Editors' Picks, August 2011


Jazz Roots: The Music Of The Americas (Sony Masterworks Jazz)

Looking for a double-CD primer that surveys nearly the entire history of jazz? One ambitious and easily accessible option is Jazz Roots: The Music Of The Americas. It includes 36 tracks covering the vast period of 1916–2008. Listening to the entire 147 minutes of music in one sitting is a wild ride, with a few abrupt bumps, but then again, it would be impossible to devise a perfectly cohesive mixtape that summarizes nearly a century. As an addition to an individual's music library, however, it's hard to argue with the merits of any collection that offers Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five's "West End Blues," Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child," Duke Ellington's "Take The 'A' Train," and Miles Davis' "So What," plus cuts from Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Weather Report. The proceedings get extremely too smooth for my taste toward the end of disc 2 (where both Kenny G and Chris Botti pop up), but no act is represented by more than one song, so it's easy enough to skip around the tracks.

This package is the result of a collaboration between the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium and Larry Rosen, who created and produced the concert/educational series called Jazz Roots. Kudos to Rosen for educating fans about Afro-Cuban sounds by highlighting Machito, Tito Puente and Tiempo Libre. Also, any youngsters who've never heard Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" (recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1938) might be forever transformed by its titanic infectiousness.