Thursday, March 12, 2009
arranged and conducted by Billy May
..."Jazz standards of tomorrow that are happening today"*
*"The" Master has done it again.
Once more, Billy May, the brilliant, progressive pioneer sets the trend. With warmth and taste and intelligence--and wry sense of humor.
Case in point: BILL'S BAG. Not a cliche in the carload.
Here the big band interprets modern jazz compositions by the most articulate of the new writers: standards of tomorrow that are happening today.
Over a hundred tunes were considered. Final selection was left to the leader. The chosen twelve represent a marvelous musical cross-section.
Both "Dat Dere" and "Moanin'" are from the prolific pen of pianist Bobby Timmons. The former was a jazz hit for Cannonball Adderley's quintet.
Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes" gets a sensitive, respectful reading. None of the innate lyricism is lost in the translation.
"Children of the Night" (by Wayne Shorter) and "Whisper Not" (Benny Golson) are just beginning to gain prominence. They have style and substance.
"The Preacher" shouts a smouldering message. Composer: hard-driving Horace Silver.
Bright and bouncy "Shiny Stockings," a staple in the Count Basie book, is tenorist Frank Foster's contribution.
And then there's the first big-band recording of "Uh! Oh! (Nutty Squirrels)"; Cy Coleman's haunting "Playboy's Theme"; a madly swinging performance of the Dakota Station smash, "The Late, Late Show"; a jazz waltz, too: "Filet of Soul."
A Billy May orchestra is always a magnificent instrument. He is uncompromising leader of uncompromising bands. This group is no different. They swing! The May way.
Instrumentation is (what else?) unusual and flexible. A small unit's out front (and to the left for stereo listeners), backed by big brass and rhythm (to the right in stereo). The soloists involved: Don Fagerquist, trumpet; Dave Wells and Lou McCreary alternating on bass trumpet; Paul Horn, alto sax/flute; Justin Gordon, tenor sax/piccolo.
Billy May continues to be a vital, dynamic force in the jazz world. Perhaps it's because he's not afraid of new frontiers, fresh ideas. Perhaps because his enthusiasm and love for music have never diminished.
Or perhaps it's because he genuinely cares that you enjoy what he creates.
Whatever, BILL'S BAG is a fascinating instrumental album. Truly an exciting exploration into "Dimensions in Jazz."
Produced by DAVE CAVANAUGH and TOM MORGAN
Recorded in Capitol Records' Studio A, Hollywood, on January 15, February 11, and March 19, 1963. Recording engineers: Hugh Davies, Pete Abbott, John Krauss.
Paul Horn appears through courtesy of Columbia Records.
Cover photo/Capitol Photo Studio/George Jerman
Bag, like certain other jazz words, has a slightly different meaning depending on how it's used. For example, just as to dig can mean to understand, to admire, to agree; bag can mean style, approach, even a way of life. Here, "Bill's Bag" is his approach to charting the cool groove for big band and the fine style with which he carries it off.
THIS MONOPHONIC MICROGROOVE RECORDING IS PLAYABLE ON MONOPHONIC AND STEREO PHONOGRAPHS. IT CANNOT BECOME OBSOLETE. IT WILL CONTINUE TO BE A SOURCE OF OUTSTANDING SOUND REPRODUCTION, PROVIDING THE FINEST MONOPHONIC PERFORMANCE FROM ANY PHONOGRAPH.
MADE IN U.S.A. - FACTORIES: SCRANTON, PA. - LOS ANGELES, CALIF.
CAPITOL RECORDS HIGH FIDELITY RECORDING
ALSO AVAILABLE IN STEREO
CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT (2:58)
UH! OH! (Nutty Squirrels) (3:14)
THE PREACHER (2:51)
PLAYBOY'S THEME (3:27)
THE LATE, LATE SHOW (2:58)
DAT DERE (3:16)
FILET OF SOUL (2:19)
WHISPER NOT (2:50)
MILES BEHIND (2:45)
MY LITTLE SUEDE SHOES (3:07)
SHINY STICKINGS (3:01)
Editor's note: it was a Herculean task for me to not say Billy Mays! The television pitchman who sells you what you need. Well, Billy May only sells you his hipness. Oddly enough it comes in a square package! Waka waka waka. Seriously though, the jacket essay addles the brain in its attempt to make you think of this big band as the coolest thing on Earth circa 1963. Cooler than James Dean and way cooler than that hip cat Elvis. Big band brass isn't my forte but this comes across as being very medium cool. Secretly, I think that "Bill's Bag" means something way more nefarious than "cool".