You've gotta hand it to them - The Reissue Gods over there at Sony/Columbia sure know how to ring in/take advantage of this New Millennium. And what better way than to see where we've been & what's gone before, and that's what this 2 CD collection does with class to spare. NYC radio personality/jazz quiz-kid Phil Schaap should be elected the Pope of Jazz (or at least, Of Greenwich Village) for this superbly selected & annotated package. THE DEFINITIVE PERFORMANCES is just that, a remarkable survey of many styles of jazz, from New Orleans to the cutting-edge (then & now). There are too many gems to mention, and some folks are gonna say, "but what about.... " and "but THE definitive take on [classic tune] is on [other label]."
One would have to be a Terminal Jazz Snob or a dummy not to be conscious of the scope and sheer good fun of this set. (Okay, personally, I'd liked to see the following included: Jeff Beck's soulful "Good-bye Pork Pie Hat" to contrast Mingus' classic version; Burton Greene, one of Columbia's few forays into the 60s free jazz; Soft Machine; Herb Ellis & Stuff Smith, who recorded for Epic in the early 60s.) Stan Getz soars with Woody Herman's Herd on "Four Brothers"; Miles Davis' sublime "So What" and chilling "Sanctuary"; Art Tatum sounding like two pianists on the maniacally swinging "Tiger Rag"; the proto-cool of Tony Bennett & Anita O'Day; the epochal horns of Lester Young & Bix Beiderbecke. The ideal gift for your jazz-deficient friends or relatives - a time machine to an era where jazz WAS pop music - a vivid slab of American history - JAZZ: THE DEFINITIVE PERFORMANCES is all this and more.