Radio Rarities for Record Store Day
Producer Zed Feldman has made a career of scouring the vaults and collaborating with collectors all over the world to find great jazz recordings, most of which were never intended for release. For Record Store Day, Black Friday, 2023, Feldman has excavated tapes from radio broadcasts from the 1960s to showcase the talents of Wes Montgomery, Les McCann, Cal Tjader, and Ahmad Jamal. All of these multi disc sets were released on vinyl on Black Friday, and will be available on other formats on December 1.
Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly Trio, Maximum Swing: The Unreleased 18965 Half Note Recordings (Resonance Records).
Four of the sets on Maximum Swing originally aired as part of Alan Grant’s Portraits in Jazz show on WABC FM In New York. The final set comes from an unknown source who made a semi-professional bootleg. The set sounds like the other Half Note tracks, and so is included here. The source tapes vary in quality from original session tapes to bootleg generations from the originals. Feldman and his team have done a great job cleaning and remastering the tapes to give us the best sound possible.
These shows were recorded around the same time as Smokin’ at the Half Note, also with the Wynton Kelly Trio, and show Montgomery in an unusually relaxed and expansive mode. The playing on these dates really swings harder than most of Montgomery’s official recordings and makes this set a unique historical documents.
Les McCann, Never a Dull Moment: Live Coast to Coast 1966 – 1967 (Resonance Records).
Live Coast to Coast features several sets recorded in Seattle at the Penthouse in 1966 and a session recorded at the Village Vanguard in 1967. The Village Vanguard recordings were made by Resonance founder and co-president George Klabin fifty some years ago. Klabin was part of the restoration team for Never a Dull Moment. The folks at Resonance thought this compilation would be a great way to celebrate McCann’s 88th birthday.
Les McCann wrote in the album notes:
“When my manager, Alan Abrahams, told me that there were some recently uncovered recordings that have never been released before from the ’60s, I was really curious if they were any good. People were always sending me cassettes that they have come across over the years and the sound was usually shit. When I was informed that these live recordings were from the Penthouse in Seattle (a cool venue), and also from the Village Vanguard in New York (a really cool venue), I held my breath . . . then I heard them and I said ‘Daaamn!’ People who know me know that I never planned for the future, but when you deal from the heart, you have no fear and Never A Dull Moment! _Live from Coast to Coast 1966-1967 shows that beautifully._”
Ahmad Jamal, Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968 (Jazz Detective/Elemental).
Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1966 – 1968 is Jazz Detective, Zev Feldman’s third and final collection of live recordings from Seattle. Like many of the other recordings here, Jamal’s sets were originally recorded for radio broadcast. The excellent sound shows off Ahmad’s craft. Jamal’s sound is clean and precise. When I think of a smoky jazz bar in a noir film, this is what I’m imagining. It’s not showy or overly demanding. It’s the perfect sound for martinis and chill.
Cal Tjader, Catch The Groove: Live at the Penthouse 1963-1967 ( Jazz Detective/Elemental).
Cal Tjader is the quiet giant of jazz vibraphone. He didn’t swing as hard as Lionel Hampton and he wasn’t as soulful as Mia Jackson, but he was a consummate stylist. Listening to his take on standards like “Take the A Train” shows his grasp of the jazz canon. What really set Tjader apart was his pioneering use of Latin rhythms, and the strongest and most fun tracks on this collection come when Cal and his band dig into a good Latin groove and go to town with that joyful sound.
All of these high-quality compilation releases have extensive booklets with notes on the making of the albums, essays on the contributions of the artists, and an abundance of rarely seen photographs from the 1960s. I’m drawn to the Cal Tjader and Wes Montgomery collections the most.