Disc Discussion

Session conducted by Les Tomkins 

Bob Burns, Allan Ganley, Digby Fairweather and Cedric West

The following blindfold test was carried out in 1962
but time would hardly change the opinions expressed here.
They could well have been uttered today - or even tomorrow.
Jazz lives on!

“ Cry Me A River ”
Ella Fitzgerald with Lou Levy, piano, Herb Ellis, guitar, Joe Mondragon, bass, Stan Levey, drums.
(From “ Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!,” HMV)  

 Les: No need to guess who that was, of course.

Allan: I think we all know that. That was Herb Ellis with her, wasn’t it ?

Cedric: I thought it was Barney Kessel.

Les: No, it was Herb Ellis.

Allan: That backing was so marvellous on that record. If only a lot more vocalists, especially over here, used jazz guys the standard would be so much better. They play marvellous changes, good feel and everything. In this country all the vocal accompaniments are so bad. They don’t seem to know who to use. All these Americans, like Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee use people like Quincy Jones, or a small band like that one. They’ve got the right idea. I rest my case.

Cedric: Herb Ellis was at his best on that one.

Allan: Was it Stan Levey?

Les: Yes, and Lou Levy on piano, Joe Mondragon on bass.

Al: That Lou Levy is great.

Allan: Oh, he’s a marvellous accompanist.

Les: Any comments, Bob? You seemed to be really ‘sent.’

Bob: I’m speechless. Lou Levy suits everybody but with Ella he’s just perfection.

Cedric: He doesn’t get in the way at all, does he ?

Les: Do you think he’s the best accompanist she’s had.

Bob: Oh, definitely. Don’t talk to me about Paul Smith, because I went to hear him and it was embarrassing. He was trying to exhibit himself all the time. He wasn’t accompanying her at all.

Cedric: Do you like Oscar Peterson with her?

Bob: Yes, I like Oscar’s accompaniments. He’s very sensitive. But I think Lou’s really got it. That’s him. It’s the same whether he accompanies Ella or Stan Getz. He’s too much.

Allan: He’s got a fantastic repertoire. Ella can call out any tune and he goes straight into it.

Al: The way they keep the tempo is marvellous. The bass is dead on all the time.

Bob: They fell into double tempo inflections without even putting it down in quavers.

Al:  Just the feel of it, yes.

Bob: I think Ella’s got everything—jazz feeling, vocal control and perfect intonation—beyond anything. Her intonation is better even than a symphonic player. She’s perfect—as much as we know perfection.

Les: The one criticism that seems to be made against her is that she doesn’t get the most out of the lyrics.

Allan: Yes, I agree with that, actually.

Bob: I think that’s a load of rubbish. Actors get the most out of lyrics and they can’t sing.

Cedric: Is it her diction or something ?

Allan: No, not her diction—just the feel for the lyrics. Someone like Sarah Vaughan has a much better feel for lyrics.

Bob: But she can’t sing like Ella.

Allan: Well, that’s a matter of opinion, isn’t it?

Bob: Ella sings like an instrument.

Allan: I prefer Sarah Vaughan to Ella, but that’s just my opinion. And it’s also my opinion that she does get a better meaning to the lyrics—as Frank Sinatra does to me.

Bob: In any case, most of the lyrics of popular songs are a load of rubbish. You couldn’t possibly believe them.


“Night Train” –

David Rose and his Orchestra

(from “The Stripper,” M.G.M.)

Allan: I found it very monotonous. I lost interest half–way through. It had nothing for me—musically or jazz–wise.

Al: I didn’t see the point of starting at that slow tempo just to double up later. I mean, that’s why they started so slowly, isn’t it ?

Cedric: I didn’t like that. The solos were very dated.

Allan: It sounded like a studio band to me.

Al: The recording sounded a bit rough. Was that on a concert ?

Cedric: It’s a recent recording, though, isn’t it ?

Les: Yes, it is recent and it was done in a studio.

Bob: It had everything to do with conformity—echo chamber, doubled tempo, rock and roll, triplets—the lot. It’s a big bore, that’s all.

Cedric: Who would you say that tenor player is, Bob ?

Bob: I don’t know, but he’s a good musician, obviously.

Allan: He’s got a big sound.

Cedric: Georgie Auld or Ben Webster or somebody, eh ?

Bob: I think it’s an American record, because they even do rubbish like that well and get good players to do it.

Les: It was an orchestra led by a man who is usually associated with a different kind of sound—David Rose.

Allan: Well, that’s funny. He did a record called “The Stripper” and it sounded the same sort of thing—the heavy off-beat and all that, the bumps and grinds. It reminded me of that.

Les: The preceding track was “The Stripper”, as a matter of fact. He made an album on the success of the single.

Al: The original conception of that was wrong as far as I’m concerned. The slow section seemed to get slower and slower.

Bob: The original conception was to make money.


 “ Barefoot Blues ” – The Jazz Club presented by Mark White

(Freddy Randall–trumpet, Geoff Love–trombone, Bruce Turner–clarinet, Freddy Gardner–baritone, Dill Jones–piano, Vic Lewis–guitar, Hank Hobson–bass, Max Abrams–drums,

from “London Jazz Scene–the 40’s,” Ace of Clubs.)

Al: It sounded latter-day Chicagoan. The clarinet was Pee Wee Russell, wasn’t it? It seemed to be a re-creation of the time when they played good Chicago– style, with that baritone coming in.

Allan: Was it a baritone?

Al: Bass sax, or whatever it was.

Bob: It didn’t sound like an imitation or a re-creation to me. It sounded like the real thing. There was a good spirit about it, as much as I hate old–fashioned music like that. I don’t hate it because it’s old-fashioned but because it’s imitated now in 1962.

Allan: Was that Jack Teagarden on trombone? I liked the good, happy feel they got.

Al: It was obviously the original guys doing it. I don’t know who that trumpet player would be at all.

Les: It had the authentic sound ?

Bob: Oh, there’s no doubt about it.

Les: It was, in fact, made in 1949.

Allan: Was it Max Kaminsky ?

Les: That was recorded by what at the time they called The BBC Jazz Club.

Allan: What?

Cedric: An English group, was it?

Bob: Well, it sounded authentic.

Allan: Yes, they got a good sound.

Cedric: Who was the trombone player—Jock Bain ?

(The sleeve was then shown)

Al: Dill sounded like Teddy Wilson.

Bob: They weren’t trying to imitate anybody. It was real. The feeling was there. Freddy Gardner really felt that music.

Allan: There aren’t too many bands playing in that style now in this country, are there?

Al: Really nobody’s trying to capture that style apart from probably Alex Welsh, who does it very well because his band feels it too, you know.


“ Davito”-Cal Tjader Septet

(Cal Tjader-vibes, Paul Horn-flute, Lonnie Hewitt-piano, Al McKibbon-bass, Johnny Rae-timbales, Wilfred0 Vicente-conga drum, Armando Peraza-bongoes;

from “In A Latin Bag,” HMV)

Cedric: I didn’t like that so much. Did you, Allan?

Allan: I should say it was pleasantly played Latin-American background music. It sounded like Victor Feldman on vibes, though. My ears may be deceiving me.

Cedric: It was nice vibraphone playing, but I don’t think it comes off, somehow. The rhythm section was a bit monotonous.

Allan: Yes, it was overpowering the vibes as well.

Al: The tuning of the cowbell, or whatever it was, was coming through with this augmented fifth all the time and it was clashing with the rest of the chords. It was disturbing, I found.

Bob: It was different. It’s an attempt to marry jazz with Latin–American, but I didn’t like it.

Les: Actually it was done by someone who does a lot of that kind of thing—Cal Tjader.

Allan: It wasn’t one thing or the other really.

Al: It didn’t seem to get any particular mood. The rhythm was too loud and heavy for it to be exotic. It was drowning out the melody.

Allan: I’d sooner listen to that than Edmundo Ros.


 “ The Quintessence ”
Quincy Jones and his Orchestra featuring Phil Woods–alto
(From “The Quintessence,” HMV)

Bob: Well, it’s all the American idea of trying to put jazz on the map. I like that. But this is a jazz player who, like all the young players, has no flair for melody. He needs all that concert background to make it—doubling up the tubas and all that—that Gil Evans sound. It doesn’t result in anything to me. It leaves me cold. I don’t care who it is on alto. It’s a mean sound, not a free sound—like a guy out of his element.

Cedric: It wasn’t Sonny Stitt, was it?

Allan: I’ve heard it before, so I knew it was Phil Woods. I thought it was great. I enjoyed it.

Cedric: It was good for what it is—mood music, not jazz.

Bob: But why do they insist on marrying up jazz with a concert background ? It doesn’t need all those French horns and strings. What are they after ?

Les: It was Quincy Jones who supplied the background there.

Bob: Was it? I love Phil Woods playing in a jazz band, but not in these circumstances.

Al: Was that a Quincy Jones arrangement ?

Les: Yes, and composition.

Al: I didn’t like either, frankly. I’ve heard much better from him. It doesn’t do anything to me at all. I don’t like that kind of shrill alto for a start. It strikes me as being a sort of poor man’s Charlie Parker.

Bob: Al, if you heard Phil Woods under the right circumstances you wouldn’t say that, I hope, because really he’s a fantastic player. He hasn’t got a shrill sound and he’s got his own style, though he’s in the Parker tradition. But this doesn’t give him any kind of a fair display at all.

Cedric: On some of those high notes he sounds like a soprano.

Les: I’m not supposed to express my opinion here, but to me it’s refreshing to hear Phil Woods on a ballad. We hear him on so many swinging things.

Bob: He plays great ballads, but this is not his sort of world. Everything’s comparative. I’ve got records at home on which Phil Woods plays ballads that make me cry, but this doesn’t. I didn’t even know it was him. But musicians are like this, day in and day out. I’d hate to be judged on some of the things I’ve done for various leaders.

Cedric: I made a rash guess and thought it was Sonny Stitt going commercial. It was bordering on the sugary.

Allan: I wouldn’t agree that it sounded commercial. I thought he put a lot of feeling into it. I like that kind of ballad.

Al: I don’t see any point in embroidering these slow ballads that much. He could have played the tune better with just a rhythm section.


“Work Song”
Slide Hampton Band (Solos by Jay Cameron–baritone, George Coleman–tenor. From “Jazz With A Twist,” London).

Bob: That was awful.

Allan: What was that—Music While You Work? And why did they change the melody in that “Work Song”?

Al: Yes, it’s much better the other way.

Allan: The baritone player sounded like a tenor player who’d suddenly got hold of a baritone that morning because he’d got a session on where they wanted him to play it. I liked the feeling of the tenor solo on the record, but that’s all.

Cedric: No, I didn’t like the tenor. Was that a British band ?

Les: No, it’s a New York band.

Allan: Jimmy Heath, was it?

Les: Slide Hampton’s band.

Cedric: Oh, and there was no trombone solo.

Bob: That would be Jay Cameron on baritone.

Cedric: It’s a bunch of young guys, isn’t it? You could hear that. Young musicians make a rough noise. It’s enthusiastic, if nothing else.

Bob: There’s a difference between enthusiasm on the job and enthusiasm in the studio. It’s very marked.

Cedric: I must agree with you. That band reminded me of Maynard Ferguson’s early young band.

Bob: I heard Slide Hampton’s band at the Half Note two years ago and it knocked me out. I didn’t care for Jay Cameron but the tenor player was marvellous. He has two trombones, two trumpets, two saxophones and rhythm. It was a great sound, even though he had a lousy drummer—as he did on the record.

Allan: It’s a great tune. It’s a pity they didn’t do something with it.

Bob: There are plenty of great bands that don’t record.


 “ ‘Tain’t What You Do”
Billy May and his Orchestra (Willie Smith–alto, Trummy Young–vocal;
from “The Great Jimmy Lunceford,” Capitol)

Cedric: Was that Tony Pastor? It sounds like him.

Allan: That takes me back, because that’s the Jimmy Lunceford arrangement—exactly the same—even the drum break at the end.

Al: That was a recreation of the Lunceford band, was it ?

Allan: Was that Willie Smith on alto ?

Al: It’s probably Trummy Young’s band. That was Trummy singing.

Allan: I’ll tell you—this is going back a bit—when I first became interested in jazz Kay Cavendish used to have a programme on the BBC about 6.30 and that was the signature tune, and it used to knock me out. That was a wonderful band. That record rather lacked the enthusiasm of the original band. It’s good to hear it again, though.

Les: The leader on it was Billy May. They tried to get as many of the original sidemen as possible on it. They managed to find about go per cent. of them and played some of the Lunceford book with the benefit of modern recording.

Allan: Somehow I think you lose something when you do that. Perhaps I’m nostalgic but I like the old 78 of that one, scratches and everything.

Bob: What about Joe Thomas ? He was probably the one that was missing, because to me that was nothing like Lunceford. I remember him—and I’ve got a very good memory. Everybody changes. It’s a fallacy to think you can get the same people together and make everything happen.

Allan: The whole environment is so different now.


Copyright © 2000 Jazz Professional. All Rights Reserved.