Cene’s Spring Break picks

While AU students are relaxing at the beach, we’re still hard at work at the Music Library. This week’s picks  have a little of everything from west coast jazz, to west Texas swing, to Japanese pop.

Anita O'Day Sings for Oscar

Anita O’Day – Sings for Oscar/Pick Yourself Up (CD 10012)

We recently picked up a couple Anita O’Day CDs (as well as the acclaimed documentary Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (Music Library DVD 331)) filling a glaring hole in our vocal jazz selection. This particular disc combines two fantastic 1957 releases. The tremendous session with Oscar Peterson’s group – featuring Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and John Poole on drums – is the highlight, but the other sessions are no small shakes; the larger ensembles feature such heavy hitters as Stan Getz, Bud Shank, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Guiffre, and Shelly Manne among others. Anita is at the very peak of her vocal powers, proving that she can hold her own with anyone in the pantheon of jazz singers.

Bob Wills - San Antonio Rose

Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys – San Antonio Rose (CD 3264)

Bear Family Records out of Germany isn’t known for doing things half way, and this massive 11-CD plus DVD box set is no exception. Containing everything Bob Wills recorded from 1932-1947, including alternate takes, air checks,  and studio chatter, and an exhaustively thorough 180+ page book, this set is not for the faint of heart. Those willing to wade in will be surprised by the remarkably consistent quality of Wills’ tunes and bands over this time period, leaving little doubt as to the appropriateness of his title “the King of Western Swing.” His bands were forward-thinking and modern, combining big band jazz with popular country and old time fiddle music, and redefining what a country dance band could be by introducing horns, reeds, and drums. The included DVD of Take Me Back to Oklahoma, however, can be safely missed.

Georges Auric - La Belle et La Bete

Georges Auric – La Belle et la Bête (Complete Film Score, 1946) (CD 10070 or streaming from Naxos Music Library)

Jean Cocteau‘s 1946 film version of the Beauty and the Beast story, besides providing Disney with the source material for their animated version, was notable for its lush, dreamy atmosphere, elaborate camera work, and deliberate, poetic pacing. George Auric‘s score is the perfect complement to the film’s rich visual style, and stands on its own as a wonderful example of 20th century impressionism.

The Great 1955 Shrine Concert

V/A – The Great 1955 Shrine Concert (CD 3250 or streaming from American Song)

One of the best live gospel recordings of the pre-multitrack era, this disc captures several golden-age groups at the peak of their powers, and in an electric atmosphere that is closer to their natural environment than any recording studio. The most recognizable group on the bill for gospel novices is the Soul Stirrers, still featuring a young Sam Cooke. In the live setting they really stretch out; two of the group’s three tracks clock in at about eight minutes. Dorothy Love Coates’ Gospel Harmonettes turn in a 19 minute medley of hits, while the Pilgrim Travelers and the Caravans both turn in impassioned performances.

Yellow Magic Orchestra - BGM

Yellow Magic Orchestra – BGM (CD 9351)

Japan’s Yellow Magic Orchestra spanned a variety of styles over the course of their career together, from pure pop and crossover electronic disco to experimental, semi-ambient electro-world beat (if such a genre actually exists). Their fourth album, BGM, occupies a place somewhere in between. The songs are less concerned with the dancefloor, and present a more mature, sometimes almost sleepy sound, while remaining catchy and memorable.  The tunes “Cue” and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “1000 Knives” are the standouts.

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