Tuesday, May 22, 2018
It's All Bop To Me - Charlie Ventura
Charlie Ventura And His Orchestra
RCA Victor LPM-1135
Available from online vendors so I will not be posting a sample. Presented here to share the cover art and jacket notes.
From the back cover: Some years ago, during the late forties to be exact, there was a mass exodus of jazz musicians to the land of Oo-Bla-Dee. It was led, of course, by such redoubtable guides as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, but following in their footsteps there came a host of others who, led on by the particular hypnotism and sorcery of those two, soon found that slightly crazy area very much to their liking and permanently settled down. The sound that have since issued from beyond those frontiers have been extensively modified, but they still depend for their validity upon what the masters taught. And among the groups which gleefully explored this then partially unknown terrain was that of Charlie Ventura – a happy group, as we can hear in this instance, whose wonderfully inventive lines were some of the more sparkling to issue from the capital city of that land which was called Bop.
At the time Charlie introduced his band – it was May 29, 1946 – he was no newcomer to the jazz world, had played for a considerable period with Gene Krupa, left to join Teddy Powell, and then eventually rejoined the Kruppa aggregation. It was with the latter that the seed of Charlie's own band style was sown – the unique blending of instruments and voices heard in the selections included in this album. While he was with the Kruppa band, he was given, on a rapidly rising scale, an ever-in-creasing amount of the jazz solo work. And it so happened that on one of the numbers, it which he accompanied vocalist Buddy Stewart, he felt that he was hogging too much of Stewart's show. So Charlie and the singer got together and figured out a few passages in which Stewart would sing and Charlie play a coda in unison. It was this idea which Charlie later incorporated into his own outfit, and as may be witnessed here, the band leaned heavily upon it.
The small band, with which Charlie began to record for RCA Victor in 1949, was an extremely well-matched unit – its combination of seven instruments and one or two vocalists made it, as they say in military circles, tightly mobile. In addition to Charlie's tenor and its ever-changing mood and attack, there were the saxes of brother Ben and Boots Mussulli; the trumpets of Normie Faye or Conte Candoli; the trombone of Bennie Green; bassist Kenny O'Brien; drummer Ed Shaughnessy; and the piano-vocal combination of Roy Kral and Jackie Cain, a team very definitely more renowned today than at the time these recordings were made. In fact, over and above the instrumental prowess of the other members of the band, it was to these two that the aggregation owed much of its distinctive flavor – Roy did most of the band's arranging, and Jackie, in her very flexible and personal pharsing, lent exactly the right flavor to the formula Ventura was attempting to put across. Her style might be very favorably compared with that of Sarah Vaughan, and the quality of her voice was, and is, on a uniquely high level.
One big band side is included in this album – a decidedly weird and favorable working-over of Caravan. This is certainly an interesting performance – among others in that group were trumpeter Johnny Mandel, guitarist Barry Galbraith, trombonists Bart Varsalona and Bennie Green, and sexists Al Cohn and Manny Albas – but it is undoubtedly true that, merely because of the band's size, it is not nearly so effective, in this particular medium, as the work of the latter is the engaging High on an Open Mike; the medium-tempo For Boppers Only, and the bumptious Feather's Den. There are, too, those pre-eminently "pop" tunes such as Barney Google and Yankee Clipper (vocal on the latter by Betty Bennett) which, simply because of their novel treatment, readily become more strictly jazz material.
It is everywhere evident that, as Ventura states, although his first enthusiasm was the tenor of Chu Berry, it was later to become the alto of Charlie Parker. Ventura's horn is consistently interesting, varied and expressive and, while his solo work has always exhibited enormous resources, it was in this exciting, swinging and slightly capricious bop band that he made one of the more lasting impressions on the modern jazz scene. – Bill Zeitung
From Billboard - December 10, 1955: The former Krupa sideman leads a seven-man group thru a couple of very happy and relatively unrestrained sides. A lot of blowing goes on with Ventura's tenor spotlighted with trumpet, trombone and with the voice of Jackie Cain. The latter style (voice harmonically matched with an instrument), was first developed with vocalist Buddy Stewart in the Krupa organization and the technique again worked favorably here with Miss Cain. Tho the material shown here is now slightly dated it's all very pretty stuff and show plenty of imagination and skill.
Lullaby Of The Leaves
What Ya Say We Go
For Boppers Only
Deed I Do
High On An Open Mike
Too Marvelous For Words
Lullaby Of Rhythm