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Back Cover

Gryphon Diablo 300

Impulse! 000602577573781
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

In 1963, bassist, composer, and bandleader Charles Mingus recorded three albums for Impulse! Records. The first of these, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, is one of his best, and fit the Impulse! aesthetic of recording cutting-edge jazz. The third, Mingus Plays Piano, is a unique and valuable look at Mingus on the instrument he used to write his brilliant music.

“Baby Face” Willette: “Face to Face”

Blue Note B0029750-01
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: *****
Overall Enjoyment: *****

Grant Green: “Grant’s First Stand”

Blue Note B7745061
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****½

Blue Note’s celebration of its 80th birthday continues, and I wanted to cover two new pressings featuring nearly the same players but released in different reissue series. “Baby Face” Willette’s Face to Face has been returned to print on vinyl as part of the Tone Poet series, mastered by Kevin Gray under Joe Harley’s supervision. Grant Green’s Grant’s First Stand is part of the Blue Note 80 series, also mastered by Gray but produced by Don Was.

Verve 80029739-02 (2 CDs), B0029738-01 (3 LPs)
Formats: CD and LP

Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****

When Stan Getz returned to the US in 1961 after three years in Europe, John Coltrane had just won the top slot in the Downbeat and Metronome jazz polls, a position Getz had held for the previous 11 years, and Sonny Rollins was returning to the scene after two years of study and practice. Coltrane and Rollins were now the leading tenor players of the day. Getz was a little out of step.

ECM 2626 B0029977-02 (CD), 2626 7739824 (LP)
Formats: CD and LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Two years ago, ECM released Small Town, a collection of duo performances by guitarist Bill Frisell and double bassist Thomas Morgan. Recorded in March 2016 at the Village Vanguard, the album’s eight tracks drew songs from different genres -- jazz, rock, country, film soundtracks -- to create a wonderful example of two musicians intimately communicating with and bringing out each other’s best.

Verve 00602577089619
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ***½

Vinyl’s health -- it’s grown in sales every year since 2011 -- continues in a physical media marketplace that’s otherwise shrinking. In 2018, LP sales in the US alone totaled nearly 17 million units, and close to one-third of revenues from physical recording formats. So it’s a little surprising that some record labels have been slow to take advantage of this revitalized segment of the market. Verve’s foot-dragging is especially puzzling given the fact that the label is, with Blue Note -- now committed to reissuing much of its catalog on vinyl -- part of Universal Music.

Blue Note B0029413-01
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****

When saxophonist Sam Rivers began recording as a leader for Blue Note Records in 1964, he’d played briefly in Miles Davis’s quintet, and had also played in sessions led by Tony Williams, the drummer in Davis’s band. Rivers was a bit too avant-garde for Davis, who replaced him with Wayne Shorter. The four albums Rivers made for Blue Note between 1964 and 1973 were cutting edge, but still accessible enough for the label’s loyalists.

Parlophone DB83881 0190295692735
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ***½
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ***½

Let’s Dance, David Bowie’s 15th studio album, appeared in 1983. Videos based on its singles were in heavy rotation on MTV, which by then had established itself as the dominant promotional tool for new pop music. Bowie’s acute visual sense made him a good fit for MTV, and his videos for “Let’s Dance,” “Modern Love,” and “China Girl” won viewers and sales. Those singles were among his biggest selling, and the LP hit no.1 worldwide.

Intervention IR-021
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****½
Sound Quality: *****
Overall Enjoyment: ****½

Matthew Sweet’s first two albums, Inside (1986) and Earth (1989), showed promise, but their production locks them in time. Nor, when he recorded them, had Sweet quite pulled together his influences into the inspired level of songwriting that would make his third album, Girlfriend (1991), so unexpectedly good, and one of the best records of the 1990s.

Shakey Pictures/Reprise 574192-1
Format: 2 LPs

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****

Neil Young rivals Bob Dylan for making large amounts of archival material available to his fans, giving them a clearer picture of how he creates his music, and how he presents it in concert. In April 2018 he released Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live, comprising performances from a three-night stint at the Roxy Theater in 1973. He closes out 2018 with Songs for Judy, a collection of solo performances from a November 1976 tour.

Dunham DUN1007 (DAP-054)
Format: LP

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***½
Overall Enjoyment: ****

The last few years have been tough ones for lovers of soul music. Aretha Franklin died last August of pancreatic cancer, less than two years after Sharon Jones, the shining light of Daptone Records, passed away from the same illness. In September 2017, Daptone and soul lost another great when Charles Bradley died, of stomach cancer.