Listening to old friends like these is time well spent. The material comes from the swing era but these albums have a more modern feel as they were recorded at a time when bop and post bop music had gained ascendancy. The artists on the albums are a mix of the famous and not so famous, swing and boppers, East and West Coasters. When I run my eyes over the names on the track lists I marvel at the lineup and realise that many of these names are fading from our collective memory. Pepper, Mandel and Torme will never be forgotten but what of Cy Touf? He is a mere footnote in the Jazz lexicon and he only recorded a few times. Not withstanding that his Octet/Quintet album has remained a favourite with Jazz musicians and arrangers and this is probably because of the loose easy-going West Coast style arrangements by Johnny Mandel.
Even ‘Sweets’ Edison is fading from memory and few modern listeners would hunt for his name in a Basie band lineup (I do). Another great band leader and arranger was Marty Paich. His piano playing is probably what is termed arrangers piano but it still sounds fine to me. He has that minimalist touch and his arranging style owes a lot to Basie; sweet verses tart & hard swinging. I collect Marty Paich albums and never tire of his orchestration. He was called the Picasso of Big Band Jazz and his use of tonal colour was achieved to great effect. He allowed wonderful trumpeters like Jack Sheldon to shine and he is closely associated with Art Pepper. Lastly there is the Mel-Tones. Their origins go back to the Chico Marx Orchestra which Mel Torme joined up with in 1943. To modern ears their harmonising can sound old-fashioned, but this group (with Mel at the forefront) were big names in their day.
The albums date from 1955 and 1959 respectively and they star an almost unbelievable group of musicians. Only a few of these guys are still alive and that is sad because they once grooved their world (the famous Johnny Mandel is still an arranger par excellence and as a young man he also played the rare bass-trumpet like Cy Touf). To hear an incomparable ‘Sweets’ Edison solo with his signature lazy-feel, bluesy slurs or Art Pepper with his biting cut through on alto is still exciting to me.
These albums are a peephole into an era that is long gone but it is one that still deserves our respectful remembrance.
Cy Touf his Octet and Quintet (Pacific Jazz 93162) featuring – #1 -4 Cy Touf (bass trumpet), Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison (trumpet) Conrad Gozzo (trumpet), Richie Kamuca (tenor sax), Matt Utal (alto and baritone sax), Russ Freeman (piano) (Pete Jolly (piano #3), Leroy Vinnegar (bass), Chuck Flores (drums). Johnny Mandel & Ernie Wilkins (arr).
Track one – Keester Parade (Johnny Mandel)
Track seven – A Smooth One (Benny Goodman)
Mel Torme- Art Pepper – Marty Paich Sessions: (Lonehill Jazz) Mel Torme (vocals) The Mel-Tones (vocal) Marty Paiche (piano) (celeste) (organ) (arranger) (Conductor) Orchestra featuring; Art Pepper (alto sax), Jack Sheldon (trumpet), Frank Rosolino (trombone), Bill Perkins (tenor sax), Victor Feldman (vibes), Barrney Kessel (guitar), Joe Mondragon (bass), Mel lewis (drums).
Track eighteen – Bunch of The Blues/ Keester Parade/ TNT/ Tiny’s Blues – (Mandel/Kahn).
Footnotes: The album track list that come up in iTunes gave ‘Keester Parade’ as ‘Easter Parade’. That would certainly have amused the musicians and especially Johnny Mandel. For those who don’t speak the lingua franca of the hipster 1950’s, a Keester is what you sit on. West Coast pianist Pete Jolly is credited in the Cy Touf album and he has a lot of loyal devotees in New Zealand. In the early 1960’s when tours by lessor known Jazz musicians were unheard of and when such journey’s were long and arduous, Pete Jolly and Ralph Pena visited here. The tour had been organised by Auckland Jazz fan Frank Collins and the subsequent fun has never been forgotten. Recordings from the gigs were carefully squirreled away by John Good (recently deceased) and these treasures were later released in the USA as a posthumous Pete Jolly album.