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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Jay & Kai + 6 - J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding

You Don't Know What Love Is
Jay & Kai + 6
The Jay And Kai Trombone Octet
J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding
Notes by George Avakian
Columbia CL 892

Excellent jazz/swing concept effort by Johnson and Winding enhanced by top-notch engineering.

From Billboard - September 29, 1956: Using six orthodox trombones and two bass trombones (and rhythm section) Johnson and Winding get all the variety of sound necessary to make a satisfying ensemble. The material consists of familiar standards and three special items written by Jay or Gal. A compendium of trombone playing that is a natural extension of what Jay and Kai have been doing as a successful duo. The Johnson-Winding fans will gobble this up.

From the back cover: Jay and Kai, who are apparently fearless, have set themselves another difficult goal in this album, but the results literally speak for themselves. Their self-imposed challenge was to make an entire album with eight trombones (six-orthodox-type horns and two bass trombones) and their usual rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums. On some of these tunes, they themselves play tromboniums, which are upright valve instruments of similar range and nearly the same tone, developed to replace the more cumbersome slide trombones in marching bands. (Slide trombones have to be played up front so they can be played freely, which isn't the best set-up for tonal balance.) The photograph on this jacket give a better description that words can, and the sections of this album in which you can hear the tromboniums are charted.

The arrangements for this eight-trombone idea were executed by Jay and Kai themselves. Just how they managed to do this – and do it so well is something I haven't figured out yet, and I'm sure neither Jay nor Kai are as yet in condition to explain coherently, either. Suffice to say that they made it despite some mighty close deadlines. Coffee – very strong and black – was one of the principle ingredients that made it possible.

Getting the right men to play these difficult arrangements was a problem, too, but fortunately the sessions came at a time when six of the best trombonists in New York were available for all the sessions. They are Urbie Green, Bob Alexander, Eddie Bert, and Jimmy Cleveland, with bass trombonists Bart Varsalone and Tom Mitchell. Their rhythm section consists of Hank Jones (piano), Milt Hinton (bass), and Osie Johnson (drums), except on Night In Tunisia, All At Once You Love Her, The Peanut Vendor, Four Plus Four, and The Continental, in which Hinton was replaced by Ray Brown. Candido Camero is added on conga drums and bongos as noted in the analyses of the individual arrangements, given below.

Night In Tunisia
Piece For Two Tromboniums
Rise 'N' Shine
All At Once You Love Her
No Moon At All
The Surrey With The Fringe On Top
The Peanut Vendor
You're My Thrill
Four Plus Four
You Don't Know What Love Is
The Continental

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