ALBERTA HUNTER: Someday, Sweetheart
Among the earliest pioneers of jazz, Alberta Hunter was a headliner and recording artist in an initial career that essentially spanned the time from World War I to the Korean War. But the death of her mother prompted her to abandon the international success she had achieved in music to pursue a career in medicine, where she faked both her age and high school diploma to enroll in nursing school. But it seems fate wouldn’t let her off so easily, as record producer Chris Albertson ‘rediscovered’ Hunter in the 1960s and coerced her out of retirement, and into a renaissance that eventually led her to Columbia Records, and legendary status. SOMEDAY, SWEETHEART is among the earliest, and rarest of her hard to find standards.
AL HIRT: Ain’t Misbehavin’
Al Hirt, the “Java” man himself! AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ is perhaps the most resilient, versatile and endearing standard to come out of the 1920s. It has been recorded by legends of almost every genre since that time; even Hank Williams Jr. scored #1 on Billboard’s Country charts in the 1980s with his laid back, bluesy rendition of the classic. Al Hirt’s version however is anything but laid back, as his bright, uptempo toe-tapping Dixieland arrangement became one of the most original and vibrant takes ever recorded of this legendary slice of Americana.
BENNY GOODMAN: My Wild Irish Rose
Already a golden oldie when Benny Goodman recorded this rare, exquisite version of the classic song, he nevertheless made the song his own, as though it had been written specifically for him. Written by Chancellor Olcott, MY WILD IRISH ROSE originally charted in 1899 with several versions by notable artists of the time reaching top 5, and even #1 status with their own renditions of the instant classic. But the 1947 film of the same name chronicling Olcott’s life spawned new interest in the song, which translated perfectly into big band jazz, and several top band leaders recorded ROSE. None did it better than Benny Goodman, whose rare take on the classic is now included in this LEGENDS OF JAZZ set.
BILLIE HOLIDAY: Ain’t Nobody’s Business
If any Legend of Jazz truly needs no introduction, it would be Billie Holiday. Perhaps the greatest and most beloved artist in the history of jazz, this rare rendition of the early 1920s classic is a must-have for any collection of legendary jazz artists or tracks.
BUDDY RICH: Ease on Down the Road
Billed as “The World’s Greatest Drummer,” jazz bandleader Buddy Rich introduced an infectious ‘groove’ into the jazz world considered by some almost scandalous. But scandalous or not, his brand of funky jazz is instantly infectious, as evidenced by this rare interpretation of the R&B classic from THE WIZ. It may not be the first song that comes to mind when considering masterful jazz recordings, but one listen to this rare recording will make you a believer.
CARMEN MCRAE: I’m Comin’ Home Again
Drawing inspiration from Billie Holiday throughout her 50-year career, Carmen McRae is now the inspiration for a new generation of jazz vocalists in her own right. I’M COMIN’ HOME AGAIN is a true diamond in the rough… a rare, beautiful, haunting masterpiece that deserves its place among any collection of legendary jazz. Sit back, turn up the volume, sip a nice glass of wine, and let the goose bumps arise!
CARMEN MCRAE: New York State of Mind
Classic jazz, meet Billy Joel. Perhaps the least expected marriage of musical styles, it has also become among the most inspired as well, as even Tony Bennett has recorded his own version of the moderns classic. However, among the rarest and most inspired jazz arrangements of this certain timeless jazz classic is this rendition by Carmen McRae, as masterful vocalist who is too often overlooked, never quite getting the credit her talent deserves.
THE CHARLES MINGUS TRIO: Hamp’s Blues
Among the pioneers of ‘Free Jazz,’ Mingus’ musical style and personality were both intense and volatile. He embodied a sort of ‘beatnik’ persona that endeared him to some, while inspiring fear in others. Known for his occasional violent outbursts, both offstage and on, his music demonstrated that same kind of unpredictability. Among his most noteworthy compositions was Epitath, a 4,235 measure masterpiece that took no less than two full hours to perform. Yes, that’s originality. One of his rarest, yet more ‘traditional’ recordings is HAMP’S BLUES.
CHARLIE PARKER: Riff Raff
One of the most legendary artists of any genre, Parker was the quintessential ‘tortured’ artist, his musical genius walking hand-in-hand with lifelong drug and alcohol addiction, which ultimately led to his death at only 34 years of age. Despite his short lifespan, the legend of Charlie Parker and his music continues to amaze and inspire millions. Included here is RIFF RAFF, perhaps the most legendary, yet rarest, of all his classic recordings.
COUNT BASIE: April in Paris
Count Basie’s career is truly astounding. Spanning the period from the mid-1920s until his death in the mid-1980s, Basie and his music remained relevant throughout that entire time and of course, continues to be. There may be no other artist who navigated a career through ragtime, big band, rock & roll, R&B and jazz fusion even half as successfully as Basie. Evidence of his enduring status and permanent place in pop culture is his inclusion in the 1974 Mel Brooks film BLAZING SADDLES, and the salute to Basie in Stevie Wonder’s #1 1977 hit song SIR DUKE. Included in this LEGENDS OF JAZZ set is this rare recording of APRIL IN PARIS… incidentally, the song he performed in BLAZING SADDLES.
DELLA REESE: Stormy Weather
STORMY WEATHER became an instant jazz classic shortly after Reese’ birth, yet none performed this standard better than Della Reese, the incomparable jazz vocalist better known to younger generations as the beloved star of TV’s TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL. As this rare recording aptly demonstrates, Reese was no one trick pony, as she tips her hat to the time of her birth in this rare and inspired recording.
GENE KRUPA: All By Myself
Gene Krupa brought intensity to big band that seemed more a precursor to rock & roll than big band. His flamboyant and energetic style not only resembled the high octane rock shows that would come in subsequent years, but he was a literal influence on the heart of rock & roll far more than most may realize. As he retired from live performing, he opened a music school where he himself taught drums. His roster of students included several familiar names in rock & roll, including original KISS drummer Peter Criss. Given Krupa’s clear influence on rock music, it seems appropriate that the rare Krupa recording included in this LEGEND OF JAZZ set is a song that shares a title with one of rock’s greatest classics, ALL BY MYSELF.
HERBIE MANN: African Flute
Herbie Mann was among the first and most prominent modern jazz musicians to navigate the lines between jazz, rock and R&B. In fact his mid-1970s hit HIJACK not only charted in the top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100, it actually topped the magazine’s Dance chart at the height of the Disco era, leading even such chart contemporaries as the Bee Gees, upon whose records Mann was even featured. This rare recording of AFRICAN FLUTE is widely considered among the leading masters of modern jazz fusion.
KAY STARR: I Ain’t Gonna Cry
The late 1940s to the late 1960s saw pop music evolve from big band, to the era of the crooners, to rock & roll. Through it all, Kay Starr had no trouble finding chart success in each genre, although she had already been singing professionally since age 10. But her true forte was jazz, as even the legendary Billie Holiday referred to Starr as “the only white woman who could sing the blues.” Included here, as a mere sample of her versatility and artistic range is her rare track, I AIN’T GONNA CRY.
LENA HORNE: The Best Things in Life are Free
Not only among the greatest of all legendary jazz performers, Lena Horne was also a gifted actress, and found early success in some major Hollywood releases. In fact, her 1942 MGM contract made her the first ever black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio. However she was among those blacklisted during the infamous “Red Scare” of the 1950s, effectively putting an end to her promising film career. Yet Hollywood’s loss was music’s gain, as Horne continued to define jazz perfection until her retirement in the late 1990s. Her rare recording of THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE reaches the ultimate artistic pinnacle… matching the perfect song with the perfect voice.
PETE FOUNTAIN: Sensation Rag
One of the most influential jazz soloists of all time, the master of Dixieland clarinet became known to millions as a prominently featured member of Lawrence Welk’s orchestra on his famed TV show. Fountain eventually quit the show, claiming that “champagne and bourbon don’t mix,” and went on to almost single-handedly define Dixieland Jazz. This extremely rare live recording of the 1918 classic SENSATION RAG demonstrates why.
SARAH VAUGHAN: Body & Soul
Sarah Vaughan was an almost instant success from the moment she won an Apollo Theater Amateur Night contest in 1942, and remained so until her death in 1990. Early on she freelanced in clubs on New York’s 52nd street 35 years before Billy Joel famously referenced the hallowed musical ground on his album of the same name. Included in this LEGENDS OF JAZZ collection is the song that began it all, a rare live rendition of BODY & SOUL, as she revisits the song that won her that Apollo Theater Amateur Night contest way back in 1942.
SARAH VAUGHAN: You Stepped Out of a Dream
The incomparable Sarah Vaughan returns with a rare recording of the classic 1940 standard YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM. Among the most recorded jazz standards, it was an immediate hit thanks to its inclusion as the centerpiece of the 1941 musical ZIEGFELD GIRL. But its long-standing status as a classic is probably mostly thanks to the song accidentally becoming Lana Turner’s theme song, although she never actually sang it, as an homage to the song’s enduring image from ZIEGFELD GIRL.
STAN KENTON: Dark Eyes
An enduring and influential artist, Kenton’s musical education framework, “Jazz Clinic” is still in use today, decades after the innovator’s death. In an unusual and interesting move, Kenton left his entire musical library to the University of North Texas upon his death. Although his legacy seemed to wane in the years following his death, possibly due to a number of controversies surrounding him, his music has enjoyed a renaissance of late as younger generations have rediscovered his musical genius. Included here in this LEGENDS OF JAZZ collection is an example of a rare, often overlooked Kenton gem, DARK EYES.
TOMMY DORSEY ORCHESTRA featuring LYNN ROBERTS: Molten Stomp
Perhaps the most curious inclusion in this LEGENDS OF JAZZ collection, this Bennie Moten original is frequently confused with other Moten compositions. Alternately listed as Molten Stomp and Moten Stomp, it is also confused with Moten Swing and Molten Swing. Regardless the listing, the music is equally compelling. In this rare live Telecast version, the legendary Tommy Dorsey tips his hat to Moten, who helped pave the way to the Big Band Era during which Dorsey earned his legendary success.