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September Songs: Classic Jazz, Born In The Fall

Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Charles Mingus on the cover of <em>Money Jungle</em>.
Courtesy of Blue Note
Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Charles Mingus on the cover of Money Jungle.

September means a lot of things to a lot of people: It's a time to reflect on the summer that was. The harvest is afoot. Football is back. The elections are approaching. The kids are out of the house, back in school as part of their mission to become smarter than us in record time.

The change of season offers a chance to look ahead and look back simultaneously. For many, it's an especially productive month: In the world of jazz, September sessions have produced some special recordings, as heard below.

September Songs: Classic Jazz, Born In The Fall

Count Basie

"Lester Leaps In"

From 'Essential Count Basie, Vol. 2'

On Sept. 5, 1939, William "Count" Basie assembled trumpeter Buck Clayton, trombonist Dickie Wells, guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Walter Page, drummer Jo Jones and tenor giant Lester Young for this spirited exchange, which has to be a part of any jazz starter kit.

Duke Ellington/Charlie Mingus/Max Roach

"Very Special"

Listening to the musical communication among Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach, it's hard to believe that there wasn't more than this session from Sept. 17, 1962. Ellington, Mingus and Roach were more than a trio; they were a powerhouse.

Duke Ellington w/ John Coltrane

"The Feeling of Jazz"

From 'Duke Ellington & John Coltrane'

It speaks to the genius of Ellington that, nine days after recording with Mingus and Roach, he was back in the studio on Sept. 26, 1962 — this time providing composition and chords to the colors of John Coltrane. With bassist Aaron Bell and drummer Sam Woodyard, "The Feeling of Jazz" is conveyed quite nicely.

Wes Montgomery

"Unit 7"

From 'Impressions: The Verve Jazz Sides'

Guitarist Pat Metheny said that this date — Sept. 22, 1965 — was a very important inspiration to him when he was starting his guitar career at the age of 13. Here's Wes Montgomery with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb.

Roy Hargrove

"September in the Rain"

From 'Public Eye'

This tune was introduced in the film Melody for Two. It's been recorded by folks as diverse as June Christy, Chad & Jeremy, Dinah Washington, Frank Sinatra, George Shearing, Willie Nelson, Lionel Hampton, The Beatles and Norah Jones. This version — with Roy Hargrove, alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, bassist Christian McBride, pianist Stephen Scott and drummer Billy Higgins — wasn't actually recorded in September, but it certainly captures its spirit. Enjoy, but don't get wet.

Copyright 2008 WBGO

Gary Walker