desert-island-discsAt the suggestion of my friend Bill Gallagher, I am compiling this afternoon’s list of Desert Island Discs — named for the famous BBC radio program — and invite readers to do likewise.

The rules?  There are always rules, although readers may wish to be less stringent with themselves.  One item by any musician: no ostentatious duplications, although overlaps are inevitable.  Box sets (a generous self-indulgence) are of course allowed and encouraged.  Half of the list may be devoted to the Dearly Departed; the remainder must include a majority of living artists.  Alphabetical order, so as not to imply a ranking by virtue.

Here goes (as of a snowy February 3, 2009) — done off the top of my head, without visits to the CD stacks!  Try it yourself and send in your lists, which I am sure will be revealing.

Louis Armstrong 1935-49 Decca releases (Ambassador)

Bob Barnard / John Sheridan: The Nearness of Two (Nif Nuf)

BED, Four + One (Blue Swing)

The Blue Note Jazzmen (Blue Note)

Melissa Collard, Old-Fashioned Love (Melismatic)

The Vic Dickenson Showcase (Vanguard)

Eddie Condon Town Hall Concerts (Jazzology)

Billie Holiday: Lady Day (Sony)

Jon-Erik Kellso, Blue Roof Blues (Arbors)

Barbara Rosene, It Was Only A Sun Shower (Stomp Off)

Mark Shane: Riffles (Amber Lake)

I lament that I didn’t invent an Honorable Mention category — but there’s always next week, next month . . . . Then I can sneak in Dan Block, Basie at the Famous Door, the Fargo dance date, Tony Fruscella, Bix, Buck, Bobby . . . . the mind it simply reels! And if you’re going to write in, taking me to task for leaving out Bent Persson, Ben Webster (with or without strings), Fats Waller, Jack Teagarden, Hal Smith, Red Allen, Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Dave Frishberg, Bennie Moten in 1932, Goodman, Jess Stacy, Teddy Wilson, Mel Powell, Ehud Asherie . . . . I know, I know, I know.  It’s only a game, mind you.

Thanks to for the image above!

13 responses to “DESERT ISLAND DISCS (FEBRUARY 3, 2009)

  1. Bill Gallagher

    Apologies for a list that has a disproportionate number of those who have passed on (if you must break the rules, do so and ask permission later).

    Albert Nicholas & Henri Chaix: Baden 1969 (Sackville)

    Basie and Zoot (Pablo)

    The Complete Buck Clayton Jam Sessions (Mosaic)

    The Complete Paul Desmond/Jim Hall Quartet (Mosaic)

    Don Ewell: Live at the 100 Club (Solo Art)

    Eddie Higgins: Speaking of Jobim (Sunnyside)

    Sinatra/Basie: An Historic Musical First (Reprise)

    Ralph Sutton at Maybeck (Concord)

    Sir Charles Thompson: His Personal Vanguard Recordings (Jazz Connaisseur)

    The Complete Verve Recordings of the Teddy Wilson Trio (Mosaic)

  2. Since it was your idea to begin with, you are hereby given a permanent Break The Rules card with no expiration date. I wonder if this will turn out to be one of those games where everyone wants to come up with a unique list . . . thus making it more difficult for latecomers. So don’t be the last one on your block! Or my blog.

  3. I ‘ll do both discs and sessions since I am too lazy to peruse my collection so I’ll draw on inspired memory:

    “Conference of the Birds” – not a cliche in site as these genius improvisors Sam Rivers, Barry Altshul, Dave Holland, Anthony Braxton interact

    “Bechet-Mugsy Spanier Big Four” – Muggsy Spanier (cor) Sidney Bechet (ss, cl) Carmen Mastren (g) Wellman Braud (b)
    NYC, March 28, 1940 – some of the most exciting small band jazz ever recorded.

    “Coleman Hawkins Memorial” – have no idea the personnel, came out in the 70’s on Pablo, I think it was Hawk’s last session: and it’s missing from my collection so maybe I imagined it. Absolutely transcendent the mere thought of which brings tears to my eyes: can someone point me to the details and availability?

    “Great Times!” – Duke /Strayhorn duets: four hands, one mind. Plus Pettiford plays cello and the Gods weep.

    “Milt Hinton Jo Jones Duets” – the sound engineering is nuts, like they are playing in a bottle within a cavern, but it somehow fits this brave and brilliant outing.

    “Louis at Town Hall – 1947” – nothing more need be said except… Bobby Hackett and Big Sid.

    “Ben Webster/Art Tatum/Jo Jones” their Verve encounter. Ben and Jo play between the cracks of Art’s virtuosities even though there are no cracks.

    “Louis Under the Stars” Louis with strings: how to play and sing with strings and swinging brass. Earth is rejoined with Heaven.

    “Clifford Brown with Strings” – how to play and not sing with strings and no brass.

    “The Complete Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington Sessions” – my favorite is the breathtaking “Azalea” , wherein time is suspended. Anyone who thinks Louis did not have an advanced harmonic sense, listen up.

    “Keith Jarrett Standards Trio” – any of their sessions is worth the ride to alternate universes and back. And kudos to Manfred Eicher who records jazz and classical music with spaciousness like none other. I don’t think ECM has ever put out a bad recording in it’s 30-plus year history.

    I could go on but I have broken enuf of the rules as it is…

    oh yeah, almost forgot:

    Béla Bartók: Music For Strings, Percussion and Celeste (the version on RCA Red Seal)

  4. You always were dangerous, Baby. I applaud those choices that I know. In an excess of love, you have conflated two Tatum sesssions, which I commend: one with Red Callendar and Jo; the other with Ben, Callendar, and Bill Douglass. But tatum, Ben, and Jo SHOULD have recorded together. (You made me think of a Clef session unissued at the time — Carter, Teddy Wilson, and Jo. Sublime!) The good news is that the Hawkins session (Barry Harris, Bob Cranshaw, Eddie Locke) is called SIRIUS and is out on Pablo CD. And, yes, it is truly beautiful. Both of us should have mentioned PRES AND TEDDY, but there are limits — to space, if not to appreciation.

  5. Dave Brubeck Quartet Live In Concert (Past Perfect)

    Duke Ellington Small Bands The Intimacy Of The Blues (Original Jazz Classics)

    Errol Garner Concert By The Sea (Columbia)

    Blues Summit Johnny Hodges and Duke Ellington (WRC)

    Dick Hyman Plays Fats Waller (Reference Recordings)

    Key One Up Bobby Henderson, Sir Charles Thompson, Ray Bryant (especially Sir Charles
    These Foolish Things) (Vanguard)

    Diana Krall All For You (Impulse)

    James Morrison Live At Sydney Town Hall (ABC Records)

    Oscar Peterson The Essential Oscar Peterson ( especially Tenderly) (Verve)

    George Shearing Shearing On Stage

    I’d take along the books Bird Lives by Ross Russell, We Called It Music by Eddie Condon, Miles Davis by Ian Carr, Stardust melody by Hoagy Carmichael, and How To Play The Clarinet in 23 Easy Lessons. I’m sure a clarinet would have floated off the wrecked ship onto the Desert Island, and it will be an ideal place to practice – no neighbors to complain! By the way, I intend to build a raft and get across to Bill Gallagher’s island as I’d like to hear his ten choices.

  6. Oh, why not try? —

    Dave Brubeck – Jazz Goes To College

    Duke Ellington – Ellington at Newport 1956

    Bob Brookmeyer/Stan Getz – Recorded Fall 1961

    Benny Golson’s New York Scene

    Stan Kenton – Contemporary Concepts

    Steve Kuhn – Mostly Ballads

    Hal McKusick – The Jazz Workshop

    Carmen McRae – Live At Sugar Hill, San Francisco

    Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

    Modern Jazz Quartet – Fontessa

    Charlie Parker – The Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings

    Sonny Rollins – Volume Two

    George Russell – New York, N.Y.

    Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson

    Alright, so I bent the rules a little. Shoot me.

  7. With apologies to all the great musicians and recordings I’ve inadvertently omitted, here goes:

    Louis Armstrong, any set including the best of the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens. An ultra-conventional pick, but who cares?

    Mildred Bailey (Proper Box 4-CD set). I call her The Best Singer Nobody Talks About Anymore. Bailey’s range was incomparable – not range in terms of octaves, but in the variety of her material. Whether it was the blues (with Mary Lou Williams, Johnny Hodges and Bunny Berigan), big-band swingers (“Born to Swing” should be the title of her biography), novelty numbers (“Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry”, “Weekend of a Private Secretary”) or intimate ballads (her “You Started Something” with Ellis Larkins is heart-wrenching), no one – and that includes Billie Holiday – did it better than Mildred.

    Dan Barrett “Melody in Swing” (Arbors). Merely trombone and rhythm section, you say? It’s a killer!

    BED, the Complete Recordings, boxed set. Okay, so the set doesn’t exist – but it should, and will.

    “The Fabulous Doc Cheatham” with Dick Wellstood (Parkwood). Two imperishable spirits. All good stuff, but “Swing That Music” and the slow-tempo “Let’s Do It” are unforgettable. “Waiter, bring me some shad roe!”

    Classic Jazz Quartet: Dick Wellstood. Dick Sudhalter, Marty Grosz, Joe Muranyi (Jazzology 2-CD set). Proof that a quirky sense of fun and great music aren’t mutually exclusive. Contains some superb Wellstood (was there any other kind?). For all those who’ve longed to hear “Mississippi Mud” sung in German, this is for you.

    Eddie Condon 1927-1949 (JSP 4-CD set), replete with Desert Island Classics: “Hello Lola”, two immortal versions of “Home Cooking” and oodles more.

    Duke Ellington Fargo, North Dakota, 1940. What the Blanton-Webster band REALLY sounded like. If there’s any jazz greater than this live version of “Across the Track Blues” I want to hear it. Other treasures you won’t find in studio recordings: Ben Webster’s “Star Dust” (complete with squeak) and Ivie Anderson and the band tearing it up on “St. Louis Blues”, the fourth-set finale. I once asked a famous jazz musician (whose name appears on this list) how a band could play with such fire during the fourth set of a one-nighter in Fargo, of all places, during what must have been a most gruelling tour. The reply: “Because it was FUN.” Fun for them, a transcendent experience for us.

    Roy Eldridge live at the Arcadia Ballroom, 1939.

    “From Spirituals to Swing”, the 1938-39 Carnegie Hall concerts. Early Basie with Lips Page (one of the great what-might-have-beens in jazz history), Joe Turner and Pete Johnson, Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian – who could ask for anything more?

    Erroll Garner, anything by. Let’s say “Dream Street / One World Concert” (Telarc) or “Concert by the Sea”.

    Benny Goodman On the Air, 1937-39 (Columbia 2-CD set). The studio recordings pale in comparison. Somewhere there’s a quote from Gene Krupa, the gist of which is: We were young, we were tireless, and we had a ball playing our asses off. Listen to this live version of “Roll ‘Em” and you’ll see what he meant.

    Coleman Hawkins on Keynote (Mercury 4-CD set). Treasures from 1944, many from 12” 78s, including Teddy Wilson, Jack Teagarden, Joe Thomas, Roy Eldridge, Sid Catlett, and a “Battle of the Saxes” with Hawkins, Tab Smith, Harry Carney and Don Byas – all in excellent sound.

    Johnny Hodges, anything by.

    Jon-Erik Kellso, “Blue Roof Blues” (Arbors). A haunting masterpiece.

    Rebecca Kilgore, anything by. Let’s say “I Saw Stars” (Arbors).

    Randy Sandke’s New York All-Stars: “The Bix Beiderbecke Era” (Nagel-Heyer), mainly for Ken Peplowski’s incredible “China Boy” with Mark Shane.

    Rex Stewart, “The Big Reunion: Fletcher Henderson All-Stars” (1957). (Fresh Sound Records; hard to find.) Although the band consists of a bunch of nobodies (Rex, Emmett Berry, Taft Jordan, Joe Thomas, Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey, Ben Webster, J.C. Higginbotham, Benny Morton, Dickie Wells and others), the performances are electrifying. After the session was over and Webster had left the studio, those remaining did an impromptu jam called “Casey Stew” which must be heard to be believed.

    Dick Wellstood “Live at the Sticky Wicket” (Arbors 2-CD set). I picked this one because it’s Wellstood as I remember him, complete with banter.

    I second the nominations of Albert Nicholas / Henri Chaix (Sackville), the Blue Note Jazzmen, and the Vic Dickenson Showcase.

    Sorry, but I’ve broken your 50% rule about the “dearly departed” because as long as there are recordings, none of these musicians will ever truly depart.

    Finally, though it’s not within the purview of this survey, I must put in a word for my favorite eight bars in jazz (and I don’t mean the row of establishments along 52nd Street in the 1930s): Herschel Evans’ entrance on Basie’s “Doggin’ Around”. Destroys me every time.

  8. Pingback: What’s Buzzing? » Blog Archive » Desert Island Discs (February 3, 2009) « Jazz Lives

  9. This question has been killing me for days and I know I’m going to regret whatever I’m about to write. You see, if I truly had to go to a desert island, I would make sure it was Ipod compatible…30,000 songs and it would fit in my pocket! But since this one isn’t, here goes, though like everyone else, I have my own rules.

    I’m going to select five albums from the Dearly Departed that were designed as just that: long-playing, stand-alone albums. Then five from the living. Then, with your kind permission, five more pre-LP era compilations :

    Dearly Departed
    1. Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy
    2. Ellington at Newport
    3. Basie at Newport
    4. Jazz Giants ’56
    5. Sinatra at the Sands
    The Living
    6. Ralph Sutton – Sweet Sue
    7. The Django Reinhardt Festival at Birdland
    8. David Ostwald – Blues In Our Heart
    9. Marty Grosz – On Revival Day
    10. Nicholas Payton and Doc Cheatham (I know this straddles the line but the majority of the players are alive)
    11. Stuff Smith – Onyx Club Boys
    12. The Complete Slim and Slam
    13. Lady Day (Billie on Columbia)
    14. Complete Lionel Hampton RCA sessions
    15. Fats Waller and His Rhythm, 1934-1936 material

    I won’t even touch an Honorable Mention category because there’s too much rattling around my head right now…


  10. Oh, play that iPod! (I couldn’t resist.) I just hope your desert island, like mine, has electricity — otherwise how will I play my semi-obsolete compact discs and how will you charge your iPod? And (as someone else said) everyone on that list is alive in the way that’s important.

  11. Hot Fives and Sevens – Louis Armstrong (Self explanatory
    As Time Goes By – Acker Bilk (for a great clarinetist and Enrico Tomasso on trumpet)
    The Private Collection – Duke Ellington (say no more)
    Blues Summit – Duke Ellington/Johnny Hodges (who could live without it – save this if tidal wave hit the island)
    I’m Old Fashioned – Eddie Erickson (for Eddie’s singing and the wonderful Menno Daams trumpet
    Rhythm is Our Business – Marty Grosz/Hot Puppies ( for Marty’s humour)
    Gulf Coast Blues – Dick Hyman (just listen and you will know why)
    Complete Recordings – Billie Holiday/Lester Young (as Armstrong)
    Echoes of Swing – Ralph Sutton (could have been any of Ralph’s but this is a double)
    Compete Group Masterpieces – Art Tatum (almost all the great players are there somewhere)

    Book, other than bible/Shakespeare, Manfred Selchow’s bio of Vic Dickenson

    Tahiti, here I come with Solar panels.

  12. Bill Dunham, the Bard of Arthur’s Tavern, sent this along:

    I am playing some of my old LPs and recently played one which qualifies for the desert island gems: Pee Wee Russell & Ruby Braff at Storyville recorded in 1952 on Savoy. Wonderful! Ruby was 25 at the time and was top form as was of course Pee Wee. And on trombone was none other than Ephy Resnick who I have known for years prior to his long residence in London. He is absolutely great! I had forgotten that he was such an outstanding traditional jazz player. When he played with us recently he sounded more like Roswell Rudd than Lou McGarity. And on bass was John Field who used to play with the Harvard Crimson Stompers.What a record.
    Incidentally, my all time favorite record is (not with Wild Bill) The Man I Love with Eddie Haywood and Coleman Hawkins. I could listen to Haywood’s solo 10 times a day.

  13. Reference Stompy Jones choice of the Classic Jazz Quartet.
    I had the pleasure of spending some time with Marty Grosz at a Blackpool Jazz Party to discuss his passion for Fats Waller and record his introduction to several tracks I was going to play at our record club.
    As a parting request I asked if he would play Mississippi Mud. He then told me that although we English speakers find this tune funny, when sung in ‘German’ with his exaggerated gutteral pronunciation the Germans enjoy it as much, if not more, because the translation is litteral and to the Germans is meaningless – utter gobbledegook.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s