Monday, December 03, 2007

High school revisited

A few months ago, I was called to do a gig where the client requested swing dance music. In preparation for the gig I pulled out a couple of albums I hadn't listened to since high school, and hearing them with new ears was refreshing.

Joe Jackson - Jumpin' Jive (A&M, 1981)
I must have bought this when the neo-swing revival was in full tilt, with "Zoot Suit Riot" and Brian Setzer's version of "Jump, Jive an' Wail" seemingly everywhere. I had just gotten into Joe Jackson, and was impressed that he had done a retro-jump-swing record about 15 years early. The energy is high, sounding like a bunch of guys at a pub reminiscing about their father's records, and the arrangements are actually surprisingly clever (especially "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?"). It flags a bit towards the end, and Graham Maby's electric bass doesn't have the requisite woody thump of an upright being smacked to hell, but it's an enjoyable listen nonetheless.

Gary Burton - For Hamp, Red, Bags & Cal (Concord, 2001)
My buying habits in high school were decidedly simple: look for players I had heard of and tunes I knew or wanted to learn. More often than not, this worked out. I was obsessed with this record after I bought it, but hadn't listened to it in a long time. I tend to eye jazz tribute and concept records with disdain now, but in the late-90's this seemed to be all the rage at major jazz labels and tended to succeed on some sort of creative level (cf. Herbie Hancock's Gershwin's World). I think my previous exposure to Burton had been the Like Minds supergroup record, which I don't think I ever truly "understood" in a musical sense but appreciated on a surface level. I certainly wasn't aware of his ECM heritage at all.

As for the music on the record, some things were immediately apparent - the burning groove of "Afro Blue;" the incredible unison reading of "Donna Lee" at the end of "Indiana;" and the unexpectedly simple-yet-hip reworking of "Flying Home." That record was my first exposure to Danilo Perez, and while his work on these pieces are nowhere near as creative or overwhelming as his work with Wayne or on his own, it's a treat to hear him sink his teeth into the grooves. Yeah, the marimba and xylophone pieces (in duo with Makoto Ozone) at the end are hokey, but I wouldn't expect anything else from tunes called "Dance of the Octopus."

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