(or What my son has been asking to listen to on the turntable)
My son is just about to turn two. Since I first mentioned him in this blog (he was 7 months), he has taken a passionate liking to my record collection, which happens to be shelved in the living room of our condo and well within his reach. Until only about a couple of months ago, I had to make it clear to him that the records were off limits. "No touch!" I would say. His hand would quickly dart away from the plastic sleeve which he had just touched. A mean daddy? Well, I had to take defense shortly after he became intelligent enough to pull dozens of records off the shelf and I'd find them littered across the floor. He's a little older now and knows that records belong to Papa, but now since he loves to listen to and dance to music, I let him play a game in which he gets to pick out records that we listen to. This game begins upon awakening and ends right before his bedtime. I joked with my wife the other day that this boy may love his Mama more than anything on this planet, but even his love occasionally gets trumped by his joy of picking out a record from the shelf. She wasn't a big fan of that, but I think she knows that I'm right.
So ... what has my son been picking out from the shelf? I thought he'd enjoy the ability to select from several hundred LPs, but somehow he always seems to gravitate toward the same four records. Here they are:
Ray Bryant was a really soulful, bluesy jazz pianist. While his early Prestige mono LPs sell for hundreds of dollars in mint condition, I actually have taken a greater liking to these later live albums on the Pablo label. Bryant did some great work in live performance, and this record captures the essence of that. The recording is up close, so you can really feel the weight of the piano keys. Bass is quite good for solo piano, in my opinion. All in all, this is a very enjoyable album, and it's not surprising that my boy appreciates it.
I must've picked up this record at either a used record show or at one
of the record shops in Chicago in the early 2000's. The ones I would
frequent on my weekends off in med school were Hi-Fi Records in Lincoln
Park (now closed), Dave's Records in Lincoln Park, just a block away
from Hi-Fi (YES! Still open!), and the few chains of Second Hand
Tunes. I remember that I once had the opportunity to scour the basement
of Hi-Fi which was where they dumped all the classical LPs which were
not shelved in their racks. There were thousands of 'em. I must've
spent a least a couple of hours down there sifting through them, but
sadly, there were few gems. Mostly late label Philips, DG, etc. I may
not have known as much about labels then, though, so perhaps I passed up
some which I might've picked up now. When I later returned, they had
disposed of all of them. What a loss.
In any case, this live Oscar Peterson album is one of several which he
recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1977. In fact, there are
several recordings from that festival year, and many of them are very
enjoyable. That must've been one helluva festival year. Oscar Peterson
could really work some keyboard magic, and his collaborations with his
trio bassists Ray Brown and Niels Pedersen were some of the most
fruitful. This is a downright fun album. A variety of tunes with fast
and slower tempos, all played with that characteristic Oscar Peterson
sound. His flying fingerwork is off the charts. It always blows my
mind how he could play all those 16th to 32nd note runs in parallel with
Now if there was a pianist who could swing, that was Wynton Kelly. Too
short of a life, but what this cat recorded was incredible. He was one
of Miles Davis' favorite pianists, and if you listen to any of his
recordings as a sideman on the Blue Note label (just try Hank Mobley's
Soul Station or Roll Call), you will see why. His groovin' 8th note
runs just made you want to tap your feet, get up, and dance. No joke.
Wynton Kelly went on to record for the Verve label, and this is one of
his later albums. The cover is both artistic and hilarious. I don't
know if I've ever seen another jazz LP cover with a comic strip on its
The tunes swing and have downright soul. Add Candido on the congas, and
you have some groovy beats. My son pulled this out for me to play
tonight for the umpteenth time, and as soon as I dropped the needle on
the first track, he was dancin'.
Okay, maybe it's not pure coincidence that the three jazz albums all
have red, white, and blue covers. They stand out among the sea of cream
or white colored LP spines, so maybe that's another reason why he gravitates to them.
I think it's more than that, though, since he seems to really dig Oscar
Peterson and Wynton Kelly.
Eugen Jochum had already recorded the 12 London Symphonies with the London Philharmonic Orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon when he re-recorded four of them with the Dresden Staatskapelle for Philips. These recordings were highly praised by David Hurwitz on Classics Today for their vitality and energy. There is a CD reissue which is damn near impossible to find (at an affordable price at least) on the Berlin Classics label. I managed to find this $3.99 LP at Store 54 in Allston, MA. It's not in perfect shape and has a couple very small scratches which click, but my son and I can still enjoy the album. Actually, I think he is just fascinated by the picture of Haydn on the front cover.
I almost forgot to mention that there are threee others he always pulls out but are not pictured here. One is the boxed set of Karajan's recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic (Vienna Philharmonic Festival), an RCA shaded dog set with symphonies by Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, as well as an LP of Strauss. The second is the Soria box set of Antonio Janigro and Fritz Reiner performing Don Quixote on RCA. The third is the Classic Records reissue of the Mercury boxed set of Janos Starker performing the Bach Cello Suites. What taste!