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Music Review: New Latin Quarter Presents The Jazz & Blues Collection Volume I

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Where did the elite meet to eat in Tokyo in the early sixties? In the sixties and continuing for forty years, a who’s who of music legends and superstars entertained those lucky enough to get one of the eighty tables at The New Latin Quarter, THE nightclub of Japan. As stated in the title, this CD is the first in a series of releases of live performances and includes fifteen tracks. (With the exception of Louis Armstrong, it’s one track for artist.) The people from the land of the rising sun have loved American music for decades and Volume One gets the project off to a great start.

The Jazz & Blues Collection Volume I includes some rare treasures and no small amount of irony. It’s unfortunate that the sound mixing wasn’t the best as most of the tracks include vocals and the voices are so dominant that the listener often gets an unfair representation of the accompaniment. Then again, on several tracks it works, as in Chubby Checker’s surprisingly tender cover of “Georgia On My Mind”. What a treat! Because of the sound differential, it’s easy to mistake this as an a capella performance, and we get a much different impression of the twist king.

After a brief introduction (in English), Nat King Cole opens with his cover of “The Way You Look Tonight”. This is a special song for my wife and I and we listened closely and neither of us recognized his voice at first. We both thought it was Sammy Davis, Jr. (who covers “The Lady is a Tramp”). Nancy Wilson does a blues number that could have been a very emotional torch song, “The Man That Got Away”, as a high spirited upbeat fun piece with a very fast tempo.

The last third of the album was, for me, the best. It begins with track eleven and Bobby Troup sings “Route 66” in that classic, smooth Mel Torme jazz style. The Mills Brothers’ “Basin Street Blues” steals Louis Armstrong’s thunder and leads into Julie London’s scorching hot, sexy “Daddy”. This could have easily been an inspiration for Madonna’s cover of “Santa Baby”. The Harry James Orchestra provides the highlight of the album with their hit, “2 O’Clock Jump”. This version is almost seven minutes and includes a three minute killer drum solo by Buddy Rich. Hard to top this!

In spite of the technical difficulties and the overall sound of the recording, The Jazz & Blues Collection Volume I is an important piece of music history and I recommend it highly. In fact, I can’t wait for Vol.2!

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