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Various Artists - Jazz Icons Series 3: Bonus Disc

Bonus Disc
Jazz Icons Series 3

Various Artists


Available from with purchase of boxed set.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

As much as I love Rahsaan Kirk's work and admire Bill Evans, after seeing the Nina Simone disc earlier in this series, I went straight to her segment and wallowed in the woman's defiant artistry, drank in that unique personality. Nor was I one iota disappointed. Starting out in Love Me or Leave Me, a song zeroed in on tender exclusivities only the heart can exercise, she swings like crazy before launching a solo giving away her classical training (Simone was in love with Bach), further indemnifying Nina's claim that she was most definitely not a jazz artist.

In a short interview, a Swiss MC remarks, while thinking about her composition Mississippi Goddam, that the musician doesn't look like a person who could ever be angry…to which she retorts "All the time". There wasn't much room for bullshit in Simone's personality…in fact, there was none, and the rendition of her own chestnut demonstrates it well. There are only two songs by her, but oh how they make the entire anthology glow. The DVD is worth the purchase just in the latter cut, which outshines even the version in her previous appearance.

Sonny Rollins kicks off the vid with a jumpin' version of Ellington's It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got that Swing), turning the melody every which way before jumping into a long set of improvs—sometimes elaborate as hell, other times pointillistic, but always returning to the core. In the stripped-down trio format, Rollins just keeps jamming his brains out, well supported by Henry Grimes (bass), Joe Harris (drums), and, later, Pete LaRoca Sims (drums). Here can be seen the most logical next-step from Charlie Parker and the modern gateway to cats like Greg Osby, though I daresay none have equalled Sonny. This document from 1959 is regarded as the pivotal year for the saxist, so audients get to watch the master ready to leap into his Coltranish years, poised perfectly between two worlds.

The switchover to Roland Kirk's set is dramatic in George Gruntz's piano immediately icing things out, laying a foundation for the entire quartet and paving the way for Kirk's work. It's not long before Rahsaan's into heady convolutions where every squonk and blurk is a blessing from the Muses, putting a sharper distinction to the already edgy. Not for a moment is the rhythm lost, always matrixing the solos and ensemble play. Everything Happens to Me pulls the band back for a mellower break, a pensee rather than a hard-charging chopsfest, a moment to reflect, and then it's back to the business at hand, a sharp return to what's forever inventive in the song itself. Kirk is festooned with his famed sax armada and going further past the envelope than even his solo DVD earlier indicated, eternally experimenting, pushing back boundaries.

As a cap to the third box installation, a bonus disc available only with the set, this is tiramisu following a Romanesue feast and a canny way of interesting buyers in considering the purchase of the entirety of an extremely worthy and important series. I frankly don't see how this project can be topped, and the serious jazz fanatic misses it at extremest peril. Therefore, skip just one of those damned overpriced concerts at the Greek and the Bowl and get this instead. After, you might never bother with those venues in the future. In fact, ya might not even get past your own front door again, so exercise a bit of caution and hedonistic restraint as well. Too much of a good thing is never…hm, come to think of it, it actually *is* a great way to go, so splurge.

Track List:

Sonny Rollins - Sweden 1959

  • Interview
  • It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
  • Paul's Pal
  • Love Letters

Sonny Rollins - Holland 1959

  • I've Told Every Little Star
  • I Want to be Happy

Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Belgium 1963

  • Stolen Moments
  • Everything Happens to Me
  • Domino
  • Three for the Festival

Nina Simone - Sweden 1965

  • Love Me or Leave Me
  • Interview
  • Mississippi Goddam

Links to the reviews of the other DVDs in this set:

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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