Archive for Ray Brown

Norman Granz Jam Session No. 6

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2019 by telescoper

It behoves me to spend most of this evening at a postgraduate Open Evening here at Maynooth University so I thought I’d take a little tea break and post a bit of Jazz.

This recording, made in 1954, is from one of the famous `All-Star’ jam sessions organized by impresario Norman Granz. These are fascinating for jazz fans because they provide a rare opportunity to hear extended solos from great musicians, not confined to the usual three-minute 78rpm records of the period. This one is almost half an hour long altogether, and was originally issued in two parts (on either side of an LP record) so there’s a rather clumsy edit half way through. There are also a few jumps on the record, but I don’t think they spoil this classic too much.

Norman Granz liked to select contrasting musicians for these spontaneous recordings and this line-up was clearly intended to juxtapose modernist trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie with his boyhood inspiration Roy Eldridge. It is indeed fascinating to hear them play one after the other, but the star of this show for me is the great clarinettist Buddy De Franco whose solo is absolutely superb – few Jazz clarinettists are able to match his control in the upper register. The other musicians clearly enjoy his solo too; I’m pretty sure that it’s Dizzy Gillespie you can hear delivering the encouraging shouts as De Franco gets into full flood.

The soloists (in order) are: Flip Phillips (tenor sax); Bill Harris (trombone); Buddy De Franco (clarinet); Oscar Peterson (piano); Herb Ellis (guitar); Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet); and Roy Eldridge (trumpet). The other musicians providing rhythm accompaniment are Ray Brown (bass) and Louie Bellson (drums). That’s not a bad band is it?

The tune played here is the swing era standard Stomping at the Savoy which is a good choice for this kind of jam session because (a) everyone knows it (b) the melody is quite simple, and (c) it has interesting chords for the musicians to improvise over. It is in standard 32-bar AABA format with a relatively simple A section (Db6, Ab9, Db6, Ddim, Ebm7, Ab7, Db, Db) but has a B section (bridge) with considerable chromatic embellishment (Gb9/G9, Gb9, B13/F#m6, B13, E9/F9, E9, A13, Ab9b); these are assuming that it is played in Db. It’s fascinating to hear how each of the soloists navigates the middle eight on this record.

Stomping at the Savoy is usually played a bit faster than it is here, but I like this beautifully relaxed and comfortably swinging tempo.

UPDATE: By an amazing coincidence*, Part 1 of this session was played by Bernard Clarke last night on The Blue of the Night (at about 10.30).

*It’s not a complete coincidence, as we had an exchange on Twitter about it a while ago and he said he would try to play it sometime – it was nevertheless a surprise that he played it on exactly the same day as I posted this!


C Jam Blues

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on May 22, 2012 by telescoper

I finished a marathon session of examination marking yesterday evening, and gave the papers another check through this afternoon just as a precaution against any errors on my part. Now I’m satisfied with them I’m going to hand them over to the second examiner tomorrow morning for another check. We do take a lot of care over this things, you know…

Having got such such a big job out of the way I think there’s grounds for a minor celebration. On top of that I noticed this afternoon that the total number of visits to this blog has just passed the one million mark!  Thanks to everyone who has visited for taking the trouble to read my ramblings. I hope to be able to pass on news of an important development on the blog very soon…

In the meantime, here’s a video I’ve been waiting for a good day to post. It’s the great Oscar Peterson Trio vintage 1964 in excellent form playing a Duke Ellington standard called C Jam Blues which, as its name suggests, is a 12-bar blues in the key of C Major. I have many reasons for loving this performance: Oscar Peterson’s lengthy improvised introduction is worth a shout all on its own, but watch out for the little look he gives to bassist Ray Brown at about 2.34 to signal him in at the start of the next chorus. Look out too for the flawless performance of the legendary Ed Thigpen on drums; one of my Dad’s absolute favourite drummers, and mine too. The three musicians are definitely all on the same wavelength for this track, but the eyeball communication between Ed Thigpen and Ray Brown seems almost psychic.