Three classic reissues from "Jazz's Greatest Year," 1959 (with video)


The package also includes a CD of live Brubeck recordings from the Newport Jazz Festival and a DVD that includes a recent interview with Brubeck about the making of Time Out and an interactive piano demonstration.

My clear favorite of the new lot is the Mingus set, which not only includes the fabled Ah Um (with bonus tracks and alternate takes) but the entire Mingus Dynasty, also recorded in '59. While the latter is consider the lesser work, the albums make terrific companion pieces, showcasing Mingus' mid-size groups (front lines of two saxes, including the brilliant Booker Ervin, and two trombones) delving deeply into hard-swinging blues ("Better Git It in Your Soul") and probing balladry ("Goodbye Pork Pie Hat").


Ah Um, Mingus' first LP for a major label, is widely regarded as the marking the moment when his artistry came to full fruition.


Dave Brubeck, "Take Five" from 1961

Miles Davis, "Will of the Wisp," from Sketches of Spain

Charles Mingus, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat."

Having proclaimed 1959 "Jazz's Greatest Year," Sony Legacy will release three multi-disc, expanded-edition sets marking 50th anniversaries next Tuesday, May 26: Dave Brubeck's Time Out, Charles Mingus' Ah Um/Mingus Dynasty and Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain. The label stole some of its own thunder by last year releasing the landmark album of '59, Miles' Kind of Blue in several lavish editions.

This troika of diverse albums certainly belongs in any discussion of jazz classics. Personally, I find Sketches of Spain the least satisfying of Miles' four orchestral collaborations with arranger/conductor Gil Evans. Its neo-classical centerpiece, the 16-and-half-minute "Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio)," kind of crawls along through atmospheric movement after atmospheric movement.

Overall, the album includes tons of gorgeous horn textures, but never finds much rhythmic traction, and Miles' trumpet work sounds a bit unfocused outside of a swing setting. An extra disc of outtake does not provide much in the way of revelations.

Brubeck's Time Out famously explores different rhythm signatures, and includes Brubeck's signature tune "Take Five." This disc is not on my list of favorites either, but I admire its chamber-like subtlety, Joe Morello's simpatico drumming and Paul Desmond arid-toned alto sax.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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