Al Grey/Wild Bill Davis: Keybone

Update: This recording seems to be gone from the iTunes store again. iTunes links below will take you to the main Al Grey feature page.

It’s good to see that the Al Grey/Wild Bill Davis album Keybone is at the iTunes music store. A short story: I bought the vinyl version of Keybone when I was on a band trip to New York City with The Pride of Southland Marching Band. Yes, that was some time ago. In those days, jazz records had a definite inventory limit at Record Bars across the country, which meant that getting to New York City was a golden opportunity to find some off-the-beaten-path jazz records. I’m not sure I remember how, but I found King Karol records easily — probably at the 42nd street location — and was happy to find a huge jazz section.

Al Grey Keybone cover art

Here’s how I found out about Keybone on iTunes: I had transferred some of the vinyl tracks to digital myself. With the correct track info entered into iTunes, one day iTunes found the Keybone artwork. Voila! — apparently it had been added to iTunes.

Anyway, it’s a fun set of music, and was recorded in 1972 at Seed Studios in Vallauris, France. The rest of the personal includes Eddie Vinson on alto saxophone (Vinson sings on Alimony Blues and Person To Person), Floyd Smith on guitar and Chris Columbus on drums. Check it out; this is a good set of music.

Dan Wynn: Art of the Cover

Last time, I wrote about the varying quality of digital transfers at the iTunes music store, specifically on some Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson recordings. The odd situation I mentioned was that newer cover art sometimes accompanies some digital transfers of the albums — even from a scratchy LP as the source ― while the original cover art sometimes accompanies separate digital transfers, which — possibly ― come from the original master tapes.

But wait — there are more geeky details: below is the original LP cover art for J Is For Jazz. Look familiar? The striking photo sets J.J. against a black background, head-on down the length of his trombone slide, just like the art for Kai Winding’s The Trombone Sound (See the last post, which appeared far too long ago).

J is For Jazz cover Art

What you can’t see on the iTunes cover art is the photo credit that exits on the LP versions. Not surprisingly, both of these album cover photos are by the same photographer, Dan Wynn, who died in 1995. Although he had training in art, Wynn began developing technical skills in photography while serving in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. Out of the Army in 1947, he began focussing his photographic eye on fashion while working for Seventeen Magazine. In his subsequent career, he ended up photographing nearly everything — cars and scooters, food, models, movie stars, and, of course, musicians.

A Strange Case of iTunes

Update: Some iTunes store links fixed below.

I’ll admit to being a little confused by the iTunes music store sometimes. Here’s an example: fairly recently a British label called Hallmark seems to have licensed some of Sony/Columbia’s jazz titles from the 50’s. The particular recordings I’m writing about are under the leadership of J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, or both. Below is a list — the links will take you to the iTunes music store.

Trombone Sound Original LP Cover Art

Original LP Album Art for The Trombone Sound

The weird thing is this that while all of the titles listed above appear to be legitimate digital transfers of the original recordings, some are duplicated and have different, non-original album art. That might be fairly innocuous, except for the fact that these duplicate titles might not be first generation transfers from the original recordings. A case in point is the “alternate album art” version of Jay and Kai +6. It’s a transfer from an LP, surface noise, scratches, and all. Thankfully, an aware iTunes store shopper wrote a one-star review which warns, “This is just a phonograph record that has been recorded onto someone’s computer.”

Billy Taylor, a Jazzman to be Missed

Late last year, we lost one of the gems of jazz, Dr. Billy Taylor. So far, there have been numerous online tributes, like this one at A Blog Supreme, or this one at Jazz Wax. It’s been mentioned frequently that Taylor was an educator. While that’s certainly true, it ought to be pointed out that most of the people Taylor educated were non-musicians. For many who found jazz a little esoteric and might have wondered, “Where’s the melody?”, Taylor was about the best explainer and ambassador to the uninitiated you could possibly hope for. Not only did he respond to all questions about jazz music with incredible patience, he did so in way that suggested he truly savored the explanations. Given the same inquiries, Miles Davis might have thrown something at you.

It’s conceivable that you have heard Taylor talk about jazz more often than you heard him play it. His own playing sat comfortably in the mainstream, and while his style didn’t venture into the realms of say, Herbie Hancock or Chick Corea, it did what it needed to do — express Billy Taylor. To bring Miles Davis back into it again, Taylor once said of him that it’s much harder to play with simplicity than it sounds like it might be. So true.

There are many great clips featuring Taylor on YouTube. Below, Billy talks about National Educational Television’s pioneering show, The Subject is Jazz, that aired nationally on NBC in 1957-58. In the original clip, Taylor explains “Cool Jazz,” and the featured group performs a version of Tadd Dameron’s Hot House, and Miles Davis’s Half Nelson.

10.13.14 UPDATE: The video mentioned above was removed from YouTube

Another great one:

And Santa Claus

gourds

Gourds

About a year ago — around Christmastime — a friend on Facebook sent me a message. The message was from Greg, a fellow trombonist from my undergraduate school days, and, previous to the Facebook friending, I hadn’t heard from him in something like 20 years. Greg is a good guy. At the University of Tennessee, we were in the trombone choir together. The trombone choir was probably one of the best and most fun ensembles I played in while at UT. Other ensembles weren’t so fun until I got out of them; then they were pretty funny in retrospect. In trombone choir, we played arrangements of jazz and classical music, and performed in and around Knoxville, as far away as Oak Ridge. It’s a good memory, and so I was happy when Greg popped up on Facebook. Anyway, I’m digressing. On to Greg’s message. It reads as follows:

chris, My mom paints gourds , she has ducks, geese ,turtles , and santa clause , if interrested let me know . No kidding ! greg

I read the message a few times. I kept reading it. In a way, it seemed like a poem. I read the message for other people. I experimented with different voices and inflections. Like any written work you consider a poem, there’s not one “correct” way to read it, but I’m going to share with you what I feel is a solid interpretation. An mp3 file is here below:

Chris, My Mom Paints Gourds