Considered by some to be the Count's last great masterpiece, Basie and his orchestra's The Atomic Mr. Basie blasts big band swing at its edgy and exciting best, still filling the space that would soon become the domain of rhythm and blues and later rock and roll. Popular, fashionable, mainstream jazz would eventually evolve away from big swing bands, using small combos to further the bebop revolution and refine the cool movement.
Pres hooks up with the Maharaja. According to legend, Young's powers faded after a traumatic stint in the army during World War II. And yes, the opening four numbers seem to corroborate this story. Peterson's quartet (the title was a mistake in its first printing and has thus never been fixed) cooks, jives, swings, pushes and otherwise sizzles behind Lester. Barney Kessel in particular throws out some some super hot licks and Peterson does his usual genius turn at every opportunity.
The how of whatever "spooky action at a distance" a particular song or sound performs on our hearts and minds ranks up there, along with dark matter and love-at-first-sight, as one of the most confounding mysteries in the human experience. A perfect example of this sublime magic is The Verve label's release of recordings led by alto saxophonist Benny Carter, Benny Carter: 3, 4, 5 the Verve Small Group Sessions. As the title suggests, the sessions are played on the CD in the consecutive order of a trio, quartet, and finally a quintet.
It's a safe bet that I'll kick off every jazz review I write with some statement concerning the dense, cerebral nature of the idiom and its unique and demanding nature. The predictable, metronomic feel of pop (or even most rock, for that matter) makes for an easier, less obtrusive listen. And yet Mehldau and company's 're-telling' ('cover' sounds too simple for the trio's imaginative reinvention) of English rock band Radiohead's "Exit Music (for a Film)" closes out their album, Art of the Trio 4: Back At The Vanguard and is one of many highlights. Seriously: Jazz+Radiohead?