The Soft Winds: Early Autumn


Early Autumn


The Soft Winds


The Soft Winds Then And Now (Chiaroscuro CR(D)342)

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Herb Ellis (guitar), Lou Carter (piano), Johnny Frigo (bass).

Composed by Ralph Burns, Woody Herman & Johnny Mercer


Recorded: New York, c. 1949


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Upon their release in 1949, Woody Herman's "Summer Sequence (Part 4)" on Columbia and "Early Autumn" on Capitol served up a double whammy for 22-year-old tenorman Stan Getz, featured on both versions of what was in fact the same composition by Ralph Burns. While each of these discs would've been influential on its own, together they established Getz as a star and made "Early Autumn" a jazz standard.

During this same period, a piano/guitar/bass trio called The Soft Winds offered early proof that "Early Autumn" required neither tenor sax sublimity nor big band backing to be effective. What's most striking about this track is how closely The Soft Winds approximated the sound of George Shearing's Quintet, a vastly more popular group with the same instrumentation plus vibes and drums. Partly it's the plush piano/guitar unisons and Lou Carter's block chords; partly it's the gauzy beauty of Ralph Burns's tune, which lends itself perfectly to such intimate orchestration. (Surprisingly, Shearing himself did not record this made-to-order vehicle until 1960.)

The Soft Winds wafted their separate ways in the early '50s, but their guitarist soon fluttered back into the piano/guitar/bass fold, joining Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown for an unforgettable 5-year run. One listen to The Soft Winds' "Early Autumn" was probably enough to convince Oscar and Ray that Herb Ellis was as empathetic an ensemble player as ever blew into town.

Reviewer: Alan Kurtz

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