Tag Archives: jazz

Freedom Suite

The history of Sonny Rollins’ jazz classic

by Marshall Bowden

In 1956 Sonny Rollins was one of the best-known tenor saxophonists in jazz, released two classic jazz albums, Saxophone Colossus and Tenor Madness. In the following two years, freed from his Prestige Records contract, Rollins set about making some great records that were released on a variety of labels, including Riverside, Contemporary, and Period. He released Way Out West and worked with Thelonious Monk.

Yet, even as his career ascended he faced the specter of racism when he attempted to rent an apartment in New York City. “Here I had all these reviews, newspaper articles and pictures,” Rollins later said. “At the time it struck me, what did it all mean if you were still a nigger, so to speak? This is the reason I wrote the suite.”

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Sonny Rollins: Plus 4

1956 was a hell of a year for Sonny Rollins. Having already recorded a number of memorable dates for the Prestige label, both as a leader and a sideman, ’56 saw the recording of Rollins sessions that became the albums Saxophone Colossus and Tenor Madness, as well as Sonny Rollins Plus 4, which has been reissued as one of Prestige’s Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series.

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Three by Cannonball Adderley

Cannonball Adderley Takes Charge

In 1963 Julian “Cannonball” Adderley moved from the Riverside label, where he had recorded some fifteen albums of material, to Capitol Records, where he would find some of his greatest success. Cannonball Adderley Takes Charge presents one of seven master tapes that Capitol acquired along with Adderley himself. Produced by Orrin Keepnews, the recording presents Adderley in spring of 1959. He is accompanied throughout by pianist Wynton Kelly, one of jazz music’s most tasteful and empathetic sidemen, as well as a swinging soloist. On four tracks bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb sit in, while the final five selections find brothers Percy and Albert Heath filling those roles.

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Cannonball Adderley: Cannonball Plays Zawinul

Cannonball Adderley encouraged Joe Zawinul to write for his band, and was receptive to the progressive sounds that Zawinul came up with. The result was a musical partnership that was truly inspired. Needless to say, Adderley’s band recorded a large number of Zawinul compositions, and on Cannonball Plays Zawinul, the composer/pianist himself chooses the tunes to be included.

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Sons of Kemet: Your Queen Is a Reptile

by Marshall Bowden

In the acknowledgments of his book Cut ‘N Mix: Culture and Identity in Carribean Music, Dick Hebdige notes that

“In his book There Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack, Paul Gilroy has suggested that music functions within the culture of the black diaspora as an alternative public sphere. Sometimes a reggae toast or soul rap might consist of little more than a list of names or titles. Naming can be in and of itself an act of invocation, conferring power and/or grace upon the namer: the names can carry power in themselves. The titles bestowed on Halile Selassie in a Rastafarian chant or a reggae toast or on James Brown or Aretha Franklin in a soul or MC rap testify to this power. More importantly in this context, the namer pays tribute in the ‘name check’ to the community from winch (s)he has sprung and without which (s)he would be unable to survive.”

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Sun Goddess

How the paths of Ramsey Lewis and Maurice White led to the recording of this quiet storm classic

Ramsey Lewis recorded this track in 1974 with Maurice White & members of Earth Wind  & Fire

by Marshall Bowden

Ramsey Lewis was one of the more popular jazz musicians of the 1950s and 1960s, bridging the gap between gospel, blues, soul, and jazz. The Lewis of this period is best known for his gospel and blues-inflected pop tunes with a heavy backbeat, such as “The ‘In’ Crowd”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, and “Hang On Sloopy”.

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Old Wine in New Bottles

Esbjorn Svensson Trio: Leukocyte (2008)

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Medeski Martin & Wood: Radiolarians (I–III) (2008/2009)

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by Marshall Bowden

Reinvention is the name of the game in music, at least in popular forms of music since the 1960s. Beginning with the innovations of The Beatles it became largely undesirable, if not impossible, for a pop or rock band to merely stake out a territory and continue to occupy it in perpetuity. There are exceptions—the Doors, metal bands like Black Sabbath and AC/DC, The Ramones—but overall failure to innovate generally leads to critical, and eventually popular, demise. That has been less true of jazz musicians until quite recently. True, major innovators like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane made it very difficult for new jazz musicians not to take their work as a starting point, but overall the idea of jazz musician as journeyman has provided for many lengthy careers playing in much the same style.

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Stan Getz: Captain Marvel

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By the time Stan Getz recorded the album Captain Marvel with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Tony Williams, and Airto Moreira, he had been in the music business for nearly thirty years. Getz began his career during the big band era, and cut his teeth with bandleaders as diverse as Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, and Woody Herman. A leader of swinging small groups throughout the ‘50s, Getz spent some time in Europe following a career disruption caused by long-standing drug problems.

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