Record producer Zev Feldman hasn’t slowed down one bit since we checked in with him about this time last year. For this year’s Record Store Day (Saturday, April 22nd), Feldman’s fingerprints are on no fewer than six releases of consistently excellent archival jazz — on four different labels, no less! All will be available on LP in limited quantities only at participating stores, beginning on RSD. CD and digital release dates vary; purchase links are included in the titles below.
Three of these releases come from the vaults of Baltimore’s Left Bank Jazz Society, which sponsored concerts by a multitude of great musicians for 50 years starting in 1964; two of them are the latest in a series from Cory Weeds’ Vancouver-based Reel to Real Recordings. On Bish at the Bank: Live in Baltimore, pianist Walter Bishop Jr. leads a quartet of first-class players — including saxophonist/flutist Harold Vick, bassist Lou McIntosh and drummer Dick Berk — through sets from 1966 & 1967 marked by thrillingly extroverted, thoroughly satisfying interplay. Confident and crisp, Bishop and his bunch leave a distinctive, sparkling mark on standards, blues and a hefty chunk of Miles Davis’ repertoire, based in classic bebop stylings but stretching the idiom to a John-Coltrane-tinged probing of “Willow Weep for Me” (complete with soprano sax).
If Bishop’s music sparkles, organist Shirley Scott’s Queen Talk: Live at the Left Bank positively sizzles! Playing a classic Hammond B-3 (and providing her own bass lines on foot pedals) for this 1972 date, Scott, backed by George Coleman on tenor sax and Kenny Dorham on drums, leaps out of the gate ablaze on Coltrane’s “Impressions”, lays down smoky grooves that ground the contemporary hits “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “By the Time I Get To Phoenix”, and steps out in high style for the standards “Witchcraft” and “Like Someone in Love”. And when vocalist Ernie Andrews joins the party towards the end, full-fledged testifying breaks out and the blues prevail.
The third Jazz Society show, Sonny Stitt’s Boppin’ in Baltimore: Live at the Left Bank, is being released through Feldman’s new Deep Digs Music Group, on his fledgling Jazz Detective label. A giant on both alto and tenor sax, Stitt took the legacy of Charlie Parker to new heights of innovative expression; for this 1973 set, he brings a sweet, dancing touch to ballads “Lover Man” and “Stella By Starlight”, digs into the challenging changes of “Star Eyes” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and turbocharges multiple 12-bar hard bop workouts. The veteran rhythm section of Kenny Barron on piano, Sam Jones on bass, Louis Hayes on drums meets the challenge of keeping up with Stitt with energy to spare, prodding his creativity onward and upward while asserting a presence all their own. Exhilarating stuff!
The other Jazz Detective release, Blue Room: The 1979 VARA Studio Sessions in Holland, provides an evocative distillation of the magic trumpeter/singer Chet Baker could conjure, taken from two Dutch studio sessions. Given room to explore on Wayne Shorter’s bossa nova “Beautiful Black Eyes” and the title ballad, Baker’s tone is rich and his improv work a thing of genuine beauty; his dashing up-tempo takes on “The Best Thing for You” and “That Old Devil Moon” build delightful momentum; and his vocals on “Oh You Crazy Moon” and “Candy” are finely shaded, with pensively inventive scat episodes. A variety of players provide empathetic backing; Phil Markowitz’s interactive piano and Jean-Louis Rassinfosse’s sturdy bass stand out.
In lieu of a new release, Resonance Recordings (where Feldman made his initial impact and continues as Co-President) is offering a second LP edition of Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions. A fellow traveler with cutting-edge players such as Coltrane and bassist Charles Mingus, Dolphy brought a refined yet pungent new voice to the alto sax, flute and bass clarinet. This comprehensive set includes the solo albums Conversations and Iron Man (recorded by Jimi Hendrix’s future producer Alan Douglas with an all-star session group), plus outtakes and “A Personal Statement”, a flamboyant neoclassical piece by future smooth-jazz stalwart Bob James (?!?). Fusing primal hollers and sophisticated dissonance into a spicy musical gumbo, Dolphy was deprived of appropriate recognition by his early death; this multifaceted compilation lays out his unique contributions to jazz for all to hear.
The final Feldman RSD release, Bill Evans’ Treasures: Solo, Trio & Orchestra Recordings from Denmark (1965-1969) on Elemental Music, was not yet available for review — but based on previous finds like 2020’s Live at Ronnie Scott’s and last year’s Morning Glory and Inner Spirit, it should be another winner. Kudos to Zev Feldman and to all involved for the cornucopia of great jazz from the past that makes every Record Store Day an eagerly anticipated event, and will enrich fans of the music for years to come.
— Rick Krueger
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