Saturday, November 2, 2013


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

Imagine this if you will.

A young male in his late teens walking to high school dressed in a buttoned-down, Oxford cloth white shirt, open at the collar, with a Haynes crew t-shirt barely showing at the neck.

He’s wearing Levi bluejeans, no belt, white sox and black penny loafers with leather heels.

His hair is closely cropped and parted in an Ivy-league hairstyle.

It’s the dead of Winter, but he has no hat or jacket on because the southern California sunshine has him wrapped in a layer of warmth.

A spiral bound notebook and a few textbooks are firmly gripped in the crook between his left-wrist and hand while the fingers of his right hand are snuggled into the front pocket of his jeans.

With his aviator style dark glasses, he looks to all the world like the epitome of Coolness and, for the world that existed in his head at the time - was there any other? - he was.

The only thing missing were earbuds plugged into an Mp3 player, mobile phone or some other digital device with audio playback capabilities.

Unfortunately, the extent of the audio miniaturization of his day was the 33 ⅓ rpm Long-playing record, hardly something one could tote around on the walk to school.

But had there been such technology then, I know exactly what music it would be playing - More Swinging Sounds: Shelly Manne and His Men, Vol. 5 [Contemporary C-3519; OJCCD 320-2].

For me, no cooler sounds were ever played that the five [5] tracks that trumpet and valve trombone player Stu Williamson, alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano, pianist Russ Freeman, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Shelly Manne laid down at Contemporary studios in Los Angeles on July 16th, August 15th and August 16th, 1956.

To my ears, the unison sound/timbre of trumpet and alto sax that Stu and Charlie achieved on these recording was the epitome of Cool; it literally sent chills up my spine then and it has the same effect on me today.

The crowning glory of the music on that album was the fifth track - Bill Holman’s Quartet - A Suite in Four Parts.

Its four movements constitute 15:36 minutes of pure rapture; it is everything that Jazz should be: cleverly constructed compositions that unleash moving solos in a variety of tempos with plenty of room for the drums to stretch out [is my bias showing again?].

The sleeve notes contain these annotations about the piece.

“Of Quartet, Bill Holman writes: "Originally Shelly's idea was a long piece for the group, possibly with several sections, moods and tempos, long enough to extend the written parts and yet have space for blowing.

My interpretation: a jazz piece written especially for this group with its personality in mind; predominantly written, not too technically difficult to impair the jazz feeling, lines written to be played with a jazz feeling. Several sections to give contrast, form and continuity necessary for a piece of this length
Construction: 1st and 4th parts built mainly on traditional blues progression, very closely related thematically. 2nd part related to first and fourth, but to lesser degree. 3rd part melodically unrelated, but drum figures imply theme from 1st and 4th. Shelly improvises drum intro, develops theme. The four sections correspond broadly to the four movements of the classical sonata form. This form used, not because it is a classical form (...) but because it has proved itself, thru centuries of use, capable of supporting (as framework) a composition of this length.”

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it might be fun to employ Parts 1,2,3 and 4 of Shelly quintet’s masterful interpretation of Bill Holman's Quartet as the soundtracks to individual tributes to the artistry of Kazimir Malevich [1878-1935], Salvador Dali [1904-1989], Lucien Freud [1922-2011] and Francis Bacon [1909-1992], respectively, and you will find these combinations in the video playlist that closes this feature.

As a result of these technological experiments with sound and video, I now also have all four parts of Quartet available on my WiFi tablet as You Tubes and as Mp3 files on my mobile phone .

I use the latter with earbuds and listen to these cools sounds during my morning walk.

My, my has the world changed in the past fifty years and thankfully, me along with it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments here. Thank you.