I bought a few jazz records over the weekend, as I do whenever the opportunity arises.
One was a 10-inch Mercury LP from 1950, produced by Norman Granz and titled “Charlie Parker with Strings.” The disc was a bit controversial when producer Granz brought it out. Critics wondered whether Bird Parker, who had fought the hard fight over the previous decade to introduce the new melodic and rhythmic approach of small combo be-bop, was “selling out” to produce a more marketable sound. (They needn’t have worried. More mature evaluation has concluded Parker merely refused to stay in a rut, was always willing to try new combinations.)
The second disc I bought was something I normally wouldn’t have given a second look. Not that I wish to say anything negative about “The Moanin’ Sax of Ace Cannon,” 1964, Hi Records number 12014. After all, Cannon played with Bill Black, who was once Elvis Presley’s bass player (so there!), and he indeed has no problem carrying the tune of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” It’s just that there are millions of discs out there in Herb Alpert/Mitch Miller/Andy Williams land, and I believe in leaving most of them — including the “Memphis Soul” sound of Hi Records, whose heyday came a little later in the ’60s when they signed Al Green — to those who will appreciate them more than I.
In fact, I bought the Ace Cannon record for one reason: So that I could share with you, verbatim, the liner notes of one Elton Whisehunt, billed as representing the Memphis Press-Scimitar (a Scripps afternoon daily that closed in 1983 after losing circulation for decades) while also serving as a “Billboard Music Week Correspondent.”
“The true artist will strive . . . to play the music as it is written,” the authoritative Mr. Whisehunt advises us.