Archive for Roy Eldridge

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!

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They Can’t Take That Away From Me

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , on November 10, 2016 by telescoper

This seems an appropriate piece of music for these days. It’s an unusual but deeply moving performance by the  legendary Lester Young who  was best known as a tenor saxophonist, but decided to play clarinet on two numbers that wound up on an album called Laughin’ to Keep from Cryin’. I have the original vinyl LP, which was issued on the Verve label, but it’s still waiting for me to transfer it to digital. The other members of the band are Roy Eldridge and Harry Edison (trumpets), Herb Ellis (guitar), Hank Jones (piano), George Duvivier (bass) and Mickey Sheen (drums).There were lots of problems making the record, apparently, but it did produce some fine music including this devastatingly tragic version of the standard They Can’t Take That Away From Me which is among the very best recordings he ever made.

At the time of this recording, in February 1958, Lester Young was terminally ill with cancer – he died just a year later at the age of 49.  Despite being barely able to stand, struggling with his breath control, and playing almost in slow motion, he manages to cast his fading light over this tune in a way that’s heartbreaking as well as beautiful.

Laughin’ to Keep from Cryin’

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by telescoper

Neither the time nor the energy to post anything other than a bit of music, so I’ve picked a track someone happens to have posted on Youtube. I have Laughin’ to Keep from Cryin’ the original vinyl LP on the Verve label, but it’s still waiting for me to transfer it to digital. I love this record so much because it’s so joyful and at the same time so tragic. There’s some wonderfully upbeat stuff from the two trumpeters, the great Harry “Sweets” Edison (whom I’ve had the privilege to hear play live), who opens the piece, and then the perhaps even greater Roy Eldridge, but it’s also one of the last recordings made by legendary saxophonist Lester Young who was terminally ill with cancer at the time of this session in February 1958; he died just a year later. His formerly smooth tenor tone now ragged, barely able to stand or hold the saxophone, and playing almost in slow motion, he nevertheless manages to cast his fading light over the latter part of this tune and conjure up something quite magical. The other members of the band are Herb Ellis (guitar), Hank Jones (piano), George Duvivier (bass) and Mickey Sheen (drums) and this track is called Romping.