The Jazz Project

Thoughts Of A Jazz Lover

Jazz can be enigmatic, an alchemy of mysterious sounds and moods that is spontaneous and yet deliberate in its free flowing creativity. The music can be complex, but good jazz feels as simple as first love—it goes straight to the heart and rests there, beating gently. At times, the music can be so life-like that it speaks to you with honesty and love. One still gets a keen sense of understanding of the complexity of the music. There is such a high note of haughtiness, perhaps a sort of natural aristocracy from a kind of inbred austerity about jazz that puts it in a class by itself, elevating one to a higher ground of one’s consciousness. It almost borders on elitism, and yet jazz strikes one as a beautiful music for everyone. And it is, especially for those of us who not only enjoy but truly love the music. True, most good jazz musicians more than likely think of jazz as the arbiter of modern music. And on a good day, I think they are correct. 

You can walk in your door after a hard day’s work and a harrowing Metro ride, put on Sarah Vaughn and your world is transformed. Your mind clears, your body relaxes and suddenly life is pretty good. There’s no drug in the world that can do that. Jazz is beautiful music.

Smile •••
Peter White, Concord Music

Who among us doesn’t have a romantic heart? No surprise that guitarist Peter White’s latest album, Smile, will touch most people with its subliminal magic and romantic sensualities. This is strictly vacation music and it’s all in the sound of Mr. White’s guitar. Start with the title track, “Smile,” and then travel over to “In Rainbow” and “Head Over Heals.” Get the picture? Now ask yourself “Where would I like to be now?” Cool, start dancing; life is good; where do you want to go? Grab a copy of this album and get out there and give thanks.

As a smooth jazz and jazz fusion guitarist, Mr. White first gained fame with his distinctive guitar style as accompanist to Al Stewart over a 20-year tenure. He began recording his own albums in 1990. During this time some of his most popular songs reached number one on the Billboard Jazz Songs chart including “Midnight In Manhattan” by Groover Washington, Jr., “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” by Jr. Walker & The All Stars, and “Bright.”

Scarecrow Sessions •••
Kiki Ebsen, Painted Pony Media

This latest album from Kiki Ebsen, dedicated to her father, the late actor Buddy Ebsen, is a compilation of cover songs associated with her father’s career. Due to be released late September, Scarecrow Sessions showcases her classically-trained voice embued in its warm, elegant, and inspirational performances. To help forge such an accomplished jazz album, Ms. Ebsen turned to some first-rate performers like Chuck Loeb (electric and acoustic guitars), John Patitucci (acoustic and electric bass), Henry Hey (piano and organ), Clint de Ganon (drums) and David Mann on saxophone and flute. Live strings add grace and emotional depth to the proceedings. 

Scarecrow Sessions takes its name from a little known story of Hollywood heartbreak. Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Scarecrow in “The Wizard Of Oz,” but yielded the role to Ray Bolger while agreeing to play the Tin Man instead. However, Mr. Ebsen had a toxic reaction to being cloaked in tin from head to toe with his hands and face dusted in aluminum that caused severe breathing problems when his lungs became full of metallic particles. He ended up hospitalized forced to breathe with the aid of a respirator for several days requiring him to relinquish the role.

Songs on Scarecrow Sessions with much happier Golden Age associations are “Moon River,” in which Mr. Ebsen played opposite Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”; “At The Codfish Ball,” which he originally sang and danced with Shirley Temple in “Captain January”; and “St. Louis Blues” from his first motion picture, “Banjo On My Knee,” in which he starred alongside legends Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck. Kiki Ebsen unearthed the yearning torch song “Missing You” when sifting through a box of her father’s old scripts and songbooks after his passing. She began performing the arresting piano and voice confessional co-authored by her father during her own concerts. The liner notes booklet contains photos from her father’s storied career, intimate family pictures and personal remembrances. Other songs featured on Scarecrow Sessions are: “You Don’t Know What Love I,” “If I Only Had A Brain,” “Comes Love,” “Tea For Two,” “Laura,” “Easy To Love,” “Prelude,” “St. Louis Blues,” and “Over The Rainbow.”

All CDs and DVDS reviewed in this article are heard through Bowers & Wilkens Nautilus 801 speakers and ASW 4000 subwoofer, and Rotel Preamp 1070, amplifier 1092 and CD player 1072. B&W speakers are now available at Magnolia, Best Buys (703.518.7951) and IQ Home Entertainment (703.218.9855). CDs are available for purchase through amazon.com For more information about this column, please email your questions to fagon@hillrag.com.


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