Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Randy Weston [1926-2018] In Memoriam

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


The following article,  Randy Weston In Memoriam by Robert Ham which appeared in the November 2018 issue of DownBeat prompted the editorial staff at JazzProfiles to dig through the Jazz literature on Randy Weston at its disposal and to use the material that it found to create a compilation of writings about Randy that will appear on these pages in a series of subsequent postings. It’s our small way of attempting to do justice to Randy’s career in music, one that spanned almost 70 years. Not many artists are fortunate enough to be productive for almost three quarters of a century!

The following will be among the featured writings on Randy and his music:

  • “Randy Weston (Afrobeats)” and essay from Gary Giddins, Visions of Jazz
  • “Randy Weston Interview,” in Len Lyons, The Great Jazz Pianists
  • Liner Notes to the New Faces at Newport [1956] Metro Jazz LP [E1005]
  • Liner Notes to The Modern Art of Jazz Dawn LP [DLP-1116 reissued as Dawn CD-107 by Fresh Sound Records]
  • The insert notes from the booklet to the Mosaic Select Randy Weston 3 CD set [MS 004]
  • The relevant excerpts on Randy and his music from The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.; Oxford Companion to Jazz, Bill Kirchner, ed.; The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Barry Kernfeld, ed.
  • “Randy Weston interview” in Art Taylor, Notes and Tones
  • Ira Gitler, “Randy Weston, Downbeat, xxxi/6, (1964), p. 16
  • Mark Gardner, “Randy Weston,” Jazz Monthly, xii/11 (1967)
  • Larry Birnbaum, “Randy Weston: African Rooted Rhythm,” Downbeat, xlvi/15, (1979)
  • Ted Panken, Randy Weston DownBeat Interview, August 2016.

As is our custom, once these postings have appeared on the blog, singularly or in combination, we will collect them and repost them in one comprehensive feature on Randy and his music.

Of course, now with the added advantage of so much music being available of YouTube, we will include as many musical examples of Randy’s oeuvre as possible in each of these features.

“IN 2016, WHEN PIANIST RANDY WESTON was inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame, he said that he viewed his life's work as a kind of musical recipe.

"You take the black church, the calypso, the blues. Duke, Basie, Art Tatum, put them in a pot and stir them up, and add Africa: that's Randy Weston," he said in an article that initially ran in the August edition of the magazine that year.

It's a fairly apt summation of the elements that impacted the way Weston — who passed away on Sept. 1 at the age of 92 — approached his chosen instrument and the music to which he devoted his life. As with most mottos, though, it doesn't fully capture the depth of feeling and acuity in his playing, formed from years of study of the jazz and classical canon, as well as his longtime advocation of the African roots in all modern music.

Bassist Christian McBride, who recorded with Weston on the 1997 album Earth Birth, put it this way: "While many naively spoke of the connection between African and African-American heritage, he was someone who actually spent extensive time playing, studying and maintaining a business in Africa — experiencing many cultures there first-hand and bringing those experiences back to America to share with all of the musicians who learned from him. He was one of the only musicians many of us knew who could seamlessly thread the sounds of the Yorubas to bebop."

Weston's interest in both the music and history of Africa was ingrained in him at an early age. Born in Brooklyn in 1926, his parents — mom, a domestic worker; dad, a restaurateur originally from Panama — encouraged him to study his ancestral homeland at the same time he was taking piano lessons. And they supported him as he started his music career following high school and a stint in the Army.

Along the way, he found notable mentors, including his neighbor Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and jazz scholar Marshall Stearns. Through their friendship and teachings, Weston began to develop his singular playing style: a fluid, yet reserved, approach that built a percussive, angular flow off of a stride-blues foundation. He could swing with the best of them, but seemed most comfortable blending with the steady polyrhythms of the Gnawa music of Morocco or the spirited throb of highlife from Ghana.

His interest in blending the sounds of modern jazz with African rhythms began in earnest during the late '50s and flourished on early albums, like 1961's Uhuru Afrika, which included poetry from Langston Hughes, and 1963's Music From The New African Nations. Around that time, he also was conscripted to tour the western and northern parts of the African continent by the U.S. State Department. He often would return there during his life, including spending a few years living in Morocco, where he taught and helped run the African Rhythms Cultural Center.

"His association with African musicians and the time he spent traveling the continent gave him a wealth of information," remembered trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, who performed with Weston on and off during the past four decades. "A lot of other guys did similar kinds of things, but didn't seem to absorb it the same way. Randy would hear the balafon [a percussion instrument that originated in Mali] and understand that it was as much a piano as the piano was."

Weston kept up a steady output of recordings and performances throughout his long life, including his most recent work, The African Nubian Suite, a live large-ensemble album captured in 2012 at New York's Skirball Cultural Center that aimed to trace human evolution back to its African roots in the Nile River delta. He also was playing concerts until very recently, with his last appearance occurring in July in France.

In addition to his induction into DownBeat's Hall of Fame, Weston received other honors, including a Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Trust, and honorary doctorates from the New England Conservatory of Music and Brooklyn College.

Above all else, according to Bridgewater, Weston will be remembered for being one of the most gregarious and kind artists in jazz.

"He treated everybody well — even the Gnawa musicians he got to know became family to him. Yesterday at Randy's funeral, somebody said, 'I never heard Randy say a bad thing about any musician or anybody,"' Bridgewater recalled after attending a Sept. 10 service at Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York. "That was his nature. He welcomed everybody."
—Robert Ham, NOVEMBER 2018, DOWNBEAT, p. 17.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tommy Shepard and Richard Wess - Jazz and Swing Orchestras: East Coast Series

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


The band on Shepard's Flock is an—almost—All-Star band. It was the
debut album of trombonist Tommy Shepard, who made a name for himself in the bands of Ben Bernie, Wayne King, Buddy Clark, and Stan Kenton, before joining the CBS staff orchestra.

The leader of these sessions is then, naturally, heavily featured on trombone, playing with the soft, velvety sound of Tommy Dorsey, his main influence. The memories of Dorsey's band frequently illuminate the scene, as the musicians load through familiar material and some originals. There is plenty of room for soloing by an authoritative Al Cohn, on tenor and bass clarinet, by Hal McKusick on clarinet and alto, and by the versatile Nick Travis on trumpet, all supported by a good rhythm section with Nat Pierce, piano; Barry Galbraith, guitar; Milt Hinton, bass; and Osie Johnson, drums, who keep the mainstream flowing to the end. The arrangements, which stress tight harmonic writing, are all by Manny Albam and Nat Pierce, except Darn That Dream and Stop! Look and Run  which were worked out by Al Cohn, and keep in a rolling, relaxed groove.

Music She Digs the Most is a well-organized series of sessions arranged and con-dueled by pianist Richard Wess, and highlighted by some fluid soloing by tenor saxophonist Al Cohn. trombonist Frank Rehak. and trumpeter Nick Travis. Wess has Cabin in the Sky all to himself, and ho comes off as a flowing and sensitive player. Cohn. always blowing with taste and a handsome tone; Travis sounds great throughout, particularly on Lover Man, a moving and declarative solo vehicle for his horn. Rehak managed to express himself effectively, and Richard Wess' writing on the heads is neat and spare, and helps the group achieve a nice big band feel.               —Jordi Pujol, Fresh Sound Records

“The great thing about these predominantly 1950s recordings is that many of them fall under the rubric of a "Day in the Life" of a West Coast or East Coast studio musician. You can hear the musicians and the arrangers literally learning their craft; making themselves as they go. These are essentially rehearsal bands that got a recording contract for a one-off album on minor labels like Corral, Cadet, Dot, et al, but much of the music is first-rate as is the musicianship.”
- The editorial staff at JazzProfiles

Writing in 1986, Steve Voce in his fine book about the various Woody Herman Big Bands observed:

“Despite the never ending questions about the possibility of their return, the big bands never really went away. Admittedly they were crushed by heavy taxes and the advent of television in the second part of the forties, but the format proved resilient and there are probably more big bands today than there were during the golden era of big bands in the forties.” [p. 30; emphasis mine].

As if to corroborate Steve’s point, Jordi Pujol, the owner proprietor of Fresh Sound Records is currently issuing a series of Jazz and Swing Orchestra CDs while noting as a general introduction to the series:

“When the dust from the collapse of the Swing Era settled, there were few big bands left that had survived. Yet, because they loved the swinging drive of a full-on jazz orchestra, a series of adventurous and unsung bandleaders optimistically organize some fine, but short-lived, new orchestras that were packed with jazz and studio musicians, holding the flag of Swing high”

Jordi has place two Jazz and Swing Orchestras on each CD and further group these “rare and collectible albums by unsung bandleaders” as part of the West Coast Series and East Coast Series.

From the standpoint of the high quality of musicianship on display and the intriguing and well-written arrangements, these are “must have” CDs for anyone who is a serious collector of big band Jazz and you can locate more information about the series on the Fresh Sound website by going here.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles will highlight a number of these excellent recordings in a week long series beginning with Fresh Sound CD-966 East Coast Series: Tommy Shepard, Shepard’s Flock and Richard Wess: Music She Digs The Most.


Original liner notes from the Coral album Shepard's Flock by Tommy Shepard and His Orchestra (CRL 57110)

“If you have a philosophic turn of mind, there is an unending source of wry amusement in the way that fate seems to keep the scales of humanity balanced. This extends from the rise and fall of nations, at one extreme, to — on a somewhat less momentous level — the development and succession of musicians and musical styles. Nature's abhorrence of a vacuum continues to draw something or someone to the center of the stage whenever it becomes vacant.

The point happens to be pertinent because you hold in your hand a record featuring a trombonist named Tommy Shepard. Chances are you've never heard of Tommy Shepard. But Tommy has been around for a long time (we'll take up his early history a little farther along) just as though fate had kept him standing in the wings waiting for the opportune moment to allow him to step on the stage.

You will find, as you play this record, that Tommy has a trombone technique that is very much like that of another trombone playing Tommy, the late Tommy Dorsey. In fact, it takes no very deep probing to realize that Tommy Shepard has steeped himself in the school and style of Tommy Dorsey. And this may account in part for the time that he has put in waiting in the wings. For when anyone has mastered his art as thoroughly and uniquely as Tommy Dorsey did, there is really no room for a road show version. Either it's the big show or nothing.

And now we come to the obscure moves of fate. The selections you hear on this record are not the product of a rush job following Tommy Dorsey's death when it might seem that the path was now open for a successor to his sweet, soaring style. These recordings were made six weeks before Dorsey died, at a time when there seemed no slight suggestion that he might be near the end of the road. They were made because Tommy Shepard was then deemed ready to move out onto the national scene on his own and it is only by one of life's strange, but frequent, coincidences that he is emerging on records just after his musical guide and model has left the scene.

Tommy Shepard has been playing trombone since his junior year in high school. The next year he won a national solo contest and by the time he was 19 he was on the road with Ben Bernie. After twelve months with the Old Maestro, he enlisted in the Army and played in a variety of Army bands, finally winding up with Wayne King's star-studded group at Fort Sheridan, IL, where he played for two years, making V-Discs, working bond rallies and generally supporting the nation's spirits.

Released from service in 1946, he settled down in Chicago where he has been most of the time since, working first at the Chez Paree, then on the National Broadcasting Company staff, the American Broadcasting Company staff and, currently, the Columbia Broadcasting System staff where he is under the musical aegis of Caesar Petrillo.

While he was at ABC, Shepard was granted six months leave of absence in 1953 to join Stan Kenton on first trombone (his section mates were Frank Rosolino and Bill Russo). The invitation to join Kenton was an outgrowth of a rehearsal band that Tommy had formed in 1948. It was a big swinging band which gave some of the top studio musicians in Chicago a chance to unbend and blow to their heart's' content once a week. All the arrangements were contributed and the men in the band pitched in and paid for the rent of the rehearsal hall. Tommy kept the band going until 1953 when he went with Kenton.

It is interesting, in view of this association with Kenton, to find that Tommy's trombone playing has no trace of the big, wide braying style of the Kenton trombones but, rather, reflects the influence of an earlier day in jazz when Tommy Dorsey's smooth, velvet attack was impressing young musicians. This influence carries over to the instrumental makeup of the band that he leads here which is closer to that of the old Dorsey Brothers band of the 1930s than most bands that are heard today. There is even a parallel — coincidental, as it happens — between the title of one of the Dorsey Brothers' big numbers, Stop, Look and Listen, and a tune Shepard has chosen for this set, Stop! Look and Run!

The band that Shepard appears with in his recording debut is just about as all-star as one could ask for. The leader, naturally, is on trombone. The lone trumpet man is the versatile Nick Travis. The saxophone section is led by Sam Marowitz on alto and includes Hal McKusick, doubling on alto and clarinet, Al Conn, doubling on tenor sax and bass clarinet, and Charlie O'Kane on baritone. In the rhythm section are Nat Pierce, piano; Barry Galbraith, guitar; Milt Hinton, bass; and Osie Johnson, drums.

The arrangements, which stress tight harmonic writing, are all by Manny Albam and Nat Pierce, except Darn That Dream and Stop! Look and Run! which were worked out by Al Cohn. Nat Pierce arranged Take Care, I'll Be Back for More, Misty and Here I Am In Love Again. The choice of tunes reflects a balanced blend of some of the special lovelies of the standard popular repertoire, a few new shots at "pop" perpetuity, and a pair of originals by the indefatigable Manny Albam, Walk With Me and See How You Are.”
-John S. Wilson


Original liner notes from the MGM album Music She Digs the Most by Richard Wess and His Orchestra (E-3491)

“Here's "Music She Digs the Most" — music the gal of your dreams will find "the living end"! It's music that really swings — light, relaxed with a jumping yet subtle beat. Here you'll find a brace of well-remembered show tunes and movie hits neatly mixed with a few numbers that will be new to your ears—"originals" from the pen of talented pianist Richard Wess. The performances themselves are sparked with Dick's striking solo flights on the piano. In the accompaniments, he draws the support of some of today's top jazz instrumentalists. There's imagination a-plenty about the arrangements the group utilizes — everything is fresh, breezy, neatly-delineated. So, we think that you'll find that you, too, dig the "MUSIC SHE DIGS THE MOST", because—well—it really is "the most".

About Dick Wess

Dick was still a high school student when he began carving out a career for himself in music. Before graduation, he was holding forth on a radio show in his native Long Island with a 17-piece band- The Navy claimed him subsequently, but, upon his return to New York, he plunged into serious musical studies with Elmer Bernstein, the noted composer who wrote the much-hailed background score for the film "The Man With The Golden Arm", with the famous pianist Lennie Tristano, and with a host of other musical notables.

Soon, Dick found himself in demand as arranger, conductor, pianist and as a writer of special material for innumerable singers, night club acts, stage performers and so on. Among those he worked with were Denise Lor of the Garry Moore Show, Sally Blair, Dolores Hawkins, Buddy Marino, Joey Bishop, Larry Best and Alan Drake. He has conducted recording sessions for such artists as Nona Massey and Dick Roman—and, apart from these activities, he has appeared as a jazz pianist. After a wide tour of a string of the country's most famous hotels and niteries as accompanist to Betty Riley, who is known as "The Irish Senorita", Dick returned to New York to pen production numbers for the world-famous Latin Quarter. Then, for a time he teamed as arranger-conductor-pianist with Lillian Roth, appearing and sharing billing with her throughout the country. At the present time, Dick is settled in New York and plans to concentrate upon appearances as a pianist with a jazz group of his own. In addition to piano, he plays trumpet and drums.

The personnel appearing with Dick Wess in these recordings includes Jerry Sanfino on alto and flute, Al Cohn on tenor, Frank Rehak on trombone, Nick Travis on trumpet and Osie Johnson on drums. Johnny Smith provides the guitar for Autumn Leaves, Somewhere, Honest Abe, and Blues for Someone. Mundell Lowe is the guitarist for Hey Now!, I Got It Bad, Why Shouldn't I?, and Lover Man. Tony Mottola is the guitarist for I Didn't Know What Time It Was, Give Me the Simple Life, Cabin in the Sky, and You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To. Aaron Bell is the bass on Autumn Leaves, Somewhere, Honest Abe, and Blues for Someone and Milt Hinton carries the bass chores on the remaining eight numbers.”



Monday, November 12, 2018

Bill Hitz and Greig McRitchie - Jazz and Swing Orchestras: West Coast Series

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


On Music for This Swingin' Age, Bill Hitz's made his record debut with an orchestra spotted with driving West Coast soloists. All arrangements, by Hitz himself and Lyle (Spud) Murphy, use Murphy's 12-tone system, each building horizontally, full of incident and a fresh, satisfying approach. They deliver a rousing, brass-edged sound while Hitz's cool clarinet fits perfectly into the mood of the arrangements.


Greig McRitchie on his album Fighting Back aka Easy Jazz On A Fish Beat. certainly captured that swing era "feel", but he dressed it up with the distinctive rhythm and bass figures of Rock and Roll—piano, bass, guitar, drums and baritone, plus a rare, modern touch of harmonic color. His repeated use of vibes, alto, flute and guitar adds a refreshing perspective to a repertoire of easily identifiable tunes, all delivered by a powerful big band unit full of the cream of the crop of West Coast jazzmen.


Writing in 1986, Steve Voce in his fine book about the various Woody Herman Big Bands observed:


“Despite the never ending questions about the possibility of their return, the big bands never really went away. Admittedly they were crushed by heavy taxes and the advent of television in the second part of the forties, but the format proved resilient and there are probably more big bands today than there were during the golden era of big bands in the forties.” [p. 30; emphasis mine].


As if to corroborate Steve’s point, Jordi Pujol, the owner proprietor of Fresh Sound Records is currently issuing a series of Jazz and Swing Orchestra CDs while noting as a general introduction to the series:


“When the dust from the collapse of the Swing Era settled, there were few big bands left that had survived. Yet, because they loved the swinging drive of a full-on jazz orchestra, a series of adventurous and unsung bandleaders optimistically organize some fine, but short-lived, new orchestras that were packed with jazz and studio musicians, holding the flag of Swing high”


Jordi has place two Jazz and Swing Orchestras on each CD and further group these “rare and collectible albums by unsung bandleaders” as part of the West Coast Series and East Coast Series.


From the standpoint of the high quality of musicianship on display and the intriguing and well-written arrangements, these are “must have” CDs for anyone who is a serious collector of big band Jazz and you can locate more information about the series on the Fresh Sound website by going here.


The editorial staff at JazzProfiles will highlight a number of these excellent recordings in a week long series beginning with Fresh Sound CD-959 West Coast Series: Bill Hitz: Music for This Swinging Age … Greig McRitchie: Easy Jazz On A Fish Beat.


Original liner notes from the Decca album Music for This Swingin’ Age - Bill Hitz and His Orchestra (DL 8392)


“IT's become rather corny to talk about jazz as an art. People who talk and write about jazz have just about worn out the line while they were honestly trying to make a point with a preconceived notion that their listeners or readers were strictly square cut.


The trouble is that the "jazz is an art" pitch was being made much too early in the history of the form, for actually jazz is a cultural offspring, more a folk-music in origin, than it was an art.


Its development into an art form actually began with the advent of the first arranged jazz in the twenties with Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington, but this product was hardly more than one dimensional. The actual evolution of jazz as a full-blown art form began in the early and mid-forties with the rise of the Gillespies and Parkers. These efforts opened the door for more expansive thought, for more extended study, and for a development of the form far removed from even the wildest dreams of the early New Orleans jazz pioneers. For in a matter of 60 or 70 years, jazz music made progressive steps which have just about brought it alongside and even moved beyond the progress of serious or classical music.


Even die-hard jazz purists, the Dixieland lovers, are conceding  that arrangement and composition have become as integral a part of jazz as improvisation. And the strides taken in the forties and in recent years in
arrangement and composition have been lengthy and amazing, so much so that jazz has become as complex in structure and conception as the most challenging works of the classicists, with jazz still managing to retain that certain elastic quality which allows a freedom for improvisation.
Most of the progress made in this direction was made in the midst of the celluloid inferno called Hollywood, and the movement has been loosely labeled West Coast jazz, much in the manner that Dixieland is familiarly called New Orleans jazz, and there is Chicago jazz, Kansas City jazz, and New York jazz. The lure of the "big money" security of work in movie music-making drew some of the most talented jazz musicians, as well as arrangers. In the hours after the day's work, West Coast jazz was nurtured and developed by a combination of the sharp studio men's minds and the more aware young non-studio musicians who sought to study and learn from their elders.       


With a working knowledge of jazz and all its previous elements, these men experimented with ideas which attempted to fuse jazz with the theories of modern classicists such as Hindemith, Berg, Stravinsky, Ravel, Delius, Shostakovich, Debussy, Schoenberg, and Milhaud. They even searched deeper to find a relationship between jazz and the Bach-Mozart period. The results have produced some of the most provocative of jazz sounds, with a greater variation of instrumental colors and a more stimulating flow of improvised ideas than has been heard since swing, the first successful arranged jazz, hit its peak in the later thirties.


This album is a prime example of the progressive movement. It's a product of the West Coast and it presents a vital student working with a teacher who can practice what he preaches. The student is leader Bill Hitz, who also is an arranger and clarinetist, and the teacher is Lyle "Spud" Murphy, an arranger-composer who is a veteran of the music scene, but who only recently has found his way into modern jazz.


The music they have produced on a collection of both standard songs and a number of their own compositions is based on Murphy's own theories and system, which he describes as his 12-tone system of equal intervals. The system still is comparatively young and barely tried, this album being the first collection of work fully developed from it. The arrangements, for the largest part, are written horizontally, and you will hear fugues, polytonality, fresh harmonies, new chord progressions — altogether a new vitality added to that basic form called jazz,


The Hitz-Murphy ideas and arrangements are played on this record by a group of other Murphy enthusiasts and students. The personnel of the band includes: Conrad Gozzo, Mickey Mangano, and Ray Linn—trumpets; Milt Bernhart and Dick Nash—trombones; Russ Cheevers, Buddy Collette, Bill Ulyate, and Chuck Gentry—saxes and winds; Gerald Wiggins—piano; Curtis Counce—bass; Larry Bunker—drums. And, of course, Bill Hitz on clarinet, and Hitz and Murphy, arrangers.


For special inspection, study Sampan, an original written in equal fourths, both melodically and harmonically, and containing several pure horizontally written (meaning the harmonies are the result of the moving lines played by the various instruments) passages featuring Hitz on clarinet; Something Blue, a polytonal blues featuring some wonderful Ray Linn trumpet and the amazing Buddy Collette on tenor sax; But Not for Me featuring some remarkable sax section passages and an interesting fugue development in the last chorus; Strike Up the Band blends jazz with a marching band flavor by employing the Murphy 12-tone system of writing and again features solos by Hitz and Collette, the latter both on alto and tenor sax.


Bill Hitz is a comparative stranger to the jazz field, and here makes his first entry as a recording artist. He has had a long string of credits as a sideman with some of the leading dance bands in the country including those led by Ralph Flanagan, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and Charlie Barnet, and after this experience he sought out Murphy to merge this knowledge with a working knowledge of the most modern of jazz ideas. Murphy is a long-standing member of the music fraternity, having spent many years as an arranger for such bands as Jan Garber, Mal Hallett and Benny Goodman, and also was one of the most popular writers of music publisher stock orchestrations. He retired to the Coast some years ago and was hardly heard from while he developed his 12-tone system, and it was only in 1954-1955 that his name was heard from again when a number of Hollywood musicians "found" him and his ideas.


He has now become one of the key figures in the huge West Coast jazz movement.”
—Hal Webman



Original liner notes from the Cadet album The Greig McRitchie Band - Fighting Back aka Easy Jazz On A Fish Beat Bass (IPS 4058)


“Jazz has expanded at an alarming rate the past few years, but most of the influential sounds have come from small combos. "The big bands are dead" is a phrase that has been overworked since the mid-fifties. Greig McRitchie and company may just change a lot of minds. After listening to the first two cuts of this album, I was ready to roll back the rug and dance, and my mind began to wander back to those wonderful days when we would drive 200 miles a night just to stand in front of a band and listen. McRitchie has certainly captured that "feel" of the swing era, but he has dressed it up in a brand new bag. He has utilized all the basic elements of the swing era style of writing plus a modern touch of harmonic color that is as rare as a fine spice.


In addition to fronting a crew that is smooth, swinging and powerful, Greig has added another ingredient that is essential for today's jazz listener... great solo players. The rhythm section includes Shelly Manne (drums), Russ Freeman (piano), Joe Mondragon (bass), and Tony Rizzi (guitar). It's no wonder the band boots all the time. Buddy Collette's alto and flute work falls into an easy groove and Larry Bunker's vibes add a beautiful icing to a swinging cake.


There is no mistaking that McRitchie's writing has a personality and sound of its own that reflects the thoughtful goal he wants to achieve. His repeated use of vibes, alto, flute and guitar has a refreshing appeal that makes it a sound for sore ears.


If you combine all of the aforementioned elements with some of the best West Coast players and a group of easily identifiable tunes, you just can't miss. In the first thirty seconds of listening, you'll know that Greig McRitchie hasn't missed.


Opening side one with the rhythm and bass figures of a rock beat on Jeepers Creepers, the band paves the way for a swinging second chorus that provides ample blowing room for Buddy Collette. The brass swings, and Shelly gets a chance to add a few bars to wrap it all up.


McRitchie Doodle is a fine example of the flute-vibes-guitar sound I mentioned. You'll immediately recognize this as Polly Wolly Doodle All the Day— personally, I like McRitchie's version; Grandma never swung the tune like this. Russ Freeman has a little freedom and Buddy Collette adds a fluid alto chorus before the bones come in to close it.


Vincent Youmans evergreen, Sometimes I'm Happy, gets a gentle treatment from McRitchie. The ensemble sound of trombones and muted trumpets is reminiscent of Les Brown's renowned sound of the fifties. Solo spurts from Larry Bunker on vibes and Ray Linn on trumpet fill the middle before the band comes back in for the easy, two-beat finish. Dig Russ Freeman getting in the last word on the ending.


Runnin' Wild is "finger-snappin’ good". Marty Berman establishes the fooling on baritone and Larry Bunker provides the opening and closing themes. That retarded ending with the seventh chord gives it the old blues close.


What would jazz have been without the blues! Fishbeat Blues is really a vehicle for the soloists to stretch out a little bit. Russ Freeman, Buddy Collette, Tony Rizzi and Larry Bunker provide the single highlights. With Marty Berman laying down the "rock" foundation, the band swings in again for a closing chorus, with a key change thrown in for good measure.


Lonely Night is one of Greig's originals, a pretty tune that shows the fine flute work of Buddy Collette. Get a good hold on your chair when the brass section blows... you'll flip!


On side two, they should have titled the first tune Mammy's Little Baby Loves... Greig McRitchie [instead of Greig’s Bread].


Sally's Back is another McRitchie original that gives Buddy Collette and Russ Freeman the green light. Good, crisp brass work and a happy, danceable beat. It swings!


To Shuffle Off to Buffalo, McRitchie again relies on Marty Berman's baritone to establish the rhythmic pattern. The brass has a fat sound and Collette and Freeman do the solo honors.


Robbin's Nest is a nice revival of the great jazz item of the forties. The tune was penned by Sir Charles Thompson and Illinois Jacquet for New York disc jockey Freddie Robbins, and McRitchie's arrangement makes for easy digging.
Goodnight is a fitting close to the album. It opens like a down south camp meetin' before the band romps. Russ Freeman lays down a chorus and Buddy Collette turns on for one.


For digging or dancing, Greig McRitchie has found the secret sound. Stop reading and put the needle on... you're wasting some good moments if you don't hurry and listen to the Greig McRitchie Band "Fighting Back"!”                                                                                                       —Jim Boten. KADI-FM, St. Louis


Original recordings produced by Charles "Bud" Dant and Geordie Hormel Produced for CD release by Jordi Pujol © & ® 2018 by Fresh Sound Records.