Saturday, January 21, 2012

Down Beat Magazine – 25th Anniversary

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

My how time flies.

While preparing a forthcoming feature on Down Beat Magazine’s 75th Anniversary Interviews, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles suddenly remembered that it had been the recipient of an LP album given to all of the magazine’s subscribers in celebration of it having reached the quarter-century mark in 1959.

“Recorded in Hollywood and New York in special cooperation with Verve Records under the personal supervision of Norman Granz,” the LP which is entitled Down Beat’s Hall of Fame Volume 1 [Verve MG V-8320] is comprised of 12 tracks selected by the editors “… to get a full representation of the past quarter century in Jazz…. [the magazine was founded in 1934]”

Featured artists include vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, drummer Gene Krupa, tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins with trumpeter Roy Eldridge, pianist Oscar Peterson with bassist Ray Brown, vocalist Anita O’Day, pianist Art Tatum, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, the Count Basie Band, drummer Louie Bellson, tenor saxophonist Lester Young and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges and his orchestra.

As we were unable to find a CD reissue of this recording, we thought it might be fun to make available the liner notes from the original LP with their point-in-time reference to the state of Jazz in 1959. We wonder if our old friend, the late Jack Tracy, may have been one of “the editors” who had a hand in writing them?

These notes are followed by a video which uses graphics from the LP’s cover art as developed by the crackerjack production team at CerraJazz LTD and the Magic track from the album played by the Basie band.

© -  Down Beat, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Down  Beat's
Hall of Fame, Volume I
Verve  MG V-8320

If all the greats in the history of jazz were laid end to end, you'd have . . . something similar to this LP. Released to help Down Beat celebrate its 25th Anniversary, it is a disc that attempts to achieve that kind of jazz universality.

Of course, it would be impossible to get a full representation of the past quarter century in jazz on five LPs, much less one. How many important figures you have to leave out, how many great choruses go unincluded!

How, for example, do you chose between a track by Dizzy Gillespie and one by Charlie Parker?

You take into consideration that Bird is gone, and will make no more recordings —while the giant Diz is alive and swinging. That simplifies the task considerably . . .

Or take another example: the task of selecting someone to represent the main­stream of jazz drumming. Who should it be? Jo Jones, Buddy Rich, the late Dave Tough, Shelly Manne? In the end, it has to be Gene Krupa. Go back, if you can, to the old Krupa band recording of No Name Jive and listen how Gene builds the band unbelievably, while never losing sight of the basic roll with which he started out. Krupa has always had and still has a sense of form and clarity of pattern that any drummer alive can learn from. All things passed through Gene: he was the gatherer of what went before and the harbinger of what was to come. Therefore, it had to be Krupa . . .

In a sense, therefore, though the selec­tion of material for this disc was difficult, most choices had a certain inevitability. These are the selections:


YOUR RED WAGON — Ella Fitzgerald, with Lou Levy, piano; Max Bennett, bass; Gus Johnson, drums; Dick Hyman, electric organ. This is the hard-swinging Ella, rather than the gentle Ella of balladry. One of the uncontested greats, Ella punches her way through this old classic with a backing that demonstrates the gutsy propensities of electric organ.

GENE'S SOLO FLIGHT - Gene Krupa Quartet, with Eddie Shu, tenor saxophone, Wendell Marshall, bass; Dave McKenna, piano. A good deal having been said al­ready about Gene's genius, it is well to draw attention to Shu's facile tenor in the Lester Young tradition, and to McKenna's distinc­tive piano.

HANID—Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge, with Hank Jones, piano; Mickey Sheen, drums; George Duvivier, bass. Here two giants of the swing era blow in a hard bebop groove. Little Jazz barges in with a tense, rasped and swinging solo. Listen to the wild thing that happens when the mute comes out. Hawk comes in low and virile enough to sound as if he's blowing bari­tone. The tasteful Mr. Jones demonstrates why he is one of the favorite pianists of Oscar Peterson, among others. The tune, the title of which you might try reading backwards, is a Hawkins original.

DEBUT — Oscar Peterson, with Ray Brown, bass. This track, recorded in New York, recalls the days of the Oscar Peterson Duo—and Canadian pianist Peterson's first tremendous impact on the U.S. public. This was the formative Oscar, and it is fascinat­ing to look at his roots.

LAIRD BAIRD - Charlie Parker, with Hank Jones, piano; Max Roach, drums; Teddy Kotick, bass. Life! From the open­ing phrase, the uncomplimentable Bird shows the ferocious lust for it that he had, despite all the talk of his self-destructive-ness. Recorded in 1953, the tune js an orig­inal whose title refers to Parker's son, Laird.

ANITA'S BLUES — Anita O'Day, with John Poole, drums; Bud Lavin, piano; Monty Budwig, bass. Anita, one of the handful of great singers in jazz, dryly (and brilliantly) reworks the timeless fabric of the blues.


TRIO BLUES — Art Tatum, with Jo Jones, drums; Red Callender, bass. Callender was the favorite bass player of the late Art Tatum. Whenever Tatum was on the West Coast, Callender was first on call to work with him; which is how Callender, a busy studio musician, happened to be on this date, done in January, 1956, in Holly­wood. Modern jazz forerunner Tatum was in excellent form the date this was recorded.

DOWN BEAT-Stan Getz, with Jerry Se­gal, drums; Mose Allison, piano; Addison Farmer, bass. Woody Herman tells a story about Stan Getz. When Getz joined Her­man in 1946, he played the band's book through once on the stand and, so far as Woody knows, never looked at it again; he had it memorized. Such was—and is—the musicianship of this remarkable tenor saxo­phonist. Derived from Lester Young, Getz became the fountainhead of a whole new concept of tenor playing. Today, he is in the odd position of being an immortal who is only 32 years old.

MAGIC—Count Basic and his Orchestra. Personnel: Reunald Jones, Harold Baker, Thad Jones, Wendell Culley, Joe Newman, trumpets; Benny Powell, Bill Hughes, Henry Coker, trombones; Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Marshall Royal, Bill Graham, Charlie Fowlkes, saxophones; Freddie Greene, guitar; Ed Jones, bass; Sonny Payne, drums; Basic, piano. As it happens, Count Basic has been a bandleader exactly as long as Down Beat has been in business: 25 years. (He took over the remnants of the Bennie Moten band in 1934). Though this track was recorded in 1956, the Basic per­sonnel is pretty much the same today. Thus, the track represents not only one of the most important bands in jazz history, but one that is generally conceded to be the most exciting on the scene today.

DRUMMER'S HOLIDAY—Louis Bellson and his orchestra. Personnel: Frank Beach, Don Fagerquist, Mel Moore, Bob Fowler, trumpets; Dick Noel, Juan Tizol, Nick Di Mao, George Roberts, trombones; Bill Green, Buddy Collette, Chuck Gentry, Mah-lon Clark, saxes; Geoff Clarkson, piano; Tony Rizzi, guitar; Joe Mondragon, bass; Milt Holland, drums. One of the deftest of technicians, Louis Bellson is one of the great big band drummers. Working with another gifted drummer, Milt Holland, he leads — and pushes — this band (made up mostly of top Hollywood studio muscians) into its tremendous swing.

LESTER SWINGS -Lester Young, with Gene Ramey, bass, Jo Jones, drums, John Lewis, piano. The title of this tune (try humming Exactly Like You along with it) is superfluous; when didn't Lester swing? The Father of the Cool, and perhaps the most influential saxophonist of them all, Pres is heard here in a 1951 session that was truly historic. Among its other points of interest: the driving playing of John Lewis in the days when the Modern Jazz Quartet wasn't even a gleam in John's con­templative eye.

EARLY MORNING ROCK - Johnny Hodges and orchestra. Personnel: Ray Nance, Clark Terry, Harold Baker, trum­pets; Quentin Jackson, trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Harry Carney, Hodges, saxophones; Billy Strayhorn, pi­ano; Jimmy Woode, bass; Sam Woodyard, drums. This is the perfect track to wind up this disc: Duke Ellington isn't here in the flesh, but his spirit is all through this performance by some of his boys. Thus the track is a tribute to the man who has con­tributed most over the longest time to the growth of jazz.

POSTLUDE—Three of the men heard on this record are gone now: Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young. In the quarter century of Down Beat's existence, these were primary innovators. There are no replacements for their individual geniuses.
But young talents keep turning up. Per­haps a giant like Parker will be among them. One can only guess at the direction —or directions—jazz will take. During the next 25 years, Down Beat will go on looking for and reporting on the great talents— as it has in the last quarter century.

—The Editors