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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Gerry Mulligan et al - I Want to Live

Gerry Mulligan - The Jazz Combo (with Shelly Manne, Art Farmer et al) - I Want to Live!

London / United Artists LTZ-T 15161 (monaural) (UK release of United Artists UAL-4006(M)(USA)), 1958 

The film "I Want To Live", based on a true story, a tour de force for actress Susan Hayward, playing Barbara Graham, a wayward woman falsely accused of murder who is the last woman summarily executed in the state of California, was one of the first films with effective use of jazz in the soundtrack.  Part of the reason for this is the scoring by Johnny Mandel, also composer of such evergreen standards as "The Shadow Of Your Smile" again taken from a film soundtrack ("The Sandpiper").  Another reason was that there is a combo appearing in the film, a septet led by Gerry Mulligan, reflecting Barbara Graham's abiding interest in the music of Mulligan.  So, there are two soundtrack albums, this one and another, also on United Artists, which finds Mandel leading an orchestra featuring top West Coast jazz musicians.  In this album,Mulligan is joined by Art Farmer, trumpet; Bud Shank, alto saxophone, flute; Frank Rosolino, trombone; Pete Jolly, piano; Red Mitchell, bass; and Shelly  Manne, drums.  The programme they play is all composed by Johnny Mandel,and the titles include: 'Black Nightgown', 'Thme from I Want To Live', 'Night Watch', 'Frisco Club', 'Barbara's Theme', and 'Life's A Funny Thing'.  Two years later, Mulligan recorded 'Theme From I Want To Live' and 'Barbara's Theme' with his Concert Jazz Band, in versions very like the ones here.  

Woody Herman - Light My Fire

Phonogram / Chess Records 6310 127 (UK), 1969 (UK release of Cadet LPS 819 (USA)

Presenting the ever-changing Woody Herman, whose forward-thinking musical mind started working when he inherited the Isham Jones band in the late 1930s, then metamorphosed from "The Band That Plays The Blues" into one of the first big bands to take account of the changes that be bop wrought in the late '40s ("Four Brothers", and others!).  On this wonderful album, in the late '60s,  with a band full of powerhouse players, he acknowledged the music that was capturing the attention of the young audiences around the country.  One of the first bands to play at colleges and universities, the band presented here featured young graduates of the premier musical colleges in the country, such as Berklee School of Music and North Texas State.  Briefly, the selections are: 'Pontieo' (Lobo - Capinan). 'Here I Am, Baby' ('Smokey' Robinson), 'Hard To Keep My Mind On You' (Holmes), ' MacArthur Park (Jim Webb), 'Light My Fire' (The Doors), 'I Say A Little Prayer' (Bacharach - David), 'Hush' (South), 'For Love Of Ivy' (Quincy Jones - Bob Russell), and two originals by the arranger and album producer Richard Evans, 'Impression Of Strayhorn', and ' Keep On Keepin' On'.  Soloists include Woody himself on alto saxophone and clarinet, Sal Nistico and Frank Vicari, tenor saxophones, Nat Pavone, Sal Marquez and Henry Hall, trumpets, Robert Burgess, trombone, and John Hicks, piano.  A real swinger of an album, with a bit of a jazz-rock twist!

The Ellington All Stars - In A Mellow Tone

(stereo), Riverside / Polydor 673 026 (UK), 1958 (UK reissue of Clark Terry's 1957 U.S. album on Riverside RLP 12-246, "Duke With A Difference")
The great trumpeter Clark Terry is heard here with two different line-ups, both featuring Johnny Hodges, in an all-Ellington programme which, originally released in 1957, was called "Duke With A Difference".  Here entitled Ellington All-Stars - "In A Mellow Tone", this Riverside reissue has all of the original album's tracks save one; inexplicably omitted is the Duke's "In A Sentimental Mood".  Be that as it may, the selections here certainly sound a bit different when compared with their previously recorded Ellington versions.
The personnel includes Clark Terry, trumpet, all arrangements except 'Come Sunday; Johnny Hodges, alto saxophone; Paul Gonsalves, tenor saxophone; Quentin Jackson or Britt Woodmann, trombone; Tyree Glenn, trombone and vibes ('C Jam Blues' & 'Mood Indigo' only); Billy Strayhorn, piano (on 'Come Sunday' only); Jimmy Woode, bass; and  Sam Woodyard, drums.
The selections include 'C Jam Blues, 'Cottontail', 'Just Squeeze me', 'Mood Indigo', 'Take The 'A' Train', 'In A Mellow Tone', and 'Come Sunday', all written by Ellington except 'A Train', by Billy Strayhorn.  A very satisfying album by some of Duke's most illustrious alumni.

Oliver Nelson's Big Band, Live from Los Angeles

(monaural), EMI / Impulse MIPL 510 (UK), 1967 (UK release of Impulse A 9153 1967 (USA))

Working at Wallich's Music City, Hollywood, in 1967, I vividly remember often hearing Frank Strozier, one of the featured soloists herein, when he played with Shelly Manne & His Men at Shelly's Manne-Hole on North Cahuenga Blvd, as didMonty Budwig, the bassist here.  So I made the trek up to Marty's-On-The-Hill for this awesome big band's engagement in June, 1967. The band was made up of the crème de la crème of L.A.'s top session players, and as Oliver Nelson himself says in the album notes, "I never before had a trumpet section where each player could do everything - from playing lead to improvising jazz.  For that matter, we had that kind of flexibility throughout the band."  The personnel includes Oliver Nelson, arranger conductor, soprano saxophone; Buddy Childers, Bobby Bryant, Freddy Hill, Conte Candoli, trumpets; Billy Byers, Pete Myers, Lou Blackburn, Ernie Tack, trombones; Gabe Baltazar, Tom Scott (not even 20 when this was recorded), Bill Perkins, Jack Nimitz, Frank Strozier, reeds; Frank Strazzeri, piano; Monte Budwig,bass; Mel Brown, guitar, and Ed Thigpen, drums.  The selections include: 'Miss Fine' (Oliver Nelson), 'Milestones' (Miles Davis), 'I Remember Bird' (Leonard Feather), 'Night Train' (O. Washington - J. Simpkins - Jimmy Forrest), 'Guitar Blues' (Oliver Nelson), 'Down By The Riverside' (trad., arr. Oliver Nelson), and 'Ja Da' (B. Carleton).  Strozier solos effectively on alto on 'Milestones', also featuring Tom Scott on tenor sax,  and Strozier makes 'I Remember Bird' his own.  Guitarist Mel Brown is featured on both 'Night Train' and 'Guitar Blues', sounding 'down-home' and funky.  on 'Down By The Riverside', all the trumpets engage in chase choruses, and very exciting it is, too.  A fine 'live' big band tour de force.

Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges play the blues - Back to Back

HMV Records Verve series (UK release of Verve MGV 8317), CLP 1316, 1959

Featuring Duke Ellington, piano; Johnny Hodges, alto saxophone;  Harry 'Sweets' Edison, trumpet; Les Spann, guitar; Al Hall or Sam Jones on bass and Jo Jones, drums, this is quite an unusual album in that the entire repertoire consists of the blues, in various celebrated selections, with Ellington on top form on piano, and Hodges, Edison and Spann soloing at the top of their game.  The tunes are: 'Wabash Blues' (Meinken - Ringle), 'Basin Street Blues' (Spencer Williams), Beale Street Blues' (W. C. Handy), 'Weary Blues' (Matthews), 'St. Louis Blues' (W. C. Handy), 'Loveless Love (aka 'Careless Love', a traditional tune first published by W. C. Handy), and 'Royal Garden Blues', also by Spencer Williams. This album has a four star rating in "The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Jazz", and is a companion volume to "Side To Side", also featuring Ellington and Hodges, and published in the same year.

Oscar Peterson Quartet Vol 2 - 10" LP

Clef / EMI Columbia Records 33C 9025 (UK), 1954

This 10" album is the companion album to 'Oscar Peterson Quartet', Clef MGC 116, released in 1952, and it was recorded at the same date, December 1951, in Los Angeles.   The quartet consists of Oscar Peterson, piano, with long-time collaborators Barney Kessel, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; and Alvin Stoller, drums.  As it's a 10" album, they present extended versions of only two selections, the Gershwins' "Oh, Lady Be Good" (12:14), and Heyman, Green & Sour's "Body And Soul" (11:58). This band swings like the clappers!

Finger Poppin' with The Horace Silver Quintet

Blue Note BLP 4008 (monaural) (USA) 'Deep groove' version, West 63rd Street on label. Released in 1959

One of my 'desert island' discs, this Horace Silver album came out just about the time I returned home from the Army, aged 20, and was working as a taxi driver.  I had the good fortune of having Horace in my cab as a fare, and found out that his band was playing at Mitchell-Ruff's 'Playback' Club in New Haven, and I was there that night, digging all the tunes heard on the present album, LIVE!   The wonderful line-up at the club, as here, was Horace Silver, piano & leader; Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Junior Cook, tenor saxophone; Eugene Taylor, bass; and Louis Hayes, drums, soon to leave Horace and join the Cannonball Adderley Quintet.  The tunes, all composed by Horace Silver, are: 'Finger Poppin'', 'Juicy Lucy', 'Swingin' The Samba', 'Sweet Stuff', 'Cookin' At The Continental', 'Come On Home' (the latter two covered vocally by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross), 'You Happened My Way', and 'Mellow D'.  

This is the very rare deep groove pressing (from the pre-1961 era when Blue Note albums used special dies attached to the pressing machine which held down the stampers for Side A and Side B during manufacturing.  These dies traditionally cut a deep groove into the label during a pressing).