Groove Notes
10:44 am
Fri December 10, 2010

‘JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology’ to be released in March

Seven years in the making, ‘JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology’ will be released by Smithsonian Folkways on March 29th, 2011.

The six-CD box set traces the turning points of this 20th-century tale through its legendary innovators and exemplary exponents: Armstrong, Ellington, Basie, Parker, Gillespie, Davis, Hancock, Corea, Coltrane and many more. The set opens with Scott Joplin’s 1899 “Maple Leaf Rag” and spans the entire century, closing with Tomasz Stańko’s 2003 “Suspended Night Variation VIII.”

As the successor to the original 1973 milestone ‘Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz,’ the set has been substantially updated with more than eighty percent new selections.

In its nearly eight hours of music, many hundreds of musicians are featured on 111 tracks, and the set is accompanied by a 200-page book of essays, track annotations and historical photos. The six CDs encompass ragtime, New Orleans, swing, bebop, hard bop, cool, modal, free, fusion, Latin and many more of the variegated creations in jazz’s magnificent sound mosaic.

A blue ribbon executive committee selected the final 111 recordings from thousands of tracks recommended by dozens of jazz experts, and with annotations contributed by a team of 35 scholars and educators, ‘JAZZ’ offers a wellspring resource for jazz fans of all stripes – educators, students, musicians, beginners and aficionados.

‘JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology’ renews Folkways Records’ founder Moses Asch’s commitment to letting the “people’s music” be heard and fulfills the educational mission of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the United States national museum.

More than a half century after the 11-volume Folkways Records JAZZ series of the early 1950s, Smithsonian Folkways echoes its legacy of offering a comprehensive, contemporary vision of the history, diversity and beauty of this consummate American musical invention that today belongs to the world.

The box set focuses on artists rather than tracks; only the most important artists who represented multiple, distinct styles in the span of a career were chosen for more than one cut. That elite group includes such giants as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Blakey and John Coltrane.

Musicians now lesser known, such as saxophonists Frankie Trumbauer and Lucky Thompson, guitarist Lonnie Johnson, pianist Meade “Lux” Lewis, bandleader Machito and trumpeter Shorty Rogers are also given their due.

The track annotations are extremely detailed yet remarkably clear, making the text alone an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about jazz. The Scott Joplin notes include a disquisition on ragtime form, the Tomasz Stańko entry discusses the state of jazz in the Eastern Bloc before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the five separate essays tracing the evolution of Miles Davis from bebop to fusion are a revelation in themselves.

“The extensive research done for this anthology could have produced many different sets representing disparate viewpoints,” says producer Richard James Burgess in his album notes.

“Our intention is that ‘JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology’ will stimulate aficionados and interested listeners, serve as an empowering tool for educators and students, and provide a panoramic overview of jazz as well as a solid jumping off point for further explorations of this inspiring musical culture. ”

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