A Ken Burns Xmas


PICK HITS

GIRL GROUP GREATS
(Rhino) No news here, especially if you were conscious in 1962, and of course the Shirelles and the Shangri-Las, the Marvelettes and the Supremes, Martha Reeves and (see below) Mary Wells sustain their own albums. But girl-group was bigger than its biggest stars, and never before has it sounded this wondrous. When my daughter and I made a genre tape for her 16th birthday, we just filled the first half of the C-90 with tracks one through 17, in order, the only question Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him," a perkier record than I remembered. Every great one-shot is recalled—Exciters, Angels, Cookies, Ad Libs, Essex, Little Eva, Betty Everett, holy Jaynetts. So's Motown, as indicated, although not spoilsport Phil Spector, who didn't make many records that can stand up to these anyway. The selection is so perfect that when Joanie Sommers parades by with "Johnny Get Angry" she's marked with the Sign of the Beast. Bless the Toys and Claudine Clark for relegating her to the perdition she deserves. A PLUS

THELONIOUS MONK Ken Burns Jazz
(Columbia/Legacy) I like every album he ever made, and they do vary sonically. But Monk's piano is so distinct that from 1947 "Night in Tunisia" rewrite to 1971 "Nice Work If You Can Get It" decon this collection moves as one thing. Like Basie, Monk is a minimalist master of silence and space. But where Basie's few notes imply the full-bodied riff he's prepared for the band, Monk writes the way he plays. His tunes are spare, misshapen things that seemed bizarre in the '40s and eccentric in the '50s—and that now sound like they've always been there. Except for the late "Green Chimneys," every head singled out here is a known classic, equally potent and idiomatic whether Monk trips around trio or solo, corrals Rollins or Coltrane, or slips a little something to the boon companion of his icon years, tenor man Charlie Rouse. And then there are the wickedly timed and modulated comps that mine his sidemen's staunchest efforts. So humorous. So pointed. So on the fractal. A PLUS

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