntable, you can hope they put this one out. On the other hand, if
you were smart (or lazy) enough to keep that old Dual, or Thorens, or AR,
you might just want to fire it up. - Glenn Brooks
production notes & song titles
Duke Ellington, piano; Ray Nance, trumpet, violin; Booty Wood, trombone;
Mathew Gee, Jr., trombone and baritone horn; Jimmy Hamilton, clarinet, tenor
sax; Johnny Hodges, alto sax; Paul Gonzalves, tenor sax; Harry Carney, baritone
sax, bass clarinet; Jimmy Wood, bass. Others, probably including Cootie
Williams, Cat Anderson and Mercer Ellington, trumpets; Lawrence Brown, trombone;
Sam Woodyard, drums.
Produced by Teo Macero; uncredited recording engineer; reissue mastered
by Bernie Grundman.
Three J's Blues | Smada | Pie Eye's Blues | Sweet and
Pungent | C Jam Blues | In a Mellow Tone | Blues in Blueprint |
The Swingers Get the Blues Too | The Swinger's Jump | Blues in
Orbit | Villes Ville Is the Place, Man
Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Jim Hall, guitar; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Ben Riley
or H. T. Saunders, drums.
Produced by Bob Prince; recorded by Roy Hall; reissue mastered by Bernie
Without a Song | Where Are You | John S. | The Bridge |
God Bless the Child | You Do Something to Me