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Nostalgia Album Has an Identity Crisis

February 05, 1989|LEONARD FEATHER

"SOLID GROUND." Loren Schoenberg Orchestra. Music Masters CIJD 6018 F. * * *

The jazz community, aware of the fragility of some of its traditions and the mortality rate among its pioneers, has taken to the practice of forming repertory orchestras, designed to revive works that can no longer be performed by the artists who created them. Loren Schoenberg is a 29-year-old musical archeologist who worked for Benny Goodman both as tenor saxophonist and archival researcher. Two tunes in this CD were exhumed from the vaults of the clarinet king, whose conservative tastes prevented him from recording them.

Very well; but what of the other contents of this mixed bag? A couple of them, capably played by a band of white New York musicians, are little more than high-class dance music, complete with girl singer. Several are tributes to, but not by, such men as Basie and Monk.

Still another category finds Schoenberg's arrangers and soloists borrowing directly from old records; but why study his recording of the Billy Strayhorn compositions "Midriff" and "After All" when the original Duke Ellington versions are still available? Why listen to Bobby Pring on trombone and Jack Stuckey on alto sax when we can still hear Lawrence Brown and Johnny Hodges?

FOR THE RECORD - Imperfections
Los Angeles Times Sunday February 12, 1989 Home Edition Calendar Page 99 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
In Leonard Feather's Feb. 5 review of Etta Jones' "I'll Be Seeing You," a list of five Billie Holiday-inspired songs repeated the name of one song and left out "Why Was I Born?"

Instead of putting his own stamp on these pieces, Schoenberg assumes almost as many guises as there are tracks. When the writer is Benny Carter (as in "You Are") or Eddie Sauter (in a replay of the Artie Shaw recording of "Maid With the Flaccid Air"), something of value emerges. But there is a serious identity problem here. This is not a case of rip-off but rather of mixed intentions.

"SMOOTH GROOVE." Ray Crawford. Candid CCD 79028. * * * *

Never heard before (it was recorded in 1961 for a company that promptly went out of business), this set by a tough, no-nonsense guitarist finds him sharing space compatibly with Johnny Coles, trumpet; Cecil Payne, baritone sax; Junior Mance, piano; Ben Tucker, bass, and Frank Dunlop, drums. The five unpretentious originals are all credited to Crawford, but who knows? "Impossible," listed here as a Crawford opus, actually is a well-known Steve Allen composition.

"ART TATUM: THE V DISCS." Black Lion BLCD 760114. * * * * *

How these ever reached the public is a mystery, since the masters of V-Discs (made for use only by the armed forces in World War II) were supposedly scrapped so that they could not be put to commercial use. In fact, Tatum is heard a few times greeting the GIs in this legendary set. Though some of the tunes are available in many other versions, at least three are not to be found elsewhere and may be the only recorded treatments: "I'm Beginning to See the Light," "Song of the Vagabonds," "NineTwenty Special."

Though he has rhythm backing on three tunes (guitarist Tiny Grimes and bassist Slam Stewart are on "Cocktails for Two" and "Liza"), the last 11 cuts are piano solos. At 3:57 the "Lover" here is the longest and most precisely perfect of the several released over the decades.

No matter how slight the difference between one "Poor Butterfly" or "Body and Soul" and another, any extra scintilla of evidence helps broaden our familiarity with the greatest improvising jazzmen who ever lived.

"TRIP TO MOSCOW." Valery Ponomarev. Reservoir RSR CD 107 (276 Pearl St., Kingston, N.Y. 12401). * * *

The Moscow-born trumpeter, who defected to the West in the mid-1970s, joined Art Blakey soon after and remained with him for four years. Despite the titles of his compositions ("Gorky Park," "Getting to Bolshoi"), this is a typical New York group, with Ralph Moore on tenor, Larry Willis on piano, and two others, conjuring up visions of the old Blue Note and Prestige small bands. Though not quite a reincarnation of Clifford Brown (his early idol), Ponomarev speaks without a trace of an accent the universal language of hard bop.

"DIAL OATTS." Garry Dial, Dick Oatts. Digital Music Products CD 465 (Park Square Station, Box 15835, Stamford, CT. 06901). * * * 1/2

Dial (piano) and Oatts (saxes, flute) are both normally members of Red Rodney's group; however, with help here and there from a large string ensemble, they display wider-ranging personalities here, in 14 of their own compositions. The pieces move from fast bop and "outside" blowing to a haunting ballad, "Anita," and a jazz waltz, "No Option." Mel Lewis, billed as making a guest appearance," actually does only a little overdubbing on one cut, "Major." This ambitious venture should provide an individual launching pad for both leaders.

"NOBODY ELSE BUT ME." Jackie Paris. Audiophile APCD 245. * * *

A be-bop survivor (he toured with Bird, recorded with Mingus), Paris was one of the few uncompromising male jazz singers around West 52nd Street. Now 62, he has lost some of his early assurance.

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