Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Conversation with Guy Jones about Jan Lundgren's New Digital Reissues

Jan Lundgren
The Stockholm-based Fog Arts label has recently reissued three long-deleted albums by Swedish jazz pianist Jan Lundgren as digital downloads. I've already reviewed one of them in Jazz Flashes not too long ago, Jan Lundgren Trio Plays the Music of Victor Young. The other two are JLT Plays the Music of Jule Style and Something to Live For, the latter a Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn songbook. All three albums are available for download and streaming on all major internet platforms, and the Fog Arts people have further titles by Lundgren slated for digital reissue in the near future. For one of the episodes of the Jazz Flashes Podcast, which is available on YouTube and Podbean, I spoke with my good friend Guy Jones, the director of the Friends of Jan Lundgren fan club and General Manager of the newly formed Fog Arts label. You may listen to the whole conversation here:

Guy Jones
Throughout the podcast, Guy reminisces about how he became interested in Lundgren's music, how he started the Lundgren fan club, and how this new music venture came about. We also talk at length about the three Lundgren albums that are now available again after so many years thanks to the efforts of Fog Arts. All three CDs are highly recommendable and feature excellent guests such as singers Mark Murphy, Stacey Kent, and Deborah Brown, and legendary tenorman Johnny Griffin. I hope you enjoy the interview, and if so, please stay tuned for similar podcasts in the future!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Releases: Andy Brown's Direct Call

Born in New York but currently based in Chicago, Andy Brown, 41, is one of most accomplished jazz guitarist on the scene nowadays. Barely a year after the release of his lovely solo album, Soloist, Brown returns with an equally fantastic quartet outing entitled Direct Call (Delmark 5023), which very appropriately showcases the versatility and depth of his playing. Influenced by great guitarists such as Joe Pass, George Van Eps, Howard Alden (with whom he has also recorded for Delmark), and Kenny Poole, Brown has been around for quite a while and has had the chance to play alongside the likes of Harry Allen, Ken Peplowski, and Kurt Elling, to name but a few. He often collaborates with his wife, the vocalist Petra Van Nuis, and when in Chicago, you can always catch him at some of the most renowned clubs in the Windy City, such as The Green Mill and Andy's Jazz Club. At the latter he appears with his quartet, which is featured on this highly recommendable new album, and which includes Jeremy Kahn on piano, Joe Policastro on bass, and Phil Gratteau on drums. Writing in the October issue of Downbeat, critic Michael Jackson has called Brown a "classy guitarist" and his new CD "a swingin' affair," and he's absolutely right on both counts. It's at once rewarding and refreshing to be able to listen to this kind of unabashedly swinging music, and at the end of its 10 selections, the album actually leaves the listener hungry for more.

It doesn't hurt that Brown has had the opportunity to record with his working band, a group of outstanding musicians who understand one another perfectly. The CD was cut in a single session in Chicago in December 2015, and from the opening track, Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges's "The Jeep Is Jumpin'," we have the instant feeling that we're in for a treat. Though the accent is always on the swinging nature of Brown's guitar playing, there's a wide variety of tunes on the album, from dazzling displays of technique and velocity like "Catch Me" to the funky and bluesy overtones of Hank Mobley's "Funk in Deep Freeze" to Latin excusions such as Johnny Mandel's "El Cajon" and the Jobim-Vinicius tune "Ela E Carioca," which is one of the highlights of the disc. The title track, "Direct Call" is a classy reading of "Appel Direct," taken from the Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli songbook and used as a vehicle to show off the seamless interplay between Brown's guitar and Kahn's piano. On the slower side we have "Relaxing," while the somewhat overlooked Hoagy Carmichael composition "One Morning in May" is taken at a faster pace. The strangely titled "Freak of the Week," with its hip, bluesy melody, is the perfect album closer, with some solid playing by Brown and some interesting contributions from Kahn. As noted, there's a lot of swing on the record, yet the most memorable track is a ballad. Russ Columbo's classic "Prisoner of Love," approached with gusto and elegance, showcases Brown's most lyrical, intimate side and is a pleasure to hear. Overall, this is an outstanding album that works as the perfect introduction to Andy Brown's exciting guitar artistry.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Jazz Flashes Videocast # 3 - Frank Sinatra Box Sets

As we're slowly approaching the holiday season, a new Frank Sinatra 4-CD/1-DVD box set has recently hit the stores. Entitled World on a String, it features live performances by Sinatra recorded between the 1950s and '80s in different locations around the world, including Monaco, Italy, Australia, Egypt, and the Dominican Republic. In many ways, it's a follow-up to the excellent series of sets issued in the past several years under the titles of Vegas, New York, and London, all of them offering unreleased concerts taped in those cities. Though I haven't gotten my hands on this brand-new set, it sounds like a great Yuletide present for the Sinatra fan, and its release has given me the idea to create this video where I discuss some of my favorite Sinatra box sets that have been made available over the years. You can watch this videocast here:

Frank Sinatra in Egypt, 1979
In the video I concentrate on the aforementioned city-specific sets, but I also go back to the beginning of Sinatra's career to review The Song Is You, which documents Young Blue Eyes' association with Tommy Dorsey between 1940 and 1942. I also discuss 1996's The Complete Capitol Singles Collection, which contains all of Sinatra's recordings for Capitol that were released as singles throughout the 1950s, and I talk about A Voice on Air, a beautifully presented set released last year that offers an overview of Sinatra the radio star between 1935 and 1955. I have deliberately left out the mammoth sets that include Sinatra's whole body of work for Columbia, Capitol, and Reprise in the belief that, though very recommendable, those are strictly for dedicated Sinatra aficionados. I hope you enjoy the video, whether you own these great boxes or not. In my opinion, they're all worth the money, and I like them all for different reasons that I hope to have explained successfully in the course of the videocast.

Frank Sinatra, the radio star in the 1940s