Search Manic Mark's Blog

Monday, May 2, 2022

East Coast – West Coast Scene - Al Cohn & Shorty Rogers

Serenade For Kathy

East Coast – West Coast Scene
Al Cohn and His "Charlie's Tavern" Ensemble
Shorty Rogers and His Augmented "Giants"
RCA Victor LJM-1020

From the back cover: The East Coast Scene

Al Cohn and His "Charlie's Tavern" Ensemble

Inside Out
Autumn Leaves 
Serenade For Kathy

Take a group of top-flight jazz musicians, put them in a room to themselves – even in "Charlie's Tavern," the established oasis of New York jazzmen – and it's a safe bet that they'll come up with some pretty wild music. But take a group of East Coast instrumentalists, put them in a small, but wonderfully active recording studio, and  it's an equally sure thing that they'll "cut" just about anything anyone has to offer. For swinging jazz in a modern idiom I'll take the East – in Charlie's Tavern it's Al Cohn three to one.

The group that Al has assembled here is what is commonly referred to as "power-packed"; a sax section of, beside Al and his puissant horn, Sol Schlinger (baritone), Hal McKusick (alto) and new-find Gene Quill (alto); Joe Newman from the Count Basie band on trumpet, with Billy Byers and Eddie Bert on trombones; and a rhythm section comprised of Sanford Gold, piano; Billy Bauer, guitar; Milt Hiton, bass and Ossie Johnson, drums – a lot of wind and muscle power in anybody's league.

It doesn't matter what kind of musicians you set around the music stands, it requires great arrangements to come up with something that hasn't been done before – and in Al Cohn the jazz world has one of the most prolific and accomplished of writers in this medium. Al's scores are marvels of harmonic values – tones piled upon tones which at times seem at variance with their neighbors until the idea is worked out and, in retrospect, it is seen that each value has its definite place in the whole design. Al's is a full-bodied writing, utilizing every facet of every available instrument. The fact that two of these chefs d'oeuvre are only framework arrangements many be laid to Al's insistence that each soloist be heard – but one has only to listen to Autumn Leaves to hear the master at what may very well prove to be the high point of his career. This, above everything else in recent annals, proves just how evocative and deeply felt contemporary jazz can be.

Both Inside Out and Serenade For Kathy are loosely scored, for between the opening and closing bars each musician solos to his heart's content. But Autumn Leaves is quite another story. It's musical content is of equal (or perhaps greater) excitement, generated here by Cohn's deft use of harmonics, by his writing of an arrangement which each individual musician feels. This is the kind of jazz that creeps under your skin, that keeps you firmly in your seat – one of those great performances which sometimes magically happen when exactly the right talent and the right music are put together. 

In the final analysis, there may not be a great deal to choose from between jazz of these two coastal schools – each is obviously loaded with men of enormous invention and talent. But, as representative of what is happening in the environs of Manhattan, these sides are wonderfully expressive of what comparisons are being made. – Notes by Bill Zeitung

Order of soloists in these recordings
Recorded October 26, 1954

Inside Out:
Cohn, Newman, McKusick, Byers, Schlinger, Bauer, Bert, Quill, Gold, Hinton, Johnson
Serenade For Kathy:
Bauer, McKusick, Newman, Gold, Byers, Cohn, Hinton, Schlinger, Bert, Quill
Autumn Leaves:
Cohn, Newman, Cohn, Byers, Gold, Hinton, Newman, Cohn

The West Coast Scene

Shorty Rogers and His Augmented "Giants"

Cool Sunshine
Elaine's Lullaby

The West Coast jazz scene has for some time been almost completely dominated by Shorty Rogers who has kept modern jazz alive when many despaired of anything but Dixieland living through the famine. In his writing and playing he has almost single-handedly created and nurtured a definite West Coast style. The loose, swinging beat, the complex harmonies that have more than ever before brought a rapport between classical music and jazz – above all, the constant experimenting for something new in voicing, instrumentation or phrasing – all these things help to define the West Coast style, the Shorty Rogers style. The two are inseparable.

Most of the individual soloists in these recordings cannot be properly identified, but the modern jazz fan will have no trouble naming the majority of them. The guitarist, who has done considerable recording on his own, is the nation's number-one man on his instrument, and his reputation certainly does not suffer here. The clarinetist can easily be spotted by his warm, ghostly style, as well by his better-known tenor and baritone sax. The other tenor man was a stand-out for his work with Woody Herman a number of years ago, as one of the Four Brothers. The two alto men have been vying for top West Coast honors – one of them recently cut his first solo album, and the other is well-known for his lovely flute work. In addition to the happy slide trombone of the West Coast's leading exponent, we have one of the few performers on the valve trombone, and certainly the top man of those few. The rich, infectiously rhythmic work of the pianist is one of the West Coast's prime favorites and deserving of more nationwide acclaim. On bass is one of the most sought-after musicians in Los Angeles, and it is easy to hear why; his dynamic contribution to the great rhythm section is certainly impressive. And of course the well-known drummer – he plays almost exclusively with these men – is superb as always. Shorty has given himself more solo work than on previous records, and sounds simply great; it is difficult to decide which is mightier in his case – the pen or the horn.

This record is, I fell, a fine demonstration of the West Coast jazz scene. The best man in the area, truly great arrangements by Shorty, variety of tempos – the musicians could ask no more, nor could the listener. Here are some of the finest things happening in jazz today, played by the most articulate spokesmen – the West Coast jazzmen themselves. – Notes by Paul Krupa

Order Of Soloists In These Recordings
Recorded September 11, 1954

Cool Sunshine:
Piano, Clarinet, Guitar, Trumpet, Tenor, Slide Trombone, Bass
Loki: Baritone, Valve Trombone, 1st Alto Trumpet, Tenor, Guitar, Slide Trombone, 2nd Alto, Piano, Clarinet, Bass
Elaine's Lullaby:
Trumpet, Piano, Clarinet, Guitar, Valve Trombone, 1st Alto, Tenor, Piano

No comments:

Post a Comment

Howdy! Thanks for leaving your thoughts!