BluesWax Review: The Spotlight Is On
Joel Dorn's Final Project_
" Hommage A Nesuhi "

Blues Wax 10
Reader Rating 10

By Bob Putignano

Unfortunately this is probably the last Joel Dorn production. Fittingly, it is about his mentor Nesuhi Ertegun. Hommage A Nesuhi is a limited-edition five-CD boxed set honoring legendary Atlantic Records producer with sixty-one songs by various artists dating from 1955-76. The tracks performed here are by the artists that were all part of the fabric that Nesuhi weaved as head of Atlantic's Jazz division. The focus of this glorious box set displays Ertegun's immense impact on the music world. Ahmet Ertegun founded Atlantic Records (with Herb Abramson) in 1949, but the elder Ertegun was brought on board several years later in 1955 and recorded an impressive collection of Jazz recordings during his tenure at Atlantic.

This amazing box set is gorgeously packaged in a 10" x 10" case and besides the five CDs, there is a dynamite eighty-four-page hardcover book that recounts Nesuhi's history, about half written by Dorn and the balance by artists and industry individuals who had a musical relationship with Nesuhi. A lot of detail is contained, it's all very informative and a fascinating read. Additionally there is a separate folder that contains nineteen previously unreleased photo cards (by the well-known photographer Lee Friedlander) that aids in capturing a visual look at some of the Atlantic artists who shaped the music that Nesuhi orchestrated.

Obviously the music is the main point and the five discs have been thoughtfully selected and sequenced by the late Joel Dorn. These discs are segmented into five categories: Some Atalntic Jazz, Shades of Blue, Live, On the Edge, and Some More Atlantic Jazz.

Disc One: Some Atlantic Jazz standouts start with the recently departed David "Fathead" Newman's "Hard Times" (which was also Dorn's theme song when he was a young DJ); Eddie Harris' dynamite "Listen Here"; Les McCann's "With These Hands"; Brother Ray's "Sweet Sixteen Bars" and "Come Rain Or Come Shine." Also included are Mose Allison's "Your Mind Is On Vacation," Oscar Brown Jr.'s "A Ladiesman," and Herbie Mann's smash hit "Memphis Underground," which was recorded at American Sound Studios in Memphis and produced by Tom Dowd. Note: A few months before he passed, Jerry Wexler told me that Herbie's "Memphis Underground" was a masterpiece!

Disc Two: Shades Of Blue highlights include Big Joe Turner's "Cherry Red" and Ray Charles' "Doodlin'" and "Am I Blue," plus LaVern Baker's "Empty Bed Blues," Ray Charles alumni's Hank Crawford's "What Will I Tell My Heart," and "Fathead" Newman's "I Wish You Love."

Disc Three: Live features live versions of Brother Ray's "I've Got a Woman" and "Drown In My Own Tears," as well as Ray Bryant's "After Hours," Herbie Mann's "Comin' Home Baby," and King Curtis & Champion Jack Dupree's "I'm Having Fun." This Live disc would not be complete if it did not include the classic "Compared To What" performed by Les McCann & Eddie Harris.

Disc Four: On The Edge spotlights more adventurous material like John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and "My Favorite Things," Ornette Coleman's "Ramblin'" and "Una Muy Bonita," Charles Mingus' "Hog Callin' Blues" and "Passions Of a Man" where Roland Kirk is featured, as well as Rahsaan's "The Inflated Tear" and Jimmy Scott's "Day By Day."

Disc Five: Some More Atlantic Jazz offers Trane's beautiful "Naima" and "Equinox," Yusef Lateef's "Nubian Lady," Joe Zawinul's "The Soul of a Village," Hubert Laws "Let Her Go," Charles Lloyd's "Sombrero Sam," Phineas Newborn's "Barbados," Max Roach's "Nommo," and a dynamite version of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" performed by Rahsaan and Roland Kirk with Billy Butler on guitar.

So there you have it. I must add that this unique box set is one of the best compilations I have laid hands on. Not only is the music outstanding, you also get the Friedlander photography section and that outstanding eighty-four-page hard-covered book (worth the price of admission on its own!) that includes quotes by Dr. John, Sue Mingus, Nat Hentoff, Michael Cuscuna, Ira Gitler, Leiber & Stoller, David Ritz, Adam Dorn, Hal Willner, an Atlantic History section by Bob Porter, and the delightful (last) set of liner-notes from a man I am proud to have hung out with and known, Joel Dorn.

An interesting note as recounted by Dorn's assistant Kevin Calabro at the Joel Dorn Memorial Service (I'm paraphrasing): The day after dotting the "I's" and crossing the "T's" on the liner notes and track listings and sequencing for Hommage A Neshui, Dorn passed away. Eerie-weird for sure, but be certain that this tremendous body of work will stand the test of time and is as much a glorious tribute to Neshui as it is to Joel Dorn.

But don't wait too long, there will only be three thousand copies available, so when they sellout (and I am sure they will) they will be gone forever! Some may balk at the hefty price tag of $149.98, but considering the heartfelt work crafted by Dorn and his peers, I think it is worth far more.

Bob Putignano: