January 26, 2001

Purely Jazz

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Pure Jazz, one of the most recent additions to the jazz section of your local music store, seems to come at a time when jazz music has re-entered the mainstream.

This recent trend has much to do with Ken Burns’ 10 part television series on the history of jazz music that aired on PBS. Burns’ series has led to a resurgence in the popularity of jazz. For new or soon-to-be fans of the genre, Pure Jazz is without a doubt a terrific beginner’s guide to the great singers and composers of the 20th century.

The album is aimed at the new jazz lover, because most fans probably have a good deal of the songs on this album already in their collection.

The album kicks off with Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” an early hit, and continues with Count Basie’s “April in Paris.” Basie’s “April” boasts some of the best instrumental jazz ever written. Its brass instruments are smooth, and the trumpet solos are crisp and brilliant.

The next song is one that most college students probably assume was written by Sublime. Sorry kids, but “Summertime” was actually performed by jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong a very long time ago.

Another song familiar to many music fans is “The Girl from Ipanema.” While many know the Frank Sinatra version of the song, Astrud Gilberto performs the vocals on this one, with music by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto. The tune is quiet, with a slight Latin beat.

Another must for any new jazz fan is Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing,” which is often hailed as Goodman’s finest work. You’ll surely recognize it from Chips Ahoy commercials, but I assure you that the complete version is one hundred times more exciting than the cookie commercial version.

All of the instruments in Goodman’s orchestra are showcased in the song. Unlike most of the other songs on the album, this one really highlights the drums in the orchestra.

Yet another great addition to the disc is Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” Brubeck, a master of modern jazz, brought it back to the forefront after World War II. “Take Five” sounds like an informal jam session, with a constant, soft tune, that is overtaken by drum and saxophone solos by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

And what jazz compilation would be complete without classics by Glenn Miller (“In the Mood”), Nat King Cole (“Unforgettable”), and Louis Armstrong (“What A Wonderful World”)? Armstrong’s recording is remarkable, and a great way to end an album that markets itself as “18 of the Greatest Jazz Recordings Ever” and delivers just that.

Archived article by Merri Coleman