One-Line Listening Notes

Is there such thing as too much good music? Herewith I leave one-line notes to myself about what I've been listening to.

The Four Sonatas for Solo Viola, Nobuko Imai (1992)

12/17/2020: Virtuosic, captivating written by Hindemith for himself to play after committing to playing viola over violin. I've never been into Hindemith's music that I've heard or played (clarinet), but these pieces are something else, which must have to do with the fact that he was writing for as a performer and not just as a composer.

Notes from Underground, Jonny King (1996)

To me, the classic sound of "neo-hard-bop" from the '90s, which I find more satisfying in some dimensions (burning, used unironically, solos) and less so in others (sense of band-wide compositional exploration and risk-taking), although fans of Kenny Kirkland et al. would probably dig this at the very least for the rhythm section pocket (Peter Washington/Billy Drummond!).

Bass by Pettiford/Burke, Oscar Pettiford (1958)

I'll be honest—I bought this album to hear Charlie Rouse—but the front line of Rouse and Julius Watkins on French horn has a nice pale but full sonority to it, and the arrangements are swinging, especially "Trictrotism" [sic].

At Storyville, Billie Holiday (1951, '53)

A mesmerizing live recording of Billie in two quartets that also features Stan Getz sitting in on a few tunes playing Prez; the set from '53 without Getz is better-recorded and Billie is absolutely melting hearts over the band's comfortably understated arrangements.

***on repeat: "I Cover the Waterfront" (I'm a huge fan of her 1941 Columbia recording with Teddy Wilson, but the exposed, intimate version here is essential listening)

The Sound of Sonny, Sonny Rollins (1957)

Solid pre-Bridge-era Sonny with a more-than-solid rhythm section (Percy Heath/Paul Chambers and Roy Haynes, plus Sonny Clark in his only recorded appearance with the other Sonny)—plus Sonny's first-ever solo saxophone recording, which is definitely worth hearing in itself—although I have to say that considering all of the legendary recordings around this period (especially Way Out West, Sonny Side Up, and Live at the Village Vanguard), this record might be slightly overshadowed. 

***on repeat: "Toot, Toot, Tootsie," "It Could Happen to You" (Sonny's 1st solo saxophone recording!), "Mangoes" (apparently a Rosemary Clooney hit the year before; also features a rare, amusing out-of-sync moment with the Sonnys around 4:00)

Authority Melts From Me, Bobby Avey (2014)

This is my first exposure to Avey's music, which here has layers upon layers of rhythm to dig into, and I'm really impressed with the fluid, propulsive, interlocking textures he's composed as well as the ambitious feat of recording such lengthy, challenging music in a couple hypnotically expansive tracks—but with such an incredible band (featuring Ben Monder and Miguel Zenón), he's shown that it's do-able and that unfamiliar music brings out the best and most unexpected in artists of this caliber.

***on repeat: "Louverture"

Songs I Like a Lot, John Hollenbeck (2013)

Lush, thoughtfully-conceived arrangements for big band that preserve the essence of various songs Hollenbeck grew up with—including vivid, minimalist expansions of country/folk songs made famous by decidedly unhip artists like balladeer Glen Campbell—make this album worth multiple listens, although I found that some arrangements complemented or signified their original blueprints more compellingly than others.

***on repeat: "Man of Constant Sorrow," "Wichita Lineman," "FallsLake" (also the original by Nobukazu Takemura, h/t to Hollenbeck for the introduction!)

Undercover, John Chin (2014)

As well-recorded as the music is well-played, John Chin's touch at the piano and post-Mehldau sensibilities are two good reasons to listen, but, more importantly, the band and its arrangements sound like they've patiently given themselves ample time and space to develop something personal through sustained rehearsing, refining, and performing.

***on repeat: "Smile," "If For No One," "Countdown"

Windmills of My Mind, Grady Tate (1968)

Tate's début as a vocalist has a strong line-up, including Herbie on organ (!) and a cohort of Thad/Mel associates, although the R&B/pop repertoire leaves little room for stretching out.

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Disagree vehemently? Let me know! I'm curious to know how other people (non-critics) listen, too, and always could use an excuse to revisit less-familiar recordings.