CapRadio’s jazz hosts spend their days immersed in jazz music from all over the world. Each month, they pull together some of their favorite tracks that they can’t get enough of each month.
This month, they’re featuring tributes to greats like Cole Porter and Thelonious Monk as well as exciting takes on a few old classics. Enjoy!
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Gary G. Vercelli
“Anything Goes” — Harry Connick, Jr.
Harry Connick, Jr.’s latest CD, “True Love,” celebrates the prolific artistry of composer Cole Porter. Although many of the overly-busy big band arrangements on this album detract from Connick’s vocal presentation, “Anything Goes” finds his rich voice in fine form. While indebted stylistically to Frank Sinatra, Connick’s confident delivery here shows he has emerged as his own man.
“Stronger Magic” — Leslie Odom, Jr.
Known primarily for his work on Broadway’s “Hamilton,” Leslie Odom, Jr. also has some impressive jazz credentials, such as headlining the Monterey Jazz Festival a few years back. On his new CD “Mr.,” this Tony Award-winning singer/actor/dancer shines on “Stronger Magic.” While the song flirts with references to the old standard “Witchcraft,” Odom’s fresh approach sets new standards of his own.
I’m starting off 2020 by going back to the beginning. We all have those certain recordings that first piqued our interest in jazz and set us on a lifelong journey of music discovery. What follows are three beautiful ballads that I first heard as a teenager and derive just as much joy and inspiration from now as I did then.
“Polka Dots and Moonbeams” – Wes Montgomery
“The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery” is the first jazz album I ever owned. It was a Christmas gift from my parents in 1997 and at the time, I don’t believe they realized how impactful their gift would be. I had never heard a guitar played like that before. Montgomery’s seemingly endless creativity on this record inspired me to pursue what has become a fulfilling music career. Every tune on this album is an inspiration, but this rendition of Jimmy Van Heusen’s classic composition is so beautiful, I find it’s the one I most often revisit.
“My Funny Valentine” – Chet Baker
This is my favorite rendition of one of the most beautiful songs ever written. There are many great versions by many wonderful artists, of course, but every time I hear Chet Baker sing these timeless lyrics, I truly believe them. This is the recording that taught me how important the lyrics are, even when a tune is being performed as an instrumental.
“Naima” – John Coltrane
For me, this is the prettiest piece of music John Coltrane ever produced. It’s also the first piece of music that opened my ears to the infinite harmonic possibilities that exist in jazz music. Coltrane’s use of pedal tones underneath rich, complex chords make the perfect accompaniment to his beautiful, sustaining melody. It’s stunning and opened a completely new musical world for me.
“Well, You Needn’t (Live)” — Monty Alexander
I was first exposed to Jamaican born pianist Monty Alexander a few years ago through a radio program called The Lowdown: Conversations With Christian McBride. I know I picked an album last time that featured the music of Thelonious Monk, but this one was just too good to pass up. It's full of classic compositions, each one brought to life with wonderfully addictive rhythm and groove.
My favorite track on this album is a version of "Well, You Needn't," performed live at the Paris Philharmonie. Live tracks always seem to have a special energy to them, and the saxophone solo by Wayne Escoffery on this one is blistering to say the least. It came in at #12 on the JazzWeek charts, and it's certainly one of my favorites of 2019.
“Tiptoe” — Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra
It's hard to pick favorites from my rotation every month without including some big band music, and “Consummation” is simply one of the best. This album has been high on my list of favorites since I heard it and got the opportunity to play a few arrangements of it in college.
Trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis together have made some of the most classic contributions to jazz, and they also made the Village Vanguard such a staple. "Tiptoe" is my favorite because it happens to be one of the tunes I was able to play with a big band. It's also got a really cool, soli line between the brass and the bass (which is always a big plus in my book). Make sure you listen to this album all the way though.