Historic Jazz Track


Duke Ellington “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” 1927

“East St. Louis Toodle-oo” can be considered the first real “hit” that came from the young Duke Ellington and between the years of 1926 and 1928 the band wound up recording it 6 times for 6 different labels. This is the early “Jungle Sound” of the Ellington band and was intended as a feature for James “Bubber” Miley, a tragic figure whose growl trumpet style became a major imprint for the Ellington band. For this particular recording, cut for Victor on December 19, 1927, Ellington slowed down the tempo from the 3 prior waxings and dispensed with ensemble sections in favor of solos by bari-man Harry Carney and clarinetist Rudy Jackson. As on the other recordings, “Tricky Sam” Nanton solos on trombone.

-Scott Wenzel



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Duke Ellington: “Our Band Will Never Sound The Same.”

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra were playing at Philharmonic Hall in NY, April 16, 1971, and I had tickets. Ray Nance, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney were there, and I seem to recall Cootie Williams was there too, although discographies claim he was not. But one whom I had idolized was no longer a part of the Ellington ensemble. Almost a year had gone since the passing of Johnny Hodges. The Maestro’s remark that “because of this great loss, our band will never sound the same” was indeed a correct statement. JazzVideoGuy has uploaded onto YouTube this clip, which should date to circa 1964.

-Scott Wenzel



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4
The Ellington Era

For many years jazz had to fight an uphill battle for official recognition as a bone fide “art form.” In light of the current state of affairs in the jazz world, this recognition might well appear to some observers as a mixed blessing indeed. It has largely removed jazz from its original context —-the functionality of entertainment and dance music—- and has placed this music and its creators adrift in the esthetic, philosophic, semantic, and economic miasmas that constitute the contemporary environment of art and “art appreciation.”

Though it is a very young art, jazz has already been tightly strapped into the rigid bed of formalistic “history” and evolutionary theory. This framework—- often sloppy and haphazardly erected—- has supplied the intellectual justification for the demand for constant “innovation,” which goes hand in hand with the promotion of all forms of art in this country. This need for novelty —- commercial in nature but beefed up by prattling of befuddled “spokesmen” for the arts —- results in the swift condemnation to obsolescence of all but the latest style and mode.

In this atmosphere, jazz history becomes but a tracing of influences pointing to the latest genius, and the searching jazz musician is confronted with a process of evaluation that equates music with technology and robs him of the benefits of a viable tradition. 

The more’s the pity, since jazz is the possessor of an exceptionally strong and durable tradition that counts among its pillars a number of artists still active and still in full command of their creative resources. 

Outstanding among these “old masters” is the sixty-four-year-old orchestra leader-composer-pianist-arranger Duke Ellington, who, alongside the indestructible Louis Armstrong, could well be called the greatest living exponent of jazz. Ellington’s career as a bandleader dates back forty years and is exceptionally well documented on phonographic records. – Dan Morgenstern (1963)

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The Ellington Era


For many years jazz had to fight an uphill battle for official recognition as a bone fide “art form.” In light of the current state of affairs in the jazz world, this recognition might well appear to some observers as a mixed blessing indeed. It has largely removed jazz from its original context —-the functionality of entertainment and dance music—- and has placed this music and its creators adrift in the esthetic, philosophic, semantic, and economic miasmas that constitute the contemporary environment of art and “art appreciation.”

Though it is a very young art, jazz has already been tightly strapped into the rigid bed of formalistic “history” and evolutionary theory. This framework—- often sloppy and haphazardly erected—- has supplied the intellectual justification for the demand for constant “innovation,” which goes hand in hand with the promotion of all forms of art in this country. This need for novelty —- commercial in nature but beefed up by prattling of befuddled “spokesmen” for the arts —- results in the swift condemnation to obsolescence of all but the latest style and mode.

In this atmosphere, jazz history becomes but a tracing of influences pointing to the latest genius, and the searching jazz musician is confronted with a process of evaluation that equates music with technology and robs him of the benefits of a viable tradition.

The more’s the pity, since jazz is the possessor of an exceptionally strong and durable tradition that counts among its pillars a number of artists still active and still in full command of their creative resources.

Outstanding among these “old masters” is the sixty-four-year-old orchestra leader-composer-pianist-arranger Duke Ellington, who, alongside the indestructible Louis Armstrong, could well be called the greatest living exponent of jazz. Ellington’s career as a bandleader dates back forty years and is exceptionally well documented on phonographic records. – Dan Morgenstern (1963)


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Duke Ellington & Joan Miro

This is magical: Duke Ellington visits a French medieval village overlooking the Cote d’Azur, where he meets another giant: artist Joan Miro. With Miro looking on, Ellington, John Lamb and Sam Woodyard play a new composition that became The Shepherd (Who Watches over the Night Flock). Some fantastic views of Miro’s sculpture.

-Nick Moy



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9

Max Roach Quintet, with Booker Little, on…Look Up and Live!

This is an amazing piece of total nonsense from 1959. Look Up And Live was one of those TV network Sunday morning shows produced by various religions (the legit ones who only wanted some of your money, not all of it like the cults and Southern cathedrals). I remember seeing Tristano and Konitz on an episode. I think the Modern Jazz Quartet did one too. But this is truly amazing because Max Roach’s incredible 1959 quintet with Booker Little, George Coleman, Ray Draper and Art Davis gives an amazing performance after a dorky introduction. But then they are required to continue providing background music for some of the worst written and staged hipster/beat poet bullshit I’ve ever seen. An episode of Dragnet would have rung truer!

-Michael Cuscuna



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Blue Note ClassicsAre your favorites in Blue Note’s Vinyl Top 100? 

Larry Rohter interviews Blue Note president Don Was about the 100 titles that Blue Note is releasing on vinyl over the next twelve months as part of the 75th anniversary of the label. In his introduction, Rohter wisely points out glaring omissions like Blue Mitchell and Sam Rivers, but no list of this kind can exist with painful titles left behind. When European or Japanese press ask me for my favorite 10 Blue Note albums, I always warn them before answering that if they ask me tomorrow, the entire list may be different.-Michael Cuscuna

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Blue Note Classics


Are your favorites in Blue Note’s Vinyl Top 100?

Larry Rohter interviews Blue Note president Don Was about the 100 titles that Blue Note is releasing on vinyl over the next twelve months as part of the 75th anniversary of the label. In his introduction, Rohter wisely points out glaring omissions like Blue Mitchell and Sam Rivers, but no list of this kind can exist with painful titles left behind. When European or Japanese press ask me for my favorite 10 Blue Note albums, I always warn them before answering that if they ask me tomorrow, the entire list may be different.

-Michael Cuscuna

Read Interview…

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Crepuscule for Nellie: Trail of a Jazz Standard

On NextBop.com, Ben Gray begins an analysis of Thelonious Monk’s “Crepuscule With Nellie” comparing the various takes from the original in 1957, but he quickly moves on posting and discussing versions by T.S. Monk, Jason Moran and Peter Bernstein among others, creating a fascinating trail for this jazz standard.-Michael Cuscuna

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Crepuscule for Nellie: Trail of a Jazz Standard

On NextBop.com, Ben Gray begins an analysis of Thelonious Monk’s “Crepuscule With Nellie” comparing the various takes from the original in 1957, but he quickly moves on posting and discussing versions by T.S. Monk, Jason Moran and Peter Bernstein among others, creating a fascinating trail for this jazz standard.

-Michael Cuscuna

Read Analysis…

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5
NPR Jazz SetMulgrew Miller Trio at the Kennedy Center

Mulgrew Miller’s trio is heard in this 2012 Kennedy Center Jazz Club performance recorded by NPR for Jazz Set. He died suddenly a year later. Woody Shaw first turned me on to Mulgrew when the young pianist was working with Mercer Ellington. He had intended to hire him but Betty Carter beat him to it. In 1980 Mulgrew finally joined Woody’s quintet. What an exceptional tasteful pianist he was, always at the top of his game. When I was helping Tony Williams assemble an acoustic quintet in 1986, Mulgrew became first choice for the piano chair and remained for the next 6 years.-Michael Cuscuna

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NPR Jazz Set


Mulgrew Miller Trio at the Kennedy Center

Mulgrew Miller’s trio is heard in this 2012 Kennedy Center Jazz Club performance recorded by NPR for Jazz Set. He died suddenly a year later. Woody Shaw first turned me on to Mulgrew when the young pianist was working with Mercer Ellington. He had intended to hire him but Betty Carter beat him to it. In 1980 Mulgrew finally joined Woody’s quintet. What an exceptional tasteful pianist he was, always at the top of his game. When I was helping Tony Williams assemble an acoustic quintet in 1986, Mulgrew became first choice for the piano chair and remained for the next 6 years.

-Michael Cuscuna

Listen Here…

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7
A Top Pick: Best Of The Jazz BlogsInside Ralph Ellison’s Record Collection

Ralph Ellison’s most celebrated work, the novel Invisible Man, widely regarded as one of the most important of the 20th century, is infused with jazz.  In this New Yorker blog post, Richard Brody explores the central place jazz occupied in Ellison’s life and Ellison’s record collection, now on exhibit in the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.  To put you in the mood, check out the collection of Ellison’s writings on jazz, Living with Music.-Nick Moy

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A Top Pick: Best Of The Jazz Blogs


Inside Ralph Ellison’s Record Collection

Ralph Ellison’s most celebrated work, the novel Invisible Man, widely regarded as one of the most important of the 20th century, is infused with jazz. In this New Yorker blog post, Richard Brody explores the central place jazz occupied in Ellison’s life and Ellison’s record collection, now on exhibit in the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. To put you in the mood, check out the collection of Ellison’s writings on jazz, Living with Music.

-Nick Moy

Read Article…

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