Search Manic Mark's Blog

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Jazz Workshop - Manny Albam

Ferris Wheel

The Jazz Workshop
Manny Albam
Photo: Lee Friedlander
RCA Victor LPM 1211

From the back cover: This is Manny Albam

For the past few years the figure of Emmanuel Albam has lurked behind the scenes story of a number of great jazz figures. As a dance band arranger, he spent five years putting talented pen to paper for Charlie Spivak; as a jazz writer he contributed to the libraries of Count Basie, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. In the area of combo writing – the kind of work for which he expresses a special predilection – he has written for recording dates led by some of the same musicians who play under his direction in this, his own first session.

Manny Albam was born June 24, 1922, in Samana, in the Dominican Republic, where his mother was visiting. While still in his teens, he made an early big-time debut playing saxophone in Bob Chester's band. During the next few years, before and after his 1945-46 Army service, he built up a jazz reputation, playing baritone sax and arranging in big bands led by Georgie Auld, Charlie Barnet and Charlie Ventura.

Five years ago Manny virtually stopped playing, since that time the calls for his contributions as an arranger had necessitated complete concentration on writing.

Manny feels that the influence of Duke Ellington's approach to small-band recordings, such as the date by Duke's Johnny Hodges contingent, had some bearing on his feeling about the present album.

"I never forget," he says, "that in this kind of jazz the soloists are at least as important as the writing, if not more important.

"As for the type of music we feature here, I have what might be called a traditional approach to the idea of swinging. I wanted to use some of my favorite soloists in a compatible group, and incidentally, in order to let the horns be heard to full advantage, I didn't use any piano. A piano can tend to make a group sound smaller, by covering up some of the figures you write, or interfering with the horns. Besides, Osie Johnson and Milt Hinton were on all three sessions for this album, and what rhythm section could be more complete?

Each of the sessions features an octet with slightly varying personnel: two trumpeters, two trombones, two saxophones and two rhythm. The opener, Anything Goes, goes like anything, with Nick Travis' open trumpet, Jimmy Notthingham muted, Al Cohn's tenor and Bobby Brookmeyer's bristling valve trombone.

Headstrong, an up-tempo original, is noteworthy for the unique feel of Brookmeyer's solo, the opening eight bars of which are based on two notes. Sol Schlinger's baritone and Milt Hinton's bass are solo features too. Black Bottom rocks the standard tune more gently than you might have expected, with Schlinger, trombonist Billy Byers, Cohn and Hinton spotlighted. The Changing Scene is a short and prettily melancholy Albam piece, featuring Ha McKusick's graceful alto and some Byers trombone that recalls Bill Harris' best ballad moments.

Albam makes the band sound like much more than an octet with his ingenious interplay of trumpets, reeds, trombones and rhythm on The Turning Point, a swinging original featuring McKusick, Travis and Byers. The side closes with Charmaine, in which Cohn, Travis and Urbie Green decorate Albam's refurbishing job on the 1927 standard.

A similar operation is performed on Diga Diga Doo, a 1928 "Blackbirds" hit, with McKusick, Brookmeyer and the superb Basie trumpet star Joe Newman up front. The 1919 Royal Garden Blues has never sounded less antique than in the hands of Manny and the solos of McKusick, Hinton and Travis. Swingin' On A Star, medium-paced, high-lights Schlinger, Newman and Brookmeyer, Intermezzo (an original, not the standard) features Al Cohn, Nick Travis in Harmon mute, and Jimmy Nottingham with cup mute.

Ferris Wheel is an happy, bouncing original with Nick Travis, Al Cohn and Brookmeyer all at their jumping best. Manny wrote Urbanity, as you might expect, to feature Urban (Urbie) Green; Newman and McKusick also contributed to the mood of this slow, soulful melody.

I suspect that you who listen to it will be no less happy about Albam's Album than was Manny himself, or Jack Lewis, who produced it, or this writer, who had the larcenous assignment of being hired to hear it. – Leonard Feather - Leonard Feather is the author of The Encyclopedia Of Jazz, and featured writer for Down Beat, Esquire and other publications, as well as moderator of his own music panel show, "Platterbrains," over a major radio network.

From Billboard - June 9, 1956: Albam is a jazz writer who has contributed conspicuously to the libraries of Basie, Herman, Kenton and lesser lights. His experience with top dance bands makes natural the aim at a swinging, virile, full-voiced sound that make two saxes, two trumpets, two trombones and two rhythm instruments (no piano) sound like a band twice the size. His approach in this session is to create solid ensemble blowing with soloists subordinated to the group. A bit conservative perhaps, but relaxed and swinging all the way.

Anything Goes
Black Bottom
The Changing Scene
The Turing Point
Diga Diga Doo
Royal Garden Blues
Swingin' On A Star
Ferris Wheel

No comments:

Post a Comment

Howdy! Thanks for leaving your thoughts!