Sunday, November 26, 2023

VA - The Columbia Jazz Piano Moods Sessions [2000] (7 x CDs)



VA - The Columbia Jazz Piano Moods Sessions [2000] (7 x CDs)

This seven-CD collection exhaustively documents Columbia Records' first attempt at niche marketing with the Piano Moods series. Born out an impromptu marketing plan by a small Columbia Records staff in 1950, the Piano Moods series was hatched from the marketing discovery that there were more pianos than phonographs (that's record players for all you kids who don't remember vinyl LPs) in the homes of postwar America. The 12" LP had been launched a scant two years before and few titles were available. The Piano Moods series linked 20 albums of the same general type, all of them produced and sequenced by George Avakian, who had created the jazz and pop catalog on LP for Columbia beginning in 1948 -- though they were originally released 33 rpm 10" discs to keep the folks with all those 10" 78 rpm discs happy when it came to storage. The sides were cut -- usually -- with no spirals (spaces) between tunes, giving the side a longer feel than its 17 minutes because the music was continuous. Most pianists preset their sequences and prepared introductions of the key of the preceding tune that modulated into the key of the next one. Some would cut the modes later and have Avakian splice them or, in the case of Teddy Wilson, he would play it straight through, and if he felt he flubbed anything, would re-record a tune and have Avakian work the tape magic. The series was wildly successful as a whole, and most homes had at least a few of these sides and some had many or all. The interesting comment here is that many of these pianists had little or nothing in common with one another. They ranged from the jazzers like Wilson, Art Tatum, Errol Garner, and Ahmad Jamal (whose album was released as a 12" LP) to stride cats like Ralph Sutton and Joe Sullivan -- who plays Fats Waller here -- to swingers like Earl "Fatha" Hines, Joe Bushkin (of Tommy Dorsey fame), and Jess Stacy. There are more than a few unknown jazzers as well, like Buddy Weed, Max Miller, Eddie Heywood, and Bill Clifton. Also included is the man who could -- and did -- play everything, concert virtuoso Stan Freeman.

The seven CDs in this set are divided up somewhat arbitrarily, and then given their catalog numbers at the back of the set. The first disc pairs Garner (with his original versions of "Long Ago and Far Away" and "It Could Happen to You") with Jamal (with "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" and "Perfida" among his set) and therefore, the sides with Hines and Bushkin have trouble holding up, but not because the material isn't quality -- far from it. It's just that disc one sets such a solid mood it's impossible to play the jubilant swinging Hines and the '30s-ish swing of Bushkin next to what was modern jazz in 1950. Discs three and four fare better, with Sutton on one side striding his ass off through Waller's material -- truly the classics of the master's material played as only a well-versed acolyte can, from "Ain't Misbehavin'" through "Muskrat Ramble" to "Blue Turning Grey Over You" and "Take It From Me." Sullivan carries on the stride mood, and then we move into the more populist and bebop-themed material with Stacy and Weed, both of whom were monsters of technique -- especially Weed, whose hands tore up the left side of the keyboard while his right strided out elongated ninths and even 12ths to comp. On disc five there is a gorgeous symmetry between the pianism of Wilson and that of Clifton. First there is Wilson's pure notion of "Flight." His rhythmic patterns create the harmonic possibilities for runs inside the chords and key changes that further fatten the key signature and dominant chord. The fact that he is as likely to solo with his left hand as is right is another of his gifts. Many who knew him claimed even he didn't know until the inspired moment. Many of Wilson's signature tunes are here: "Honeysuckle Rose," "Just One of Those Things," "(I Don't Stand) A Ghost of a Chance With You," and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." Whether ballad, swinging stomp, or shimmering blues, Wilson rose to every occasion here -- and there are also the alternate takes that he rejected (evidence for the claim that there is no difference in quality except in the pianist's ear). Clifton, on the other hand, is a middle-register heavy pianist, using the same wide-bottomed harmonic structures in his voicings -- if not the same chords and the same method to arrive at them as Wilson. The difference is in approach. Wilson attacked the keyboard, however gracefully, where Clifton prefers to toy with it and seduce the secrets from it. His version of "Let's Fall in Love" would have been more at home with the West Coast jazzers than in New York, but it's a stunning rendition with a bit of two-handed counterpoint à la Brubeck in the bridge.

As for disc six, there is no doubt that Heywood and Freeman were gifted men; their technically tailored approaches make crystalline masterpieces of their chosen repertoires here, but they're too clean -- almost sterile because of their technical prowess. Finally, on the final disc listeners get the pure bombastic blockhead chord voicings of Miller, who played guitar and vibes before becoming a pianist. The bottom line: The guy murders everything he plays, with a distinct lack of any subtlety whatsoever. It's balanced, however, with the second half of the disc, which takes the set out with the sublime pianism of Tatum, recorded live at a concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1949, and features -- along with well-known gems like "Willow Weep for Me," "Someone to Watch Over Me," and "How High the Moon" -- two of the greatest performances of piano on record: "I Know That You Know" and Dvorak's Humoresque. Where Tatum took his inspiration from is unknown; where he took his improvisations to is the limit and further. He could stretch the balance of any harmonic configuration and then wrap it around another without missing a note. In all, seven CDs is a lot for pretty much solo piano works recorded with a marketing theme in mind. But there are more fine performances than mediocre ones, and only one bad one through and through -- and even it is offset by sheer genius. The worst you can say about the Complete Jazz Piano Mood Sessions is that there's just too much here -- even for fans of the Mosaic label. The best you can say here is that first, the sound is phenomenal (as are the notes by Avakian himself), and second, there's just too much. Either way, it's a win-win deal. (AMG review by Thom Jurek)






Track lists


01 Erroll Garner - When Johnny Comes Marching Home 3:28

02 Erroll Garner - My Heart Stood Still 4:19

03 Erroll Garner - Long Ago And Far Away 2:31

04 Erroll Garner - Poor Butterfly 3:10

05 Erroll Garner - Spring Is Here 2:28

06 Erroll Garner - When You're Smiling 3:48

07 Erroll Garner - It Could Happen To You 3:48

08 Erroll Garner - I Don't Know Why 3:31

09 Ahmad Jamal - The Surrey With The Fringe On Top 2:51

10 Ahmad Jamal - Will You Still Be Mine 2:44

11 Ahmad Jamal - Rica Pulpa 2:34

12 Ahmad Jamal - Perfidia 2:56

13 Ahmad Jamal - Aki And Ukthay (Brother And Sister) 3:08

14 Ahmad Jamal - Billy Boy 2:40

15 Ahmad Jamal - Ahmad's Blues 2:56

16 Ahmad Jamal - A Gal In Calico 2:34


01 Earl Hines - Rosetta 3:52

02 Earl Hines - When I Dream Of You 3:47

03 Earl Hines - You Can Depend On Me 4:34

04 Earl Hines - Diane 4:14

05 Earl Hines - Velvet Moon 3:58

06 Earl Hines - I Hadn't Anyone Till You 4:01

07 Earl Hines - These Foolish Things 3:57

08 Earl Hines - 'deed I Do 3:37

09 Joe Bushkin - Hallelujah 2:37

10 Joe Bushkin - I've Got A Crush On You 3:19

11 Joe Bushkin - They Say It's Wonderful 3:07

12 Joe Bushkin - Portrait Of Tallulah 2:51

13 Joe Bushkin - Here In My Arms 2:49

14 Joe Bushkin - Pennies From Heaven 2:53

15 Joe Bushkin - Everyday Is Christmas 3:21

16 Joe Bushkin - The Lady Is A Tramp 2:41


01 Ralph Sutton - Ain't Misbehavin' 2:40

02 Ralph Sutton - Oriental Tones 2:40

03 Ralph Sutton - Jitterbug Waltz 3:38

04 Ralph Sutton - Tia Juana 2:22

05 Ralph Sutton - I Used To Love You (But It's All Over Now) 2:48

06 Ralph Sutton - Muskrat Ramble 2:49

07 Ralph Sutton - Deep Henderson 3:56

08 Ralph Sutton - Keep Your Temper 2:30

09 Ralph Sutton - Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans 2:55

10 Ralph Sutton - Ain't Misbehavin' (Alternate Take) 2:56

11 Ralph Sutton - Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now 2:38

12 Ralph Sutton - Ain't Cha Glad? 3:18

13 Ralph Sutton - Sheltered By The Stars (Cradled By The Moon) 2:49

14 Ralph Sutton - Viper's Drag 3:09

15 Ralph Sutton - Blue Turning Grey Over You 3:33

16 Ralph Sutton - Alligator Crawl 2:37

17 Ralph Sutton - Take It From Me 3:20

18 Ralph Sutton - Clothesline Ballet 3:06


01 Joe Sullivan - If You Can't Be Good, Be Careful 3:32

02 Joe Sullivan - Can't We Get Together? 2:04

03 Joe Sullivan - Never Heard Of Such Stuff 2:20

04 Joe Sullivan - There'll Come A Time 2:25

05 Joe Sullivan - Breezin' 3:32

06 Joe Sullivan - An Armful Of You 3:01

07 Joe Sullivan - What's Your Name? 2:53

08 Joe Sullivan - Solid Eclipse 3:02

09 Jess Stacy - Lullaby Of The Leaves 2:53

10 Jess Stacy - Cherry 2:50

11 Jess Stacy - Lover Man 3:18

12 Jess Stacy - I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter 2:42

13 Jess Stacy - Under A Blanket Of Blue 3:12

14 Jess Stacy - I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me 2:57

15 Jess Stacy - In A Mist 3:35

16 Jess Stacy - Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now 2:38

17 Buddy Weed - Autumn In New York 3:00

18 Buddy Weed - Ragging The Scale 3:01

19 Buddy Weed - There's A Small Hotel 3:28

20 Buddy Weed - My Heart Is A Hobo 2:32

21 Buddy Weed - The Boy Next Door 3:28

22 Buddy Weed - Something To Remember You By 2:33

23 Buddy Weed - Yesterdays 3:11

24 Buddy Weed - Song Of The Islands 2:27


01 Teddy Wilson - Just One Of Those Things 2:14

02 Teddy Wilson - Just Like A Butterfly (That's Caught In The Rain) 2:29

03 Teddy Wilson - Runnin' Wild 1:30

04 Teddy Wilson - I've Got The World On A String 2:44

05 Teddy Wilson - Fine And Dandy 1:39

06 Teddy Wilson - (I Don't Stand) A Ghost Of A Chance With You 1:59

07 Teddy Wilson - Honeysuckle Rose 1:56

08 Teddy Wilson - Just One Of Those Things (Alternate Take) 2:25

09 Teddy Wilson - Fine And Dandy (Alternate Take) 2:07

10 Teddy Wilson - Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea 2:08

11 Teddy Wilson - Bess, You Is My Woman Now 2:42

12 Teddy Wilson - I Can't Give You Anything But Love 2:52

13 Teddy Wilson - After You've Gone 3:05

14 Bill Clifton - It's Easy To Remember 3:01

15 Bill Clifton - Isn't It Romantic? 3:27

16 Bill Clifton - Love-Forty Blues 3:59

17 Bill Clifton - Let's Fall In Love 2:38

18 Bill Clifton - The Touch Of Your Lips 2:31

19 Bill Clifton - Down The Old Ox Road 2:10

20 Bill Clifton - Down By The River 2:09

21 Bill Clifton - Love Is The Sweetest Thing 3:18

22 Bill Clifton - Gypsy In My Soul 2:19


01 Eddie Heywood - Without A Song 3:22

02 Eddie Heywood - All The Things You Are 2:58

03 Eddie Heywood - St. Louis Blues 4:42

04 Eddie Heywood - A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody 3:31

05 Eddie Heywood - Mighty Lak' A Rose 2:38

06 Eddie Heywood - Try A Little Tenderness 4:42

07 Eddie Heywood - The Birth Of The Blues 3:44

08 Eddie Heywood - When Your Lover Has Gone 3:50

09 Stan Freeman - Fascinatin' Rhythm 3:28

10 Stan Freeman - Cabin In The Sky 3:08

11 Stan Freeman - Gone With The Wind 3:50

12 Stan Freeman - What Is This Thing Called Love? 3:07

13 Stan Freeman - Dancing On The Ceiling 2:59

14 Stan Freeman - I'll Take Romance 3:21

15 Stan Freeman - Flamingo 3:14

16 Stan Freeman - Carioca 2:23


01 Max Miller - St. Louis Blues 3:14

02 Max Miller - Liebestraum 3:00

03 Max Miller - Don't Blame Me 2:49

04 Max Miller - Lover 2:22

05 Max Miller - Rose Room 3:24

06 Max Miller - Besame Mucho 2:46

07 Max Miller - Embraceable You 3:22

08 Max Miller - I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me 3:13

09 Art Tatum - Yesterdays 3:26

10 Art Tatum - Willow Weep For Me 3:15

11 Art Tatum - The Kerry Dance 1:03

12 Art Tatum - The Man I Love 2:16

13 Art Tatum - I Know That You Know 2:42

14 Art Tatum - Humoresque 3:51

15 Art Tatum - Tatum-Pole Boogie 2:27

16 Art Tatum - Someone To Watch Over Me 3:34

17 Art Tatum - How High The Moon 2:33




  1. Thanks Butterboy for another interesting Sunday jazz.

    1. Thanks Bob Mack.
      Have fun listening to this.

  2. Have had it for awhile - its an interesting mix of artists, from the classic to the relatively obscure. But, the music is fantastic. Thanks, BB!

    1. Hi pmac,
      It's a mixed bag but wonderful nonetheless.

  3. Delightful, top notch piano playing. The recording quality is excellent//Love these Mosaic sets. A privilege to hear this music.Thanks very much!

    1. You welcome, Richard Bock.
      There is lots to love about the sounds from Mosaic.