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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Something Blue - Paul Horn


Something Blue

Something Blue
The Paul Horn Quintet
Produced by Dave Axelrod, Artist & Repertoire
HiFijazz Album J615

From the back cover: The Leader - This somehow seems characteristic of Paul Horn: in providing the data for these notes, he gave in detail the history of every member of his quintet but one. He left out Paul Horn.

Not that it is necessary to be convinced that Paul is a nice guy in order to enjoy his music fully. As it happens he is, but whether a man is an admirable individual has little, if anything to do with the stature of his work. Beethoven had many narrow, petty characteristics but his music is cosmic in scope.

Indeed, it sometimes seems that an artist's personality is likely to  manifest itself in reverse in his art. It is widely known in writing circles that humorists are usually deadly serious people, while the writers of tragedy are often hellers bent on a good time. One of our finest jazz trumpeters is known for his touchy, misanthropic and angry view of the world, yet he consistently produces music of moving, introspective gentleness.

And so the personality factor in an artist's work should be viewed with some skepticism. Freud admitted that there are mysteries in the creative process that even psychoanalysis could not unravel.

As long as it is kept in perspective, however, Paul's personality is worth some thought while listening to his music.

On a stage, when someone is soloing, Paul often stands very erect, one foot in advance of the other, head thrown back a little, his eyes shut. Taken with the fact that he is impeccable in dress, this posture and expression create an impression of pride and even vanity – as if he were a character from an Oscar Wilde play looking down an aristocratic nose at the world that perversely remains a little beneath his standards.

But ten minutes of conversation will convince you that Paul is a fundamentally modest person, sensitive to criticism and yet able to take it with a remarkably good grace and, if it seems valid, to act on it.

If he is that sensitive – and he is – then it would be logical to assume that he would got out of his way to avoid criticism. But it doesn't work out that way. Paul is the experimenter, and a determined one. While others have dabbled with classical forms and techniques in jazz Paul – who has an excellent background in "classical" music – went the whole route: he adapted a number of works from the concert and recital repertories to the instrumentation of a jazz quartet. He encountered some criticism for it. "But we all like the music," he said later, "and wanted to do it. So we did."

Thus, below the layer of personality that is modest and receptive, there is obviously a direct and personal kind of drive. After all to experiment means to stick your neck out. Paul himself to the studios of Hollywood, where he lives, instead of venturing out with a jazz group in a town where it is notoriously difficult for such groups to find steady work. But venture he did, nor did he confine himself and the group to the accepted forms and sounds of jazz. He went on experimenting.

Thus you can see that the personality factor in Paul's work is very complex – as it is in any artist. Paul strikes me as being built like an onion: a layer of modesty within a layer of pride within a layer of modesty with a layer of...

And that is as it should be. For it is out of a strange amalgam of humility and drive that artists are made. After all, no one practices a musical instrument for eight or more hours a day, as most first-rate instrumentalists must do at some stage of their growth, unless he has some tremendous desire to excel.

So the man who would be an artist must be a mixture – driving  and determined to conquer his instrument (listen to the slow, controlled vibrato Paul has achieved on flute) on the one hand, humble in the face of the art that he and his instruments are trying to serve. Paul qualifies on both counts.

The Group - Paul is a native of New York, took his Bachelor of Music degree at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, and his Master of Music degree at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. Later, he performed with the Sauter-Finnegan Orchestra, where his skill on several instruments stood him in good stead. But it was with the Chico Hamilton Quintet that he achieved his greatest prominence before forming his first gourd. In 1959, he organized a quintet and took it into the Renaissance Club in Hollywood. The personnel was the one you hear on this disk.

Jimmy Bond, a 27 year-old Philadelphian, on bass. A student of bass at the New School of Music in Philadelphia at one time. Jimmy later was graduated from the Juilliard School of Music in New York. At Juilliard, he studied bass, conducting and composition as a scholarship student. He has worked with Gene Ammons, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Bubby DeFranco, Nina Simone, George Shearing, Sonny Rollins and Chet Baker.

Paul Moore, a one-time rehearsal pianist and arranger for television. He worked for the Bob Hope Show, the Steve Allen Show and Desilu Productions. He also worked as arranger and pianist on a number of non-jazz albums, and has performed with such west coast jazz leaders as Shorty Rogers and Bud Shank, and at Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse.

Emil Richards, a vibist who was born Emilio Racocchia in 1932 in Hartford, Conn. He began studying xylophone at the age of six, went to the Hartford School of Music from 1949 through 1952, then was percussionist with the Hartford and New Britain symphony orchestras and the Connecticut Pops Orchestra. In 1954 and '55 he was assistant leader of the U.S. Army band in Japan, and worked with Toshiko during that period. In 1956, he worked around New York with Flip Phillips, Charlie Mingus and Chris Connor. Then he joined George Shearing, with whom he remained until 1959, when he moved to Los Angeles and began working with Paul.

Billy Higgins, whom Paul Horn calls "one of the finest young drummers to come out of L.A. in many years. He possesses that rare combination of abilities to play lightly and ate the same time with great intensity and drive. His time is impeccable and, all in all, he swings like hell." Higgins, who is still in his early twenties, has worked with Leroy Vinegar, Harold Land and other leading west coast groups. 
– Gene Lees, Editor Downbeat Magazine

From Billboard - May 23, 1960: This is a very interesting modern jazz set, featuring Paul Horn, ex-Sauter-Finnegan and Chico Hamilton organizations, leading a group of young, modern musicians thru some fragile, even exotic-type jazz items. All of the compositions are originals, and they have an impressionistic flavor that some may find avant-garde and others a throwback to early 1900's classicism. The best sides are "Dun Dune," "Tall Polynesian" and the title song. Worth exposure to jazz buffs, especially adventurous ones.

Dun Dune
Tall Polynesian
Mr. Bond
Something Blue
Half And Half

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