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Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Jazz Waltz - Shorty Rogers


Echoes Of Harlem

Jazz Waltz
Shorty Rogers and His Giants
Produced by Chuck Sagle
Cover: Mike Hinge
Art Direction: Merle Shore
Reprise R-6060

From the back cover: Jazz Waltz presents Shorty Rogers as arranger, soloist and composer in an unusual and challenging setting.

The relationship between jazz an d three-quarter time has been curiously sporadic. there are isolated attempts to write and play jazz in 3/4 during the 1920s and '30s, but for the most part it was generally accepted that a two- or four-beat foundation was inseparable from jazz, and that to ask that such music be played in waltz time was as impractical as asking for a green cancel of red paint. 

As Shorty Rogers points out, "Jazz should be as adaptable as any other class of music to a variety of forms, devices and meters; yet it is only just beginning to scratch the suave with 3/4 and the other odd-number subdivisions that are waiting to one explored."

"It's an odd thing, too, that in its dance form the waltz first ran into difficulties. One hundred and fifty years ago clergymen opposed waltzing as sinful. In jazz, it wasn't until 1942 that Fats Waller became the first musician identified with a 3/4 tune – his Jitterbug Waltz was an important historical contribution."

"I always liked the church-style gospel things that had a fast-waltz flavor. Sonny Rollins' Valse Hot was the first modern piece in three that impressed me. I've never had any prejudice against the meter; it was a matter of time before jazz musicians in general tot to feeling natural when they played it – but the word 'natural' can change its meaning through the years. Recently I felt that the moment had arrived and I could now make an album that would bring the waltz beat to a variety of settings and still keep swinging all the way."

Four of the tracks are played by a big band with Rogers on fluegelhorn; Ray Triscari, Al Porcino, Ollie Mitchell, Joe burnett, trumpets; Milt Bernhardt, Harry Betts, trombones; Kenny Shroyer, George Roberts, bass trombones; Joe Manini, Bud Shank, alto saxes; Bob Cooper, Bill Perkins, tenor axes; Bill Hood, bass sax; Lou Levy, piano; Mel Lewis drums; Joe Mondragon, bass; Larry Bunker, vibes.

This group plays Roger's Jazz Waltz (metric and harmonic variations on a 24-bar blues base) and be As Children, a churchy but light-hearted 16-bar theme; Elmer Bernstein's Walk On The World Side, and the Duke Ellington-Peggy Lee I'm Gonna Go Fishing', of which Rogers observes: "On tunes that had been used as jazz waltzes before, I wasn't satisfied until I felt sure I'd done something new with them." Of the bitonal effects that lend the arrangement its engagingly unconventional character, Rogers remarks that ironically he first studied bitonality after hearing it used by Stravinsky in Petrouchka and subsequently realized that he had heard it earlier of a Duke Ellington composition, Harlem Airshaft.

The other performances feature a smaller group in the which the arrangements make skillful use of paired-off instruments: Shank and Paul Horn on alto saxes and flutes; Mitchell and Burnett on trumpets and flugelhorns; Kenny Shroyer's bass trombone paired with Bill Hood's bass sax; Levy Mondragon and Lewis again, with Emil Richards on vibes. The dark, swirling sound of the leader's fluegelhorn is a dominant voice, but there are other mature and impressive solos: Shank's flute work on Greensleeves, Richards and Levy on Witchcraft (its number of bars doubled for waltz purposes). A Taste Of Honey, which has enjoyed a series of successes, notably in Eddie Cano's Reprise record, is taken at a comparatively relaxed tempo, with mood-sustaining work by Shorty, Richards and Shank on flute.

Paul Horn is heard in solos on two tracks: tenor sax on Streets Of Laredo and flute on Echoes Of Harlem. This old Ellington work (released in 1936 as Cootie's Concerto) was a natural for a 12/8 feel; even the original version had a suggestion of a three-beat pulse through its triplet-like phrasing of the notes in the introductory figure.

To musical theoreticians it may be significant that in beating off many of these tunes during the recording, Rogers called out "1...2...3...4," each number representing a whole three-beat measure. I leave it to the semanticists and pedagogues to codify the music and determine whether it should be correctly described ant 3/4, 6/4, 12/8 or some other alteration of the ternary beat. It should be enough for the present to remind the listener that nay musician who has ever played a triplet must have, innately, some felling for any division of three. As for Roger's accomplishment own these sides, one can best characterize it by reversing an early Ellington axiom: it must mean a thing, for it does have that swing. – Leonard Feather

I'm Gonna Go Fishin'
Walk On The Wild Side
Be As Children 
Jazz Waltz
Echoes Of Harlem
A Taste Of Honey
Terrence's Farewell
The Street Of Laredo

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