Beam me up, Scotty

It is stirring to see an historic jazz label star trekkin' back to the future again after a long hiatus. In this instance the label in focus is Candid under new ownership as previously reported who have sparkling albums by Eliane Elias, Stacey Kent …

Published: 2 Sep 2021. Updated: 16 days.

It is stirring to see an historic jazz label star trekkin' back to the future again after a long hiatus. In this instance the label in focus is Candid under new ownership as previously reported who have sparkling albums by Eliane Elias, Stacey Kent and the Count Basie Orchestra out this month.

With the Live At Birdland! release, which is out on the 17th, the story actually began, according to Wayne Winborne, executive director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey ''in the summer of 1961 the Count Basie Band played in the iconic New York jazz club, Birdland, which Basie considered his musical home. The live recording from two of those nights, Basie at Birdland! has been called simply the best live recording of a big band ever.''

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Fast forward to 2020 this new recording has the long-running Basie ghost band, under the direction of Scotty Barnhart, there again at ''the jazz corner of the world'' recording over four nights at Birdland in January of that year.

Barnhart says in the sleeve notes: “The 1961 recording is such an important documentation of the orchestra at that point, which was Basie’s 25th year as leader. All of the elements of deep swing, precision, dynamic excitement and outstanding soloists were there. Those elements are still with us today which is the main reason I wanted to capture it live just as in 1961. I made arrangements to get it all done and ended up producing it. There are no overdubs and what you hear is exactly what was played. I think Mr. Basie would be proud to know that his orchestra is still the swingingest and most explosive force in Jazz today.” Scotty Barnhart above with the Count Basie Orchestra. Photo: via Candid

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Lady Blackbird, Black Acid Soul, Foundation/BMG *****

Only once in a blue moon something like Black Acid Soul comes along. Last time, however loose the comparison but certainly in the same retro bracket, was Amy Winehouse's smash hit Back to Black 15 years ago. Brace yourselves. Begun with …

Published: 1 Sep 2021. Updated: 12 days.

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Only once in a blue moon something like Black Acid Soul comes along. Last time, however loose the comparison but certainly in the same retro bracket, was Amy Winehouse's smash hit Back to Black 15 years ago. Brace yourselves.

Begun with 'Blackbird' the Nina Simone-Herbert Sacker song that Marley Munroe (as was) is the latest best custodian of given how convincing this treatment is. The churchy organ on 'It's Not That Easy' makes you journey even deeper. There's a lot of heartbreak here even more so than on Reuben Bell and the Casanovas' own take.

Ringing heartbreak is part of what makes this album tick. Lady Blackbird sounds only like Lady Blackbird. But it's inevitable to search around for comparisons. Closest I can find having also heard her live now is Tina Turner. But that is still a mile or two off what she conveys and it's pointless really to make comparisons once you roughly locate the sound merely to find your bearings, nothing else.

Most of all the singer has the ability to touch your soul. 'Fix It' is a must for Bill Evans fans, given that the new melody and words are placed on top of 'Peace Piece' like a contrafact and becomes a guardian angel.

'Ruler of My Heart' makes you want to smile given the way Lady B finds so much elasticity in her sound. The album has superb sonic relatability and a pared back stripped down feeling so that you can not only clearly hear but think you feel real instruments: woody bass, piano that does not sound fancy just for the sake of it. Pianist Deron Johnson who was on Miles' Doo Bop is very important on the record. Shine on.

The whole arc of the Chris Seefried-produced collaboration began with 'Nobody's Sweetheart' a Seefried song that harnesses weary confessional and shackles it to a heartfelt sense of loss.

Of the covers the version of James Gang's 'Collage' is magnificent. Again Lady Blackbird has the ability to make us face facts and be honest with ourselves. The lusher strings here do not intrude too much.

'Five Feet Tall' has a very late night jazz supper club feel, ''the robin's nest'' line and lyrical conceit subverts the feeling of smallness to turn it on its head and yet while so sad is ultimately a triumph of realisation and possibly the ultimate tearjerker of all.

'Lost and Looking' is epic. And while you might know the Tim Hardin song 'It Will Never Happen Again' from Connie Stevens, PP Arnold, Peggy Lee or our Cilla's versions the crown of that song is perched on a blackbird's head presiding over a nest made for new life and a sense of gimme shelter right now. The Krystal Generation's 'Beware the Stranger' is possibly the most dramatic of all the songs on what is a spectacular album. The title track right at the end is the most free-form track and shows the spread of the ideas that embrace jazz via deep, limitless, inspirational, soul. SG

Out on Friday

Lady Blackbird photo: Christine Solomon