Teddy Charles

Russia Goes Jazz

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Jazz artists have long been drawn to classical composers as a source of inspiration for arrangements. These sessions led by vibraphonist Teddy Charles with several different all-star groups adapts the music of several Russian composers. Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" is rearranged by Charles into the loping, bluesy "Scheherazade Blue," featuring Zoot Sims and flautist Jerome Richardson, along with the leader. Even better is "Lullaby of the Firebird," taken from Stravinsky's famous ballet, an ominous but swinging take showcasing Jim Hall and clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre with Charles. The swinging "Borodin Bossa Nova" was not the first reworking of this Russian master's works, this theme had already been popularized in American music by the pop song "Stranger in Paradise." In fact, all of the arrangements are interesting and have held up well over the decades. The rather brief total time of under a half-hour makes one wish that additional material had been recorded and included, as neither bass clarinetist (Eric Dolphy and Tommy Newsom) is given an opportunity to solo. Veteran jazz critic Ira Gitler's humorous liner notes, which have Russians like the fictitious Meade Lux Lenin taking credit for various jazz innovations, are an added bonus. Long out of print, this United Artists LP will be difficult to track down.