Session conducted by Les Tomkins
Tony Scodwell, Larry O'Brien, Tommy Check and Charlie Shavers from the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
|The following blindfold test was carried out in 1964, but time would hardly change the opinions expressed here. They could well have been uttered today - or even tomorrow. Jazz lives on!|
“Straight No Chaser” The Gil Evans Orchestra (featuring Johnny Coles, trumpet, Steve Lacey, soprano, Curtis Fuller, trombone, Gil Evans, piano). Composed by Thelonious Monk. Arranged by Gil Evans. From “Great Jazz Standards”, Fontana.
Shavers: That’s one of the best things I’ve heard Monk do in a long time. I liked the initial theme to it. The solos were great. I’ve known Monk for yearseven his solo was great. He doesn’t usually care too much what he plays. The overall picture there was a nice piece of jazz. I particularly enjoyed the last couple of choruses, where they got that almost Ellingtonish ensemble sound going. It was a good record. I patted my foot—and, as long as you can pat your foot something good is happening.
O’Brien: I’m with Charlie. I enjoyed the record very much. I think the trombone player was Curtis Fuller—or somebody from the J. J. Johnson school. He played very well—as did all the soloists. Sounded like Steve Lacey on soprano. It was interesting how much was done with that instrumentation—quite a bit. I prefer Gil Evans’ arrangement frankly, to the one I heard. He used quite a bigger band on that World Pacific album. But he’s quite a writer, I have no idea who did this one, but it was very, very good.
Shavers: You know. it might have been a head.
Scodwell: About eight bars of voicing —that’s all it was.
Check: I don’t think it was a head. That’s from the album, “Thelonious Monk at Town Hall”, isn’t it? I may be wrong, but I know he put out a big band album of that name, using that type of instrumentation. Although there was no applause at the end—so maybe it was in the studio. “Straight No Chaser” is a rather hard blues to play. I agree with Larry—Gil Evans really delved into it, in his version.
Scodwell: The ensemble was mostly unison, which is crazy for a small group thing. But when you get ten or twelve guys playing unison, intonation problems come up. I dug the solos.
Details were given here
Shavers: Well, he did a damn’ good imitation of Monk.
O’Brien: This isn’t the one with “Chant Of The Weed” on it, though, is it? It is? Well. I have that album at home —and it doesn’t sound a thing like that. Not at all. He uses a much larger ensemble.
Check: It didn’t sound like Gil to me. And I have that album, too. I just bought it the other day over here, because I’ve been looking for “Django” by this man. I’m a writer myself, and he’s one of my favourite writers.
O’Brien: I carry my portable stereo and a bunch of records with me, and I had been listening to that quite a bit before we went to New York. I don’t know—maybe it’s the sound system here. I’m sure I would have recognised it if it was the same cut. That’s a puzzler.
Check: He put out an album called Out of the Cool. Isn’t Straight No Chaser on that? Perhaps they got switched.
Shavers: You sure that wasn’t Monk? You sure Monk didn’t sneak in there just for meanness?
“Strut Miss Lizzie” Alex Welsh and his Band (Alex Welsh, trumpet, Archie Semple, clarinet, Danny Moss, tenor, Roy Crimmins, trombone, Gerry Salisbury, trombonium, Fred Hunt, piano, Tony Pitt, guitar, Bill Reid, bass, Lennie Hastings, drums). (Solos by Hunt, Welsh, Semple, Crimmins, Moss, Salisbury.) From “Echoes Of Chicago,” Columbia.
Scodwell: One thing that makes me sicker than the ‘flu—Dixieland.
Shavers: That piano sounded like Teddy (Wilson) a long time ago. (At clarinet solo.) That’s Pee Wee . . . Ain’t that Pee Wee? Oh, yeah, yeah—I think that’s him. Sounds like Johnny Bunk playing trumpet.
Check: Good old–fashioned Dixieland. I liked the overall feel, each of the solos and, especially, the way that drummer played. I’d say that’s an old record. Out of these pioneers came what is today. But it could be recorded in 1963—just got the old sound, for all I know.
Scodwell: It could be Kenny Ball. But there’s more to music than that. It’s been done—and it was great then. I dismiss it at that. I’m sure people are going to hate me for saying that, but that’s the way I feel about it.
Shavers: Well, yes—I hate you for saying that already. You can’t put down something that has helped you on your own personal way.
Scodwell: I’m not really putting it down. I’m just dismissing it.
Shavers: You can’t do that, either. People that dismiss the past don’t deserve the future.
Scodwell: Well, I guess I should die today. I knew Charlie was going to get bugged.
Shavers: I just hate to hear people say that. It’s just a vicious thing to say. You don’t just throw things out the window like that. The greatest aeroplane ever was the one built by the Wright Brothers.
Scodwell: Well, I wouldn’t like to fly back to New York in it. I’d rather go by jet. I simply don’t listen to things I don’t like.
O’Brien: Aside from this controversy, I liked it. Some up–to–date things I heard in there make me think it was recorded recently. It sounds to me like it might be a British group. I say that because I’m fairly familiar with almost every American trombone player—and he doesn’t sound like any of them. He could have been the leader, since he had two choruses, I believe, which is kind of unusual on a Dixieland record. Chris Barber, maybe. He played very well.
Shavers: Hey, Larry, was there a slide trombone and a valve?
O’Brien: I was trying to hear. It sounded like there were either two trombones, or the same fellow playing slide and then valve. The second sound was darker and juggier—a valve sound, rather than pure slide.
Tomkins: The second one was a trombonium.
O’Brien: Oh, the thing that Kai and J. J. produced in the States, Well, very good. Also, it’s unusual to have a guitar in Dixieland.
Tomkins: It was a group led by Alex Welsh, who was the trumpet player.
Shavers: I liked that trumpet player. Nice feel. He knew what he was doing. He didn’t try to set the world on fire or make himself too mysterious. Just played some nice jazz, that’s all—bingo.
Scodwell: I’m not a jazz player—but I like to hear a little more going on musically than what Dixieland players are doing.
Shavers: Well, you like to confuse people, in other words.
Scodwell: No, man. That’s why rock’n’ roll’s going over so great—because people don’t have to think.
Shavers: You’re talking about idiots. I’m talking about people that make some kind of sense.
“Vic’s Tune” Vic Lewis and his Bossa Nova All Stars (in solo order: Shake Keane, trumpet, Tubby Hayes, flute, Jimmy Deuchar, mellophonium, Ronnie Scott, tenor, Terry Shannon, piano, Ray Dempsey, guitar, with Freddy Logan, bass, Kenny Clare, drums). Composed by Johnny Keating. From “Vic Lewis Plays Bossa Nova At Home And Away” HMV
Scodwell: The only guy I know over here who plays mellophonium is Jimmy Deuchar. On this particular record the sound he was getting on the horn was like a trumpet player doubling on it. On Stan’s band the mellophonium players are always trying to get a more French horn-like sound. The rhythm seemed heavy. It wasn’t that light Latin thing I like to hear.
O’Brien: I enjoyed the trumpet and saxophone very much. But the whole thing was a little bit too relaxed—to the point where it was just collapsed.
Scodwell: Was that Ronnie Scott?
Check: The tenor was good. But, as a rhythm player, that was a very poor attempt at a bossa nova. While working with Kai Winding I spent many hours with Luis Bonfa, learning about bossa nova rhythms. He says that the rhythm they’re playing there, which has become popular, is nowhere close to the real thing. A true bossa nova rhythm never stays the same for two measures. Nobody ever plays the same thing twice.
Shavers: Yes, it’s a free thing. You can’t regiment that thing. They’re having a ball with it. That’s what’s bugged me about so many of the so–called bossa nova groups—they’re so timid.
Check: It’s a savage rhythm. They just get to shouting down in Brazil.
Shavers: I was down there in ‘51 and they were doing it. They do any doggone thing—but they keep that theme going. It’s not the same monotonous beat over and over again. Oh no, baby, they swing it—all the way. As for the record—it sounded a little bit of Joe Wilder on the trumpet, and the tenor was Budd Johnson–ish. It didn’t annoy me, but it didn’t move me. I can do with it or do without it.
Scodwell: Hope it wasn’t Ray Starling on the mellophonium.
Check: If it was a trombone, it could have been a valve—would you say, Larry?
O’Brien: I don’t think so. It was kind of a bastardised sound—not like a fish or a fowl, but something in between.
Scodwell: Like a mellophonium—right?
O’Brien: At first I thought it was the trumpet player with a plunger or some kind of hat or felt in front of his horn. I couldn’t figure it out all the way through.
Tomkins: Well, it was Jimmy Deuchar.
Scodwell: I heard him in the club. I wasn’t impressed with his sound—but the things he played on it were crazy. It’s a dumb horn but you have to live with it. It plays so badly out of tune to begin with. You just can’t double on it and do a good job. Trumpet players who double on mellophonium use a small, shallow mouthpiece and they get that dumb sound.
“Chelsea Bridge” Henry Mancini and his Orchestra (featuring Dick Nash, trombone, Ted Nash, alto, Larry Bunker, vibes). Composed by Billy Strayhorn. Arranged by Henry Mancini. From “Uniquely Mancini”, RCA Victor.
O’Brien: I’ve got to have the first say on this one. Dick Nash is to me the second greatest trombone player in the world. The alto player, I believe, was his brother, Ted Nash and the vibraphone player Larry Bunker. I believe it’s a Mancini recording, although I can’t recall the name of it, or the album, offhand. I’d like to say, about Dick—I had the very good fortune of studying with him while we were in L.A., like I have tried to get to Don Lusher to study with him while we’ve been here. And this is a man who is one with his trombone. When he puts it up to his mouth to play they’re one. He’s just a hair under Urbie. His musicianship is flawless. His phrasing, breath control and sound—they’re just gorgeous. He’s a very musical person—one of the few today who can just play a melody and make it sing.
This is what I’m aiming towards. To me he does it—every time. I might also add: this isn’t one of the better things that he’s done. It’s excellent, of course, but he’s done a couple of other things that would just make your hair stand up—they’re so beautiful. I can’t speak highly enough of this man. He’s great. I wish he had a lot more exposure, because a lot of people who like music haven’t heard of him yet—and they should. A phenomenal trombone player. Way ahead of everybody—except Urbie, as far as I’m concerned.
Shavers: ‘Nuff said. I can’t embellish on that. That’s beautiful. I like to hear a guy that can play a horn like that. I worked with a guy for a long time that played pretty good trombone, too, you know—as far as the melody was concerned. His name was Tommy Dorsey. The old man’s greatest asset was breath control.
O’Brien: Like blowing one bubble at a time through a straw into a glass of water —something like that?
Check: I want to say something about Henry Mancini. For years you’d been trying to tell people that jazz is not that hard to understand. Then suddenly he proves it with his jazz background for the television programme, Peter Gum. When I found out about him I started following him. And I think he’s one of the best writers to have gained sudden, belated recognition. He wrote for bands years back and he did many films before the ones he’s known for. Some of the most wonderful tunes he’s ever written have never become famous. For instance, “Dreamsville” out of the Peter Gunn series is an awfully beautiful tune. Then there’s “Lonesome” on the “Uniquely Mancini” album. That will slay you: And a tune he did for Ralph Marterie, called “Lonely Winter”.
O’Brien: When we were on the Marterie band, one of the things that we enjoyed doing immensely was this Mancini arrangemen. It was a very, very simple background, similar to the one we just heard, but, it was just gorgeous. The guys used to love to play it. He wrote quite a few for Ralph—and Tex Beneke too, I understand.
Shavers: Mancini knows what he’s doing. He’s something else.
Check: He gets a lovely touch to a tune.
“Don’t Sing Along” Andre Previn Quartet (Andre Previn, piano, Herb Ellis, guitar, Ray Brown, bass, Shelly Manne, drums). Composed by Andre Previn. From “Four To Go”, CBS.
Shavers: I haven’t the slightest idea who that is. I like the beat. If you like those sort of things. It was better than some of ‘em, that get a little left field. Good piano player. Was it Horace? No, it didn’t sound much like him, anyhow. I could take the record or leave it. I don’t think they were swinging. I found my attention wandering every now and then.
Scodwell: I’ll have to go along with Charlie. They were getting that 6/8 feel against a two. and it wasn’t really cooking. The drum solo started with a crash, then it stopped—like something that shouldn’t have been there.
Check: I couldn’t tell you who the drummer was. But if he was going to take a drum solo he could have started a bit softer, because he’s not playing with 45 pieces. If you’re going to take a drum solo with a trio you should start from scratch, build to a climax and come down. You can do this in sixteen bars or in four bars. He didn’t do that. He came in like this is the only chance he’s going to have to play in the album and he’s going to get everything he can in it. As far as the complexities of feel go, I like that. The initial head or initial melody, whatever you like to call it, was very cute—the way they switched around.
O’Brien: Well, I enjoyed it very much. There was only one thing I was kind of disappointed in. When they started off I thought they were going to really roar in the development of the thing But they kind of let down the whole theme of it. Even in their solos they seemed to be pulling back. Maybe they had a purpose in doing it, or maybe they weren’t even thinking about it. They certainly had enough time to get going. I have to go with Tommy on the drum solo. You could say it was a good solo, but it didn’t really make me stand up and take notice.
Tomkins: The man’s name was Shelly Manne.
Check: I was going to say that, when I heard that trade–mark he has of doubling up his right cymbal. But when the solo came in it just didn’t sound like him.
Tomkins: Andre Previn, Ray Brown and Herb Ellis were with him.
O’Brien: You can’t get a much better group than that any place. Would the title give us a clue to their intentions?
Tomkins: I don’t know. It was called “Don’t Sing Along”.
O’Brien: Well, that might answer our questions. I wondered if it was called “Hold Back Blues” or something.
Copyright ©1964 Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved