Live And Rare (Bluebird Recordings, $45)
Born Edward Kennedy Ellington, the man known as Duke made a name for himself playing with the likes of Louis Armstong, Bessie Smith, and George Gershwin. With a career that traversed through the Jazz Age surge in the ’20s and beyond, the piano-playing maestro’s brilliance is presented nicely on this 70-track, 3-CD set that’s full of previously unreleased live cuts, outtakes, rehearsals, and interviews. If all you know about this legendary leader is his moniker, it’s time to educate yourself, and this box set is the perfect textbook.
Byrds Sing Dylan (Columbia/Legacy)
As Dylan’s popularity is soaring to new heights thanks to his Grammy win for “Love and Theft,” Columbia/Legacy issues these new/old tracks compiled from various sources and featuring Roger McGuinn and company doing Dylan tunes. Yeah, others have covered Dylan in the past, but these guys do genuine justice to “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Just Like a Woman,” “Lay Lady Lay,” and 17 others. Bonus: The special packaging features liner notes from Rolling Stone magazine’s David Fricke.
Strange Place For Snow
E.S.T. sounds like an experimental sci-fi group right? Wrong. This is a traditional jazz trio in every sense of the sound. The group, whose name stands for Esbjörn Svensson Trio, brings forth a new disk that flows easily through nine tracks of piano, stand-up bass, and soft brushes against a snare. There is the occasional funky swirling keyboard, as in the 10-minute opus “Behind the Yashmak,” and trippy synthesized sounds in “Serenade for the Renegade,” but stripped down, these guys are still an authentic jazz trio — straight out of Sweden. — J.E.M.