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Album Review

There aren't many artists who could get away with creating an album of short eclectic odes to the various relatives and extended kinfolk of Roy G. Biv (aka the primary color continuum of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). But then again, there are few (if any) like word-jazz architect Ken Nordine. At the core is Nordine's mind and voice. No one who "tuned in" to radio and/or TV during the late '50s and early '60s — or, for that matter, at any point through the next millennium — could escape his omniscient, commanding, and reassuring intonations. Colors (1966) began as a short-lived series of radio commercials written and voiced at the behest of the Fuller Paint Company. The spots ran as scheduled; however, at the end of the campaign listeners began calling radio stations to request they be rebroadcast. Once word got back to Nordine, he rewrote the scripts — sans sponsor of course — and composed a few new hues to the initial order of ten. To accompany these quirky paeans, Nordine wisely chose the multi-talented Dick Campbell as his musical director. Campbell had contributed to the broadcast ads, providing apt sonic representations of Nordine's oft unconventional literal interpretations of a predominantly visual medium. Each selection runs roughly 90 seconds and represents a specific shade — most of which are variations of those found on the aforementioned primary spectrum. And in true Nordine style, it is the unexpected that becomes the norm. A prime example of this incongruity kicks off the affair with "Olive" being hailed as "about-to-be-named color of the year by those with the nose for the new, by the passionate few." He takes on the ignored or perhaps over-observed "Muddy" — which he asserts as "the bane of existence to every human her" — and "Ecru" are but two. None is as insightful as Nordine's depiction of "Flesh." Behind Campbell's breakneck bop, the sly scrutiny of race relations has never been as apropos as it is in the first part of the 21st century. Colors was issued on CD in the mid-'90s, and ten tracks from the original sessions were added to the running order for a total of 34.


Born: 13 April 1920 in Cherokee, IA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Most Americans are probably familiar with Ken Nordine, even if they don't know it. His rich, deep baritone graces numerous television and radio ads. His most creative work, however, is reserved for his "word jazz," which marries liquid, free-association ruminations with jazzy instrumental backing. Active in radio since the 1950s, he's recorded numerous albums and syndicated broadcasts, and has even collaborated with the Grateful Dead. Nordine got his start as a radio and television personality in...
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Colors, Ken Nordine
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