Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Swing Ukulele By Gerald Ross Revisited

Gerald Ross (photo by Peggy Brisbane, 2015)
Gerald Ross is a multi-instrumentalist mastering various string instruments like guitar, lap steel guitar, bass, mandolin - and ukulele. With a musical background as selftaught he has had a career playing professionally since 1970. In later years, he has successfully focused on the ukulele as a solo voice applying excellent fingerstyle technique in his playing the small instrument and by adding a repertoire of popular music, jazz and swing in his own well elaborated arrangements. Mr. Ross has released six self produced CDs on his own Uke Tone label devoted to the ukulele (- more info, here).  I was thrilled to find and explore his appropriately titled Swing Ukulele CD some years ago and I wrote a small review, here. Just recently I found Gerald Ross' latest release on Spotify and like to point you to this CD here
Gerald Ross, Absolute Uke (UT-2306, 2015)
The CD has fourteen tracks and the repertoire is a mixed bag of Swing, Jazz, Pop, a.o. including Gerald Ross' arrangements of Ellington & Strayhorn's Take The 'A' Train, Gershwin's Sweet And Lowdown and the Swing-Era standard Rose Room. Further there are Latin pieces like You Belong To My Heart/Solamente Una Vez and Wave by Jobim, and you also have great arrangements and performance of popular tunes like Under Paris Skies, September Song, Sugar, All Of Me a.o.. About the repertoire Gerald Ross writes in the sleeve notes, quote: "It's all music to me. Whether it's labeled Swing, Jazz, Pop, Latin, or Folk ... the styles all feature a memorable melody and a strong rhythmic pulse that have filled the airwaves and dance floors for years. Yes, there are distinct differences between them which are well-documented by music historians and theorists. But to me, their similarities far outweigh their differences." - This attitude to the chosen tunes at the disc makes it a homogeneous product of a creative mind and a very skilled musician, who knows his sources and how to present the music in an appealing form which meets the listener immediately. I highly recommend the CD to anyone with an open ear for great music performance and enjoable tunes evoking good vibrations and bright memories of a time when a musical theme was immediately recognizable and easily digestible. The CD is available for purchase at Gerald Ross' website, here. - Below some examples of music featured at the CD from uploaded videos at YouTube. Here is first Gerald Ross' version of Take The 'A' Train 

Next, a great version of You Belong To My Heart/Solamente Una Vez 

Finally to end this small review, here's Gerald Ross' rendition of All Of Me 

More videos featuring Gerald Ross at his You Tube Channel, here

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Jazz Guitar Of Mary Osborne

Mary Osborne
Mary Osborne (1921-1992) was an American jazz guitarist, who is almost forgotten today but should be ranked among the crop of the cream of the 1940s pioneers of the electric jazz guitar. - Osborne was born in Minot, North Dakota. She learned violin as a child and could also play guitar and bass by age 15. She heard Charlie Christian play in Al Trent's band at a stop in Bismarck, North Dakota; Christian became one of her most prominent influences. She went on to tour with Buddy Rogers, Dick Stabile, Terry Shand, Joe Venuti, and Russ Morgan, and recorded with Mary Lou Williams, Beryl Booker, Coleman Hawkins, Mercer Ellington, Ethel Waters, Wynonie Harris a.o.. - Below I'll insert some examples of Mary Osborne's excellent playing which have been uploaded at You Tube.

Signature 15087-A, Blues In Mary's Flat
Mary Osborne had recorded her own Blues In Mary's Flat together with Stuff Smith in 1944, two years later she recorded it again with her own trio for the Signature label. The trio has Sanford Gold on piano, Mary Osborne on electric guitar and Frenchy Couette double bass.

Signature 15087-B, Oops My Lady
The flip side of the Signature 15087 disc had another tune by the trio composed by Mary Osborne, Oops My Lady  

Mary Lou Williams
Mary Osborne was featured with pianist Mary Lou Williams' Girl Stars in a session for Continental recorded February 1946 in New York. The quintet include Mary Lou Williams (p), Mary Osborne (el g), Bea Taylor (b), Marjorie Hyams (d) and Bridget O'Flynn (vib). The session was produced by Leonard Feather, here is the quintet's version of Feather's tune titled D.D.T. 

At the same session was recorded a version of the well known He's Funny That Way, where Mary Osborne also gets a chance to add her pleasant vocal to the music

Coleman Hawkins
The day after the Mary Lou Williams recording session, Mary Osborne was featured with Coleman Hawkins And His 52Nd Street All Stars in four sides recorded for Victor in New York. The All Stars ensemble is an octet and include Charlie Shavers (tp), Pete Brown (as), Coleman Hawkins, Allen Eager (ts), Jimmy Jones (p), Mary Osborne (el g), Al McKibbon (b) and Shelly Manne (d). One of the recorded tunes titled Spotlite has Mary Osborne in the spotlight contributing great solo playing

To end this small portratit of a great jazz guitarist, here's a saved live recording on TV from 1958 - audio and video quality is not the best, however, the music is excellent. The tune played is I Surrender Dear 


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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Ruby Braff - George Barnes Quartet - Live in Berlin, 1975

L-r: Wayne Wright (rh g), Michael Moore (b), Ruby Braff (co), George Barnes (lead g)
In the spring of 1973 Ruby Braff and George Barnes had started a new group. They rehearsed once a week and it became a very special little quartet. They increased their number of weekly rehearsals to get ready for a concert at Carnegie Hall for the opening night of the New York Newport Jazz Festival. They became the highpoint of that festival. The group stayed together until some time in 1975 when Braff had a fall out with George Barnes.
Ruby Braff
George Barnes and Ruby Braff recorded five albums under their own name and a Rodgers & Hart tribute with Tony Bennett. The quartet toured the U.S. and Europe, collecting fans and receiving accolades from the press. But an increasing acrimony between the co-leaders took its toll on George’s health, and the quartet split up after their 1975 European tour.
George Barnes
From the 1975 European tour video recordings of the quartet's live concert in Berlin have been saved and uploaded at YouTube. Below I'll insert some examples from this concert in remembrance of a truly magnificent mainstream jazz quartet. - Here is first the quartet's version of the well known standard Sugar

Next, here is the quartet's version of Gershwin's Liza 

Another Gershwin tune, Summertime, also had a reading at the concert

Wayne Wright
It's George Barnes who plays the guitar solo parts, while his instrument colleague, Wayne Wright, takes care of a solid rhythm accompaniment togeter with double bass player Michael Moore, here the quartet plays the tune But not for me 

Michael Moore
Ruby Braff on cornet and double bass player Michael Moore have great interplay in the interpretation of Ellington's In my Solitude 

The last video recording from the 1975 Berlin concert featuring the Ruby Braff - George Barnes quartet to be inserted here has the quartet's version of Gershwin's They can't take that away from me


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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Les Loups - Ramona (1928)

Hans & Jo (2008)
This week it has been three years since the founder of the Keep(it)swinging weblog and associated website and blogs, Hans Koert (June 1st, 1951 - September 4, 2014), passed away all too soon. Before it was too late I promised Hans to continue  his blogs, our friendship was too valuable to ignore our mutual engagement in the music we both shared our passion for. Thus, I have tried to follow in the footsteps of Hans in fields of the music we both liked. Our first and mutual project was to collect all available info on the legacy of Oscar Alemán. Hans succeeded in finishing the online Oscar Alemán Discography in time for the Oscar Alemán Centennial in February 2009. I assisted in collecting info and further published entries at the Oscar Alemán weblog documenting our research. In remembrance of this co-work and a great friendship, I'll post the latest entry from the Oscar Alemán weblog below to expose some info here at the keep(it)swinging blog as well on a famous 1920s tune recorded by Les Loups - Alemán's first musical partnership - in 1928: Ramona

Original sheet music (1928)
Ramona is a 1928 song, with lyrics written by L. Wolfe Gilbert and music by Mabel Wayne. It was created as the title song for the 1928 adventure film-romance Ramona (based on the novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson).
Original film poster(1928)
Ramona was recorded in 1928 for promotional appearances with Dolores del Río (star of the film) but not featured in the film itself. The film Ramona was the first United Artists film with a synchronized score, but was not a talking picture. Dolores del Río was a Mexican actress, who was the first major female Latin American crossover star in Hollywood, with a career in American films in the 1920s and 1930s. - Here is Ramona by Dolores del Rio (1928)

On record Ramona was a popular hit, usually performed as a romantic ballad, sometimes with a Latin inflection by "Whispering" Jack Smith and, in an idiosyncratic arrangement recorded on January 4th 1928, by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. The Paul Whiteman version, Victor 21214-A, featuring Bix Beiderbecke on cornet and vocal by Austin Young and Jack Fulton, was no. 1 for 3 weeks on the Billboard charts in 1928.

Other popular artists of the time such as Gene Austin and Ruth Etting a.o. also recorded Ramona and had hits with their versions, and outside the USA the song became popular thanks to the film. 

Les Loups, promo (courtesy by Erik Host)
Les Loups recorded their instrumental version of Ramona in Buenos Aires on August 30 1928 (- some sources have September 3rd or 24) for Victor, released at Victor 80950 (mx BAVE-44280-1) inserted below

Unfortunately, audio quality in the inserted video is rather noisy, but the music by Les Loups is as always delicate and well performed using the well known formula with Gastón on the hawaiian steel guitar and Oscar providing rhythm support on the conventional guitar.
The Blue Diamonds
Ramona remained popular with the public for a long time, a young generation of pop musicians in the 1960s revitalized the orignal waltz version of the song' in an upbeat version similar to rock'n'roll. The shown duo named The Blue Diamonds (a Dutch-Indonesian duo) became famous in 1960 with their version of the song, which reached the American Billboard Hot 100 at number 72 in 1960. It sold over 250,000 copies in the Netherlands (the first record to ever do so) and over one million copies in Germany by 1961.

Perhaps as a consequence of the success of Ramona in an upbeat arrangement, Oscar Alemán also featured the song this way in his live appearances with Los Cinco Caballeros during the 1960s. An example of a live performance of Ramona by Alemán and the Cinco Caballeros from a radio appearance at Radio el Mundo in 1965 has been saved and is inserted below to end this


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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Corky Corcoran And His Orchestra (1945)

Corky Corcoran
Corky Corcoran (1924 - 1979) was a notable but today almost forgotten tenor saxophone player, who started his career during the big band era of the 1940s. He was discovered by Jimmie Lunceford when he was only 16 years old while playing at a jam session in his hometown of Tacoma, WA. In the early 1940s he was already working in big bands. He first played professionally in 1940 with Sonny Dunham, then joined Harry James' orchestra from 1941 to 1947.
Harry James
Corcoran left James for a short time in 1948 playing with his own ensemble and working briefly in Tommy Dorsey's band before rejoining James in 1949. He continued to work with James on and off almost up till his death of a throat cancer in October 1979.
Record producer Harry Lim
Corcoran was featured with Harry James on stage, in radio live broadcasts and movie appearances and further participated in a considerable number of recordings with James' orchestra. However, he also made some recordings under his own name during his career, here I'll focus on a 1945 session made for Keynote records produced by Harry Lim

Info from Tom Lord's Jazz Discography (version 9.0) (click to enlarge)
The session for Keynote took place in Los Angeles on May 15, 1945 and had Corcoran on tenor sax recorded in a septet setting featuring Emmett Berry (tp), Willie Smith (as), Dodo Marmarosa (p), Allan Reuss (g), Ed Mihelich (b) and Nick Fatool (d). Four titles were chosen and first tune recorded was the ensemble's version of Cole Porter's What Is This Thing Called Love?

Emmett Berry
Emmett Berry is the featured trumpeter in the session and has a short solo statement in What Is This Thing Called Love?, a great ballad to showcase Corcoran's mature and warm tenor sax. Next title recorded was Minor Blues which has great solo spots by both Willie Smith's alto sax, Berry's trumpet besides Corcoran's relaxed tenor solo. Allan Reuss' guitar introduces and ends this arrangement of Minor Blues 

Willie Smith, alto sax

Allan Reuss
Two takes of You Know It, a Corcoran original, were recorded and have great solo work by both the horns and Allan Reuss' guitar. Only the second take (HL 96-5) issued on Keynote K-654 and Mercury 1097 is available here

Dodo Marmarosa
The session ends with a recording of Lullaby of the Leaves, another ballad leaving Corcoran space to play a relaxed and warm Hawkins-like tenor solo, Dodo Marmarosa and Berry also have short solo statements and again Allan Reuss' guitar plays the intro

This session by Corky Corcoran for Harry Lim's Keynote has been reissued a few  years ago at the 11 CD box-set of the collected Keynote jazz recordings 1941 - 1947 (disc 6) (Fresh Sound Records).  However, the box-set does not include alternate takes of recorded tunes. Thus, if the alternate take of You Know It from the Corky Corcoran May 15, 1945 session is needed, you have to look for the two cd-set of Keynote reissues shown below
The Essential Keynote Collection, Vol. 4

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Spreadin' Rhythm Around - Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five Feat. Hilary Alexander

CD front, Spreadin' Rhythm Around (WON Records, 004) (2017)
Swing jazz music emerged in the USA during the 1930s with the rise of big bands and the spread of radio networks broadcasting live music. Swing jazz was at its peak from late 1930s trough the WW 2 years in the 1940s supporting an ever-increasing need for entertainment and dance music at a difficult time. The popular swing orchestras of the period were presented by their leaders such as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Charlie Barnet a.o.. Both the full orchestras and the smaller ensembles drawn from the big bands had success with the public through records and live performance. Today, this stage in jazz music is mostly neglected, but fortunately there are exceptions. A revival of the interest in swing music emerged in the last decades of the 20th Century, especially among serious dancers searching for appropriate music to support the various dance styles - suddenly it became hip among a young generation of dancers to work out the steps of Jitterbug i.e., a dance style first made popular during the WW 2 period. The need for accompanying music led to the formation of organized ensembles that resumed the music of the original swing era of the 1930s and 1940s. An excellent example of such an ensemble is represented by Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five in focus here.
Jonathan Stout and The Campus Five feat. Hilary Alexander (promo photo by Monchette Gonda)
Bandleader Jonathan Stout is the guitarist of the Campus Five. As a guitarist he has specialized in pre-bebop jazz guitar drawing inspiration from the varied styles of jazz guitarists such as Freddie Green (of the Count Basie orchestra), Charlie Christian, Allan Reuss, Django Reinhardt a.o.. Jonathan Stout also writes a noted blog on swing guitar, accessible at the website of the Campus Five, here.  Like co-bandleader Hilary Alexander, the vocalist of the Campus Five, Jonathan Stout is an experienced dancer with a deep understanding of the interaction between Swing music and dance. The arrangements and choice of material for the performance by the Campus Five further reflect the band's and it leader's serious involvement with the original sources of the Swing music idiom.

This version of Honeysuckle Rose is inspired by the Count Basie orchestra's 1937 recorded version for Decca and is featured as the first track of the latest CD by Jonathan Stout and his Campus five, Spreadin' Rhythm Around (WON Records 004) released in June this year. The CD is the fourth by the orchestra and contains 15 tracks of danceable swing jazz drawn from the original sources as well as presenting a couple of new compositions by Jonathan Stout. Besides Jonathan Stout (g) and Hilary Alexander (voc) the Campus Five include Albert Alva (ts,cl), Jim Ziegler (tp,voc), Christopher Dawson (p), Wally Hersom (b) and Josh Collazo (d) and there are a couple of guest performances by Brian Shaw (tp) and Marquis Howell II (b). 
Photo collage copied from campusfive.com
The repertoire of the disc include well known standards like Cheek to Cheek, Limehouse Blues, Sunday, Rose Room, Undecided and the Billie Holiday hits Miss Brown To You and the title track of the CD, Spreadin' Rhythm Around. Also featured are lesser known tunes like Sir Charles Thompson's Tunis In, Just About Right For Me (- originally recorded c.1945 by vocalist Kay Starr and The Lamplighter All Stars), You've Got Me Woodoo'd (- a 1938 hit for Louis Armstrong, also recorded by Charlie Barnet a.o.), Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me (- swing versions recorded by Gene Krupa, Peanuts Hucko and Sidney Bechet 1950-51) and Sweets, a composition by Count Basie and Harry 'Sweets' Edison originally recorded by The Red Callender Six in 1945 and the Count Basie Octet in 1950. There are further two compositions by Jonathan Stout, the instrumentals Mill House Stomp and Dance of The Lindy Blossoms, both fitting perfectly in and supporting the swing feeling of the disc. My overall impression is that the music is performed with due respect to the sources without actually copying the original recordings but rather carrying on the spirit of the music in a much enjoyable way directed both at a dancing audience and the engaged listener, who are rewarded with all killers and no fillers to quote an old marketing blurb. - From You Tube uploaded live performances by the Campus Five I'll insert a couple more examples of music featured at the CD, which is available for purchase and listening in streaming audio like the previous three outputs at the band's Bandcamp website, here -  Here is first Hilary Alexander's vocal featured in Just About Right For Me

Next, here is a live performance of Jonathan Stout's Mill House Stomp

To end this small presentation of Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five featuring Hilary Alexander, here is the band's version of Rose Room, heavily inspired by the 1939 recording of the tune by the Benny Goodman Sextet featuring Charlie Christian  - enjoy!


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Friday, August 4, 2017