June 2008

Benny Carter – Elegy In Blue (In Dedication)
Nimbus Records NI 2702
Format: CD
Originally released: 1994
Reissue released: 2008
Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

Lee Konitz - Round & Round
Nimbus Records NI 2703
Format: CD
Originally released: 1988
Reissue released: 2008

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Stanley Turrentine - T Time
Nimbus Records NI 2708
Format: CD
Originally released: 1995
Reissue released: 2008

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

by Joseph Taylor

These three discs by jazz saxophonists return to print sessions originally distributed by Music Masters, the jazz label that in the late '80s and into the '90s released new titles and previously unreleased recordings by established jazz musicians. Nimbus Records, a British label, has licensed a number of those recordings, and in addition to these three discs have reissued live recordings by Duke Ellington, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, and Benny Goodman.

Stanley Turrentine’s T Time, released in 1995, suffers a bit from an attempt to show too many sides of the tenor player. The greasy soul funk of "Don’t Mess With Mr. T." contains echoes of Turrentine’s work with Jimmy Smith and Grant Green, while "I Haven’t Got Anything Better to Do" lets him demonstrate how sensitive his ballad playing could be. His take on Coltrane’s "Impressions" is the best thing on the disc, with all the players in cracking good form. Dave Styker turns in a burning solo (with an occasional nod to Wes Montgomery) and Kenny Drew has a very strong feature on the tune, as does the leader. "The Island" and "Side Steppin’" are reminiscent of Turrentine’s worst work for CTI, while "A Little Sweetness" is comparable to his best for that errant label. In no way essential, T Time is a likable effort if you program out the two duds. The recording is generally clear, but with a little too much reverb on Turrentine and an overemphasis on the kick drum.

Lee Konitz has recorded extensively and well for over 60 years and appeared on more than 50 records. He has always been a searching, challenging musician, and his work is remarkably consistent. Round & Round is a quartet session from 1988, composed of standards and originals played in 3/4 time. Coltrane’s "Giant Steps" is transformed by the slower pace Konitz takes here, which only serves to highlight the composer’s melodic inventiveness. Konitz is breathtaking, coming up with new ideas at an astonishing rate and with seemingly little effort. He interprets "Someday My Prince Will Come" beautifully on soprano sax and gives Sonny Rollins’ "Valse Hot" an intelligent yet passionate reading. I normally dislike electric bass on traditional jazz recordings, but it’s hard to fault Mike Richmond’s sense of melody and time. Adam Nussbaum is, as always, solidly swinging, and Fred Hersch shines as an accompanist and soloist. The music is warmly recorded, but the CD booklet contains no recording credits.

Benny Carter was born in 1907, 20 years before Lee Konitz, and his discography can be traced back to the 1920s. He won a Grammy for Elegy in Blue, a 1994 recording in which he paid tribute to jazz musicians he admired. Lee Morgan, Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington, and Django Reinhardt are just a few of the musicians whose tunes Carter plays in fond remembrance. He captures Ben Webster’s emotional directness on "Did You Call Her Today," and pays warm homage to Johnny Hodges’ small-group recordings on "Good Queen Bess." Carter’s long experience and consummate skills bring freshness and depth to tunes you think you know well, such as Monk’s "Blue Monk" and Django Reinhardt’s "Nuages." Harry "Sweets" Edison, only eight years Carter’s junior, is his partner here and Ray Brown (bass), Cedar Walton (piano), Mundell Lowe (guitar), and Jeff Hamilton (drums) provide solid, sympathetic support. Elegy in Blue is a subtle work, a celebration and a reminiscence that deeply rewards repeated listening.