The Definitive Collection (2008) by Billie Holiday

Categories: 1935, 1937, 1939, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1954, 1956, 1958, 2008, and Music.

Full disclosure: I do not like vocal jazz (as you know). This is a compilation of 22 tracks over the course of Holiday’s career. I have no idea how definitive it actually is, as I do not know her at all (beyond her reputation as one of the great singers of the century, and “Strange Fruit”). I also have no plans on listening to her entire oeuvre (and, given when she recorded, curation is necessary anyway, because much of her music was recorded pre-album). Read More

Ella Sings Gershwin (1950) by Ella Fitzgerald

Categories: 1950 and Music.

Full disclosure: I don’t like vocal jazz.However, I listened to this because we are talking about one of the most famous singers of the 20th century and I at least should be acquainted with her. And after listening I can say I get what the hype is about but I would rather here her singing music that is at least a little more jazz. I am not saying this isn’t jazz; obviously it is. And it’s brave, at least in how bare it is. And I’d rather listen to these interpretations of Gershwin than a lot of others. But, if Read More

Double Exposure (2012) by John Pizzarelli

Categories: 2012 and Music.

Pizzarelli appears to me to be almost like the Eric Johnson of jazz: a great guitarist who has absolutely no taste in music. Well, he thinks he has taste, but his taste is that of my dead grandma. (Actually, my dead grandma would probably be put off by at least some of this music, but you get the idea. If my grandma had been born a few years later, maybe everything on here would be up here alley.) It’s pretty horrible to hear someone so talented playing such shitty music.Maybe he’s more like the jazz Jimmy Buffet: content to put Read More

1619 Broadway: the Brill Building Project (2012) by Kurt Elling

Categories: 2012 and Music.

I am not a fan of Brill Building pop in general and not a fan of vocal jazz either. But I can at least admire this, even if it is a pretty idiosyncratic selection of “Brill Building” stuff. (I feel like just because songwriters associated with the style wrote the song, doesn’t mean the song was in the style; see for instance “Pleasant Valley Sunday”. Anyway…) Elling’s interpretations are at least interesting and even vocal jazz bugs me I can’t help but admire taking such an off-kilter approach to “On Broadway”, to pick one of the most famous songs here. Read More

The Gate (2011) by Kurt Elling

Categories: 2011 and Music.

Full disclosure: I do not like vocal jazz. I don’t think most of it qualifies as “jazz” – or at least doesn’t have enough jazz elements to qualify as jazz – to really warrant serious attention. But I have heard Kurt Elling is different.Things appear to get off to a good start – so I think – with the King Crimson cover. Unfortunately, it sounds pretty much exactly what I would think a “pop jazz” cover of early ’80s King Crimson would sound like, which is not a good thing. But the record definitely improves from there: Elling shows some Read More

Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman (2009) by Kurt Elling et al.

Categories: 2009 and Music.

I have never heard the inspiration for this album, so I cannot say that I am the best listener for this tribute. And I am not a fan of vocal jazz. That being said, the backing arrangements are at least a million times better than most “vocal jazz” arrangements and “Easy to Remember” is well told. But I am not this project’s audience. 6/10 Read More

Women in Jazz (1998, Retro Music) by Various Artists

Categories: 1998 and Music.

The cheapie box set is an interesting phenomenon: Gather some recordings from major artists where the copyright has lapsed (or never existed), Put the recordings in any arbitrary order you choose, Use more discs than are necessary to convince the buyer they are getting a great bargain, Give it a catchy title. I have a Scott Joplin compilation with no credits (funnily enough, from a Quebec label, just like this set) but you can clearly hear differences in piano and recording quality. I have a Muddy Waters box set which is all demos, but nowhere on the outside does it Read More