VARIOUS ARTISTS – State Street Music: Jazz at Five: Music from the 2004 Season

CD Reviews 10 Mar 2006

Jazz at Five CD Scan0001VARIOUS ARTISTS – State Street Music: Jazz at Five: Music from the 2004 Season

(2005   Audio for the Arts)

Written by Judy Brady

Compilations can be tricky.  The mix of tunes, their order and their compatibility deem any “Best Of” to be either the one that gathers dust or the one that stays close at hand.  Jazz at Five Productions’s release of State Street Music from the 2004 Season offers a sonic slice of summertime in Mad City, a sweet mix of our great musicians and a whole lotta’ downtown sunshine.  Each track comes from a live performance in either August or September 2004.  It’s a beautiful time to be in Madison for whatever reason, and State Street Music highlights some of our city’s special moments that we should remember from time to time.  Here’s some highlights…

 Track One: Right out of the gate is a bit of Soul Sauce from Poncho Sanchez.  “Guachi Guara” has become so recognizable as a summer chillout/happy hour tune that the people at JaF Productions at least had the sense to let it exemplify their notion that this CD “ has brought jazz out of the clubs and into the light for all to enjoy.”  Sanchez is the only Latin Jazz cut on the CD (and I have to think that someone has performed Tito Puente at least 20 or 40 times as well, but that’s just me) and it’s a nice one.  The Tony Castaneda Sextet sets the groove, and we are advised to listen to this CD “while enjoying your favorite chilled beverage.”   Yahoo!  So get March Madness out of your head and fast-forward to fun in the hot sun.  This track is a good start.

Track Five: A few vocal jazz tunes get sprinkled throughout this CD, and none so cuh-lassic as Benny Goodman’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy” performed by the Doug Brown and Michelle Duvall Quintet.  Sweet and soothing – not really stomping, per se, but still great to hear on the occasion of this lovely day back in September ‘04.  It’s followed by “What Kind of Fool Am I,” which is a bit of a sleepy little ditty.  The David Hazeltine Quartet takes Sammy Davis Junior’s rendition and softly sways and sashays through the autumn afternoon.  Margaritas, anyone?

Track Three: “Kind Folk.”  Love this tune.  And Tim Whalen (Phat Phunktion) rocks.  Of course, rocking in a jazzy way (now I’m getting into trouble), but the original is Kenny Wheeler with Lee Konitz.  Whalen performs this piece with his nonet.  Wheeler, by the way, is a hugely underrated but venerated jazz artist in his own right.  And we know in Madison that Whalen is a talented, talented guy.  The choice made by producers Audio for the Arts to put “Kind Folk” on this CD is a great one.  We witness a sexy confidence, an energy, that pushes and pulls, tugs and prods but ultimately soothes.  This tune captures the whole impetus of Jazz at Five’s efforts.  Nicely done.

As the sun goes down, Ben Sidran and Howard Levy perform “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and Bad Babe’s and Boys explain “What a Wonderful World” we have here in Madison.  Not a bad way to call it a day.

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