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On this day in jazz (June 30)

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On this day in 1963, the great Charles Mingus recorded the album Mingus Plays Piano for Impulse! Records. The album consists of Mingus playing eleven solos--six of them originals and several of them standards. Mingus is hands down one of the best composers in jazz history and was known as one of jazz's greatest double bass players. However, he was also a pretty good piano player. With respect to the originals on the album, Scott Yanow said that the songs "are quite fascinating to hear, as if one were listening to Mingus think aloud." It's also an album that some jazz fans would say is a go-to when they just want to unwind and hear something soothing.

Here's another reason Charles is considered one of the greatest composers in history: he wrote a 4000 bar piece called "Epitaph" (which can be found on the internet). You might wonder how long does it take to play 4000 bars? Well, it takes over 2 hours to play! The reason he titled it "Epitaph" was because (due to its length) he felt no one would ever play or record it while he was alive. With the help of a grant from the Ford Foundation, the score and instrumental parts were copied, and the piece itself was premiered by a 30-piece orchestra, conducted by Gunther Schuller (who, sadly, passed away on June 21, 2015). This concert was produced by Mingus's widow, Sue Graham Mingus, at Alice Tully Hall on June 3, 1989--ten years after Mingus' death. It was performed again at several concerts in 2007. The performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall is available on NPR. The complete score was published in 2008 by Hal Leonard.

Here's Mingus with one of his originals "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk":

Track listing:

  1. "Myself When I Am Real" – 7:38
  2. "I Can't Get Started" (Vernon Duke, Ira Gershwin) – 3:43
  3. "Body and Soul" (Frank Eyton, Johnny Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour) – 4:35
  4. "Roland Kirk's Message" – 2:43
  5. "Memories of You" (Eubie Blake, Andy Razaf) – 4:37
  6. "She's Just Miss Popular Hybrid" - 3:11
  7. "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blue" – 4:18
  8. "Meditations for Moses" - 3:38
  9. "Old Portrait" - 3:49
  10. "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" (George Bassman, Ned Washington) – 3:46
  11. Compositional Theme Story: "Medleys, Anthems and Folklore" – 8:35
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August 2016 13:38

On this day in jazz (June 29)

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On this day in 1971, pianist Mal Waldron recorded the live album Black Glory at the Domicile in Munchen, West Germany for the Enja label. Mal was assisted on the album by Jimmy Woode on bass and Pierre Favre on the drums. gives it a strong four star rating saying:

Waldron has continued to evolve through the decades while keeping his basic sound. A master at using repetition and brooding chords, Waldron is in excellent form on five of his originals plus Woode's brief "M.C," playing with a knowledge of the avant-garde but still connected to the hard bop tradition.

If this one is a little too avant-garde for you, check out his Blues for Lady Day album which I profiled on February 5--it's essentially Mal playing songs that the great Billie Holiday had made famous (Mal had accompanied Billie from 1957 until her death in 1959) .

Here's Mal with "La Glorie du Noir":

Track listing:


  1. "M.C." (Jimmy Woode) — 0:35
  2. "Sieg Haile" — 17:39
  3. "La Glorie du Noir" — 9:43
  4. "The Call" — 6:38
  5. "Rock My Soul" — 6:36


Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August 2016 13:38

On this day in jazz (June 28)

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On this day in 1965, the great John Coltrane recorded the album Ascension at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. The album consists of just one song--however, in order to release it--it had to be divided in half for the LP format. There were actually two takes of the song. The first take is referred to as Edition II and the second take as Edition I. As you may have guessed, Edition I was the one originally released on LP in 1966. John, however, preferred his first take (Edition II) and (maybe for the first time in history), they stopped printing the LP with the first Edition and moved to the second. If you have the record, you can look into the runout circle to see if you have the first or second edition. If it is the second, it will say EDITION II in the circle. When Atlantic re-released the album on CD in 2000, they included both versions.

The album itself is considered to be an inflection point in John's career with the albums coming before it more conventional (or structured) and the ones including this one and the ones that follow more free. I could go on talking about the album at length, but since this is a short blog, but let me just say a little bit about the band and then get directly to the music. John, who played tenor saxophone on this work, was assisted by a very strong cast which included wind from such greats as Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and both Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp also on tenor saxophones. The rhythm section was John's standard section of McCoy Tyner at the piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on the drums.

Here's John with "Ascension" (Edition II):

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August 2016 13:37

On this day in jazz (June 27)

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On this day in 1981, Miles Davis played live for the first time in almost five years at the Kix Club in Boston. Part of the music played on this day would be released on the live album We Want Miles which also includes music from a performance at Avery Fisher Hall (New York) on July 5, and in Tokyo on October 4. Although the album wasn't officially released in the US, it can be found as part of the box set The Perfect Miles Davis Collection. Despite not being released in the US, it actually won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance by a Soloist. The album in its original form clocks in at around 80 minutes--the original vinyl was four sides long. However, in all that music, there are only six songs played.

The personnel assisting Miles were Bill Evans on soprano saxophone, Mike Stern on electric guitar, Marcus Miller on bass guitar, Al Foster on the drums and Mino Cinelu with additional percussion. Yes, I said Bill Evans on soprano saxophone and not piano. That is because this is a different Bill Evans than the one that recorded with Miles in the late 1950s. That Bill Evans died in 1980 at the age of 51 from complications from chronic hepatitis. This Bill Evans was born in 1958 in Chicago suburb Claredon Hills and graduated from Hinsdale High School.

Here's Miles with "Back Seat Betty":

Track listing:


  1. "Jean-Pierre" – 10:30
  2. "Back Seat Betty" – 8:10
  3. "Fast Track" – 15:10
  4. "Jean-Pierre" – 4:00
  5. "My Man's Gone Now" (DuBose Heyward, George Gershwin) – 20:12
  6. "Kix" – 18:45


Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August 2016 13:36

On this day in jazz (June 26)

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On this day in 1967, guitarist Wes Montgomery finished recording the album A Day In the Life. The album was a very successful one, reaching #1 on Billboard's Jazz album chart, #2 on the R&B chart, and #13 on the Billboard 200 chart. Additionally, the song "Windy" reached #44 on the singles chart. Although Wes is definitely a great jazz guitarist, this album almost slides into the realm of muzak. Assisting Wes on the album were a cast of over 25 musicians, mostly playing strings, but also included were jazz greats Herbie Hancock on piano and Ron Carter on bass.

The song "A Day In the Life" is, of course, Lennon & McCartney's song from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band which had been released on June 1, 1967.

Here's Wes with "A Day In the Life":

Track listing:


  1. "A Day in the Life" John Lennon, Paul McCartney 5:45
  2. "Watch What Happens" Jacques Demy, Norman Gimbel, Michel Legrand 2:43
  3. "When a Man Loves a Woman" Calvin Lewis, Andrew Wright 2:52
  4. "California Nights" Marvin Hamlisch, Howard Liebling 2:29
  5. "Angel" Wes Montgomery 2:46
  6. "Eleanor Rigby" Lennon, McCartney 3:04
  7. "Willow Weep for Me" Ann Ronell 4:31
  8. "Windy" Ruthann Friedman 2:20
  9. "Trust in Me" Milton Ager, Jean Schwartz, Ned Wever 4:25
  10. "The Joker" Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley 3:26


Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August 2016 13:36

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