Sunday, July 21, 2013

CD Review: Concord Music Group Rolls Out The Next Wave In The Jazz Classic Remasters Series

There's nothing better than the smooth sounds of jazz coming from your speakers on a beautiful Sunday morning as you sip coffee from your porch. On this July 23, you can indulge in this weekend getaway with the newly upgraded Jazz Classics Remasters Series. Five classic jazz albums got enhanced with 24-bit remastering, along with bonus takes from the original album sessions. This latest series of releases helps celebrate the Riverside label's 60th anniversary.

First up is pianist Bill Evans with his 1962 album "How My Heart Sings!" This album follows on the heals of the death of his original bassist Scott LaFaro. The Bill Evans Trio gave their all to this recording as you can feel the heart and emotion that was put into making this record. Also, Evans doesn't shy away from allowing new hired bassist Chuck Israels to step into the spotlight as in the song "Summertime." The steadiness of Evans piano keys and Paul Motian's drumming gives the songs that familiar feeling that had made the Bill Evans Trio one of the best in jazz music. The original album get three bonus songs included onto it. First up is take 2 of the up-tempo romp of "In Your Own Sweet Way." Then we get take 9 of the quick piano/drum duet "34 Skidoo," before closing with take 2 of the heartfelt sway of "Ev'rything I Love." These new remasters also include the original album artwork along with a new essays by some of the top jazz writers in the business.

Next up we get the meeting of sax great Gerry Mulligan and legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk on "Mulligan Meets Monk." Originally released in 1957, it features one of the first power pairings to appear on an album together as they pay tribute to each other's compositions. Beginning with the classic "'Round Midnight," we get a much different version with Mulligan's sax taking the lead over Monk's piano. The album feels like you we were in the studio with the musicians as it features live takes of songs where either one could have made the original album. Four bonus songs round out the album with two earlier takes of sweet combination of piano and sax on "I Mean You." Also as a bonus, we get a later, and longer, take of the jazz-bop of "Decidedly" and the first rough take of "Straight, No Chaser" as you can almost feel the musicians feeding off each other's outstanding talents.

Following next is the jazz guitar great Wes Montgomery with his 1961 album "So Much Guitar!" This was Montgomery's break-through album that made critics stand-up and take notice as he was finally allowed to let his talents run wild as heard in the opening track "Twisted Blues." His up-tempo, be-bop jazz guitar style is heard all over this album, except for the rare occasions when he slows down to give a mellow blues feeling to the songs "I Wish I Knew" and "While We're Young." The album gets doubled with eight bonus songs that originally appeared on Montgomery's album "The Montgomery Brothers In Canada." The bonus songs were recorded in Vancouver, B.C. in 1961 just prior to the recording of "So Much Guitar!" and features Wes' brothers Buddy Montgomery on vibraphone and Monk Montgomery on bass with Paul Humphrey keeping the beat on drums. Wes allows his brothers to take the spotlight for most of the album, but he still shows his stuff on the slow groove of "Angel Eyes."

Chet Baker's trumpet is unmistakable as he pays tribute to the Broadway songwriting partnership of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe on "Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe." The nine-song album features many of the classic Broadway hits like "I Could Have Danced All Night" from "My Fair Lady" and "Almost Like Being In Love" from "Brigadoon." Baker makes all these songs feel like his own compositions with the way he just takes the original melody and rearranges it to make it feel like new. The original album closes with the blast of power of "Show Me," which is exactly what Baker and his band do on this great classic jazz masterpiece.

Finally we finish with the jazz combo of alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and vibes player Milt Jackson on their 1958 album "Things Are Getting Better." The two trade solos on the opener "Blues Oriental" as neither performer tries to outdo the other, but only set-up the next amazing solo. The songs "Serves Me Right" and "The Sidewalks Of New York" get double representation on this release as you can hear the subtle changes between takes 4 and 5 of each song. One other bonus track that appears on this new release is the 44 second in-studio banter " A Few Words." This short snippet is what fans would love to hear more of as an insight into the recording of this extraordinary albums.

To find out more about these new jazz remasters, please visit

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