Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi
Pure Jazz Encore!
Verve / Universal
Two sets of music bearing the Verve imprint, one (Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi) assembled by the master stylists of The Thievery Corporation, the other simply assembled by the Verve corporation, under the supervision of Ken Druker and Jeff Moskow. Both draw from Verve’s extensive catalog, but each has its own character (or lack of, more on this later).
Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi has a decidedly Brazilian bent, with appearances from Astrud Gilberto (covering The Doors’ “Light My Fire” with Brazilian nonchalance), Stan Getz, Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66, and even Walter Wanderley. Jackie and Roy’s “Samba Triste” is a fantastic bossa nova scat number, with a decided lack of words but no shortage of things Jackie and Roy can babble at each other. It’s not all Brazilian — Willie Bobo and Richie Havens are two other highlights — but the vibe is smooth and the groove is ever-present. This is, after all, the music that influenced the Thievery Corporation. It’s also clear proof of Verve’s historical importance, as not just a label but as a conduit for all manner of quality influential music. Like Stiff in the ’80s or Sub Pop in the ’90s, the very presence of the label’s logo was reason enough to get the record.
On the other hand, we have Pure Jazz Encore!, a collection of must-have standards to follow up a previous Pure Jazz anthology. In this case, it seems Universal is cashing in on Verve’s brand awareness, lumping together an impressive array of songs which have little to do with each other beyond their status as classics. Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughn, Louie Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Ramsey Lewis, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Billie Holliday, and many more — these are the inhabitants of jazz’s Mount Olympus, and these songs are their mythos. Not a bad one in the bunch. The collection is worthwhile, but I’m still somewhat bothered to see Verve’s name attached to what is clearly a Universal repackaging project.
What if you had to pick one of these two? Well, you can’t go wrong with either one, but if you’re looking for some depth and a bit of unexplored territory, go with Sounds from the Verve Hi-Fi; if you’re just looking to get “into” jazz and want to become comfortable and conversant with music you may already be familiar with, go with Encore. Either way, you can’t really lose.