Feature Fridays: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis

Feature Fridays: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Ryan Jacobs will review Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.

Kind of Blue

Kind of Blue is not only a universally acknowledged standard of excellence, it also highlights Miles Davis’ role in history as one of the great innovators in jazz. William Ruhlmann of AllMusic wrote, “To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s, since he was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the music during that period … It can even be argued that jazz stopped evolving when Davis wasn’t there to push it forward.”

The personnel on this album include Miles Davis on trumpet, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, Bill Evans on piano (with Wynton Kelly stepping in on “All Blues,”), Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums.

Kind of Blue marks a shift in Davis’ sound from hard bop (such as is present in Sorcerer, reviewed by Jake Tracey in last week’s Feature Friday) to modal jazz. The framework of modal jazz was outlined by composer George Russell in his 1953 book Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization (available through consortium loan). It reduces improvisational emphasis on functional chord changes, allowing for different varieties and flavors of solos over long-held chordal palettes. Davis began experimenting with the concept in the title track of his 1958 album Milestones, a year before the recording of Kind of Blue.

The opening track “So What” is instantly recognizable, as it has entered the jazz vernacular as a kind of modal jazz blueprint. And it is not the only one: all of the tracks on the album have been labeled and performed as standards over the years, and stand as a testament to the album’s influence. I want to highlight the piece “All Blues” in particular, which showcases Davis’ melodic mastery over a 6/8 12-bar modal blues structure.

The AU Music Library has many other albums by Miles Davis, and for more examples of modal jazz, you can check out A Love Supreme and My Favorite Things by John Coltrane.

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Feature Fridays: Sorcerer by Miles Davis

Feature Fridays: Sorcerer by Miles Davis

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Jacob Tracey will review Sorcerer by Miles Davis.

sorcerer

It is no secret that Miles Davis is one of the most amazing trumpet players to ever grace this Earth. His ability to take melodies both soft and tough and play them with such ease never ceases to amaze me. Over the years as an artist, Davis played with many greats along with releasing and producing a countless number of albums. While many will stand that one of his most famous records Kind of Blue or In a Silent Way may be the contextual king of his discography, many of his other lesser known albums get pushed under the rug. One of my favorite albums by Davis happens to be one where he plays more to the tough and loud side as opposed to the softer side. That album is Sorcerer.

 

1967 was a critical year in Miles Davis’ Career. He recorded a lot of tracks with his band which all roughly became three separate albums, one of them being Sorcerer. Sorcerer is the third studio LP by the group that also had one of Davis’ closest friends and partners Wayne Shorter on the saxophone. The album became almost a road map for future players in the free-boppers genre. It became a bold statement of an album that was favored by critics but not much by listeners and longtime fans of Davis.

 

The first track, “Prince of Darkness,” opens with one of my favorite melodies and licks from Davis. It’s a great introduction to the album letting listeners know it won’t be like his previous works. It was also the song that made me fall in love with this record. Miles Davis is king of the smooth cool Jazz but hearing him take on some more ambitious material was a dream come true. Some other stand out tracks from this record include the Spanish inspire “Masqualero,” the title track, and “Nothing Like You.”

 

Front to back this album is a masterpiece of free form and bop inspired Jazz. Next time you are in the music library make sure to check this one out and give it a listen!

 

Feature Fridays: Jon Ozment

Feature Fridays: Jon Ozment

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Emily Langlois will review Angles by Jon Ozment.

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Jon Ozment at the piano

I would like to review a staple jazz album from one of AU’s own music professors, Jon Ozment. Jon has been a D.C. based performer, composer, and producer for the past 20 years and currently teaches Piano and Jazz for the Department of Performing arts. Angles, released in 2001, contains seven original compositions and an array of unique jazz sounds from different movements in the genre.

The title track, “Angles”, starts with a saxophone-heavy rhythmic style that’s energetic and punch-y. Ozment’s piano melody shines in the middle of the track, reminiscent of a busy traffic intersection on a sunny day. “Angles” is a display of both his musical talent and precision in composition. Another stand-out song for the album is Ozment’s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” and provides a slow, romantic mood. The track adds depth and melancholy to the album, soothing the listener with soft percussion and more enchanting piano.

Angles will take you on a journey through the world of jazz music, making it a necessity for anyone looking to expand their horizons and learn more about it. Upon first listen it’s obvious how much care Jon Ozment puts into his craft. Whether you’re a jazz connoisseur or just getting to know the genre, this album will be both entertaining and educational.

To check out more CDs from AU professors, check out our subject guide or stop by The Music Library!

 

Feature Fridays: Like Minds

Feature Fridays: Like Minds

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Ryan Jacobs will review Like Minds by Gary Burton with Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland.

Like Minds

Like Minds is a jazz supergroup album featuring Gary Burton on vibraphone, Chick Corea on piano, Pat Metheny on guitar, Roy Haynes on drums, and Dave Holland on bass. Each musician is a legend in their own right, having worked with Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Lester Young, and many others between the five of them.

The liner booklet contains a recollection of the recording process from Burton’s perspective. It is an insightful look at how the album came together and the mutual respect between the musicians, and was a very interesting read. It recounts the initial conceptualization of the album and how each of the musicians brought in some of the best songs; each wrote at least one new one specifically for this project.

The album showcases the group’s immense musical skill and mastery of jazz, and I would like to highlight the opening track, which sets up the rest of the album perfectly. Metheny’s “Question and Answer” is a melodic masterpiece showcasing Burton and Corea, and demonstrates the guitarist’s compositional ability.

The entire record is filled with first-rate ensemble skill, composition, and improvisation, and I strongly recommend anyone interested in experiencing true jazz masters display their craft check this album out immediately.

 

Feature Fridays: Jazz Samba by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd

Feature Fridays: Jazz Samba by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Music Library Coordinator Amanda Steadman will review Jazz Samba by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd.

 

One of my favorite albums in the library’s collection is Jazz Samba, from tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and arranger/guitarist Charlie Byrd. It was recorded right here in DC at the All Souls Unitarian Church in February 1962. I have fond memories of enjoying bossa nova like this album with my dad during road trips.

Bossa nova, meaning “new wave” or “new trend” slows down and subtly reshuffles the rhythms of traditional Brazilian dance music, like the samba. The style was virtually invented by jazz-influenced Brazilian composers Antônio Carlos Jobim and guitarist/vocalist João Gilberto. Although Getz and Byrd were not the first Americans to try bossa nova, Jazz Samba began a craze for the style in the early 1960s.

This is one of my favorite albums to listen to while working intensely. The rhythms are interesting, yet gentle and Getz and Byrd’s incredible solo work sets them off nicely.

You may be familiar with Stan Getz’s later work with João Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto, including the famous song “The Girl from Ipanema,” the sound of many an elevator on film. This album (titled Getz/Gilberto) is also available at the music library, CD 5397. Stop by the music library to check out these and other great jazz recordings!

Feature Fridays: The Centennial Collection by Billie Holiday

Feature Fridays: The Centennial Collection by Billie Holiday

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection. 

This week, Dan McCahon will review Billie Holiday’s Centennial Collection.

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This album consists of Bille Holiday’s best works. I honestly do not have many words for this album that aren’t praise. It is spectacular as every song stands on their own. Each piece is distinct with Holiday’s voice sitting atop the arrangements, delivering lyrics that are joyful and sometimes haunting.

There are 20 tracks on the CD, dissecting them all would not do them justice, as the album is a must listen and words cannot begin to illustrate Holiday’s unique and beautiful vocal quality. If I were to pick a favorite song on the album I would be hard pressed to find one. If I had to pick three however, I would pick “Strange Fruit”, “Gloomy Sunday”, and “When A Woman Loves A Man.”

“Strange Fruit” is a more well known piece for those who are not familiar with Holiday’s work, as it was sampled by Kanye West for the song “Blood on the Leaves” off of his album “Yeezus.” “Gloomy Sunday” is a slow moving ballad. I find Holiday’s voice through it to be like rolling waves as the ocean of sound in the song is diverse and ever moving. “When A Woman Loves A Man” opens with a brass riff introducing Holiday’s vocal story-telling. Every track is a wonderful treasure.

Come by the music library to browse CDs by jazz singers like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and more!

Feature Fridays: Romance & Rhythm by Ella Fitzgerald

Feature Fridays: Romance & Rhythm by Ella Fitzgerald

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection. 

This Friday Emily Langlois will be reviewing Romance & Rhythm by Ella Fitzgerald.

Ella

Ella Fitzgerald is one of the most influential female jazz singers of all time. According to the bio on her official website, she sold 40 million albums in her lifetime and was a 13-time Grammy winner. She’s known for her incredible vocal range and diversity, which allowed her to reach a broad variety of audiences all over the world.

 

Some of her most beloved works are her love songs. Her whimsical voice and soulful lyrics embody the best parts about romance: heart flutters, warm embraces, and lasting promises. Romance and Rhythm is a 4-disc collection of Ella’s famous love songs, with each CD carrying a different theme.

 

This collection evokes nostalgia on many levels. If you want to travel back to the golden era of jazz or to a time where you fell in love, this is the time machine. “I Found My Yellow Basket” is a fun track to dance around to on a sunny day, while “Someone To Watch Over Me” can make you contemplate your feelings on a deeper level. Just like the many emotions of love, Ella’s songs will take you on a journey.

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Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial celebration is ongoing through April. Stop by the music library to browse selections from Ella, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and many more!