Friday, February 24, 2006

Odd Spin 2/24: Bud Shank’s Folk & Flute

Bud Shank’s Flute & Folk
Leader, flute: Bud Shank
Guitar: Joe Pass
Plus the Folkswingers
Label: World Pacific

The platter: One of the Folk-Swingers was Joe Pass. The others may be lost to the sands of time, but they support Shank’s tasteful playing well in this surprisingly enjoyable set of folk standards by the likes of Bob Dylan and Woody Gutherie. Bud Shank is one of the great alto players, but his reputation probably suffers from some of the gimmicky sessions World Pacific put him in. Trust me, this one actually works.

There has been some affinity between jazz and folk artists. Perhaps it’s a matter of proximity, in that jazz and folk were often programmed in the same venues. The Village Vanguard is one of jazz’s true shrines, but Max Gordon’s West Village club originally featured both jazz and folk acts. George Wein, long the producer of the Newport Jazz Festival, has also been one of the leading folk concert promoters. Even the venerable jazz label, Verve Records, launched a blues and folk subsidiary, Forecast.

Some genre crossing artists have pursued their own musical fusions. Folk singer Josh White, Jr. made the centerpiece of his act, a song closely associated with jazz diva Billie Holiday: “Strange Fruit.” His father, blues singer Josh White, actually recorded a 78 for Blue Note Records, the revered jazz label, early in its history. Oscar Brown, Jr. created a successful, politically conscious cabaret act mixing jazz and folk. Folk singer Barbara Dane recorded a big band album with jazz legend Earl “Fatha” Hines. Dane herself was at the forefront of the “blues roots” movement, which sought to identify and celebrate traditional bluesmen as folk’s fore-bearers. With distant blues ancestry in common, it’s not as surprising that many gimmicky jazz folk cover albums were actually quite successful, particularly this one.

Bottom line: It may be a good album, but it hasn’t carried a high price tag, due to the folk material. Hold out for something less than $10.00.