Published in time for Billie Holiday's 100th birthday celebration, John Szwed's new book, "Billie Holiday: The Musician and The Myth" is not a full-length biography, but it reads like notes for one. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that Szwed's in-depth discussion of Holiday's autobiography is in-depth and thorough, but the musical discussions that follow are sketchy and uneven.
New in Retro Reviews:
BILLIE HOLIDAY: "ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL" During seven recording sessions in August 1956 and January 1957, Billie Holiday recorded three albums which represented some of the best singing of her later years. Several years ago, these three albums, "All or Nothing at All", "Body and Soul" and "Songs for Distingué Lovers" were combined on a 2-CD set. To commemorate Holiday's centennial, Thomas Cunniffe listens again to these superb albums, finding Holiday's interpretive powers at their peak.
AT THE OPERA HOUSE REVISED AND UPDATED! In 1957, Norman Granz launched the 18th tour of Jazz at the Philharmonic. The concerts yielded 5 separate albums featuring Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Stan Getz, J.J. Johnson, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and the JATP All-Stars. All of the albums were titled "At the Opera House" but on four of the five albums, the mono editions were recorded at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles! In this Historical Essay, Thomas Cunniffe sorts out the discographical maze and discusses all five of the albums in both their mono and stereo editions.
Anita Wardell may be the greatest singer you've never heard. Well-known in Europe, but barely known in the US, Wardell is one of the best scat singers in jazz today, and she also is a superb interpreter of vocalese, jazz originals and standards. Thomas Cunniffe introduces you to Wardell in this profile which features 5 complete audio selections and a video performance.
For many jazz fans and historians, there are two categories of jazz singers: Billie Holiday and everyone else. Thomas Cunniffe has a similar rating system for Billie Holiday tribute albums: there's Carmen McRae's and everyone else's. However, two new Holiday tributes by José James and Cassandra Wilson stand up well to comparisons with McRae's classic LP. The similarities and differences are discussed in this month's Sidetracks.
This month's instrumental CD reviews spotlight three musicians equally impressive as composers and performers. Trombonist Marshall Gilkes reunites with the WDR Big Band for “Köln”, Pianist Oded Lev-Ari leads a unique 11-piece ensemble on "Threading", and Myra Melford's quintet pay tribute to the late Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano with the suite "Snowy Egret". Thomas Cunniffe reviews the compositions and performances.
The latest CDs by pianists Jeremy Siskind and Harold Mabern feature a plethora of guest vocalists. Such loaded rosters may cause some observers to claim that the artists and record companies are trying to boost the commercial appeal of the albums. However, our reviewer Thomas Cunniffe feels that the vocalists help fulfill the artistic goals of the leaders and that the casual nature of the albums belie any accusations of commercialism.
From the stage of the Lakewood Cultural Center, Cyrille Aimée told the audience that she loves performing in Colorado. And so, just a few months after performing in Denver, she and her quartet returned for concert performances of the music from her CD It's a Good Day. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that while the music was superb, the program only showcased part of Cyrille Aimée's abundant talents.
and the movies are America's two greatest contributions to the arts,
but Hollywood rarely gets it right when jazz musicians are portrayed on
the silver screen. "Syncopation", a 1942 film directed by William
Dieterle has been issued on home video for the first time, and while
it's not the classic that the trailer claims, it is considerably better
than most Hollywood jazz films. As a bonus, the DVD and Blu-Ray editions
contain nine exquisitely restored jazz shorts featuring Louis
Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw, Jack Teagarden
and Cab Calloway, and reviewer Thomas Cunniffe states that these films
are more entertaining than the feature.
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