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Swiss Swingers, Parisian Pearls and More

April 29, 2001|DON HECKMAN | Don Heckman writes frequently about jazz for The Times

The rush by record companies, in the post-Ken Burns documentary months, to make the most of their catalogs has produced some vital releases of historic material. Some have never been available on CD, and some are being reissued, occasionally with added bonus tracks.

Here's a look at a variety of recent releases. I've left out ratings with the thought that--for fans of each artist--these albums represent invaluable additions to collections. Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series (TCB Music). Recorded by Swiss government radio services over several decades--from the '40s to the '70s--this 13-volume collection (which can also be purchased individually) has previously been available in various formats. Now released by TCB (the Montreux Jazz Festival recording company), the collection features performances by the Quincy Jones big band, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the Cannonball Adderley Sextet, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, the Louis Hayes/Woody Shaw Quintet, the Buck Clayton All-Stars, Clark Terry & Chris Woods, Gerry Mulligan's Quartet and his Concert Jazz Band (featuring Zoot Sims), Ben Webster & Dexter Gordon, the Don Redman Orchestra, and Coleman Hawkins with Kenny Clarke.

That's enough creative zing to satisfy any jazz fan, and the highlights are far too numerous to list them all. But several are worth mentioning: The two Jazz Messengers CDs feature the Blakey ensemble that included Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter and Bobby Timmons. The Adderley Sextet personnel included brother Nat, with Joe Zawinul, Yusef Lateef, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. The Jones-Lewis big band outing, from 1969, showcases a stunning array of Lewis arrangements, performed by an all-star congregation. The Mulligan quartet CD features the Bob Brookmeyer/Bill Crow/Gus Johnson lineup, and the Mulligan big band album is yet another superb large ensemble collection with, interestingly, Mel Lewis playing drums. And the Redman Orchestra recording, from 1946, is a fascinating look at a great swing era leader-arranger fronting a band in the transitional moment between swing and bebop. The Dave Brubeck Collection (Columbia Legacy). This collection was started in 1998 as a celebration of Brubeck's 50th anniversary as a recording artist with six digitally remastered titles from his Columbia archives. This month, four more titles join the series. "Jazz: Red, Hot and Cool" is the CD version of a live LP drawn from three stands by Brubeck's quartet of the time (Paul Desmond on alto saxophone, Bob Bates on bass and Joe Dodge on drums) at New York's Basin Street in 1954-55.

"The Dave Brubeck Quartet at Carnegie Hall" is from 1963, with the quartet now featuring Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello. "Jazz Impressions of Japan," with the same personnel, is one of several "Impressions" albums, allowing Brubeck the opportunity to compose works from programmatic points of view.

The most unusual entry is "Brubeck on Columbia," an anthology from 1960-70 encompassing sections from numerous sessions in which he performs (sometimes solo, sometimes with the group) with singers such as Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae, and the groups Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and Peter, Paul & Mary. The Verve Master Edition Series. Five new reissues have arrived from this continuing collection: "Ella Sings Broadway," from 1963, is one of numerous efforts from the period to broaden Fitzgerald's appeal beyond the jazz community. She sings such unlikely items as "Hernando's Hideaway" and "Whatever Lola Wants" with her characteristic musical accuracy and lighthearted enthusiasm. "Viva Vaughan," also from 1963, positioned Sarah Vaughan in a quasi-bossa nova environment via big-band charts by Frank Foster. Ultimately, however, it is the jazz qualities of Vaughan and Foster that prevail, with the Latin rhythms providing relatively unobtrusive underpinnings.

"Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings," from 1956, sounds like an effort to catch the spark of Frank Sinatra's albums of the period with Nelson Riddle. Buddy Bregman--described by some at the time as "the poor man's Nelson Riddle'--came up with charts that do indeed simulate many of his contemporary's musical devices. But Bing Crosby, for all the warmth of his sound and early association with jazz artists, was not really in touch with the rhythms of the '50s, and the tracks have an oddly out-of-sync character.

"Guys and Dolls Like Vibes" affords a rare glimpse at the first-rate playing of the little remembered vibist Eddie Costa, who died in 1962 at 31. In addition, the album, recorded in 1958, includes stellar piano work by Bill Evans, at the time only a few months away from his vital recordings with Miles Davis. Blue Note/Elektra Musician. These albums from the early '80s were superb productions, rendered with attention to detail in every area. Blue Note has licensed four of the albums, making them available on CD in the U.S. for the first time.

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