Original Jazz Classics Remasters: Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Art Tatum

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Pablo Records 40th anniversary has been cause for celebration at Concord Music Group. Their latest batch of Original Jazz Classics Remasters was first released in the ‘70s under the Pablo banner. The most challenging listen is The Ellington Suites by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. Three suites are found here, the earliest of which having been recorded in 1959, “The Queen’s Suite (A Suite Dedicated to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II).” Its best moments are its simplest and most melodic. “The Single Petal of a Rose” is a work of true beauty, featuring Ellington unaccompanied on piano.

“The Goutelas Suite,” recorded in 1971, follows—a rather brisk piece; four movements bookended by a brief fanfare. The highlight is the rollicking “Having at It,” with extraordinary tenor soloing courtesy of Paul Gonsalves. “The Uwis Suite” was committed to tape in 1972, kicked off by the swaggering “Uwis.” Unpredictably, Ellington follows that with a quick polka called “Klop” before heading into a hard-swinging blues piece, “Loco Madi.” The album won a Grammy award in 1976 for Best Jazz Performance by a Big Band. This reissue has been expanded with the inclusion of the rumbling rhythm section workout “The Kiss,” taped in ’72.

Recorded in 1974, Dizzy’s Big 4 lives up to its title with a major league quartet including Joe Pass (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), Mickey Roker (drums), and of course the trumpet of Dizzy Gillespie. It was a hard album for me to get into, not for lack of quality but simply because I couldn’t stop hitting ‘repeat’ on the opening track, Gillespie’s “Frelimo.” The ensemble interplay couldn’t be tastier, but it’s Roker who steals that tune with a down and dirty drum solo. Highlights pile up in short order, with Gillespie in supremely relaxed, mature form. His horn glides over everything with absolute finesse, kicking into overdrive on “Be Bop (Dizzy’s Fingers).” Pass mystifies with an ace solo on that one, too. But it’s the rhythm section that really makes Big 4 irresistible. Check out that deep groove Brown cuts on “Jitterbug Waltz.”

Dizzy’s Big 4 is augmented by previously unreleased alternate takes of both “Jitterbug” and Irving Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby.” The album take of the latter cooks just a little hotter, but Gillespie and Pass get in some licks on the alternate that easily equal anything on the official release. A feel-good jazz record if there ever was one, the expanded Big 4 is just under an hour of pure fun.

Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Vol 1 cover (200x200).jpgArt Tatum’s Solo Masterpieces, Vol. 1 contains no bonus tracks, but the reissue is actually a twofer. The first nine cuts were first released by Pablo as Vol. 1, while the second seven were released as Vol. 9 in the Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces series. Despite being sourced from several sessions (two in 1953 and two in ’55), the approach is the same: Tatum, one of jazz’s undisputed piano masters, alone at the piano interpreting the Great American Songbook as only he could. One of a kind takes on standards such as “Have You Met Miss Jones?” and “I’m in the Mood for Love” define what can be generated by one man and a piano. Hopefully the rest of the series is reissued in short order.

As usual with Concord Music Group’s OJC reissues, each album boasts new liner notes and excellent 24-bit remastering.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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