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    Ronnie Mathews: Doin' the Thang!

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    P39203feccwRonnie Mathews is barely known today, but the pianist was a distinguished sideman starting in 1960 and a leader through the years. As a sideman, he appeared on Freddie Hubbard's Breaking Point (1964), Lee Morgan's Rumproller (1965) Max Roach's Drums Unlimited (1965) and Dexter Gordon's The Homecoming (1976), as well as on albums by many leading jazz stars. As a leader, one of Mathews' finest albums was—Doin' the Thang!, recorded for Prestige in December 1963.

    First Impulse: 50th Anniversary

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    6a00e008dca1f08834011570603d1b970b-200wiAfter Creed Taylor formed Impulse Records in the summer of 1960, his first move wasn't to record and release LPs. It was to develop a strategic marketing plan. First, Creed and Fran Scott, his art director (and Tony Scott's wife) designed a strong logo. Next, they chose orange and black for the label's color scheme. These colors have been used most effectively in a new four-CD set, First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection 50th Anniversary Collection (Universal).

    Lockjaw Davis: Goin' to the Meeting

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    Screen shot 2011-05-03 at 7.51.07 PMFans of tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis will completely understand what I'm about to say: There are great Lockjaw Davis albums. And then there are really great Lockjaw Davis albums. What constitutes a really superb Davis recording? Davis has to be a bit on edge and faced with formidable, assertive competition behind him. On such albums, he doesn't just plunge in with a biting reed attack. He also gives it a big 360-degree twist. Goin' to the Meeting, a Prestige date from May 1962, was one of those all-in outings.

    The Franzettis: Alborada

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    FranzetteIt's rare when classical and jazz merge perfectly. Most efforts tend to be ponderous and bombastic, particularly because most composers and arrangers forget that for such hybrids to win over American ears, the fusion needs to be an equal partnership with a dose of cinematic drama. Too often, jazz-classical efforts have been more classical than jazz, and quite often wind up taxing the patience of the American jazz listener. But there are glorious exceptions. One of these is the newly released Alborada, featuring pianists Carlos Franzetti and his wife Allison Brewster Franzetti.

    Robert Johnson: Complete Tracks

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    Images-2There's something haunting about Robert Johnson's voice. The blues singer-guitarist sounds at once cock-sure and frightened, giving his recordings the feel of both perspiration and a cold sweat. As I wrote in Friday's Wall Street Journal review (here), Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings (Sony/Legacy) continues to illustrate that given a chance, simplicity and passion will trump technique and quantity every time. I also spoke with Steven Lasker, the new set's engineer. More with Steven in a moment.

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