Art Pepper: You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To

Art Pepper earned a reputation as one of the top alto saxophonists on the West Coast in the 1950s. So it was a highly unusual occasion when he made an album with the hard-bop rhythm section of Miles Davis’s East Coast-based quintet. The collaboration was advantageous, however, as it brought out the best in the intensely emotional altoist and his hard-swinging colleagues.

November 06, 2007 · 0 comments

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Shelly Manne: Bernie's Tune

1950s West Coast jazz often got a bum rap for being overly arranged and effete. Tracks like this one put the lie to that claim. Although the blistering “Bernie’s Tune” boasts a clever arrangement, both the band’s reading of it and the subsequent improvisations are hot and muscular. Shelly Manne was one of the hardest-swinging drummers on either coast, and trumpeter Stu Williamson and altoist Charlie Mariano could trace their lineages back to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

November 06, 2007 · 0 comments

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Chet Baker: Summer Sketch

Not to be mistaken for The Rippingtons’ guitarist of the same name, pianist Russ Freeman was a mainstay of 1950s West Coast jazz. He was also a composer of small but splendid output. "Summer Sketch," among the loveliest original ballads in modern jazz, was his masterpiece. It's mainly Freeman's showcase, but Chet's fragile open horn is haunting, and Manne's restraint is telling. If you believe jazz "don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing," skip this track. If, however, your jazz encompasses as much pathos as the other great arts, then this pensive, plaintive track must be heard.

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments

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Cy Touff: Keester Parade

In addition to its witty title and hummable melody, Johnny Mandel’s “Keester Parade” offers a full-sounding small-band arrangement and laid-back blues solos by cool tenorist Richie Kamuca, a veteran of the Woody Herman and Stan Kenton orchestras, Harry “Sweets" Edison, a former Count Basie trumpet star, the peripatetic West Coast pianist Russ Freeman, and the leader himself, who performed on bass trumpet as a member of the trombone section of Woody Herman’s Third Herd. Leroy Vinnegar’s booming bass anchors the proceedings.

November 01, 2007 · 1 comment

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Chet Baker & Russ Freeman: Love Nest

On radio during the 1940s and TV in the '50s, comedians Burns & Allen closed each show with cigar-toting George telling his ditzy wife, "Say goodnight, Gracie." To which she'd respond, "Goodnight, Gracie." You hadda be there. Anyhow, Chet Baker crisply swings their theme song as proof that Miles Davis's closely miked, Harmon-muted trumpet style worked at fast tempos as well as on ballads. Pianist Russ Freeman (no relation to The Rippingtons’ guitarist) steadfastly insisted to naysayers that, uneven as Chet Baker could be, when he was on there was nobody better. In "Love Nest," Baker was ON. Say goodnight, Chet.

November 01, 2007 · 0 comments

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Terry Gibbs: Nose Cone

At first, a rocket ship's nose cone contained only scientific instrumentation. Later, small laboratory mammals, gradually increasing in size and intelligence, rode into orbit. Finally, realizing the age-old dream of human spaceflight, Al Cohn's "Nose Cone" blasted off with none other than Terry Gibbs and his 16 Swingers aboard. A decade before being tapped by Francis Ford Coppola to play The Godfather's Michael Corleone, lead trumpeter Al Porcino (that's not him?) boosts Terry's crew into the stratosphere swifter than an Atlas rocket. Maini's manic alto, Lewis's state-of-the-art drumming and Gibbs's feverish enthusiasm ignite a band as combustible as liquid oxygen.

November 01, 2007 · 0 comments

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Art Pepper: 'Round Midnight

Due to what the 1950s jazz press euphemistically called "personal problems," the once-prolific Art Pepper made just one recording session between late 1957 and early '59. When his chance came at last for a comeback, Pepper was fortuitously matched with arranger Marty Paich, who believed the chamber orchestral ambience of Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool and Gerry Mulligan's Tentette merited ongoing exploration long after Miles and Mulligan had downsized. Here, Pepper and Paich give Thelonious Monk's oft-recorded "'Round Midnight" one of its most scintillating interpretations. Weaving in and out of Marty's lush backgrounds, Art pours heart and soul into this deeply moving performance.

October 31, 2007 · 0 comments

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Shorty Rogers: Popo

As a trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer, arranger and bandleader, Shorty Rogers was one of the most important figures in the West Coast jazz of the 1950s. This early recording of a simple riff tune scored for a small band similar to Miles Davis’s earlier Birth of the Cool groups, exhibits an infectious swing and contains inventive solos by Rogers himself, tenorist Jimmy Giuffre, altoist Art Pepper, and pianist Hampton Hawes.

October 30, 2007 · 0 comments

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Marty Paich: Violets for Your Furs

Art Pepper was a leading West Coast alto saxophonist during the 1950s before personal problems removed him from the scene off and on for years. His beautiful, distinctive tone, highly personal phrasing, and great expressiveness are on full display in Marty Paich’s fine arrangement of "Violets For Your Furs," where Pepper is the featured soloist with Paich’s 13-piece ensemble.

October 30, 2007 · 0 comments

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Shelly Manne: Summertime

In 1959, Shelly Manne led his L.A.-based Men (why not Menne?) north to Frisco's famed Blackhawk for a multi-album live set. Since their regular pianist couldn’t make it, Victor Feldman filled the piano chair. All temps should be so spectacular. With an architectural sense worthy of Frank Lloyd Wright, Vic's solo here builds from delicacy to powerful flourishes. And as always, Shelly shines. Voters in 1950s jazz popularltiy polls didn’t always make the most informed choices, but they got it right when they voted early and voted often for Shelly Manne. Hizzoner was the blue-collar drummer who carried every precinct.

October 30, 2007 · 0 comments

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Bud Shank: Casa de Luz

His Latin interest piqued by a 1953 collaboration with guitarist Laurindo Almeida, Bud Shank alighted in "Casa de Luz." While Shank was nominal leader, his fraternal twin in mid-1950s West Coast jazz, Shorty Rogers, is the gravitational center, penning all six tunes for this session and contributing its most distinctive solos. Rogers was a first-rate writer but a nondescript trumpeter until finding his niche with the flugelhorn, where he wisely stuck to the middle register, sporting an attractive tone and melodic solos in lieu of pyrotechnics. Harte's drumming is somewhat stiff, but overall this is quite appealing. Plus Jimmy Rowles!

October 29, 2007 · 0 comments

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Jimmy Giuffre: Blue Monk

Waiting in the wings of CBS-TV's special The Sound of Jazz (1957), Jimmy Giuffre watched his co-star Thelonious Monk deliver "Blue Monk" to a no-doubt-mystified national audience. Later on the show, Giuffre joined oddball traditionalist Pee Wee Russell for a two-clarinet blues, and a year afterward commingled these experiences, recording Monk's tune in the shaggy-dog style of his Pee Wee jam. Like Monk, Giuffre was a modernist thoroughly grounded in premodern jazz, as were his cohorts in this peculiar trio. Brookmeyer's cup-muted, choke-valved trombone is rascally true to his K.C. roots; Hall's neighborly rhythm guitar and folksy basslines defy his Eastern conservatory preparation. The resultant "Blue Monk" is a calm, cool, impish delight.

October 27, 2007 · 0 comments

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Vince Guaraldi: Cast Your Fate to the Wind

Pop Quiz: when issued as a 45-rpm single in late 1962, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" was side B. What was side A? Proving record companies don't know good from gold, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" finished among the bestselling singles of 1963, carried its album release to similar success, and won a Grammy as Best Original Jazz Composition. Alternating pedal point and Latin beat before breaking into 4/4 jazz, combining a funky left hand with Floyd Cramer-style right hand, Vince shows the virtuous simplicity of less is more. And, oh yes, "Samba de Orpheus" was side A.

October 26, 2007 · 0 comments

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Chet Baker & Art Pepper: Picture of Heath

Chet Baker came to prominence as the trumpeter in the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, but later became a much-recorded leader in his own right. This mid-1950s session teams him with tenorist Phil Urso, a regular member of Baker’s quintet at the time, and the prominent West Coast altoist Art Pepper. Jimmy Heath’s sparkling “Picture of Heath” features a confidently swinging and lyrical Baker, a passionate Pepper, and a rock-solid, on-the-beat Urso over the top-notch rhythm section’s firm foundation.

October 26, 2007 · 0 comments

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Gerry Mulligan & Chet Baker: Bernie's Tune

In Los Angeles during the summer of 1952, transplanted New Yorker Gerry Mulligan inaugurated a new era of West Coast jazz. The bright, upbeat music of his pianoless quartet with 22-year-old trumpet phenom Chet Baker was noticed even by Time magazine. Coming in the wake of what Time called "the frantic extremes of bop," Mulligan & Baker's melodicism, focused solos and thoughtful counterpoint, jostled along by Chico Hamilton’s nimbly brushed snare and firmly booted bass drum, made jazz listenable again. Their signature "Bernie's Tune," a brilliant conceptual breakthrough, has long outlived the movement for which it served as a template.

October 26, 2007 · 0 comments

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