The rich history of jazz recording is both a blessing and curse for fans. We can choose from a nearly endless supply of albums by superb artists, but it is hard to know which albums to choose and which of these albums best represents an artists musical vision. Shout Factorys new series of two-disc compilations aims to save us from poor choices. Inaugurating the series with two trumpeters, Dizzy Gillespie and Chet Baker, each set provides a complete career overview of the musician. The beautiful music is placed within equally beautiful packaging that includes photographs, complete track information, and informative essays.
The Dizzy Gillespie set opens with tracks culled from singles from the '40s that he recorded for many labels and includes important collaborations with Charlie Parker. On these tracks, we hear both the formation of bebop and the maturing of Afro-Cuban jazz. As we move into the '50s and beyond there are selections from many albums, including two from the seminal Jazz at Massey Hall. This music is as alive and demanding of attention now as it was more than 50 years ago. The essay by Neil Tesser will bring you up to speed not only on Gillespies career but the history of jazz as well.
The Chet Baker set doesnt follow a strict chronology but gives one disc each to Bakers careers as trumpeter and singer. There is both the expected, such as instrumental and vocal versions of "My Funny Valentine," and the unexpected, like a cover of Elvis Costellos "Almost Blue." Bakers romanticism, both in playing and singing, provides an interesting contrast to Gillespies music, which appears aggressive by contrast. The sound on this set is better than the Gillespie, but Ernest Hardys essay is not as successful as Tessers.
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