Hal McKusick: Jambangle




Hal McKusick (alto sax)


The Jazz Workshop (RCA FS Imports)

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Hal McKusick (alto sax), Art Farmer (trumpet), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), Bill Barber (tuba), Gene Allen (baritone sax), Barry Galbraith (guitar), Jimmy Raney (guitar), Milt Hinton (bass), Osie Johnson (drums).

Composed by Gil Evans


Recorded: New York, April 4, 1956


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

Hal McKusick was a veteran of the Boyd Raeburn and Claude Thornhill orchestras, and was an active freelance musician during the time of this recording. The album was one of a series produced by Jack Lewis for RCA Victor, and included sessions by Manny Albam, Billy Byers, George Russell, and John Carisi. (Unfortunately the latter's LP was never released.)

McKusick hired Gil Evans to write for his album, and "Jambangle" was one of the pieces submitted. McKusick has the only improvised solo, but Evans is a generous writer, and everyone is featured, albeit briefly. One of the reasons musicians loved to play his music was that their parts were beautifully crafted and made them sound good something Gil had in common with Johnny Richards and Billy Strayhorn. The piece begins with a boogie-woogie feel that transitions to Basie-esque swing. It's instructive to compare this with the version Evans recorded in October 1957 under his own name, where the first part of the melody sounds like rock 'n' roll. Many of the ensemble ideas heard in the setting for McKusick were expanded upon in the later version, so when the two recordings are heard side by side, McKusick's sounds like a sketch that Evans rethought. But that is why Evans is still so respected. He could take something that was great to begin with and make it even better.

Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof


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