Although tenorist Stan Getz's smooth sound and lyrical melodicism made him a cool jazz icon, he also possessed a gift for hard-driving swing. Valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, an exemplar of Kansas City earthiness with a composer's sense of tunefulness, proved a well-matched partner. With each soloist spurred on by his frontline colleague's rousing backgrounds and the propulsive comping of pianist John Williams, they transform the pop song "Flamingo" into a booting up-tempo swinger.
In 1940, the star of such Westerns with a black hero as Bronze Buckaroo
(1938) and Harlem Rides the Range
(1939) became the hippest singing cowboy ever by joining Duke Ellington and charting with "Flamingo." Herb Jeffries was a far yodel from Gene Autry. For rounding up lonesome dogies, Autry's hayseed tenor was fine. But Herb's manly baritone rounded up more doggone ladies than would fit in the O.K. Corral. (Not that ladies should be kept in a corral, mind you. It's just a figure of speech.) Apart from short solos by trombonist Brown and altoist Hodges, this track belongs to Jeffries—and to Billy Strayhorn, whose vibrant orchestration befits one of the world's most colorful birds.
It would be difficult to get to the heart of what makes this track so special to me. The programmatic nature of the composition evokes strong pictures in my mind as opposed to just laying down some changes for the soloists to blow over. Mingus paints with his writing and his musicians like no one else -- this is a beautiful example. While it sounds like most of the composition is written out, that doesn’t take anything away from the majesty of every note.
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