Various Artists – Jazz 2 (Sony Legacy)

By Mark Youll | 27th July, 2011 | album reviews |

Various Artists

Jazz 2

Record label: Sony Legacy

Release date: 6th June 2011

Verdict: *****

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This lavish new box-set, housing an impressive twenty-five discs - classic jazz imprints bookended very much in the ‘tradition’ of jazz music by Louis Armstrong’s Satch Plays Fats (1955) all the way through to Wynton Marsalis’ Standard Time 3 from 1990 – unfolds a mesmerising trawl through the idiom, with particular attention to some of the finest, possibly underestimated gems from the west coast fusion sets of the late ‘70s and into the 1980s.

Whereas volume one in this commendable series bagged the Columbia label’s unquestionable hit albums - Miles’ A Kind of Blue, Brubeck’s Time Out, Herbie’s Headhunters- this equally relevant set of albums guides the listener down a more challenging road, and to records that possibly never received the attention they fully deserved.

“this set of albums guides the listener down a more challenging road, and maybe to a batch of records that never received the attention they fully deserved.”

Amongst the usual suspects, classics like bassist Stanley Clarke’s big solo splash, 1976’s School Days, Miles’ ‘Round About Midnight, Sonny Rollins’ The Bridge or Birds of Fire by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, surface overlooked gems like Paul Desmond’s string-laden and standard-stocked Desmond Blue from ‘62, the angular Underground by Thelonious Monk (‘68), Clifford Brown’s The Beginning and the End (’73), Jim Hall’s Concierto (’75) as well as The Electrifying Aretha Franklin, a truly remarkable record from 1967 that reveals Franklin in a big band setting, a short time before her switch from swinger to soul diva.

There are also stunning sets from Duke Ellington (Ellington Uptown,1951), Dave Brubeck (Jazz Goes To College,1954), Freddie Hubbard’s blistering three-track opus Straight Life from 1970, and also, enjoying a rare outing, Chet Baker’s restrained obscurity from 1974 She Was Too Good To Me (featuring a wealth of super sessioners like Bob James, Ron Carter and Steve Gadd), but above all, what truly sells this set lies in its broad taste, its shrewd sequencing and attention to detail. A fine collection with the ability to pull in the curious and surprise the connoisseur, unfolding Jazz’s tangled trip from trad to mad and back again.