Capital Gold: Jazz Legends - Various
Shoehorning a genre as wide and varied as Jazz onto 3 CDs is pretty nigh impossible so as any compiler will tell you "Go for the anthems". In this case, they have also limited the entry to one per artist (though Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis manage to get on the collection twice thanks to guest appearances) and a rather bizarre but pleasant selection of tracks by some Jazz "Legends" and some of the new wave of Jazz artists.
The first CD drops us in the midst of the Swing era with Glenn Miller's In The Mood and gives us our first candidate for bizarre Jazz death - the official line was Miller was shot down while flying over the Channel during the war but some believe this was a mere cover-up for a slightly uglier story - death in a Parisian brothel. Well, at least the music still sounds as good as ever! We move on to some vocal numbers such as Louis Jordan's Choo Choo N'Boogie and Cab Calloway's Minnie the Moocher which he somehow also managed to place in Blues Brothers forty years later. Choosing one Billie Holiday tune to make the cut is pretty much impossible but That Ole Devil Called Love was always likely to be quite popular though in my mind, not her best work. This trend towards the easy-listening approach continues with the inclusion of Cry Me a River, Let There Be Love and Chicago. Stan Getz thankfully comes to the rescue with Desafinado with its Latino rhythms and Joao Gilberto's mercurial guitar playing. The rest of the CD continues with some populist choices - know thatIt's A Wonderful World is Satchmo's best known tune but it's also one on which he doesn't blow his horn! - but doesn't really go too far wrong. For that we have to pop in disc 2.
Just cast an eye over the artists featured here and you can see that the term "legend" was more hyperbole than fact: Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Jamie Cullum, Us3 and Amy Winehouse are legends? The latter has about as much feel for Jazz as my left toe but I suppose she must sell quite well in the 20-something generation. Also joining forces with these whippersnappers is the more mature talent of guitar virtuosos such as Pat Methney and George Benson and the rather debatable inclusion of Lou Rawls. With such a bizarre mix of eras and genres this CD really does not gel at all making it the least strong of the three.
The final CD takes a dip into the edgier, more experimental side of Jazz kicking off with Miles deconstructive interpretation of Concierto De Aranjuez - Miles returns a few tunes later for the standard Les Feuilles Mortes (aka Autumn Leaves). The stark raving-mad Thelonious Monk also graces us with Round Midnight which is quite accessible as far as the Monk goes. John Coltrane gets a nod but only in the shape of Blue Train - the musical equivalent of claiming an early Picasso will give you a good idea what the artist is actually like. Ending with the two-fingered Gypsy guitarist conjuring up his trademark licks on his self-penned Nuages, the CD ends in true class, making it the strongest of the three.
If you're looking to learn more about Jazz this may not be your best port of call given the choices made tend more towards the radio-friendly rather than the anthological. However, If you're looking for a set of CDs to accompany you through the long holiday drives, you could choose worse CDs than this.