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JazzWax Kirk, Lily and Frank

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This week in The Wall Street Journal’s
Mansion section, I interviewed Kirk Douglas, who is 100 years old (go here). The actor, who first appeared in the movies in 1946, overcame poverty in Amsterdam, N.Y., and made it to Hollywood, thanks to talent and the generosity of a young actress and friend named Lauren Bacall. Kirk has a new book out—Kirk and Anne. Though he suffered a stroke in 1996 that slurred his speech, it was still a thrill to hear Kirk get on the phone and say, “Hello, Marc. What can I do for you?” Hey, it’s the little things in life. You’ll love his answer when I asked him the secret to reaching 100. Here’s one of my favorite little-known Kirk Douglas films, Champion (1949)…

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Also in the WSJ,
my “Anatomy of a Song” column for the Arts & Life section focused on the Spinners’ I’ll Be Around (go here). I interviewed the song’s co-writer and producer Thom Bell, the lyricist Phil Hurrt and drummer Earl Young. What you have in this song is the start of the Philadelphia dance sound. Thom’s vision, Phil’s words and Earl’s beat would be the basis for Blue Magic, MFSB, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and The Trammps, a group founded by Earl. The Spinners gave me such joy in my teens. It was a joy to celebrate Thom, Phil and Earl in return. Here’s the Spinners’ I’ll Be Around. Listen to drummer Earl Young, who creates what would become the basis for Philly’s hustle beat…

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And finally, for the WSJ,
I interviewed bestselling novelist Anne Hillerman for the Review section (go here). She talked about when she first heard the Doobie Brothers’ Long Train Runnin’ and how it helped her sort out a personal matter while driving to and from her parents’ house in Arizona on Thanksgiving in 1973. Her latest book is Song of the Lion. Here are the Doobie Brothers…

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Join other JazzWax readers at Facebook (search for Marc JazzWax Myers), where you can comment and converse with other jazz fans. And follow me at Twitter (Marc Myers @ JazzWax), where you’ll find free-access links to my WSJ articles when they go up as well as my other Tweets and Retweets of interesting stuff.

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Free subscription to JazzWax?
Yep. Just go to the right-hand column, scroll down to “Subscribe Free,” click the button and type in your email. That’s it. Then JazzWax will arrive in your in-box each day.

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Bill FitzGibbons, whom I interviewed several years ago for my “House Call” column in the WSJ (go here), is a light sculptor. What exactly does that mean? See the image above. We’re talking huge works in San Antonio, Texas, and other locations. If you dig it, the public artwork is called “Centro Chroma Tower.” Well, Bill’s work above has been chosen as one of CODAawards top 100 public art projects worldwide. You can vote for his work by going here.

Dave Pell Tribute

Dave Pell, the late tenor saxophonist and West Coast octet-leader who died on May 7, is being celebrated on Saturday, June 24. If you’re in Los Angeles, rush over to the tribute at the Musician’s Union Local 47 at 817 Vine Street in Hollywood. You’ll get to hear Dave’s octet arrangements played in all their glory. Here’s my post on Dave and my interview with him following his passing in May.

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Herman and Lily.
Searching YouTube the other day looking for newly posted music videos (see what I do for you in my spare moments?), I stumbled upon a shockingly superb documentary on The Munsters, the crypto-scary TV sitcom that aired from 1964 to 1966 and transformed horror-movie monster characters into cheery but odd neighbors. Here it is…

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Watch nuts.
Count me among them. I love cars, too, but you can’t wear a Porsche 911 Turbo on your wrist. If you love watches, too, then you know that the Paul Newman Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is among the most prized (and expensive) sport models. Dig this fabulous article by Michael Clerizo in the WSJ Sunday magazine a couple of weeks ago. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Go here.

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What the heck.
Here’s Frank Sinatra in 1966 appearing on the TV special A Man and His Music Part II. He’s singing The Most Beautiful Girl in the World from his album Strangers in the Night. It’s one of the fastest-tempo Sinatra songs that featured some of Hollywood’s finest studio musicians. Dig the trumpets and trombones turn those music pages…

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Oddball album cover of the week.

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How about me what? Dennis Lotis according to Wiki, “is a South African-born British singer, actor and entertainer whose popularity was greatest in the 1950s. He was described as having ‘a sophisticated style that was particularly attractive to the young female population.’ ” It’s easy to see why. Clearly, it’s the two-toned business-class airplane seats converted into a living-room sofa.

       

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JazzWax Videos: Sue Raney, 1963

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In August 1963, West Coast singer Sue Raney appeared on the Australian TV program Brian Henderson’s Bandstand. Henderson was a newsreader on the country’s Nine Network and hosted its music show from 1958 to 1972. Sue was likely in Australia to perform and promote one of her Capitol releases. These videos of her performances went up at YouTube a month ago and were sent along by Steve Taylor:

Here’s Sue singing Fly Me to the Moon. What a marvelous, flawless vocal…

Here’s Some of These Days

And here’s What Is This Thing Called Love. That’s a lot of instrumental traffic to dodge while delivering a heartfelt vocal…

To read my two-part interview with Sue Raney in 2012, go here and here. Sue remains one of the finest jazz vocalists of her generation.

      

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JazzWax Chico Hamilton: Broadway, 1960

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As a drummer and leader, Chico Hamilton was vastly important in the evolution of small-group jazz in the 1950s and ’60s. Unfortunately, he is nearly forgotten today. A force on the West Coast, Hamilton was a member of the seminal Gerry Mulligan Quartet in the early 1950s, he formed his own unique avant-garde quintet in the mid-1950s and again in the early ’60s, and he appeared in the 1957 film Sweet Smell of Success along with his music and most of his quintet. His various groups helped developed the talents and visibility of Jim Hall, Buddy Collette, Paul Horn, Eric Dolphy, Charles Lloyd and many others.

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One of Hamilton’s rarest albums is The Chico Hamilton Quintet Play Selections from Bye Bye Birdie and Irma La Douce. It doesn’t appear to have ever been re-issued digitally, which is a shame. It’s not at online retailers such as Amazon nor is it on listening services such as Spotify. Recorded at the end of November 1960, the album for Columbia Records featured Charles Lloyd (fl,as), Nate Gershman (cello), Harry Pope (g), Bobby Haynes (b) and Chico Hamilton (d).

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Rather than take the willowy jazz-pop route that so many jazz artists embarked on when covering Broadway musical fare in the late 1950s and early ’60s, Hamilton combined songs from both shows and treated the material to a rigorous jazz interpretation. The Bye Bye Birdie songs include A Lot of Livin’ to Do, Baby Talk to Me, Put on a Happy Face, How Lovely to Be a Woman and Kids. The Irma La Douce tracks were Irma La Douce, Our Language of Love, From a Prison Cell, She’s Got the Lot and There Is Only One Paris for That.

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The standout players here are Hamilton, whose drums are relentlessly inventive, and Lloyd, whose flute and alto sax are extraordinary. Just listen to Lloyd on Baby Talk to Me and There Is Only One Paris for That. Remarkably, this was Lloyd’s very first recording recording session, and he’d remain with Hamilton until the end of 1963.

Hopefully, Fresh Sound will give this one a listen and re-issue it for jazz fans to hear once again. The music is significant.

Chico Hamilton died in 2013. My three-part interview with Chico in 2009 can be found here, here and here.

JazzWax tracks: I’m afraid this album is available only as an LP at eBay.

JazzWax clip: Here’s the hippest version of A Lot of Livin’ to Do you’ll ever hear…

A Lot of Livin’ to Do

And here’s There Is Only One Paris for That. Dig Charles Lloyd!…

There Is Only One Paris for That

Here’s the entire album at YouTube…

Here’s the music of Chico Hamilton in Sweet Smell of Success

      

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JazzWax Jay Cameron: Sax Band, 1955

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Saxophone bands hold a special place among jazz fans. Reeds playing melody and harmony in unison is tremendously exciting, whether they are alone or as lead instruments in a band. As reeds, they assume a vocal harmony group feel, which engages the ear. That’s why so many saxophone bands have been featured on recordings over the decade. Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of the best ones:

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Woody Herman’s Four Brothers band (1947), Gene Roland’s Boppers (1949), The Brothers!—Al Cohn, Bill Perkins and Richie Kamuca (1955), Al Cohn and the Sax Section (1956), Zoot Sims Plays Alto, Tenor and Baritone (1956), Zoot Sims Plays Four Altos (1956), Reeds in Hi-Fi—Pete Rugolo (1956), Four Brothers Together Again! (1957), The Gerry Mulligan Song Book (1957), Hymie Schertzer: All the King’s Saxes (1957), Coleman Hawkins Meets the Big Sax Section (1958), Cross-Section Saxes—Hal McKusick (1958), Saxes Inc.—Bobby Prince and His Orchestra (1959), Ten Saxophones and Two Basses—Pete Rugolo (1961), Further Definitions—Benny Carter (1961), Bud Shank and the Sax Section (1966), Dave Pell’s Prez Conference (1978), Supersax (1972-1988), Marlene VerPlanck Meets Saxomania (1993), Harry Allen’s The Candy Men (2016).

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Now let’s add one more: Jay Cameron’s International Sax Band, which was recorded in Paris on New Year’s Day of 1955. Born in New York in 1928, Cameron began his career in Los Angeles with the Ike Carpenter band until 1947 (leaving just before Bill Holman joined briefly in 1948). For reasons that I’ve been unable to figure out, Cameron moved to Europe around 1950 and remained there until 1956. While in Paris, he recorded with trumpeter and vocalist Bill Coleman in 1951 and with a sextet led by drummer Roy Haynes in 1954. Then in January 1955, he led a superb saxophone band backed by a rhythm section.

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The personnel on the six sides for the French Vogue label included Bobby Jaspar, Barney Wilen and Jean-Louis Chautemps (ts); Jay Cameron (bar); Henri Renaud (p); Benoit Quersin (b); and Andre Baptiste “Mac Kac” Reilles (d). It’s unclear who wrote the arrangements, but they are exceptional. Also exceptional are Cameron’s solos on the baritone sax. His sense of swing and bop feel are terrific, especially in the middle register of his instrument. The tracks they recorded are Blue Note, Rosy, Give Me the Simple Life, Brother J.C., Static Test and Wooden Sword Street

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Cameron returned to the States in 1956 and toured with Woody Herman and then appeared as a sideman on a series of terrfic albums: Tony Ortega’s Jazz for Young Moderns (1956), Andre Hodeir’s American Jazzmen Play Hodeir’s Essais (1957), Larry Sonn and His Orchestra (1957), Hal McKusick’s Cross-Section Saxes (1958), Maynard Ferguson’s A Message From Newport (1958) and Slide Hampton’s Horn of Plenty (1959). Cameron remained with Hampton through the early 1960s and then recorded with Paul Winter.

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Cameron’s jazz discography ends abruptly in 1963. I’m guessing he either went into the New York TV studios or he began teaching at the university level for steady income.

Jay Cameron died in 2001.

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Jay Cameron’s International Sax Band here.

JazzWax clips: Here’s Give Me the Simple Life

Give Me the Simple Life

Here’s Static Test

Static Test

Here’s Jay Cameron on TV’s Jazz Casual in March 1963 with Paul Winter. The musicians are Richard Whitsell (tp), Paul Winter (as), Jay Cameron (bar), Warren Bernhardt (p), Arthur Harper, Jr. (b) and Ben Riley (d)…

A special thanks to David Langner and Doug Paterson.

       

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JazzWax Charles Mingus: Changes One

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One of my favorite Charles Mingus albums is Changes One, recorded for Atlantic Records at the tail end of December 1974. There something about the recording that exceeds even Mingus’s high composing standards and exotic vision. The album is moody, brooding and reminds me of New York in the mid-1970s more than any other. Yesterday, when I re-listened to the album and heard Remember Rockefeller at Attica, Sue’s Changes, Devil’s Blues and Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love, I was transported back to a financially challenged city that was crumbling, forgotten by the Gerald Ford White House, and adrift culturally. But it’s not Manhattan nostalgia that draws me to Changes One. It’s the album’s shifting moods, romanticism and quality of the playing.

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The musicians on the session were Jack Walrath (tp), George Adams (ts,vcl,arr), Don Pullen (p), Charles Mingus (b) and Dannie Richmond (d). In re-reading Nat Hentoff’s liner notes, I discovered that Changes One (and Changes Two, from the same session) were Mingus favorites as well. “They’re among the best records I’ve made,” Mingus told Nat. The reason, Mingus said, was “because this band has been together longer than most of the bands I’ve had.”

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The album opens with Remember Rockefeller at Attica, which had another title prior to its recording. Mingus’s changed the name to make a political statement about New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who ordered the state police to retake the Attica Correctional Facility in September 1971 following the prison’s seizing by inmates to change conditions. The result of the storming by state posice resulted in the shooting deaths of 10 prison guards and 33 inmates and other prison workers. The event raised the stakes in the civil rights movement, ushering in decade of radicalism and violence. The song artfully captures the era’s thrashing political climate, impatience with corruption and growing militancy. 

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Sue’s Changes
was named for Sue Graham, Mingus’s wife and publisher of Changes, a provocative literary and music magazine. The composition is a actually a suite, shifting from ballad to a tempestuous, uptempo free-jazz section followed by a return to the ballad format.

Devil’s Blues is a raucous march-time blues credited to Mingus, Adams (who sings) and Gate Mouth Brown. The song is emotional and fiery, and may be the album’s only soft spot. A stronger producer may have pushed for another instrumental on the same sophisticated level as the others.

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Duke Ellington’s Sounds of Love
was written by Mingus soon after Ellington’s death in May 1974. This sighing, romantic ballad features traces of Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life and A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing. Pullen’s piano solo is gorgeous, Adams’s solo is breathy and purposeful, and Mingus’s solo is clearly a eulogy to Ellington, his musical inspiration. The track, like much of the album, is a masterpiece.

Too often we forget how remarkable Mingus was as a composer, bassist and leader. This album serves as a gateway back into his music and a revisit with his discography.

Charles Mingus died in 1979.

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Charles Mingus’s Changes One here. It’s also available at Spotify, along with the equally dynamic and provocative Changes Two.

JazzWax clip: Here’s Sue’s Changes

       

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JazzWax Sonny Rollins & Monk

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Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins didn’t record much with pianist Thelonious Monk, but what they did record together remains remarkable. It’s a shame they weren’t brought together for more albums, but the timing wasn’t quite right. By the late 1950s both Sonny and Monk were towering leaders in their own right blazing paths on their own sessions. [Album photo above by Prestige founder Bob Weinstock]

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For their first pairing, three songs were recorded for Prestige—Let’s Call This, Think of One and Friday the 13th. The first two appeared initially on a Prestige 45 entitled Thelonious Monk Quintet. All three also were released on a 10-inch LP called Thelonious Monk Quintet Blows for LP, Featuring Sonny Rollins. The musicians were Julius Watkins (fhr), Sonny (ts), Monk (p), Percy Heath (b) and Willie Jones (d).

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Sonny and Monk’s second session came in October 1954, when they again recorded three tracks—I Want to Be Happy, The Way You Look Tonight and More Than You Know. These songs were added to a Monk 10-inch LP entitled Work! The quartet featured Sonny (ts), Monk (p), Tommy Potter (b) and Art Taylor (d).

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Sonny and Monk’s first 12-inch LP together was Monk’s Brilliant Corners, recorded for Riverside in October 1956. The songs they recorded were Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are, Pannonica, Brilliant Corners and Bemsha Swing. The first three featured Ernie Henry (as), Sonny Rollins (ts), Thelonious Monk (p,celeste), Oscar Pettiford (b) and Max Roach (d). The last featured Clark Terry (tp), Sonny (ts), Monk (p), Paul Chambers (b) and Max Roach (d,tymp).

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Their last two collaborative tracks appeared on Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2 (Blue Note), recorded in April 1957. The songs were Monk’s Reflections and Misterioso. The musicians were J.J. Johnson (tb), Sonny (ts), Horace Silver and Monk (p) on different tracks, Paul Chambers (b) and Art Blakey (d).

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Of the songs they recorded together, my favorites are The Way You Look Tonight and More Than You Know. On the former, Sonny opens low and then jumps high into the melody, sailing along flawlessly and unspooling a long ribbon of improvisation. Monk comps behind him and then takes his own regal solo. Sonny’s tone is muscular and sand-papery while Monk chisels away at the song. When Sonny returns, he works his way up the song’s chords and quotes what sounds like Whispering Grass (Don’t Tell the Trees). Sonny’s command is terrific, and his lines are breathtaking. Dig what he does on the second half and the outro. Frighteningly great.

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The ballad More Than You Know opens with a Chambers bass solo. Then Sonny plays a bluesy reading of the standard. Here again, Sonny is strong and loaded with seamless improvised ideas. Monk takes a lengthy solo halfway in, which is surprisingly straight-forward, with fascinating chord work. On the rebound, Sonny’s horn is mighty and seductive, especially on the double-timed passages. And dig that final upturned punctuation note by Sonny at the tail end. [Photo above of Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk]

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Listening to Sonny and Monk together is jazz at its finest—two thick textures, spirited reworkings of the original melodies, and plenty of swing. The art is timeless. [Photo above, from left, drummer Roy Haynes, pianist Thelonious Monk, saxoponist Sonny Rollins and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik at New York’s Five Spot]

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find The Way You Look Tonight and More Than You Know on Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins here and on Thelonious Monk-Sonny Rollins Complete Recordings here.

They also are on Spotify.

JazzWax clips: Here’s The Way You Look Tonight

And here’s More Than You Know

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JazzWax Peter, Paul and Andy

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In The Wall Street Journal this week,
I interviewed James Patterson, the country’s bestselling author of adult fiction, for my “House Call” column in the Mansion section (go here). What you may not know about Jim: His father didn’t give him a hug until he was on his deathbed, he was the head of J. Walter Thompson’s U.S. operations for a time and he came up with the ad line, “I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us Kid.”

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Also in the WSJ,
I interviewed bestselling thriller author Lisa Scottoline on her Joni Mitchell conversion in college and what happened next for my “Playlist” column in the Review section (go here). [Photo above of Lisa Scottoline courtesy of Lisa Scottoline]

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Peter, Paul and Mary with Andy Williams
. Before you spit up your coffee, this pairing is quite fascinating, Courtesy of Jim Eigo of Jazz Promo Services

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Love Paris?
I do. And so does someone else online who has assembled dozens of album covers between 1957 and 1963 that used Paris as a theme (go here).

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Peter, Paul and Mary
appeared on the Jack Benny Program in January 1964. Once again, before you cringe, check it out. The clip is touching and we get to hear the folk trio in skits…

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Baden Powell.
Steve Barrow sent along a link to a 1972 documentary directed by Pierre Barouh about Brazilian music in 1969. According to IMDB, the film features “the only color footage of Pixinguinha; images of João da Baiana, one of the fathers of samba; Maria Bethânia rehearsing at Barroco nightclub; Baden Powell playing his acoustic guitar; Paulinho da Viola showing his masterpiece, Coisas do Mundo, Minha Nega that he just finished; and Márcia, a singer from São Paulo.” Go here

You’ll find the Saravah documentary as a DVD here.

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Bill Kirchner radio.
On Saturday evening (June 17), Fritz Byers will broadcast a three-hour program of Bill’s albums on his long-running show, Jazz Spectrum 91. The show will air on WGTE-FM 91 in Toledo, Ohio, from 9 p.m. to midnight (EDT). You can listen on your computer or phone from anywhere in the world by going here. Click on “listen live” in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

What the heck. Here are the Intruders performing Cowboys to Girls on Soul Train in November 1971…

Oddball album cover of the week.

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As we can tell by the expression on this cover model’s face, women of the 1950s really enjoyed being terrorized by loud brass and woodwind instruments in close proximity to their ears.

       

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JazzWax Video: Maynard Ferguson

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In the fall of 1969, Maynard Ferguson toured Europe with a great book of arrangements and a clutch of American players, adding top local musicians along the way. On Nov. 29, he was in Vienna at the Konzerthaus, a formal hall that dates back to 1913. The band included Maynard Ferguson (tp, vtb), Dusko Goykovich (tp), Heinz Hermann (as), Brian Smith (ts, ss), Ferdinand Povel (ts); Pete Jackson (p), Toni Barnthaler (b) and Randy Jones (d).

The songs performed were Take the A Train (arr. Shorty Rogers), Blues (arr. Ernie Wilkins), Watermelon Man (arr. Don Sebesky), Somewhere (arr. Keith Mansfield), The Fox Hunt (arr. Mike Abene), Italian Suite (arr. Don Menza), Got the Spirit (arr. Slide Hampton) and Go East Young Man (arr. Slide Hampton).

Here’s a a video that was uploaded last month of the concert in its entirety…

      

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JazzWax Hank Mobley: Roll Call

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Starting with Soul Station, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley embarked on a powerful series of recordings for Blue Note in the 1960s. His sixteen releases recorded during the decade tapped into virtually every musical trend, including bossa nova, boogaloo, funk and soul. All featured Mobley at his peak, exhibiting a bossy muscularity with a smooth, slippery articulation on solos. What’s more, he was paired with a wide range of top artists, giving each album a different feel.

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One of the finest (and I hesitate even to use that word, since all of his albums during the ’60s had admirable qualities) was Roll Call. Recorded in November 1960, the album featured Mobley (ts), Freddie Hubbard (tp), Wynton Kelly (p), Paul Chambers (bs) and Art Blakey (d). Everyone on this album is at their peak. Blakey’s drumming will raise hairs on your arm. Kelly’s piano is frighteningly fluid. Chambers is rock solid. Hubbard is searing. And listening to Mobley is like watching a heavyweight boxer hit a heavy bag. 

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Mobley also was a terrific hard-bop composer. On Roll Call, Mobley was responsible for the title track, My Groove Your Move, Take Your Pick, A Baptist Beat and The Breakdown. The balance was a standard, The More I See You

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On Roll Call, Mobley’s originals are sterling. The title track is a minor-key tour de force, with Blakey driving the show with cymbal crashes, press rolls and intricate drum patterns. My Groove, Your Move is a sassy walker with standout solos, particularly by Mobley. Take Your Pick features a terrific hard bop line that sounds as if it belonged on Freddie Redd’s The Connection album. And dig Kelly’s piano solo! Smooth as glass. A Baptist Beat is a funky blues. And the album closer, The Breakdown, is a barn burner with Blakey dropping random drum bombs and cymbal crashes. At one point, Blakey sounds as if he has has kicked his entire kit down a flight of stairs. Incredible.

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To be sure, Mobley’s 1950s releases are solid and engaging. But they’re not quite as dynamic and eclectic as his 1960s work. There’s a maturity in his ’60s recordings that put him firmly in charge. Best of all are his originals, demonstrating once again that Mobley was vastly underrated quintet composer.

Hank Mobley died in 1986.

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Hank Mobley’s Roll Call (Blue Note) here or at Spotify.

JazzWax clips: Here’s The Breakdown

      

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