100 Years Too Much, 2CDs Too Short To Be "Definitive."
Anthony G Pizza | FL | 11/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This sincere two-CD set celebrates legendary jazz performances released by labels today forming Sony/Columbia Records. These tunes by some of jazz's most essential figures (Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, etc.) fit within Sony's 26-CD millenium box set "Soundtrack for A Century." But alone, these 33 songs make too fast, too short a tour through the dominant music style of the century's first 50 years, and the most influential, flexible style of its last 50.This set is enjoyable on its own merits. You get historic recordings from Armstrong (with Earl "Fatha" Hines on 1928's "West End Blues") Bessie Smith (with Armstrong on one of music's early all-time hits, "St. Louis Blues") and then march quickly through signature songs by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck (the 1960 "hit" version of "Take Five,") and others. The middle of the set (its five songs on disc one, its first five on disc two) epitomise what adult music sounded like in the 1950s. This is captured in detailed liner notes by jazz experts Dan Morganstern, John Swenson, and Phil Schaap (but not in Sony CEO Tommy Mottola's facetitious introductory remarks).Yet unlike Sony's 1989 "Jazz Masters" collection, which framed its song choices within 20 years of jazz's commercial, artistic peak, this set touches too many styles too briefly (Dixieland, swing, blues), rushing past bebop (only Dizzy Gillespie on a relatively minor song ), jazz fusion (nothing from Return To Forever, Ramsey Lewis, or Stanley Clarke's influential 70s LPs) and neo-traditional jazz. The set stops with the Marsalis brothers and does not concede to today's "smooth jazz" style. This will please jazz purists, but implies (from Sony's point of view) that trad jazz is music's equivalent of Latin: evocative, intellectual, stagnant. Not to mention jazz legends(Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Stan Kenton, Sonny Rollins) who never recorded for any Columbia label and aren't represented here.Too many labels, large and small, contributed to jazz's popularity and impact to title one set of performances "definiitive." But as with any sampler-style collection, the hope is a jazz newcomer hearing "So What," "Birdland," or "Artist In America," the first time may reach for "Kind of Blue," "Heavy Weather," or "Free Jazz." (Columbia was limited to their labels' releases, you are not.) Jazz needs budget-priced collections to attract new fans, and "Definititive Performances," while incomplete, fills that need with important, historically-rich music. Recommended, with its best songs heard on performers' individual CDs."
Nice compilation, but not great
John A Castelo | Alexandria, VA United States | 06/13/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a nice jazz compilation to throw in your multi-disc player, but I have a couple complaints. First of all, the sound quality on the first few tracks on disc one is terrible. I know these tracks were originally recorded in the 1930s, but there is so much hiss and cracking that they are almost unlistenable. It would have been nice if they were cleaned up a bit. Second, there is a problem with all jazz compilations that cover this many styles in that they are disjointed. It makes it a tough listen when you go from Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" to Tony Bennett from MTV unplugged all on one disc."