Etta Jones – Hollar! (1963)

FrontCover1Hollar! is an album by jazz vocalist Etta Jones which was recorded at three separate sessions between 1960 and 1962 and released on the Prestige label in 1963.

Etta Jones had the spark that made each of her vocals special, though she was never acknowledged properly during a long career. Following her hit “Don’t Go to Strangers,” she continued to record first-rate songs. Many of her albums were unjustly out of print for decades, though Hollar! was finally reissued by Fantasy as part of their Original Jazz Classics series in 2001. Jones is backed by three separate groups on this release. Guitarist Wally Richardson provides the driving rhythm to back her swinging take of “And the Angels Sing,” while vibraphonist Lem Winchester and pianist Richard Wyands support Jones in her emotional rendition of “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).” Jones would eventually return to the brisk bop gem “Reverse the Charges” decades after this recording, but this early version is preferable, with a nice interlude by pianist Jimmy Neely. There’s a bit of friendly conversation in the studio as Jones gets underway with another swinger, “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” adding a boisterous tenor sax solo by Oliver Nelson. This is easily one of Etta Jones’ best recordings. (by Ken Dryden)

Recorded at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on September 16, 1960 (tracks 2, 4, 5 & 7), March 30, 1961 (tracks 1, 3, 6, 8 & 9) and November 28, 1962 (track 10).

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Personnel:
Etta Jones (vocalsunca
Rudy Lawless (drums)
Michael Mulia (bass)
Jimmy Neeley (piano)
Wally Richardson (guitar)
Richard Wyands (piano on 02., 04. 05. + 07.)
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Kenny Burrell (guitar on 10.)
Sam Bruno (guitar on 10.)
George Duvivier (bass on 02., 04., 05. + 07.)
Bobby Donaldson (drums on 10.)
Roy Haynes (drums on 02., 04., 05.+ 07.)
Oliver Nelson (saxophone on 05. + 05.)
Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar on 10.)
Jerome Richardson (saxophone on 10.)
Lem Winchester (vibraphone on 02., 04., 05. + 07,)

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Tracklist:
01. And The Angels Sing (Elman/Mercer) -2.37
02. I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) (Ellington/Webster) 4.11
03. Give Me the Simple Life (Bloom/Ruby) 2.54
04. The More I See You (Gordon/Warren) 4.13
05. Love Is Here To Stay (G.Gershwin(I.Gershwin) 3.49
06. Reverse The Charges (Webster/Williams) 2.59
07. They Can’t Take That Away From Me (G.Gershwin(I.Gershwin) 2.52
08. Answer Me, My Love (Rauch/Sigman/Winkler) 3.20
09. Looking Back (Benton/Otis) 3.44
10. Nature Boy (eden ahbez) – 2:55

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John Coltrane – Live At The Village Vanguard … The Master Takes (1962 + 1998)

OriginalFrontCover1.jpgColtrane “Live” at the Village Vanguard is the tenth album by jazz musician John Coltrane and his first live album, released in 1962 on Impulse Records, catalogue A-10. It is the first album to feature the members of the classic quartet of himself with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones. In contrast to his previous album for Impulse!, this one generated much turmoil among both critics and audience alike with its challenging music.

In 1961, Coltrane created controversy both with the hiring of Eric Dolphy and with the kind of music his band was playing. In reaction to the Quintet’s residency at the Village Vanguard in New York City starting in late October 1961, Down Beat critic John Tynan described the group as “musical nonsense being peddled in the name of jazz” and “a horrifying demonstration of what appears to be a growing anti-jazz trend.” European critics and audiences also had difficulty with appearances earlier in the year, finding the group’s music, especially that of Coltrane and Dolphy, puzzling and difficult to follow. Down Beat magazine editor Don DeMichael took the step of inviting the pair to defend themselves, a piece appearing in the April 12, 1962 issue entitled “John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy Answer the Critics”.

It was the idea of new producer Bob Thiele to record Coltrane live over four nights in early November, Thiele meeting the saxophonist for the first time face-to-face at the club.[5] This commenced a close working relationship between Thiele and Coltrane that would last for the rest of his time at Impulse, Thiele producing virtually every subsequent album. Thiele secured Coltrane’s trust right away by not insisting he record his most popular song, “My Favorite Things”, during these shows. Sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder set up his equipment at a table by the stage, and for these concerts Coltrane often enhanced the Quintet by adding tampura, contrabassoon, oboe, or a second bass.

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Three performances were chosen for the album, one a pop standard and a second entitled “Spiritual”, possibly an adaptation of “Nobody Knows de Trouble I See” published in The Book of American Negro Spirituals by James Weldon Johnson. The third selection, the blues “Chasin’ the Trane”, has been described as one of the most important recordings in jazz for its seeming ability to unify the approaches of free jazz, jamming, and neoclassicism. As to its genesis, in a 1966 interview Coltrane recalled that he had “listened to John Gilmore kind of closely before I made ‘Chasin the Trane’.”

The performances are quintet for “Spiritual”, quartet for “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise”, and trio for “Chasin’ the Trane”. These were Reggie Workman’s final recordings with the group, as by December 1961 Garrison was announced as his replacement, stabilizing a line-up that would remain constant for the next four years.

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Pursuant to the article by Coltrane and Dolphy, for the following April 26 issue Down Beat presented two reviews of Live! at the Village Vanguard, both focusing on “Chasin’ the Trane”. Pete Welding described it as “a torrential and anguished outpouring, delivered with unmistakable power, conviction, and near-demonic ferocity.”[16] On the other hand, Ira Gitler, who had coined the phrase “sheets of sound”, stated that “Coltrane may be searching for new avenues of expression, but if it is going to take this form of yawps, squawks, and countless repetitive runs, then it should be confined to the woodshed.”

Two additional recordings taken from these shows appeared on the album Impressions, “Impressions” and “India”. On September 23, 1997, Impulse! issued a box set The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings, with the sets from all four nights chronologically on four compact Discs (later this year in this blog !). (by wikipedia)

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This set documents the four-night stand by John Coltrane (sax) and his quintet at the Village Vanguard in New York City, November 1 — 5, 1961. Although these are not newly discovered tapes — as the majority of the selections have turned up on no less than five separate releases — their restoration is significant in assessing motifs in Coltrane’s [read: multi-show] live appearances. Coltrane is accompanied by an all-star ensemble of Eric Dolphy (alto sax/bass clarinet), Garvin Bushell (oboe/contrabassoon), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (oud), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Reggie Workman (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), and Roy Haynes (drums). Their presence is as equally vital as Coltrane’s — inspiring as well as informing the dimensions of improvisation. With the knowledge that the entire run was being documented to create some sort of retail document, Coltrane chose nine specific compositions to concentrate on. The choice of material likewise had a tremendous impact on the personnel of the band — evidenced by Bushnell’s contributions during “Spiritual” and Abdul-Malik’s within the context of the extended “India.” (by Lindsay Planer)

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Personnel:
John Coltrane (saxophone)
Eric Dolphy (clarinet on 01. + 04,)
Jimmy Garrison (bass on 03.  + 05.)

Elvin Jones (drums)
McCoy Tyner (piano)
Reggie Workman (bass on 01., 02. + 04.)

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Tracklist:
01. Spiritual (Coltrane) 13.48
02. Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise (Romberg/Hammerstein) 6.40
03. Chasin’ The Trane (Coltrane) 16.10
04. India (Coltrane) 14.03
05. Impressions (Coltrane) 14.53

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John Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967)

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Gently with Nelson (1961)

FrontCover1.jpgElla Swings Gently with Nelson is a 1962 studio album by the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, with an orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle. This album is one of a pair, the other being Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson, that were released in 1962. Ella Swings Gently with Nelson is a 1962 studio album by the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, with an orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle. This album is one of a pair, the other being Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson, that were released in 1962.

In 1961 Ella Fitzgerald recorded two albums with Nelson Riddle’s Orchestra. Her voice was in peak form and, even if the backup band was somewhat anonymous, Fitzgerald uplifted the 15 songs on this set; “All of Me” was from a different obscure sampler and “Call Me Darling” was previously unissued. Although the accent is on ballads, several of RiddleFitzgerald2.jpgthe songs are taken at medium tempos and she swings throughout. Highlights include “Georgia on My Mind,” “The Very Thought of You,” “It’s a Pity to Say Goodnight,” “Darn That Dream,” “Body and Soul” and a cooking “All of Me.”

In 1961 Ella Fitzgerald recorded two albums with Nelson Riddle’s Orchestra. Her voice was in peak form and, even if the backup band was somewhat anonymous, Fitzgerald uplifted the 15 songs on this set; “All of Me” was from a different obscure sampler and “Call Me Darling” was previously unissued. Although the accent is on ballads, several of the songs are taken at medium tempos and she swings throughout. Highlights include “Georgia on My Mind,” “The Very Thought of You,” “It’s a Pity to Say Goodnight,” “Darn That Dream,” “Body and Soul” and a cooking “All of Me.” (by Scott Yanow)

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Personnel:
Ella Fitzgerald (vocals)
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unknown orchestra conducted by Nelson Riddle

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Tracklist:
01. Sweet And Slow (Dubin/Warren) 3.17
02, Georgia On My Mind (Carmichael/Gorrell) 3.32
03. I Can’t Get Started (Duke/Gershwin) 3.35
04. Street of Dreams (Lewis/Young) 3.14
05. Imagination (Burke/v.Heisen) 3.48
06. The Very Thought of You (Noble) 2.48
07. It’s A Blue World (Forrest/Wright) 2.47
08. Darn That Dream (DeLange/v.Heusen) 2.34
09. She’s Funny That Way (Moret/Whiting) 3.16
10. I Wished On The Moon (Parker/Rainger) 2.46
11. It’s a Pity to Say Goodnight (Gordon(Reid) 2.37
12. My One and Only Love (Mellin/Wood) 3.15
13. Body And Soul (Eyton/Green/Heyman/Sour) 3.45
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14. Call Me Darling(Single, 1961) (Dick/Fryberg/Marbet/Reisfeld) 3.36
15. All Of Me (Originally issued on the 1963 various artists album All-Star Festival: A United Nations Unique Record to Aid the World’s Refugees) (Marks/Simons) 3.22

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Cyril Davies (feat. Alexis Korner) – The Legendary Cyril Davies Album (1970)

FrontCover1Cyril Davies (23 January 1932 – 7 January 1964) was an English blues musician, and one of the first blues harmonica players in England.

Born at St Mildred’s, 15 Hawthorn Drive, Willowbank, Denham, Buckinghamshire, he was the son of William Albert Davies, a labourer, and his wife Margaret Mary (née Jones). He had an elder brother named Glyn, and the family is believed to have come from Wales.

Cyril Davies began his career in the early 1950s first within Steve Lane’s Southern Stompers, then in 1955 formed an acoustic skiffle and blues group with Alexis Korner. He began as a banjo and 12-string guitar player before becoming a Chicago-style blues harmonica player after hearing Little Walter. Working by day as a panel beater, he ran an unsuccessful skiffle club before meeting Korner, then Davies and Korner opened a London Rhythm and Blues club “England’s Firstest and Bestest Skiffle Club”, later known as the “London Blues and Barrelhouse Club”. Popular with other musicians, the club hosted gigs by blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and Memphis Slim.

During this period Davies and Korner worked as session musicians, and often backed Ottilie Patterson during her featured set with husband Chris Barber’s band, using amplified instruments for the first time – which did not go down well with their blues purist audience and many fellow musicians. After closing the blues club, Davies and Korner went their separate ways, and, influenced by Muddy Waters electric sound, Davies formed his own electric blues band.

In 1961, Chris Barber recruited Davies and Korner to play harmonica and electric guitar in accompanying Barber’s band regularly at its Wednesday and Friday night sets at the Marquee Club, a popular London jazz club. This opportunity granted Davies and Korner some exposure to the London music scene, but the duo wished to focus more on blues and R&B. The two decided to found their own rhythm and blues group and, in a show of support, Barber offered them the intermission slot at the Marquee on Wednesday nights.

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Korner supplied musicians for the rhythm sections, and Davies recruited Art Wood and Long John Baldry to be the vocalists. They named the group Blues Incorporated, and their initial performances at the Marquee were very well received. However, they realized the need for additional performance opportunities and, since most jazz and folk clubs in London were wary of electric guitars, Davies and Korner decided to found their own club at which they could perform. In 1962 they founded the Ealing Club, which featured performances by both Blues Incorporated and other Trad jazz outfits popular in England at the time. The club proved to be a popular sensation in the burgeoning R&B scene, and attracted such far-flung admirers and future stars as Mick Jagger and Eric Burdon. Jagger was in the audience for the second night at the club and got up to sing “Got My Mojo Working”.

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In June 1962 they recorded R&B from the Marquee,[4] actually recorded in Decca Records’ studio. After touring the UK and headlining a residency at the Marquee,[2] by October 1962 there was musical tension in the band as some members wanted to play crowd pleasers like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley songs while Cyril Davies and others members were blues purists who wanted to play what they saw as only genuine Chicago-style R&B.[5][6] Following his departure from Blues Incorporated in October 1962, Davies then formed the Cyril Davies All-Stars[7] in November 1962 and recorded five tracks for Pye Records, who had announced an R&B label featuring music imported from Davies’ favourite Chicago musicians (“Country Line Special”, “Chicago Calling”, “Preaching the Blues”, “Sweet Mary” and “Someday Baby”). The original line-up was largely recruited from Screaming Lord Sutch’s Savages, and featured both Long John Baldry and Davies on vocals to give Davies room to play harmonica. The band, later known simply as the All-Stars was subject to frequent personnel changes.

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After contracting pleurisy in 1963, Davies began to drink heavily to assuage the pain while undergoing a heavy touring schedule. He died in January 1964,[9] after collapsing during an engagement at a night club on Eel Pie Island, Twickenham in London.[10] The official cause of death was given as endocarditis,[11] although leukaemia is often quoted. The core band was taken over by Long John Baldry and formed the basis of his ‘Hoochie Coochie Men’.

In October 2014 the compilation entitled Preachin’ The Blues: The Cyril Davies Memorial Album was finally released on GVC Records (GVC2040) in Great Britain. (by wikipedia)

Early in the morning of January 8th, 1964, I received a telephone call from John Martin: “I’m sorry to be the one who has to tell you this, John, but Cyril died last night.” Cyril had been taken to hospital at six in the evening and within five hours was dead. I just could not believe it – he had been ill for some months, that I knew, but the suddenness of his death threw me. Some days before, as we were crossing the footbridge from our old stamping ground Eel Pie Island, he had said something that flashed back into my mind at that moment. “You know, John, I think this will be the last time I’ll walk on this bridge”.

As it happened, that particular evening at the Island was to be his last public appearance.

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The first time I ever met Cyril Davies was a few weeks before the earliest tracks on this album were recorded. I was only a young kid just out of school at that time, just playing guitar and singing a little and very much in love with the blues. Although I had been listening to records by Bill Broonzy, and Muddy Waters among others since I was twelve, I had never heard English people playing and singing the blues until the evening I walked into the Roundhouse (the pub in Soho, not Arnold Wesker’s ex-railway turntable shed) and heard Cyril and Alexis Korner. I used to go every Thursday evening and they would invite me to join them on the piece of lino between the piano and the bar, which served as the bandstand, encouraging me in my desire to be part of the blues scene. Those were great days, because apart from Cyril, Alex and myself performing, there were visits to the club by Big Bill, Muddy, Memphis Slim, Otis Spann, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Derroll Adams and many more.

Of course, Cyril was better known then as a twelve-string guitarist than as a harmonica player. But later, in the days of the “Blues Incorporated” and the All Stars”, he never played guitar on stage, so naturally became absolutely identified with harmonica. I have always thought it a great pity that his guitar playing was never utilized on his recordings for Decca and Pye. However, this situation can now be rectified as we listen to this collection of memorable recordings thanks to Doug Dobell.

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As I listen, I look back and think of the little black Alsatian Uschi (still alive and well and monstrous in Kent) that he gave me from the litter of his scrapyard watchdog Kim. The entire barful of dockers on Teesside for whom he bought drinks all night. The inimitable way he curbed a tribal civil war in the back of a Timpson’s coach outside Middlesbrough Infirmary. My sudden arrival back to sobriety one night in Burslem with a well-aimed harmonica hurled at my head from the stage. But there’s not enough room on this sleeve to tell it all. Perhaps Doug might let me record an album one day so that I can tell you the WHOLE story of the Legendary Cyril Davies. (by Long John Baldry, taken from the originaL liner notes)

It´s time to honour Cyril Davies, one of the first blues man in UK. Listn !

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Personnel:
Cyril Davies (guitar, vocals, harmonica)
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Jeff Bradford (mandolin, kazoo, guitar on 06. + 12.)
Mike Collins (washboard on 02., 10. + 11)
Alexis Korner (guitar, mandolin, vocals on 02., 03., 05., 08. – 11.
Terry Plant (bass on 02., 05., 10. + 11.)
Lisa Turner (banjo, vocals on 06 . + 12.)
Reg Turner (jug on 06. + 12.)

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Tracklist:
01 Leaving Blues (Ledbetter) 3.15
02- Roundhouse Stomp (Johnson) 2.53
03. Rotten Break (Taylor) 3.48
04. K.C. Moan (Blackman) 2.54
05. Skip To My Lou (Traditional) 1.54
06. It’s The Same Old Thing (Shade) 2.19
07. Alberta (Leadbelly) 2.43
08. Hesitation Blues (Handy) 2.29
09. Ella Speed (Traditional) 2.58
10. Good Morning (Leadbelly) 2.36
11. Boll Weevil (Brownwell) 3.25
12. Short Legs Shuffle (Bradford) 2.34

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Nathan Milstein & The Philharmonia Orchestra – Concerto In E Minor + Concerto No.1 In G Minor (1961)

FrontCover1Nathan Mironovich Milstein (January 13, 1904 [O.S. December 31, 1903] – December 21, 1992) was a Russian Empire-born American virtuoso violinist.

Widely considered one of the finest violinists of the 20th century, Milstein was known for his interpretations of Bach’s solo violin works and for works from the Romantic period. He was also known for his long career: he performed at a high level into his mid 80s, retiring only after suffering a broken hand.

Milstein was born in Odessa, then part of the Russian Empire (now in Ukraine), the fourth child of seven, to a middle-class Jewish family with virtually no musical background. It was a concert by the 11-year-old Jascha Heifetz that inspired his parents to make a violinist out of Milstein. As a child of seven, he started violin studies (as suggested by his parents, to keep him out of mischief) with the eminent violin pedagogue Pyotr Stolyarsky, also the teacher of renowned violinist David Oistrakh.

When Milstein was 11, Leopold Auer invited him to become one of his students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Milstein reminisced:

Every little boy who had the dream of playing better than the other boy wanted to go to Auer. He was a very gifted man and a good teacher. I used to go to the Conservatory twice a week for classes. I played every lesson with forty or fifty people sitting and listening. Two pianos were in the classroom and a pianist accompanied us. When Auer was sick, he would ask me to come to his home.

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Milstein may in fact have been the last of the great Russian violinists to have had personal contact with Auer. Auer did not name Milstein in his memoirs but mentions “two boys from Odessa … both of whom disappeared after I left St. Petersburg in June 1917.”[2] Neither is Milstein’s name in the registry of the St Petersburg Conservatory.

Milstein also studied with Eugène Ysaÿe in Belgium. He told film-maker Christopher Nupen, director of Nathan Milstein – In Portrait, that he learned almost nothing from Ysaÿe but enjoyed his company enormously. In a 1977 interview printed in High Fidelity, he said, “I went to Ysaÿe in 1926 but he never paid any attention to me. I think it might have been better this way. I had to think for myself.”

Milstein met Vladimir Horowitz and his pianist sister Regina in 1921 when he played a recital in Kiev. They invited him for tea at their parents’ home. Milstein later said, “I came for tea and stayed three years.” Milstein and Horowitz performed together, as “children of the revolution”, throughout the Soviet Union and struck up a lifelong friendship. In 1925, they went on a concert tour of Western Europe together.

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He made his American debut in 1929 with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He eventually settled in New York and became an American citizen. He toured repeatedly throughout Europe, maintaining residences in London and Paris.

A transcriber and composer, Milstein arranged many works for violin and wrote his own cadenzas for many concertos. He was obsessed with articulating each note perfectly and would often spend long periods of time working out fingerings which would make passages sound more articulated. One of his best-known compositions is Paganiniana, a set of variations on various themes from the works of Niccolò Paganini.

In 1948, his recording of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, with Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic, had the distinction of being the first catalogue item in Columbia’s newly introduced long-playing twelve-inch 33 rpm vinyl records, Columbia ML 4001.

NathanMilstein01He was awarded the Légion d’honneur by France in 1968, and received a Grammy Award for his recording of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas in 1975. He was also awarded Kennedy Center honors by US President Ronald Reagan.

A recital he gave in Stockholm in July 1986 proved to be his final performance. This recital was recorded in its in entirety and shows the remarkable condition of his technique at age 82. A fall shortly afterwards in which he severely broke his left hand ended his career.

After playing many different violins in his earlier days, Milstein finally acquired the 1716 “Goldman” Stradivarius in 1945 which he used for the rest of his life. He renamed this Stradivarius the “Maria Teresa” in honour of his daughter Maria (presently wife of Marchese GiovanAngelo Theodoli-Braschi, Duke of Nemi and Grandee of Spain, descendant from Pope Pius VI) and his wife Therese. He also performed on the 1710 ex-“Dancla” Stradivarius for a short period.

During the late 1980s, Milstein published his memoirs, From Russia to the West, in which he discussed his life of constant performance and socializing. Milstein discusses the personalities of important composers such as Alexander Glazunov, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinsky and conductors such as Arturo Toscanini and Leopold Stokowski, all of whom he knew personally. He also discusses his best friends, pianist Vladimir Horowitz, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and ballet director George Balanchine, as well as other violinists such as Fritz Kreisler and David Oistrakh.

Milstein was married twice, remaining married to his second wife, Therese, until his death. He died of a heart attack in London on December 21, 1992, 23 days before his 89th birthday. Therese died in 1999 aged 83. (by wikipedia)

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And here´s one of his legendar recordings: two brilliant violin concertos by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Max Bruch, both were German composers of classical music.

There are several reasons to listen to this album.  If you are looking for the best recordings of Bruch’s and Mendelssohn and Prokofiev’s 1st concerto, you are on the right track: there are very few versions which can compete with Milstein’s Mendelssohn and Prokofiev, and nobody could match him in Bruch’s G minor concerto. (by Anton Zimmerling)

This is one of my favorite recordings. Any of these classic concertos would make this a treasure, but together they cannot be passed up. Milstein is incomprable; technically perfect. The highlight of the album would definately be the 1st & 2nd movements of the Bruch concerto. Played with such warmth and intensity in the mournful g-minor key. I love it. highly recommended. (by an amazom customer)

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Personnel:
Nathan Milstein (violin)
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Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Leon Barzin

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Tracklist:

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: Concerto In E Minor, Op. 64:
01. 1st Movement: Allegro Molto Appassionato 11.26
02. 2nd Movement: Andante 7.49
03. 3rd Movement:: Allegretto Non Troppo: Allegro Molto Vivace 6.27

Max Bruch: Concerto No. 1 In G Minor:
04. 1st Movement: Allegro Moderato 7.52
05. 2nd Movement: Adagio 8.09
06. 3rd Movement: Allegro Energico 6.37

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The Allisons – Are You Sure (1961)

FrontCover1The Allisons held similarities to American duo the Kalin Twins of a few years earlier. They harmonised their voices beautifully, had one enormous smash hit, and then struggled to get recognition for much else. Perhaps it was being so successful too quickly that ultimately proved to be a handicap by raising expectations too high. Whatever the reason for their very short spell at the top, the quality of their recordings would seem to indicate that they should have done better.

Although Brian Alford had been singing in the choir of Saint Dionis Church in Parsons Green, Fulham, since an early age, it wasn’t until around 1956 that it occurred to him that he might be good enough to become a professional. Although he came from a poor background, he managed to raise the sum of £2 2s (£2.10p) with which he purchased his first guitar. He was fortunate to find a local jazz musician willing to teach him how to play it. Like so many youngsters in the UK at that time he became a skiffle enthusiast. It wasn’t long before he had formed his own group, “The Shadows”, at his local church youth club. Despite starting work as a trainee draughtsman, Brian began writing his own songs- an activity that would have a huge influence on his future.

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By 1958, Brian and a fellow member of the Shadows, John White formed a duet- calling themselves the ‘Shadows Brothers’. The gigs they did were mostly unpaid, but they longed to try their talents in the burgeoning coffee bars of London. However, parental approval for taking themselves to Soho to do this was not forthcoming. They entered an audition in Finsbury Park- and from this became Carroll Levis “Television Discoveries”- they performed in two shows which were the highlights of their careers up to that time.

In January 1959 John White decided to quit, and Brian Alford carried on as a soloist until August when he began a new partnership with Colin Day- somebody he sang with in the church choir. At this point the act was renamed “The Allisons”. They each adopted a new name- Brian became John Allison and Colin became Bob Allison. This they thought would strengthen their professional image as “brothers”. This new pairing worked well and by 1960, they had managed to obtain a residency at ‘The Breadbasket’ coffee bar in Cleveland Street. Other famous stars had precursed their careers here- notably Emile Ford, Wally Whyton, and Jimmy Justice.

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They entered a national talent competition co-sponsored by the pop newspaper DISC and a tape recorder manufacturer. They reached the finals at the ATV studio in Wembley despite a roster of 600 entries, and went on to win- then being invited to sing on Bert Weedon’s TV programme “Lucky Dip” that same day. They also won a record test and taped several of the songs that John had previously written earlier during 1957 and 1958. These were submitted to Fontana Records in the hope of obtaining a full recording contract. Fontana were impressed and selected “Are You Sure” for submission to the UK heats to decide Britain’s entry to the Eurovision song contest.

Despite having turned professional less than a month earlier, the Allisons won the British heats and narrowly missed the top spot in the actual contest in Cannes.

However, despite their near miss, the record became a massive hit all over Europe eclipsing the other entries and reached the UK #1 spot in all the major versions of the chart, including NME which was regarded widely as the most definitive at the time. [From March 1960 Guinness adopted a chart compiled by Record Retailer for their “British Hit Singles”- now accepted as the de facto standard. This has meant the Allisons are strangely absent from most lists of UK #1s. This web page is no exception.]

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Sadly, the Allisons’ follow ups to “Are You Sure” largely went unnoticed by record buyers. Doubtless, the Allisons were poorly prepared for the highly commercial world they had entered and management disputes, poor promotion and naivety took their toll. They achieved only two further minor chart placings in the UK.

As the sixties progressed the pair eventually decided to split up and leave foreground pop music. At first, John turned to full time songwriting but the yearn to perform became too great and he soon found himself keeping the Allisons name alive whenever he could. He and Bob would reunite occasionally for short tours, but during the 1970s and 1980s John teamed up with other “brothers”- notably Mike “Allison” and Tony “Allison”.

Ultimately, the Allisons, in common with many of the musicians whose popularity peaked in the 1960s have found themselves in great demand again. Although now 50 years have elapsed since he first felt compelled to sing, John Allison is still at it- and “Are You Sure” is still going strong. John and Bob now reunite regularly and they still harmonise their voices beautifully. (by 45-rpm.org.uk)

And here´s their debut album … a real charming one … a nice mixture between Buddy holly and Tom & Jerry (pre-Simon & Garfunkel)

Bob Allison died on 25 November 2013, aged 72, after a long illnes.

The Allisons03

Personnel:
Bob Allison (guitar, vocals)
John Allison (guitar, vocals)
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a bunch of unknown studio musicians

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Tracklist:
01. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (Anka) 2.04
02. There’s One Thing More (B-Allison/J.Allison) 1.53
03. Darling Trust In Me (B-Allison/J.Allison) 1.50
04. Never Be Anyone Else But You (Knight) 2.33
05. Be My Guest (Domino(Marascalo/Boyce) 2.01
06. Are You Sure (B-Allison/J.Allison) 2.03
07. Blue Tears (J.Allison) 2.02
08. From Now On (B-Allison/J.Allison) 1.47
09. Lightning Express (Kincaid) 5.53
10. That’ll Be The Day (Holly/Petty) 2.06
11. Fool’s Paradise (Petty/Linsley/Claire) 2.17
12. Be Bop A Lu La (Vincent/Davis) 2.11

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Davy Graham with Alexis Korner – 34 A.D. (1962)

OriginalFrontCover1Davy Graham’s debut EP was released in 1962, consisting of three acoustic guitar instrumentals. The first of these, “Angie” (written when he was only 19), is the one tune that Graham is best remembered for to this day, and with it he is often credited as single-handedly inventing the idea of the folk guitar instrumental (though John Fahey was doing something similar in America at the time). The legacy of this one song is vast, as it inspired a whole generation of acoustic guitarists (it was covered by Bert Jansch, Paul Simon and many others).

The title track “3/4 AD” was a duet with Alexis Korner, also on guitar, who helped discover Graham and organize this first recording. Korner also wrote the sleeve notes which praised Graham highly and called him “a genuinely gifted guitarist who rightly refuses to let himself be fenced into one field of music.” Stylistically, the EP could be comfortably called folk music, but there are strong shades of blues, jazz, and perhaps more in his playing. Indeed Graham never felt he had to be confined to one genre, and with his later releases he explored well outside the boundaries of folk music. Even from this early release it is obvious that he had to be one of the best acoustic guitarists of his age… and this was just the beginning! (by stuckinthepast,blogspot)

Alexis KornerExperiment, per se, has only a limited value. What is of importance is the confirmation of an emotionally valid step forward in music. Musicians or singers have to be fiercely aware of the ‘rightness’ in their music in order to make it last. They may appear to be reticent or shy but, in their private selves, they must be sure.

Most good performers are, to a large extent, self-centred. They do not have to be rude, arrogant or offhand – neither do they have to be bland and ingratiating. They may be incredibly weak in many respects, but they are firm in their music. These statements apply to both Davy and me.

Davy Graham is just over 21. He is a genuinely gifted guitarist who rightly, refuses to let himself be fenced into one field of music. The great traditional folk banjo and guitar pickers have influenced his playing. Josh White, who can hardly be fitted into this category, has also exerted considerable influence. But then, so have the great modern jazz players. The fierce belief of good Gospel groups, the great blues singers, all have influenced him as have the Baroque composers.

At times he has wanted to take up other instruments because he wanted the extra sound. Fortunately, he has always been too lazy to do anything about it, with the result that he has been forced to make these sounds on guitar. So something new emerges. He gets a chance to work out his ideas at Nick’s diner, in Fulham, where he works several nights a week. He has also played the streets of Paris and had it rough – and, in his way, he has had it good, with a crowd of worshipful fans sitting at his feet. What he has learned is that, to keep his music alive, he needs to play in front of audiences; he needs to communicate.

His approach to a tune seems to be basically through the tune itself. Both ‘Angi’ – Baroque or Modern Jazz Quartet influenced – and his ‘Train Blues’ – a piece of pure rhythmic impressionism – testify to this. This approach is probably why Davy is best as a soloist. Yet one of Davy’s most telling performances is in our duet, 3/4 A.D. (The title is derived from the time signature and our respective initials). Inspired by Miles Davis’ ‘Kind Of Blue’ and Charles Mingus’ ‘Better Git It In Your Soul’, with a definite bow towards Jimmy Giuffre in the second theme, it is simply the Blues. It is not folk, it is not jazz; it is just music the way we feel it when we are playing together.

Davy Graham

There is a lovely swoop at the beginning of Davy’s opening solo. It is completely Davy, playing you will notice, harmonies rather than single-note lines, sinuous but expansive. Then a complete change in the next chorus. That is me. A hammering, shouting gospel approach which I could never get rid of, even if I wanted to. In the second theme, the solo work is all Davy.

The solo voice, treble first, then bass, in the last two choruses, is by me. It is just the way it happened to work out. We certainly would not play it exactly the same way again; it was an experiment which we may never repeat. It was however an experiment which we ‘know’ was right. (taken from the original liner-notes, written by Alxis Korner)

The recording was made by Bill Leader at his home, ‘North Villas’ London in April 1961.Released in April 1962

Alternate frontcovers:
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Personnel:
Davy Graham (guitar)
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Alexis Korner (guitar on 03.)

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Tracklist:
01. Angi (Graham) 2.29
02. Davy’s Train Blues (Graham) 3.03
03. 3/4 A.D. (Korner/Graham) 4.40

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