Here is the listing for the compilation CD that celebrates my son Daniel
Alexander’s birth, along with a smattering of commentary.
1 al dimeola & paco de lucia - mediterranean
sundance (from dimeola’s elegant gypsy, 1976).
has it that DiMeola and de Lucia recorded this breath-taking piece at their
first meeting. It shares the delight of two great masters generating common
ground. At the time, DiMeola was with Chick Corea’s sparkling Return to
Forever, along with bassist Stanley Clarke. De Lucia was already a noted
flamenco virtuoso. They went on to create a formidable guitar trio with John
2 cassandra wilson - right here, right now (from traveling
How did I miss Cassandra Wilson for so long? A rare singer in the same exalted
league as Ella, Lady Day and Sassy Vaughan. As luck would have it, I found
eight of her albums at knock-down prices through Amazon. Every one a gem.
In the the eighties, she moved from avant-funk to neo-traditional jazz, and
on to an original expression of music from Son House to Sting. Her musical
commitment is mesmerising. An astonishing voice married to flawless phrasing
and unique arrangement. Also a worthy lyricist. And such taste in musicians!
3 colosseum - walking in the park (from those who are about
to die salute you, 1969).
my piece on guitarists
, I lamented
the difficulty of finding a copy of James Litherland’s Mogul Thrash
CD. It was marvellous to hear from one of his friends, and soon after receive
a signed copy of the disc (and, yes, it is well worth having). Colosseum
were the leading edge of Progressive Jazz-Rock. Perhaps the only edge.
This version of Graham Bond’s song about dizzy infatuation is simply
infectious vocal bubbles with joy. An absolute gem.
4 van morrison - moondance, (from moondance, 1970).
Van can’t have expected the success of astral weeks
he managed to capitalize on it, an unusual feat. Most artists are too burned
out from touring that first definitive album to make a worthy follow-up.
Van Morrison had abandoned the British R&B scene, having fronted Them
), to team up with jazzers in New York. And it was and is
a fabulous night for a moondance.
5 randy crawford - you bring the sun out (from secret combination,
Vivienne, my lovely wife, was surprised to find two disco
discs in my collection (the other is Crawford’s now we may begin
but this is surely one of the sweetest songs delivered by one of the sweetest
voices. The best vibrato in the business. Mellifluous? This is what honey
actually sounds like. And Vivienne sings along to Sam and Dan in the car.
6 santana - samba pa ti (from abraxas, 1970).
The Santana band created a new fusion of Latin and Rock,
and their first four albums are treasures. This is among the gentlest and
most delicate of electric guitar pieces. It showcases the famous Carlos
Santana ‘cry’ backed by the world’s most lyrical percussion
section. The album also includes the splendid Santana version of Peter Green’s black
7 nat king cole - makin’ whoopee(from the great
nat king cole, volume 2).
Recorded in the forties with his trio. Before his incarnation
as the king of crooners, Cole was the star of race
jazz. Ray Charles
wanted nothing more than to be Nat King Cole, and for a while earned his living
imitating him. Oscar Peterson rated Cole among the very best pianists. The
Oscar Moore was one of the first virtuosos of the electric guitar, and
had the most mellow tone. This three disc set costs less than most single
CDs; so buy volume one as well.
8 jimi hendrix - belly button window(from first rays of the
new rising sun. First released on cry of love, 1971).
Written for drummer Mitch Mitchell’s wife while
she was pregnant. Vivienne identified with this while carrying Dan. The whimsical lyric and the guitar’s soft conversation are lovely. And, yes, he obviously did believe in reincarnation, so let’s hope he was right, and that he comes back really soon.
9 john mclaughlin - zakir (from remember shakti, 1999).
John McLaughlin has toured a couple of times with the original - and astonishing - Shakti
percussionists. He wrote this piece for Shakti tabla player Zakir Hussein,
who always seems to be brimming with exuberance when he performs. Here,
McLaughlin is joined by the great master of the bansuri bamboo flute, Hariprasad
Chaurasia. We were going to call Daniel Zakir
until almost the last moment.
Listen and you will know exactly why.
10 ella fitzgerald, louis armstrong - tenderly (from Ella
and Louis, 1957).
Satchmo was the first great innovator of jazz, and Ella
Fitzgerald the first of its first ladies. When his scout brought her to
the band, Chick Webb said that he would not put anything so ugly on his stage.
But once on the stage, no-one was ever more beautiful. Webb not only put
her out at the front, he bequeathed the band to her. Here Armstrong’s
happy trumpet blast and his blissful unconcern for the lyric (the breeze
erased the trees, tenderly
marry with Ella’s crystal-pure voice. She ends with a scat imitation of
Satchmo - who
invented the technique. Heart-warming perfection.
11 jimi hendrix - angel (from first rays of the new rising
sun, 1971, 1997).
Jimi’s mother was a dancer, who left him and little
brother Leon with their father. He obviously had a very special relationship
with her. He was in his teens when she died, and this song - frequently reworked - was
a tribute to her. The song had surfaced earlier as little wing
next), and the two are combined in a home-recording on south saturn delta
Somehow, Hendrix managed to take comfort from his mother’s death, which
is quite an achievement. Golden rose
also inspired by her. They are all beautiful songs.
12 nguyên lê - little wing (from million waves,
Nguyên Lê is a Vietnamese who grew up in Paris. He taught himself
guitar by listening to Deep Purple’
's Ritchie Blackmore, before evolving
into one of the great jazz players. His album purple
is a tribute
to Hendrix, but this fine take on little wing
comes from a jazzier
album. There are few guitarists who can add anything to a Hendrix piece - Lê grooves
and dices up the very air. Jimi would have loved it.
13 jack bruce - I feel free (from more jack than god,
The child prodigy jazz composer who left the Royal Scottish Academy of Music
to sing and play his way through the London R&B scene, eventually fronting
the amazing Cream. Bruce is one of the great musicians of his generation.
He brought bebop improvisation to blues - to Clapton’
subsequent embarrassment - and
co-wrote a slew of rock standards. Including this one. In this recent version,
Vernon Reid of Living Colour helps out on guitar. Great band. Bowie made
a nice cover on black tie, white noise
14 eberhard weber - concerto for piano (from endless days,
Weber spearheaded the new jazz of the ’70s. He made
something shimmering of minimalism, through his remarkable melodic sense.
He is also a wonderful double-bassist. This album marks the return of master
drummer Michael di Pasqua, after a long, lamentable absence from the studio.
I saw him with Weber and David Torn in Jan Garbarek’s band. I was duly
astonished (buy it’s okay
to listen to the gray voice
, if you want to know why). Great playing
from Rainer Brüninghaus on keyboards, and Oregon’s Paul McCandless on
reeds and English horn. The best chamber jazz imaginable.
15 barbirolli, lso, janet baker - in haven (from elgar’s sea
The lyric was written by the composer’s wife, Alice Elgar. Her theme is simple:
love gives safe harbour from the storms of life. The sea pictures
the most delicate orchestral settings I have ever heard, and Janet Baker’s
voice is perfection. If you buy the disc, you will also have the benefit of
Jaqueline du Pre’s inspired rendering of Elgar’s superb Cello Concerto. But
be ready to weep.
16 fleetwood mac - albatross (from greatest hits, 1989).
Superstardom and LSD wreaked havoc with the enigmatic Peter Green. His guitar
work, his singing and his songwriting were unique. His return to performing
after years in the wilderness is wonderful. Green spent two days carefully
, in 1968, when British blues bands produced
entire albums given such a lavish amount of studio time. There is no more
lyrical achievement in rock music. In 2004, BBC 4 adopted it as a theme.
17 john tavener, the sixteen - mystic prayer to the holy spirit (from ikon
I rounded off my impudent review of Early
a gush about this wonderful work. The Sixteen are simply marvellous, Tavener
is a genius and this is a music that reaches across the centuries, bringing
the traditions of polyphony and orthodox church music into the present,
and, if Tavener’
s guess is right, quite
possibly eternity. Otherworldly. That's the word I was looking for.
18 joni mitchell - love (from travelogue, 2002).
Joni Mitchell’s take on Paul’s famous epistle to
the Corinthians. She quite rightly replaces the word charity
I was captivated by this celebration of her music - the collaboration between
this songwriter of unparalleled genius and so many luminaries of the jazz
world, all elegantly arranged by the wonderful Vince Mendoza, is almost too
much to bear. After such a long career most stars would be dimming, but Joni
Mitchell just shines more brightly. She has renounced her annoyed comment
that this would be her last work, thankfully.
Music is indeed the food of love, so, eat heartily and have a happy year!