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JAZZ NOTES

A Batch of Reissues Sure to Tantalize

March 31, 1995|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The adage "These are the good old days" is certainly true for jazz album buyers.

Not only is there a continual outpouring of new releases by the major labels, and many independent lines as well, but there are scores of reissues of past gems to tantalize both the knowledgeable jazz fan and the neophyte. Here are some of the recent reissues worth noting, and owning:

* "Charlie Parker With Strings: The Master Takes" (Verve) is romanticism taken to its zenith. The exquisite altoist, capable of fiery improvisations that dumbfounded many ears, sounds relaxed here, issuing gorgeous peals of notes that go down like a fine vintage champagne. Versions of "Just Friends," "April in Paris," "Summertime" and 22 others are justifiably classics.

* "Dizzy Gillespie: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings" (Bluebird) spotlights Parker's favorite trumpeter. The two-CD set starts with Gillespie playing with Teddy Hill's orchestra in 1937, but what really matters are the hefty be-bop recordings with both combos and big bands from 1946-49. The bubbling-with-life "Manteca," which ushered in Afro-Cuban jazz, is included, as are many tunes by the leader ("Ow!," "Two Bass Hit," "Night in Tunisia") and the wonderful Tadd Dameron ("Good Bait," "Cool Breeze"). Four tracks from a 1949 Metronome All-Stars session sport Parker and trumpeters Miles Davis and Fats Navarro.

* Clifford Brown, who was a primary musical descendant of Gillespie and Navarro, died far too early in a car accident in 1956 at the age of 25. The splendid trumpeter is featured on the two-CD set "Clifford Brown-Max Roach: Alone Together" (Verve). The set devotes a CD to each artist, though Roach is on many of the 14 cuts with Brown. The trumpeter's luxurious tone and emotionally packed phrasing are heard in three contexts: with Roach, on sizzlers like "Cherokee" and the more mellow "Sandu"; on a string date that produced such comely ballads as "What's New" and "Star Dust"; and backing singers Sarah Vaughan and Helen Merrill. Roach fronts a gang of fine quartets and quintets, and in one case, Stanley Turrentine holds down the sax chair, sounding right at home in the straight-ahead realm. Solid stuff.

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Where's the Band?: When Gonzalo Rubalcaba makes his Los Angeles nightclub debut Tuesday at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood, the Cuban pianist will perform in, what for him, is an unusual configuration: unaccompanied. The main reason is the unavailability of musicians he feels comfortable performing with, says Joanne Jimenez, who books Rubalcaba's U.S. engagements.

According to Jimenez, while Rubalcaba has recently established a dual residence--living in both Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and has passports from the two countries--his band members have only Cuban passports. Thus, they are not allowed to travel at will to the United States, as the pianist now can.

"Gonzalo has been playing some dates with bassist Ron Carter," says Jimenez, "but Ron was unable to make the Los Angeles engagement, so Gonzalo decided to play solo." Rubalcaba plays through April 9.

Information: (213) 466-2210.

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Mega-Music: During his L.A. visit, Rubalcaba will perform April 8 at 1:30 p.m. at the Virgin Megastore, 8000 Sunset Blvd., (213) 650-5516. This Saturday, bass ace Christian McBride, at Catalina's through Sunday, performs, also at 1:30 p.m. These free in-store performances generate a lot of on-the-spot sales and let people know about the artist, says Brian Regan, spokesman for the Megastore. "It's particularly a great opportunity for someone who is not familiar with jazz artists," he says.

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Datebook: Peter Erskine, the crafty, inventive drummer, has long led a powerful trio with English pianist John Taylor and Danish bassist Palle Danielsson. But the problems with fronting that band in L.A., where Erskine lives, are obvious, so he's set about establishing his West Coast trio with pianist Alan Pasqua and bassist Dave Carpenter, two top-rank players. The trio, which performs, Sunday at 8 p.m. in a free concert at the Wadsworth Theater in Brentwood, will play music from Erskine's "Time Being" and "You Never Know" ECM albums, as well as tunes by Pasqua. Information: (310) 825-2101.

Sax great Charles McPherson holds forth tonight and Saturday at the Club Brasserie in West Hollywood.

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