Sir Thomas Beecham was acknowledged as the finest interpreter of Delius' music during the last century. The composer's friend and biographer, his performances remain a benchmark against which all must be judged. This invaluable anthology contains some of the finest he taped for EMI in the 1940's and 50's. The first two discs contain all those works he recorded in stereo. They comprise a selection of shorter works, the complete Florida Suite and a wonderful 'Songs of Sunset' - settings of 'fin du siecle' poems by Ernest Dowson - splendidly sung by John Cameron and Maureen Forrester.
Out of the Afternoon is a splendid sounding 1962 set from the Roy Haynes Quartet - which, at the time, consisted of Haynes, Henry Grimes on bass, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Roland Kirk on saxes, manzello, stritch, and flutes. The album is a delightful mix of techniques in arrangement and performance, with all of the musicians delivering terrific work. Haynes' drumming is absolutely wonderful here, lightly dancing around the other instruments; Flanagan's piano playing is equally light and delicate; Grimes' bass work is outstanding (during "Raoul" you have a chance to hear one of the few bowed bass solos on records of that era); and there's no more to be said about Kirk's sax and flute work that hasn't been said a hundred times, apart from the fact that the flute solos on "Snap Crackle" help this cut emerge as particularly outstanding.
Hailing from a trio of Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) sessions, Django (1955) contains some of the earliest sides that Milt Jackson (vibraphone), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums) recorded for Prestige Records. Initially, the combo was part of Dizzy Gillespie's influential backing band and after a change in drummers (to Connie Kay), they continued as one of the more sophisticated aggregates of the post-bop era. The album commences with Lewis' sublime and serene title track "Django," dedicated to the memory of guitarist extraordinaire Django Reinhardt. This musical paean aptly recaptures the essence of Reinhardt's enigmatic gypsy-like nature, especially evident within Jackson's leads, which emerge from the thoughtful opening dirge with a refined, warm tone throughout.
Pianist Cedar Walton's debut as a leader is quite impressive. This CD reissue (which includes a "new" rendition of "Take the 'A' Train") showcases Walton with bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Billy Higgins on "My Ship," features a pair of quartet numbers with trumpeter Kenny Dorham, has tenor saxophonist Junior Cook in Dorham's place on two other pieces (including "Come Sunday") and uses a quintet on the two remaining selections. One of the top hard bop-based pianists to emerge during the 1960s, Walton also contributed four originals to his excellent set.
One of the truly wonderful aspects of living in a metropolis like New York City is the diversity that is built in. The mingling of cultures and ideas has made the City an important destination for open-minded and searching individuals. Hailing from Brazil, pianist/composer Vitor Gonçalves came to be a part of the bustling scene and has ended up bringing a vital new voice to the fore. His debut recording Vitor Gonçalves Quartet provides a great example of his mature voice in the blending of Brazilian music with progressive jazz.
Violinist Jenny Scheinman was a full-fledged Left Coaster before transplanting herself to the fertile artistic ground of Brooklyn, so it was only natural that she return to her former home turf to record her first CD as a leader at Oakland's venerable Yoshi's nightspot. On this debut release she seems to have emerged fully formed as a bandleader and compelling soloist. But given Scheinman's extensive experience preceding the September 1999 recording date, playing with everyone from Rova Saxophone Quartet to Charming Hostess, her skillfulness shouldn't be surprising.