This Grammy-nominated disc heralds the origins of the highly acclaimed acoustic duo of Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) and David "Dawg" Grisman (mandolin). They had been chums for years by the time they began their direct partnership in earnest on December 7, 1990, with a nine-song set at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley, CA. Over half of that material would be reworked the following spring – for inclusion on this disc – at Grisman's newly appointed, plush, and well-lit Dawg Studios. Along with David Grisman Quintet members Jim Kerwin (bass) and Joe Craven (percussion/fiddle), Garcia and Grisman revive a few familiar tunes covering every dimension of popular music, ranging from the blues ("The Thrill Is Gone") to folk-rock ("Friend of the Devil"), as well as pop music standards such as Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby" – which Garcia had previously covered on his 1974 Garcia (Compliments) album – and Hoagy Carmichael's "Rockin' Chair." They also examined the origins of authentic traditional folk ("Walkin' Boss"/"Two Soldiers").
A European recording date for Brooklyn-based Preminger, hailed across the pond as a distinctive tenor stylist with a gift for composition. Joined by the sensitive accompaniment of both fellow Brooklynite Garcia and Barcelona resident Kamaguchi, Preminger tackles a varied set of tunes. Theres a sweet (but never cloying) version of Try A Little Tenderness and a minimal Moonlight In Vermont (with a nicely understated drum solo). They step out a little further to pleasing effect on Ornettes Law Years and Monks Four In One and on the one original, Garcias Prairie Dance, but this disc never loses sight of lyricism and melody. Which is undoubtedly why Preminger is receiving such praise his playing is cool (the title track is a Warne Marsh tune), inventive, unexpected but never jarring or dissonant. In a world where innovative and edgy often means grating in a new way, Preminger is a rising star for those who like a little sugar in their coffee.
Nina Simone spent time recording with Verve or the associated Philips during the mid-'60s, so her entry in the label's 2003 The Diva Series focuses on that period, when she had an R&B hit with "I Put a Spell on You" and recorded many live albums. Though it is much longer than Verve's previous attempts, it certainly doesn't qualify as a solid compilation of Simone's career. A few career-defining songs like "I Loves You, Porgy" are presented in live versions which, fine as they are, don't rate with the studio recordings. For what it is, The Diva Series is a solid label wrap-up, including rarer material like "Wild Is the Wind" as well as a few classics like "Mississippi Goddam" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."
The Jazz Club series is an attractive addition to the Verve catalogue. With it's modern design and popular choice of repertoire, the Jazz Club is not only opened for Jazz fans, but for everyone that loves good music.
Nina Simone was one of the most gifted vocalists of her generation, and also one of the most eclectic. Simone was a singer, pianist, and songwriter who bent genres to her will rather than allowing herself to be confined by their boundaries; her work swung back and forth between jazz, blues, soul, classical, R&B, pop, gospel, and world music, with passion, emotional honesty, and a strong grasp of technique as the constants of her musical career.
Pioneer of jazz and electronic music, the virtuoso drummer Philippe Pipon Garcia (Truffaz, Don Cherry, Cosmic Connections, Paolo Fesu …) offers us a new musical journey between timeless swing and resolutely avant-garde arrangements tinged with electronics. For this new album Back to the Future, Pipon Garcia is surrounded by bass player Thibaud Soulas and performer Sir Jean whose legendary flow has marked the main groups of dub and afro-electro of the last twenty years, Meï Teï Shô to the Grass People, from Ezekiel to Zenzile via Brain Damage.
Nina Simone was ignited by the civil rights movement, and her fed-up tirade "Mississippi Goddam" ("And I mean every word of it!" she testified before a New York crowd) surfaces on In Concert, an arresting 1964 album that also includes a stunningly theatrical version of Weil-Brecht-Blitzstein's "Pirate Jenny." The second portion of this two-fer presents the folk-jazz-soul diva backed by an orchestra. Not all of it works (less is almost always more where Simone arrangements are concerned, and Hal Mooney's are, often as not, too lush or too clamorous), but her dynamic version of "I Put a Spell on You" and the pensiveness she brings to Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" display the singer's versatility. With the inspired live set that anchors this collection, that's enough.
There's a lot more Broadway and a lot more ballads than blues on this, which ranks as one of Simone's weaker mid-'60s albums. Almost half the record features Broadway tunes on the order of Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hammerstein; most of the rest was composed by Bennie Benjamin, author of her first-rate "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," which the Animals covered for a hit shortly afterwards (and which leads off this record). The other Benjamin tunes are modified uptown soul with string arrangements and backup vocals in the vein of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," but aren't in the same league, although "How Can I?" is an engaging cha-cha. Besides "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," the album is most notable for the great "SeeLine Woman," a percolating call-and-response number that ranks as one of her best tracks.
Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone, which arrives at a time of renewed interested in the pianist and singer's life and art, was co-executive produced by Ms. Lauryn Hill and features interpretations by Hill along with Usher, Mary J. Blige, Common, and others.