Salon: Sharps and Flats

Published December 12, 1996 8:00PM (EST)

The best jazz labels don't merely record
good musicians, they create a musical
community, a nexus through which like-minded
players can explore a shared aesthetic vision.
Since the '70s, no label has been more
successful than Concord Jazz at building an
extended musical family. That family came
together on July 8, 1995 to commemorate the
label's founder, the late Carl Jefferson, who
died in March 1995. The resulting four-CD box
set, "Jazz Celebration: A Tribute to Carl
Jefferson," reunites about 80 of the artists
who helped define Concord's mainstream
swing-oriented sensibility.

Ever since Concord's inaugural release in 1973,
a duo session with fret masters Joe Pass and
Herb Ellis, the label has been known as the
preeminent outlet for mainstream jazz guitar.
Though many of the original players are no
longer associated with Concord, virtually an
entire wing of the guitar hall of fame showed
up to pay their respects on "Jazz Celebration."
From the Great Guitars, a trio featuring Herb
Ellis, Charlie Byrd and Ron Eschete (filling in
for the ailing Barney Kessel) burning through
the Benny Goodman/Charlie Christian warhorse
"Seven Come Eleven" to Kenny Burrell's
masterful Ellingtonia on "Take the 'A' Train,"
the instrument's elder statesmen were very
well represented.

In a sad postscript to the concert, "Jazz
Celebration" is the last recording by the great
Brazilian guitarist/composer Laurindo
Almeida, who died less than two weeks later.
He opens his set with a brisk reading of Irving
Berlin's "Blue Skies," accompanied by bassist
Jeff Chambers and drummer Billy Drummond,
and closes with a delicate version of Jobim's
"Meditation" with Charlie Byrd (who, along with
Stan Getz, helped introduce Brazilian music to
the U.S.).

Concord has also been a haven for vocalists.
"Jazz Celebration" showcases such up and
coming singers as Eden Atwood, Karrin Allyson
and Dennis Rowland, as well as established
veterans like Susannah McCorkle and Carol
Sloan (who offers a delightfully swinging
version of Ellington's "Love You Madly"). Mel
Tormi and Rosemary Clooney, two of the
greatest exponents of the Great American
Songbook, have both found very comfortable
homes at Concord, recording much of their
best work for the label. Neither could make it
to the July 8 concert, but both recorded their
farewells to Jefferson later. Clooney reprises
one of her early hits, "Sentimental Journey,"
and Tormi concludes the box set with a
haunting version of Cole Porter's "Ev'ry Time
We Say Goodbye," conveying the sense of loss
many of the musicians speak of between sets.

By Andrew Gilbert

MORE FROM Andrew Gilbert

Related Topics ------------------------------------------