Murder, Inc.

Rustling beneath the cover of midnight shadows lives the crippling dangers of the unknown. Blood-stained wingtips disturb calm and reflective puddles, while silence strangles the throat of innocence with a conservative necktie. This is Murder, Inc.. 12 mischievous anthems of criminal intent and strong-armed justice tussling with the nicotine-stained hands of fate. This Series 2000 release from Time Records (1960) was composed and conducted by Irving Joseph, and makes for an alluring inner monologue soundtrack for those restless nights when stress and suspicion creep gingerly beneath your window. If Sam Spade owned a jazz club, Murder, Inc. would be served every Sunday morning… with a mimosa and a side of ham-and-cheese waffles.

KJazz of Rage

I’d just like to say thank you to California State University, Long Beach’s KJazz (88.1 FM) for instilling calming and soothing easy listening jazz on my morning commutes into work. It’s because of this prominent station, and its perfectly timed playing of Bewitched by Paul Desmond, that I didn’t slam on my horn and offer screams of rage to the choch in the white SUV that swerved in front of me, forcing me to slam on my brakes and almost caused a much, unneeded accident. Serenity remained, and for that, I have KJazz to thank. (Photo above lifted from the internet.)

Jimmy D.

Mom and pop Dorsey must have been proud parents. Jimmy, older brother to Tommy, enjoyed an immensely successful career as band-leader and musician (clarinet and saxophone). He teamed up with his brother in the late 20s and early 30s to form The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. The commercially successful brothers would go separate ways on separate labels, and would each find several years of critical acclaim. The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra would reunite in 1945, and again in 1954 to perform on Jackie Gleason’s Stage Show, a successful weekly hit television show centered on The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (at this time, a new incarnation from the original). Both brothers would be dead by the end of 1957, but with the power of music, their legacy lives on.

Misty Music for Lovers Only

MistyTruth & Honesty 101 here, kids. I know nothing of Mr. Jackie Gleason outside his reference in Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 time traveling classic, Back to the Future. Shame on me, for sure, don’t’cha know? So how better to dive into this pool-playing hustler’s repertoire than a single LP of his first two albums? I can think of no better way to begin the Gleason journey, than at the very beginning. On a side note… what, exactly, are we referring to when we use the term “misty” here? Inquiring minds want to know…

Hello, Dolly!

LouisThis 1964 Kapp Records release of Satchmo’s Hello, Dolly! was more of a happenstance release, capitalizing on the Kapp Records success of Louis’ #1 hit single of the same name. Some sources say that Armstrong’s Hello, Dolly! knocked The Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love from the number one spot, but my sources may be inaccurate. 12 tracks of unmistakable Louis Armstrong trumpet bliss, Hello, Dolly! features Dixieland jazz renditions of Blueberry Hill, Jeepers Creepers, and A Kiss to Build a Dream On. Some days call for the subtle, honest brilliance of Louis Armstrong, and today is one of those days.

Live in Concert

GouletRobert Gerard Goulet is many thing to many, many people. Vegas crooner, housewife heart-throb, and of course, uncompromising supernatural connoisseur à la Beetlejuice. But before his mustache-swaggered role in Tim Burton’s 1988 classic, Mr. Goulet released his first live album, 1963’s Robert Goulet in Person: Recorded Live in Concert. Jam packed with a medley per side, Mr. Goulet’s sugar sweet wails covers, including the medleys, 17 poppy jazz favorites, and is perfect mood setting music for dress-up play dates with your cocktail wielding significant other. Mr. Goulet comes highly recommended from the Groove. Happy Friday!

Rock-A-Bye Basie

BasieThe Big Bay Band (one that I’d not previously hear of) released a tribute album, of sorts, to the great Count Basie with their 1958 party pleaser, Rock-A-Bye Basie. Release on translucent red vinyl, as you can clearly see, this 10-track “covers” release includes works by George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, J. Mayo Williams, Lester Young, and the great Count Basie.

In you’re in the big band mood on a little band budget, Rock-A-Bye Basie is that swingin’ jazz medley you’ve been searching for.

…of the Year

PBJLotYIn 1962 (from what I can gather), Stan Kenton was Playboy’s Jazz Leader of the Year. What does this mean you ask? It means that his 1962 Capitol Records album, Adventures in Time, A Concerto for Orchestra got a blaze orange sticker (with now 53 year old adhesive) slapped prominently across this album’s minimal cover. 53 year old stickers on album covers, man! K’mon!

What’chu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?

Strokes FrontI’m not entirely sure how different these strokes of “19 contemporary artists performing music of our time” were in 1971, but that doesn’t stop Columbia Records’ “special low price limited time offer” marketing ploy from capturing a wonderful, meshy, medley of jazz rock, southern fried rock, psych rock, sci-fi jazz, open field soul, and piano-friendly folk rock (and that’s just side A) on one, easy to access record.

Strokes BackDifferent Strokes launches with a bit of a gaffe as Johnny Winter And’s Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo leads the pack of (somewhat) lesser known greats, but strategic placing of the needle can very easily, and wisely, turn this 19 track slab of delicately formed polyvinyl chloride into a 18 track time capsule representing the best Columbia Records had to offer in the burgeoning, wide-eyed, and fried-minded 1970s… but what the hell do I know? I wouldn’t have been born for another eight years.

Different Strokes is definitely worth seeking out if you don’t already own it, and can be had for exceptionally cheap if you’re so inclined. Coming highly recommended by the PG, Different Strokes is the perfect soundtrack to this, or any coffee-sipping, cloudless, southern California Saturday morning (my esteemed apologies to those residing in less than ideal climate conditions).

Your Past is Knocking… DO! NOT! ANSWER THAT DOOR!

Jazz ImpDear Pretentious, emasculated self,

Your inevitable past is popping in for a formal, dish-stealing visit… prep yourself… the steps laid before you are crying for recognition… and those be damned who ignore their past… damned is the fluff that fills my pillows… the elastic that keeps up my socks… we’re cool, damned and I… I mean, what’s the alternative? Damned be damned? Well, that’s just silly.

Written last night amongst a jaunt of medical mist, the above, rather jagged sentence was fingered, somewhat without my knowledge, and quite promptly serves as a morning reminder that I should, apparently, be on the lookout for some inevitable nightmare from my yesteryear. A slight-of-hand message from my id.

Jazz Imp BookAll this means nothing as of now since I’m listening to a record I’ve owned, but have never listened to. Uncharted waters crash against my seafaring boat of sickness as I enjoy, rather amateurishly, the blanketed sound of A New Approach to Jazz Improvisation Book & Record Set For All Instruments by Jamey Aebersold Volume 1 – Fourth Edition.

My guard is up, you devilish weapon of past question marks! If and when you knock… I’ll be ready. Until then, I’ll calmly wait… methodically planning your demise.

Bags’ Groove

Bags' GrooveQ: What do you get when you combine the mythical talents of jazz Gods Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Clarke, Horace Silver and Percy Heath? A: Prestige 7109 AKA Bags’ Groove.

Bags’ Groove, the track, is presented on Bags’ Groove, the album, in two takes. Clocking in at a combined 20+ minutes, takes 1 and 2 Bags’ are just the slippery smooth, red-eyed blues you’d expect from the usual suspects, and sadly represents the only Monk / Davis combo I own on vinyl (a rectifiable issue, I assure you).

Bags' BackRecorded in 1954 but not released until 1957, Bags’ Groove, the album, is notable for featuring the first ever use on a studio recording of the Harmon mute, a specific sound Mr. Davis is particularly known for.

Bags’ Groove is perfect coffee sipping, sunny, Sunday morning music, and comes highly recommended.

Bobcats Blues, Baby!

Bobcats BluesNot only is Bobcats Blues by Bob Crosby a riot of a blues album, its cover art is the best I’ve seen nearly all year! Released on Coral Records in 1956 (according to allmusic.com, although I believe this to be false), Bob Crosby and his merry band of saucer-lickers combine brass-happy jazz with the upswing ruckus of big band blues. Better known for their Dixieland ways, the Bobcats remain ambiguously cool while reminiscing the big band sounds of yesteryear (think the Dorsey Brothers, Les Brown or Glenn Miller on three pots of coffee).

This cat-astrophicly cool cover will remain, proudly I might add, on display in the PG office for the foreseeable future. With its combination of great, upbeat background jazz-infused blues, together with its amazing “cats on parade” cover, I strongly suggest you run out and adopt this album as soon as humanly possibly. Although Bob’s older brother Bing stole much of the family’s spotlight, mom and pop Crosby can’t help but view Bobcats Blues as the family’s crowning achievement.

Spy Hunting Peter Gunn

Spy Hunter FrontI imagine, that for many TV watching thrill-seekers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Peter Gunn Theme is synonymous with well, the show Peter Gunn. The award winning Peter Gunn Theme (1 Emmy, 2 Grammys) was composed by the late, great Henry Mancini, and has been heard by just about every living soul the world over. I’d heard this so called Peter Gunn Theme, quite literally, countless times as a snot nosed kid, but had no idea who Henry Mancini was, and until just recently, had never heard of a suave, cool jazz-listening PI by the name of Peter Gunn. Hang in there… I’ll try to make this quick.

Photo courtesy of www.giantbomb.com

Photo courtesy of www.giantbomb.com

The year was 1987, and our local grocery store offered 2-day video game rentals. This was a fairly new addition to the existing VHS rental market, and served as an 8-bit lifesaver for many of my adolescent days. I saved up my weekly allowance and would bike down to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store (the village consisted of 1200 people, so you can imagine the trip didn’t take very long), and peruse the Nintendo Entertainment System new game releases. I’d always been a fan of spies (not entirely sure why), so the new release, Spy Hunter, caught my eye… and my $2. I waited in line to pay for my new 48-hour obsession, and without even looking at the MAD Magazines, I biked home as quickly as I could to see how many spies I could successfully hunt down.

Spy Hunter BackIf you’ve never played either the 1983 arcade or the 1987 NES version of Spy Hunter, its theme… the Spy Hunter Theme, apparently, goes by another, more popular name… the Peter Gunn Theme. I’ve grown to love Mancini, and although I’ve never seen a lick of Peter Gunn’s spy hunting abilities, I’m interested in checking it out. That being said, the Peter Gunn Theme will always and forever be known, at least for those of us who grew up in the 80s, as the Spy Hunter Theme. Watch out for those armored cars, kids, and don’t forget to return your rented cartridges. Late fees are a bitch!

Did He Just Say “Supersonic Honeymoon?”

Ames BrothersI’m a sucker for vintage space and/or rocket-themed cover art, and you can imagine (it’s okay, I give you permission) my excitement when the spaced-out, black hole of vintage music behind the interstellar cover art is actually magnetic and borderline whimsically enchanting.

I’m on the hunt for another copy of Destination Moon, as the bottom left corner has a bit of Moon juice spilled on it (as you can plainly see). This album was released in 1958, so I’m going with the (by no means made up) story that the Ames Brothers ACTUALLY traveled to the moon to record AND press this album, but in their hurried attempts to jettison back to Earth to disperse their space-rock discovery amongst the lemming-like Earth creatures, they accidentally spilled a large amount of Moon juice on a few boxes containing Destination Moon, packed and ready for worldwide distribution. Yeah, that’s it…

Destination MoonLate 50s Jazz Pop with a theme that’s… I’m sorry; I have to… out of this world. I don’t own anything else by the Ames Brothers, but my intergalactic curiosity for more, good-time, secretly wholesome, space-themed 50s music will undoubtedly point me to the direction of the orbiting cluster of space debris called, the Ames Brothers.

Empire Jazz – Produced and Arranged by Ron Carter

empire-jazz-coverThe Galactic Empire, and all its personnel, get the dive-bar treatment in this junk induced, vodka-and-coke-spilling, dank, eye-burning, smoke-filled classic for the casual 1980 Contemporary Jazz fan in all of us. The very phrase “Contemporary Jazz” still freaks me out.

While listening to this record, I imagine myself sitting at Croce’s restaurant in San Diego, drinking a blue milk cocktail (a DOUBLE, why not?) while trying to make casual conversation with the person next to me, who is too busy scanning the room for someone more interesting to talk with. Very put together, and a bit too structured for my taste, Ron Carter and his (at that time) modern version of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes use this album more as a vehicle to display their various talents (of which this album has many), rather than a stage in which to proclaim their love for Star Wars themed music. 90% straight-edge Contemporary Jazz and 10% Star Wars, Empire Jazz lacks the campy, not-taking-itself-too-seriously, classic lounge vibe that the Evil Genius Orchestra delivered in 1999’s Cocktails in the Cantina (AllMusic.com Review). It’s Contemporary Jazz all right, but this album misses the mark set by Meco in his 1977 classic, Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk; An album I misguidedly attributed Empire Jazz to mirror.

End of side 1

empire-jazz-backRSO (Robert Stigwood Organisation) released this album in an attempt to appeal to the adult Star Wars fan, or so I gather. Empire Jazz, also known as RS-1-3085 is “also available in 8 track 8T-1-3085 and cassette CT-1-3085.” Too bad they couldn’t have worked TK-421 into their cataloging system, which would have been fun… a bit more fun than this album, I’m afraid.

The cover is, quite simply put, absolutely hilarious. It depicts Chewbacca doing his Thelonious Monk impersonation on the keys; C-3P0 working his well oiled, droid digits on the upright; R2-D2 using his electronic tentacles on the skins, which I buy, by the way; (I imagine R2 could rival Buddy Rich, if he’d ever lower himself to a challenge… R2, that is). And okay, I understand the idea of incorporating the “Empire” on the cover of an album called Empire Jazz, but on sax is a Stormtrooper… not too outlandish a notion, but I’d imagine it to be difficult playing a reed instrument WHILE WEARING A HELMET! And if that isn’t enough, the Sith Lord himself, Darth freakin’ Vader sits at an otherwise empty table with hands crossed, seemingly enthralled that a Wookiee had the patience to learn to play the piano.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Ronald Levin Carter has got talent. I mean, the man played with Miles Davis for crying out loud. It’s a finely executed album, just not exactly as kitschy as the cover suggests.

Current market value (as I type this) ranges from $2.94 in VG condition to $10.00 in NM condition (For Sale Here).

If you dig the Contemporary Jazz thing, consider this album. If you’re looking for Meco 2.0, you’re going to be disappointed.

 End of side 2