Art Pepper – Meets The Rhythm Section ★★★★★

Art PepperContemporary/Original Jazz Classic OJC Remasters

Art Pepper (as), Red Garland (p), Paul Chambers (b) and Philly Joe Jones (d). Rec. 19 January 1957

Throughout his entire career, it seems that there wasn’t a moment when Art Pepper didn’t have his back pressed up against the wall. The back-story to The Rhythm Section album is a tale worthy of a well thumbed dime store pulp novel.

Everything was stacked up against the wayward protagonist on 19 January 1957. To start with, a far from healthy Pepper not only forgot about this record date with Miles’ then rhythm section until that very morning. Yet despite eventually turning up thoroughly stoned and totally unprepared with his alto sax in even worse shape than himself, he somehow still managed to create one of his finest-ever albums. Despite his unfamiliarity with both most of the material and his rhythm section mates, the overall impression is of this being a well rehearsed endeavour as he navigates bebop favourites ‘Tin Tin Deo’ and ‘Birk’s Works’, a bunch of quality standards, a couple of spur-of-the-moment originals ‘Red Pepper Blues’ and ‘Waltz Me Blues’ and a spirited dash through his own ‘Straight Life’. Against the worst odds imaginable, the successful outcome has as much to do with the combined strength of Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe as it is to do with Art Pepper’s ability to pull this one out of the fire with such panache. 

– Roy Carr

Anita O'Day – Sings for Oscar; Cool Heat ★★★★★

Anita O'Day sings for OscarPoll Winners Records

Pete Candoli, Conte Candoli, Conrad Gozzo, Uan Rasey, Manny Klein (t), Frank Rosolino, Lloyd Ulyate, Joe Howard, Milt Bernhart, Si Zenter (tb), Bud Shank (as), Stan Getz (ts), Jimmy Giuffre (bar), Wilbur Schwartz, Maury Stein, Bob Cooper, Ted Nash, Dale Issenhuth (reeds), Oscar Peterson (p), Paul Smith (p cel), Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel (g), Ray Brown, Joe Mondragon (b), John Poole, Shelly Manne, Alvin Stoller (d). Rec. 1956/57

  

Anita O'DayAmerican Jazz Classics

Conte Candoli, Tommy Reeves, Jack Sheldon, Mannie Klein, Conrad Gozzo, Uan Rasey, Frank Beach, (t), Red Nichols (cnt), Frank Rosolino, Lester Robertson, Gil Falco, Dave Wells, Si Zentner, Ed Kusby, Moe Schneider (tb), Jimmy Giuffre (cl, ts, bar s), Bud Shank, Alan Harding (f), Art Pepper, Ronnie Lang, Wilbur Schwartz, Skeets Herfurt (as), Richie Kamuca, Justin Gordon, Gene Cipriano, Eddie Miller (ts), Chuck Gentry (bar s), Heinie Beau (clt), Jim Hall (g), Bobby Gibbons, Tommy Tedesco, Barney Kessel (g), Al Pellegrini, Jess Stacy (p), George Morrow, Morty Corb (b), Mel Lewis, Gene Krupa and Irv Cottler (d). Rec. 1959 

It wasn’t until I started playing these superb reissues that I recalled just what a truly original and vastly underrated stylist Anita O’Day was. A wild child with a fondness for sex ’n’ drugs ’n’ alcohol, Anita O’Day inevitably ran with a fast crowd from an early age. But it was to be stints with Gene Krupa (Let Me Off Uptown), Woody Herman, Stan Kenton (And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine), Count Basie and solo 78s that included ‘Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip’ that positioned her as one of the most popular big band singers of the 1940s. Later, when Norman Granz founded Norgran Records, Miss O’Day was one of his priority signings and over a 10-year period that kicked off in 1952, he released no less than 17 albums by this songbird – four of these are assembled on these two CDs: Anita Sings The Most, Pick Yourself Up With Anita O’Day, Cool Heat (Sings Jimmy Giuffre Arrangements) and Anita O’Day Swings Cole Porter With Billy May. Though there are moments where she proves herself to be the ultimate female jazz singer, surprisingly, Anita O’Day hasn’t attained the iconic status with the public as say Ella, Billie or even Nina Simone. Yet, one only has to rerun her appearance in Bert Stern’s movie of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival to gauge the extent of her talent. Here, wearing a black and white ensemble of large fringed picture hat, cocktail dress and white gloves her unique treatment of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ was the hit of the festival, earning her much deserved worldwide recognition.

The 11 tracks she taped back in 1957 with Oscar Peterson’s Trio are all prime cuts – two strong individual personalities complementing one another as opposed to locking horns. Similarly, Jimmy Giuffre, Billy May, Buddy Bregman fashioned their memorable arrangements to showcase both O’Day’s range and a dry vibratoless style which relied upon short, punchy phrases that set her apart from her contemporaries. For this, they gathered together Hollywood’s finest players who seem aware that these sessions are undoubtedly a cut above the usual studio call. And, while most vocalists of the day took a stab at much of this material, Anita often proved to have the last word, For instance, she brings a slightly menacing undercurrent to Cole Porter’s ‘Get Out Of Town’ while ‘Man With A Horn’ has her cozying up to Stan Getz. Word of caution: Any aspiring young female contemplating a career as a jazz singer, would be best advised to absorb the entire content of these two releases and then decide whether or not they’d be better employed on an M&S checkout!

– Roy Carr

Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else ★★★★★

Cannonball AdderleyPoll Winners Records

Julian Cannonball Adderley (as), Miles Davis (t), Nat Adderley (cnt), Hank Jones, Junior Mance (p), Sam Jones (b), Art Blakey and Jimmy Cobb (d). Rec. 9 March 1958 and 6, 8 & 11 February 1957

Being sandwiched between Miles Davis and John Coltrane is bound to up anyone’s game. It certainly didn’t do Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley any harm who joined Miles in October 1957, three months prior to wayward John Coltrane’s return to the fold, and remained until September 1959 when he departed to be reunited with his brother Nat. Cannonball’s arrival in New York from Florida in 1955, coincided with Charlie Parker’s death in March, at which point he was unfairly heralded as the New Bird. Fortunately, Adderley possessed sufficient strength of character to sidestep such comparisons, being more blues than bop, more sanctified than speed crazy, more commercial than contrite. To a whole new generation, Cannonball was a touchstone whose joyful noise reached out to a much wider audience than most of his contemporaries. More a populariser than innovator, his soulful sound was much easier to assimilate and thus connected instantly with fans of both straight-ahead jazz and R&B/ soul.

Having spent a month in Europe where he supplied the soundtrack to Louis Malle’s Lift To The Scaffold the next occasion Miles was in a recording studio was on February 4, 1958 when Cannonball made an impressive debut on Milestones. Just one month later, Miles adopted the role of sideman on Somethin’ Else, Adderley’s one-off album for Blue Note. Often billed as Cannonball’s Five Stars, this was not, as some suggested, a surrogate Miles album, (he wrote the title track) but a bona fide Cannonball date, exquisitely recorded tight and close-up by Rudy Van Gelder – most notably on ‘Autumn Leaves’. Overall, one of the leader’s best ever accounts of his virtuosity. This release is filled out with the 1957 LP Sophisticated Swing – a more up-tempo brassy sounding excursion featuring brother Nat’s cornet.

– Roy Carr

Shelly Manne And His Men – Complete Live At The Black Hawk ★★★★★

Shelly ManneAmerican Jazz Classics

Joe Gordon (t), Richie Kamuca (ts), Victor Feldman (p), Monty Budwig (b) and Shelly Manne (d). Rec. 22-24 September 1959

That tired old chestnut: Who hangs around with musicians? A drummer! Still remains as unfunny as it is inaccurate. The fact remains, that from Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson through to Art Blakey, Max Roach, Chico Hamilton, Roy Haynes and beyond – give the drummer a bunch of matching band jackets and, contrary to expectations, he’ll assemble a highly musical aggregation. East Coast! West Coast! Doesn’t matter, for what we have here are four albums’ worth of the finest hard bop ever recorded (a fifth volume of outtakes was released much later and not included here) which ranks along side of similar outings by market leaders Art Blakey, Horace Silver and others. Hand on heart, this is one of my all-time favorite live albums – no question about it, they don’t come more celebrated than this 1959 club date by Shelly Manne And His Men.

Throughout his lengthy recording career, Shelly Manne had the knack of always attracting just the right horn players to essay the equally distinctive closely-knit ‘Men’ signature sound. Elsewhere, these have included the less obvious pairings of Stu Williamson and Charlie Mariano or Conte Candoli and Herb Geller. For this genuinely breath-taking set, it’s the slightly lesser known yet highly inventive Joe Gordon (trumpet) and Richie Kamuca (tenor sax) who joined Monty Budwig (bass) and the great Victor Feldman (depping for regular pianist Russ Freeman) that the ever inventive Shelly fronted at The Black Hawk. Together they performed music of Olympian stature.

Live albums can expose a band’s shortcomings. This is not the case here. This is not a clichéd blowing date by a long shot. These performances possess a genuine sense of purpose. Never once do any of the participants drift off on a tangent or fall back on water-treading licks. This is prime cut straight ahead excitement which covers jazz standards ‘Our Delight’ and ‘Whisper Not’, a couple of Victor Feldman originals ‘Eclipse Of Spain’ and ‘Pullin’ Strings’, Horace Silver’s seldom aired ‘How Deep Are The Roots’ and four shots at the Men’s mind-worm of a signature tune – Bill Holman’s ‘Theme: A Gem From Tiffany’. If you don’t already own this genuinely indispensible set of recordings then there really is a serious gap in your life.

– Roy Carr

Jeremy Pelt Quintet – Men of Honor ★★★★★

Men of HonorHigh Note

Jeremy Pelt (t, flhn), JD Allen (ts), Danny Grissett (p),Dwayne Burno (b) and Gerald Cleaver (d). Rec. September 2009

Without any reservations, this is the best new release I’ve ever been asked to review since joining Jazzwise and unquestionably deserves five stars – or more! It was heartening to see that several of my colleagues thought that the Pelt Quintet’s gig at Jazz at the Lund last summer was 2009’s best. Because this is, at last, what we used to call a BAND rather than five guys just getting together to record.

This band has a group feel not heard since the likes of the second Miles Davis Quintet (which is definitely one of its inspirations) or the best of the Art Blakey Messengers. Here you have five of the most talented players on the planet, who are all also composers of the highest order, getting together to create a group with an identity and individual sound, utilising originals from every member, but still sharing that common conception and superbly recorded by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder. Pelt is now widely recognised as the most important trumpeter to carry on the Freddie Hubbard tradition. JD Allen has never sounded so effective as on this date, playing with great emotion, making every note count (less is more) with a sound at times recalling early Trane. The brilliant Grissett gets better and better with every recording, Burno is the rock and Cleaver, the most avant-garde of the five, stirring the proceedings, constantly changing the rhythmic landscape and inspiring the soloists.

Burno’s tune ‘Back Road’, the opener, is upbeat and relatively conventional with inspired solos, Grissett’s particularly striking. JD’s moody minor-key Shorteresque ‘Brooklyn Bound’ is outstanding with deeply-moving solos by himself and Jeremy, with Grissett’s floating chords creating more moods, with bass and drums moving beneath. Pelt’s first two tunes are contrasting: the playful ‘Milo Hayward’ (dedicated to his very young son), followed by the darksounding ‘Danny Mack’, which is for JD. Grissett’s percussive dissonant comping, along with Cleaver’s constantly churning drums, further intensify the mood created by the horn solos. Cleaver’s ‘From a Life of the Same Name’ is arguably the deepest of the lot, with beautifully poignant statements by Pelt and then JD. The CD is completed by three more equally moving tracks – Pelt’s gently swinging, down-tempo ‘Illusion’ and ‘Us/ Them’, which features Cleaver’s clever, undulating rhythmic approach and, finally, Grissett’s contribution, the haunting ‘Without You’, which he included on his own Criss Cross album, which leaves the listener emotionally drained and hanging in space. A really great recording by a really great band. Let’s pray they stay together.

– Tony Hall

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