THE JAZZ WORD

All that's jazz... and more

Ben WebsterIt’s impossible not to be beguiled by Ben Webster’s tenor saxophone. He’s one of the greatest exponents on this sensual instrument, and yet he’s sometimes overshadowed by The Hawk and Pres, but he’s most definitely the equal of both of them. Today would have been ‘Frog’s’ 106th birthday, so what better excuse do we need than to celebrate his music?

Webster played with striking rhythmic momentum and had a rasping tone that added so much to both his own records and the numerous jazz greats he accompanied, from Billie and Ella to Duke Ellington and so many more during a career that spanned five decades.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1909 Ben Webster took up the saxophone relatively late, having at first been a professional pianist after studying at University in Ohio. He recorded with for Blanche Calloway’s band and Bennie Moten’s band in 1931, at the time it included Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing and Hot Lips Page, as well as working with Andy Kirk’s band that featured the extraordinary, Mary Lou Williams.

In the mid 1930s Ben moved to New York to play with Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra before joining Duke Ellington briefly. Four years later he became a featured soloist with Ellington’s Famous Orchestra, where Johnny Hodges helped Webster develop his style. Webster left Ellington and began to freelance, playing with Charlie Barnet’s Orchestra and with Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra.

His first session as a leader was for Norman Granz’s Norgran label in 1953 with Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessel, Ray Brown and J.C. Heard. The subsequent release was called The Consummate Artistry Of Ben Webster and it is so apposite. It was subsequently repackaged by Verve as Ben Webster – King of the Tenors. It includes ‘Tenderly’ which is one of the sublime moments of tenor-saxophoney.

Besides his own recordings Webster accompanied, Billie Holiday, Harry Sweets Edison, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, as well as making the album, Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster, it’s one that should be in every jazz fans’ collection..

By 1964 Webster relocated at first to London, and then Amsterdam before finally settling in Copenhagen, Denmark. He worked in Europe with visiting musicians including Duke Ellington, but he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in Amsterdam, in September 1973, following a performance in Leiden.

If you do nothing else today listen to Tenderly

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Pres largeBy the early 1950’s Lester Young was finding the popularisation of his style something of a double-edged sword. He was so admired that many copied his style and with all these sound-alikes, he himself was beginning to feel obsolete. The impact of the abuse he had received while serving in the U.S. army, which he described as, “a nightmare, man, one mad nightmare”, meant that his playing was becoming far more melancholic than mellow. To add further to his woes his battle with alcohol was intensifying.

He was living in New York, in a state that would nowadays be diagnosed as clinically depressed, sitting by his window in the Alvin Hotel at 52nd Street and Broadway, watching the musicians arriving at Birdland on the opposite side of the street. He spent much of his time watching Western movies, and listening to Frank Sinatra records, sat in his chair, while drinking gin.

On one occasion Gil Evans visited him, “He had a great big room at the Alvin, and when I’d go to see him, I’d find full plates of food everywhere. They’d been brought by friends, but he wouldn’t eat. He just drank … One of the reasons his drinking got so out of hand was his teeth. They were in terrible shape, and he was in constant pain.”

In 1956 the man everyone knew as Pres was named the greatest tenor saxophonist ever in a Leonard Feather poll. Many phrases that are in daily use today have been attributed to him. He was most famous for dubbing Billy Holiday “Lady Day”, and she for calling him the “President”, but it is Young that also introduced, “you dig” (you understand) and “bread” (money).

In February 1959 Young went to Paris to work and while he was there he recorded at Barclay Studios in Paris on 4 March; it came out later in the year as the appropriately entitled Lester Young In Paris. Among the tracks on Young’s last album is ‘I Can’t Get Started’, a song that he and Billie Holiday had recorded twenty-one years earlier. Lester Young in Paris is not his best playing by a long way, but it is fascinating that a man in his physical condition could even perform.

The day after returning to New York from the one-month engagement in the French capital, Young died on 15 March 1959 from a heart attack brought on by severe internal bleeding arising from cirrhosis of the liver – he had essentially drunk himself to death.

Norman Granz took out a full-page ad in Down Beat: there was a photo of Lester Young under which was the simple dedication, “We’ll all miss you, Lester”. He was posthumously elected to the Down Beat Hall of Fame in 1959.

Today, Pres’s playing is not so in vogue, his style is looked upon as old fashioned. Yet no one could swing like Pres, swing is what Lester Young is all about. He recorded an album of wonderful swing standards with Teddy Wilson in 1956 for Verve. This record is a joy and has sometimes been overlooked because it was recorded at the twilight of Young’s career; it is one of the best albums that Granz ever produced. Aside from the emotional intensity of Young’s playing, the pairing with Wilson is inspired.

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If you do nothing else today the listen to it on Spotify

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Bas Gunn March 16th at 6:19pm

I am 82 and a Jazz fan for years. I had almost forgotten how good Pres was. than you for reminding me

Bird’s Last Session

12th March, 2015

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In 1950, Charlie Parker moved in with a dancer named Chan Richardson, despite only having married his long-term girlfriend Doris two years earlier. Charlie and Chan had a daughter in 1951 and a son in 1952. Charlie’s daughter died from pneumonia in 1954, an event that brought on the final decline for a man whose mind was already in a fragile state from self-abuse.

Things eventually got so bad that Bird was even banned from Birdland. By September 1954, Charlie Parker had a breakdown; he even attempted suicide. After a spell in hospital he did get back on his feet and was once again booked to appear at Birdland in March 1955.

On 10 December 1954 Bird was at Fine Sound Studios in New York to record with pianist Walter Bishop Jr.; Billy Bauer on guitar, bass player Teddy Kotick and drummer Art Taylor. They cut two songs that day, the first was ‘Love For Sale’ and they followed it with ‘I Love Paris’, both are Cole Porter songs.

This was Bird’s last visit to a recording studio and before he could fulfill his engagement at Birdland, he died on 12 March 1955 at the home of jazz patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, where Thelonious Monk would also pass away, nearly twenty-seven years later. Bird was thirty four when he died, but according to the autopsy report he had the body of a man of over fifty.

Verve Records that Norman Granz launched at the end of 1955 began an ambitious reissue schedule of old Clef and Norgran titles in 1957.. One of the most ambitious and one of the most exciting series of records was The Genius Of Charlie Parker #1 through #8, which included Bird And Diz, April In Paris and Night And Day. This series – along with The Charlie Parker Story #1, 2 and 3, was an early sign of the record industry capitalizing on the death of a legendary artist.

‘I Love Paris’, Parker’s last recorded song at Bird’s last session appeared on Charlie Parker Plays Cole Porter, which was #5 in ‘The Genius Of’ series.

Listen to ‘I Love Paris’ on Spotify and you can buy The Complete Verve Master Takes on iTunes

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sherrie kober evans March 12th at 4:07pm

What a tragic life for such a great talent

Jazz The autobiography

If Jazz was to write it’s own autobiography what do you think would be chosen as the 100 tracks to tell this most incredible life story? Of course it’s not possible to tell the whole story as in the early days in New Orleans there was no recordings made. It was not until 1917 when the Original Dixieland Jass Band (that’s what it says on the 78rpm shellac disc) cut the very first jazz record in New York that we are able to begin the life story of jazz through recordings.

We have tackled the task of selecting the tracks in what is inevitably an arbitrary fashion. Some recordings just have to be there, while others represent a degree of subjectivity. From those very early days we have also included King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton (who said he invented jazz) and Bix Beiderbecke.

By the 1930s the rise of the big bands, both black and white turned jazz into Pop.  Duke Ellington at  The Cotton Club was the talk of New York City, Chick Webb was ‘Stompin’ At The Savoy’, and there was Fletcher Henderson, Coleman Hawkins, Spike Hughes who worked with Benny Carter, Count Basie and Benny Goodman. Billie Holiday arrived on the scene and changed everything.

In 1939 Blue Note Records was launched, there was Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli playing their distinctive jazz with a French accent, while Charlie Christian become the first guitar god and Lionel Hampton was playing some exciting sounds. Be-bop arrived with bird and Diz, Mary Lou Williams was one of the 1940s overlooked innovators and Louis Armstrong made a comeback. Norman Granz founded Jazz at the Philharmonic, fell in love with Ella’s voice and started a record label half a decade later for her to reinvent jazz singing.

There was  the Birth of the Cool with Miles, and the genius of Bouncin’ Bud Powell was unquestioned. Pres having made his name in the 1930s and carried on after the war and Brownie came along and was hailed as the young pretender only to be snatched from us so cruelly..  Ben Webster joined Pres and the Hawk as the third of the big 3 tenors.. 

Erroll Garner gave a ‘Concert by the sea’, the Modern Jazz Quartet paid homage to Django and Chet Baker was the epitome of cool. Ella and Louis together and apart made jazz singing seem effortless – it was jazz with Verve. Billie in the twilight of her career, and sadly her life, still had it and if Bud was a genius, then so was Art.

In the 1950s new names jostled for attention, Sonny Rollins, Art Pepper, Art Blakey, Cannonball (who needs a surname with a Christian name like that?), Brubeck, ‘Trane, Mingus and Ornette (who needs no surname either) all had so much to say,

The 1960s meant a batch of new names, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Mobley, Jimmy Smith – a true revolutionary – and in  the tradition of Mr. Christian there was Wes Montgomery, along with Kenny B. and Grant Green, Gil Evans and his unrelated namesake Bill who both took jazz where it had never been before.

Getz and Gilberto with more than a little help from Astrud showed there was an awful lot of jazz in Brazil, much of which came from the pen of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Dexter Gordon didn’t need to go to Paris to record, but he did and the result was fantastiqué.

Jazz, always restless, always shifting was approaching fifty and showed no signs of resting on past glories as Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, Don Cherry, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor and Wayne Shorter stretched the limits of it and our imagination. ‘Trane for many topped them all with ‘A Love Supreme’. There was and still is, the mercurial Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson created good vibes, The Chairman of The Board and the Count took jazz to Vegas and Miles took jazz to the ‘kids’ when he fused his ideas with a rock idiom – it was a ‘Bitches Brew’.

While some consider the 1970s to be the beginning of the end for jazz as we know it, the likes of Donald Byrd, Ronnie Laws, Weather Report, and Chick Corea engaged new audiences and a decade later the ‘sample’ was invented and it brought newcomers to church. In more recent years Jason Moran and Robert Glasper, together and apart, have created a new kind of jazz, along with Brian Blade, while Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson and Kurt Elling all had one eye over their shoulder, they created a new kind of jazz. In 2014 Gregory Porter won a Grammy and brought untold new fans to jazz, and while there are some who may scoff and say they prefer what had gone previously we have to keep our spirit liquid.

A life in 100 tracks we said, but we’ve actually listed just 99 tracks. What track should we add to complete the story of jazz? Please tell us why you think your choice should make the cut. And we’re fully prepared for you to tell us that we’ve got the story completely wrong.

Anyway! This is our Jazz autobiography, tell us yours…

The Spotify track list is here

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Kit Buckler October 10th at 11:36am

Fascinating, informative and an open door to help discover the joys of Jazz!

Sylk Blak October 11th at 2:50am

Add ''The Heebie Jeebies' by Sachmo. The scat is INCREDIBLE!

Sherrie Kober Evans October 11th at 3:15pm

What happened to Horace silver the man

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Most every fan is fascinated by the recording process – just how are great records created? How does the magic of the studio translate into a much-loved album? So often it is just the take that ends up on the record that survives a session, the rest of the unused material gets discarded. That’s what makes One Day in the Studio with Satchmo such fascinating listening; it also makes it a recording of great historical importance.

It was a session for the Verve album, Ella and Louis Again that took place fifty-seven years ago on 31 July1957 at Radio recorders in Los Angeles. It is full of moments that will make you smile, but it’s also full of the minutia of the recording process that makes this a unique moment in recording history. The session does not feature Ella Fitzgerald, but joining Louis Armstrong is the great Oscar Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis, Ray Brown on bass and drummer Louie Bellson. Together they run through numbers, make little errors and talk over how to get the perfect take – while we get to eavesdrop on the whole affair. None of these songs, except ‘Indiana’, Satchmo’s warm up routine, are numbers that Armstrong performed live with his All Stars during this period. He was going into the studio ‘cold’ and practicing the numbers with OP and the other guys to get them right for recording.

Interestingly it says on the tape box 1 August, but all available research says 31 July; possibly they started in the evening and ran over to the next day, or the tape box was written up the following day. Just another of life’s little mysteries…

A Day With Satchmo includes the final master takes, along with a few takes that have appeared on limited edition box sets and rare releases, but it also features music that has never appeared anywhere before. Louis Armstrong, the man who owned one of the first domestic tape recorders in America, would be proud to be embracing the digital age with this unique download only celebration of great jazz.

It’s available on iTunes US here

Available on iTunes for the rest of the world here

Indiana (warm-up) (On Satchmo Box set, Louis Armstrong Ambassador of Jazz)
Makin’ Whoopee – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
Makin’ Whoopee – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
Makin’ Whoopee – Take 1 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
Makin’ Whoopee – Take 2 – Complete Alternate Take
Makin’ Whoopee – Take 3 – False Start
Makin’ Whoopee – Take 4 – Master Take (Ella and Louis Again)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 1 – Long False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 2 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 3 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 4 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 5 – False Start
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 6 – False Start
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 7 – False Start
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 8 – Master Take (Ella and Louis Again)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 9 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 10 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 11 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 12 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
I Get a Kick Out of You – Take 13 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
Let’s Do It – Take 1 – False Starts (On Satchmo Box)
Let’s Do It – Take 2 – Long False Start (On Satchmo Box)
Let’s Do It – Take 3 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
Let’s Do It – Take 4 – Master Take (Ella and Louis Again)
Willow Weep For Me – Take 1 – False Start (On Satchmo Box)
Willow Weep For Me – Take 2 – Complete Alternate Take
Willow Weep For Me – Take 3 – Long False Start
Willow Weep For Me – Take 4 – Complete Alternate Take (On Satchmo Box)
Willow Weep For Me – Take 5 – False Start
Willow Weep For Me – Take 6 – False Start
Willow Weep For Me – Take 7 – Master Take (Ella and Louis Again)

Louis

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Sixty-five years ago in 1949, as winter was turning to Spring, the eighth national tour of Jazz At The Philharmonic began at Carnegie Hall; things were looking promising for this year’s concerts, despite the disappointments of the previous year where audience numbers were down. Concert organiser Norman Granz’s had managed to secure Ella Fitzgerald as the headliner for the spring tour; a tour on which his payroll was $9,100 per week excluding Ella – $1000 more than any previous tour.

To secure Ella’s participation, Granz had negotiated long and hard with her agent Tim Gale, and he paid her much more than anyone else on the tour, paying per appearance rather than a weekly wage like all the other musicians. Even when pianist Hank Jones went down with flu as the tour reached Chicago, Ella just went on with bass and drums. Not that everything was a positive. Down Beat in particular was critical of Ella’s ‘crummy’ selection of songs; Granz knew it to be true and it marked the start of a very long and sometimes painful process to take Ella in a completely new direction. The brilliant pianist, Bud Powell was another new addition to the shows; Powell had just began recording for Clef and his first album was the aptly named Bud Powell – Jazz Giant; an album that Verve later reissued as The Genius of Bud Powell (1956).

Besides Ella and Bud Powell the tour featured, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, drummer Shelly Manne (drums) on his first JATP, Fats Navarro, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Criss, Flip Phillips, Tommy Turk, Charlie Parker and Buddy Rich.

To coincide with the tour Granz released the 78rpm album Jazz at the Philharmonic volume 9, the previous volume had just registered sales of 100,000 copies, which was a considerable number for a jazz album.

 Check out our Jazz at the Philharmonic playlist to hear the brilliant jazz and to soak up the atmosphere of these legendary concerts.

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Astrud Gilberto was born this day in 1940 in Brazil as Astrud Weinert, her mother was Brazilian and her father German. She was raised in Rio de Janeiro and married João Gilberto in 1959 and emigrated to the United States in 1963.  Astrud Gilberto sang on the influential album Getz/Gilberto featuring João Gilberto, Stan Getz, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, despite having never sung professionally before this recording. For this album she added her unique vocals to ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, the record that immediately says summer – whatever the weather. She went on to record a string of successful albums, mostly for Verve Records  and remains the epitome of cool and elegance.

Check out our Astrud Gilberto playlist.

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Comments (3)

yonque March 30th at 11:19am

Astrud Gilberto ha influenciado ha muchas generaciones y se ha convertido en un ícono como vocalista de Bossa Nova, en lo personal felicito a Astrud hoy y le deseo muchas felicidades, parabéns minha linda!!! Obrigado!!!!

James Kerr March 30th at 4:47pm

It was love at first listen. Forever a fan. Happy Birthday.

Lcol Coleman March 31st at 6:07am

I grew up with this timeless music. My parents had the Getz/Gilberto album. I played it constantly.

There is no single record label that has introduced more people to jazz than Verve Records. The same man, who started Clef Records and Norgran, labels that included Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday on their roster, formed Verve. Founded in 1956, initially as a label to record Ella Fitzgerald, and through the dawning of the LP era it released classic records by Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and many others, In the early 1960s the craze for all things Bossa Nova was ignited by Stan Getz’s mellifluous saxophone and Verve released brilliant records by pianist, Bill Evans. As the 1960s progressed so did Verve signing the ebullient Hammond organ playing Jimmy Smith and guitar genius Wes Montgomery. In more recent years Diana Krall introduced a whole new generation to the possibilities of jazz, before in the 21st century Herbie Hancock won only the second Grammy album of the year award to be given to a jazz record, naturally the other one was also a Verve album.

Jazz is America’s one true original art form. During the 1960s, on the inner bag of every Verve long playing record was written, ‘the Jazz of America is on Verve’; on which basis, ‘the Sound of America’ was on every Verve album release.

 “Jazz stirs the possibilities for creativity in the moment. Jazz is about the human character; jazz is about feeling, not just about entertainment. Jazz is heeling. “

Herbie Hancock

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It was at the tail end of 1955 that Norman Granz decided to form Verve Records; he did so for Ella Fitzgerald, he already managed her career, but felt he knew how to make the kind of records the singer should be making – history has proved he was right.  Just how important has been recognised by the release of Ella Fitzgerald – the Voice of Jazz a 10 CD box set issued in 2013.

However, the story of Verve goes back a decade or more where it can trace its roots in Granz’s ambition to take jazz out of the clubs and into concert halls, as well as in Clef and Norgran, the record labels that he had been running for a number of years.

The genesis of Verve Records occurred when the twenty-five year-old Norman Granz staged his first ‘Jazz at the Philharmonic’ concert in Los Angeles in 1944. From the very beginning, Granz had a vision of what he wanted to achieve by taking jazz out of the smokey, sometimes seedy, clubs and into more respectable, prestigious even, venues like New York City’s Carnegie Hall – among the many brilliant musicians that played these concerts were Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday. Bird, as Parker was nicknamed even did a concert with strings that featured the music that was on his Charlie Parker With Strings album that has recently been reissued on vinyl.

There are recordings of Billie Holiday on these JATP concerts and she appeared at Carnegie Hall to when her album, Lady Sings the Blues, came out that featured much of the material on the LP along with readings from her autobiography. It was a sell out and despite the limitations with Billie’s voice she delivered a superb performance – in less than three years she was dead.

Besides introducing jazz to an expanding audience, Granz was on another mission; he was fighting racial segregation, a fight that that cost him both professionally and personally.  He also paid his musicians well. “With Norman, you travelled first class, stayed at first-class hotels and never played anywhere there was segregated seating.” Said trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie

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Granz was a visionary, this is what he had to say in 1947 “Jazz at the Philharmonic represents a trend in which jazz is likely to take in coming years, when instead of small, dimly lit, clichéd night clubs containing seventeen glazed of eye jazz fans (who are very hip and address everyone as Jack), the concert stage will attract thousands of people who will have a good time, whose listening standards will be raised and jazz, which heretofore has been an italicized art, will attain capital definition and stature.”  As the JATP tours grew more extensive, Granz developed what is the template for modern touring, one that is replicated today by just about every kind of artist from jazz to rock, as well as every other musical genre.

For Granz, starting a record company was, to begin with, a way of expanding his JATP franchise, but almost immediately the artists that appeared in his concerts recognised the opportunity of making studio recordings. By the late 1940s and early 1950s the artists that Granz recorded for his Clef and Norgran labels included, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, Count Basie, and Stan Getz.

Soon after founding Verve, Granz placed Clef and Norgran under the umbrella of his new company, a move that gave his fledgling label a roster of artists and recordings that represents much of what is best from this golden era of jazz. New artists were signed to Verve and as the company expanded, and became even more successful, many new fans found that jazz was to their liking. Ella Fitzgerald’s recordings of the Great American Songbook, beginning with The Cole Porter Songbook in 1956, are one of the long-playing records’ early triumphs. As are Ella’s albums with Louis Armstrong, not an obvious choice of duet partners but one that works brilliantly. Satchmo’s recording with Oscar Peterson is another case of taking two musical giants, putting them together to create magic in the studio. For sublime readings of standards just listen to Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson and you will be convinced that you are in the company of two of the finest jazz musicians of the 20th century.

Oscar Peterson was the most recorded artist on Verve records, his work as an accompanist and partner to some of the labels best musicians produced stunning results, just give a listen to Oscar Peterson Meets Ben Webster. But it is O.P’s brilliance as a leader of a trio or quartet that he shines. His recordings of the Great American Songbook, The Jazz Soul of Oscar Peterson or Oscar Peterson At the Concertgebouw are testament.

In its early years Clef recorded two of jazz piano’s most accomplished exponents, Art Tatum and Bud Powell. But it was in 1962 that another master of the blacks and whites made his debut record for Verve, Bill Evans’s Empathy. There followed a string of diverse and creative recordings from the masterly, Conversations With Myself to Bill Evans With Symphony Orchestra.

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Count Basie is another who worked with some of the greatest names in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. However, he only got to do that because he had led one of the best bands since the 1930s. A relative veteran he produced a string of fine albums as count Basie and his orchestra, just listen to April in Paris to hear why a big band is one of the most exciting musical experiences… ever.

In 1960 Granz sold Verve to MGM Records and soon Creed Taylor was running the label and taking it in a new direction. It was helped greatly by the Bossa Nova jazz craze that swept in from South America with records by Getz and Charlie Byrd, Getz and Joao Gilberto and of course his wife Astrud. Jazz was not only cool, it was on the charts and more popular than ever. As if to prove the point the Getz/Gilberto album, the one that includes ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ won the Grammy award for album of the year in 1965.

Verve signed new artists, among them, Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery who became further conduits for converts.  Jimmy Smith had recorded a string of fine albums for Blue Note but when he recorded for Verve he reached the pinnacle of his career. For innovation and creativity just listen to The Cat (1964), an album that is enhanced by the complex arrangements of Lalo Schifrin or Bashin’ The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith from 1962 that features the arrangements of Oliver Nelson, big band meets Hammond, but at no time overshadow Smith’s attacking organ.

Jimmy Smith made some fine albums with Wes Montgomery, including The Dynamic Duo, Creed Taylor continuing the Granz idea of pairing some of the label’s best talents, but it was the guitarists solo albums on which his reputation was built. Montgomery made his debut for Verve in 1964 and the following year released Bumpin’ which is as good a place to start as any to explore Montgomery’s ability to make six strings sound like at least double that number.

Diana Krall is one of the most gifted and talented musicians to play jazz in the modern era. People talk about Frank Sinatra’s gift of timing and ability to get inside a song. Krall is up there with him on the same plain. She digs deep, and tells us things about songs like no one else can. The Look of Love in 2001 made No. 9 on the Billboard main chart and has become Diana Krall’s best-selling record. Krall’s superb vocals and perfect piano accompaniment to the delicate and languid Claus Ogerman arrangements and Tommy LiPuma’s exquisite production make this a record that exudes class in the best tradition of the great Verve records from earlier decades.

It was not until 1994 that Herbie Hancock recorded for Verve, but once he did it felt like he had just been waiting for the moment. In 2007 his album, River – The Joni Letters won the Grammy for album of the year and it is a masterpiece. It’s the kind of album to play to people who say, “I’m not sure I like jazz.”

Today, under the leadership of David Foster, Verve Records is producing quality new recordings by artists that includes Diana Krall, Trombone Shorty, Lizz Wright, and Smokey Robinson.  Seventy years after Norman Granz decided to take jazz out of the clubs and into the concert halls the musical revolution that he founded continues to flourish. At the very first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert on 2 July 1944 Nat King Cole was among the artists that appeared. In 2013, among Verve’s releases has been one by Nat King Cole’s daughter, Natalie Cole en Español – the wheel has turned full circle.

In 2013 the 400-page book, Verve – the Sound of America was published by Thames & Hudson to tell the story of this truly remarkable record label. It features over 1200 images, the majority of which were shot in Verve’s New York archive. To accompany the book there’s a box set of five CDs that traces the story of the label through 100 of its single releases and a series of ten vinyl reissues in the original album art, remastered at Abbey Road that includes LPs by Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson and Billie Holiday.

Find out more about the book, Verve – the Sound of America

Hear our exclusive Verve playlist here

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Mark Cavanagh March 24th at 8:42pm

Nice blog. Love it

‘Lester Young has had one of the strongest effects on other tenor saxophone players – both in technique and in sound, his sound being dry and sophisticated. But always as you can hear swinging’ ­ – From the back cover of the album

Are you ready to Swing? Because swing is what Lester Young is all about. Even after the experience of being drafted into the army and the subsequent harsh treatment he received nothing could take that away from Pres, at least not when these sides were recorded. “Almost Like Being In Love” is the perfect record to play anyone who wants to hear Lester Young’s lightness of touch. Let’s not forget Oscar Peterson either, who swings for Canada on this brilliant record. If you’ve not heard it before then prepare yourself for a classic. This is small group jazz of the highest order and if the swing of the opener, ‘Ad Lib Blues’ doesn’t get you then track two is just so beautiful that you may well stick it on repeat – ‘I Can’t Get Started’ is pure perfection.

“These Foolish Things” is a song that Lester Young made his own when he recorded back in 1945 for Aladdin Records and this is another standout track. It should, of course, been called The Oscar Peterson Quartet as besides OP it features Barney Kessel on guitar, playing beautifully, Ray Brown on bass and J.C Heard on tracks one through five.

Originally issued in August 1952 in New York City for a series of Norgran 10″ albums, Verve reissued it as a LP in 1957 making it a 12 track record, subsequent CD reissues added a couple of bonus cuts. Sixty plus years has not dimmed its lustre…

Hear it Here

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“”I think my career stands on my experiences. There’s a legitimacy about it because of the years I put in when I wasn’t recognised. Records where I tried pop, R&B, blues. . . if anyone wants to question my legitimacy it’s all there on record”. – George Benson

George Benson is one of the modern era’s truly great guitarists, who when he sticks to playing the guitar has few rivals.  Giblet Gravy is very much in Wes Montgomery territory but Benson is no Montgomery copyist, he creates complex tapestries with his rhythmic melody lines that give him a unique ‘sound’. Most of the tracks, as was popular at the time, are covers but the title track and ‘Low Down and Dirty’ are written by George Benson.

This was Benson’s debut recording for Verve Records and was recorded over three days in early February 1968 at A & R Studios and Capitol Recording in New York City. As well as George Benson it also features Herbie Hancock on piano, Billy Cobham on drums, Pepper Adams on baritone sax and Snooky Young on trumpet; the arrangements are by Tom McIntosh

Photographer and producer Esmond Edwards had worked at Prestige Records prior to taking over from Creed Taylor at Verve and he had an impressive list of credits to his name, including Miles Davis. George Benson would record next with Taylor for his CTI label, an imprint of A & M Records

Hear Giblet Gravy Here

Buy Giblet Gravy on 180g Vinyl Here

The Jazz labels George Benson playlist

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