Sunday, May 29, 2016

"The Far-Out World of Jack Sheldon " by John Tynan

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

“... For most of his musical career, [Jack] Sheldon has been best known as an exceptional exponent of the cooler West Coast trumpet sound. … The influence of Chet Baker and Shorty Rogers is apparent at such moments. The [three recordings he made with bassist Curtis] Counce’s band, in contrast, gradually brought out a different side of Sheldon's playing. A more forceful, Clifford Brown-inflected style, perhaps reinforced by the presence of former Brown bandmate Harold Land, emerged during his tenure with the group. … flashes of this new approach are apparent on the band’s earliest work, it is with Sheldon's composition "Pink Lady," released on the Carl's Blues album, that the trumpeter makes his strongest statement in the new idiom. His sinewy melody line and assertive solo are the work of a dedicated hard-bopper.”
- Ted Gioia, West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945 - 1960

In a previous posting about Jack Sheldon I wrote:

“Jack Sheldon’s puckish, vibrato-less, mid-range sound on trumpet has always been a favorite of mine dating back to the first time I heard him on the Contemporary Records he made with bassist Curtis Counce’s quintet in the 1950’s.

Jack was also a favorite of composer-arranger Marty Paich who used him on his [too few] big band recordings and paired him with alto saxophonist Art Pepper on the classic Art Pepper Plus Eleven Contemporary LP.

For a while, it seemed that Jack was everywhere on the West Coast Jazz scene including stints with bassist Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse Cafe All-Stars, Stan Kenton’s orchestra and Dave Pell’s octet.

In addition to the recordings he made with Curtis Counce and Art Pepper, Jack also made small group recordings with the Jimmy Giuffre Quartet, the Mel Lewis Sextet and the John Grass Nonet.”

In addition to his prowess on trumpet and his well-developed sense of humor, one could always expect something else from Jack - the unexpected. If you have any doubts about this assertion, just read the following article by John Tynan.

“JACK SHELDON has become something of a legend in his own time.

The rusty-faced, crew-cut trumpeter, now 31 and located in Los Angeles, would be the first to admit his jazz recognition has been late in coming. But he would also admit, as readily, that he hasn't been in any particular hurry to seek it.

Yet among his contemporaries, he is regarded with more than mere respect for his trumpet prowess; he is considered to be one of the most expressive and articulate of jazz horn men. His sole shortcoming may be a degree of inconsistency in performance that is more a reflection of his devil-may-care personality than his musicianship.

Sheldon's sense of humor and utterly happy outlook is on constant tap. It is never more in evidence than when he and his cohort, sax man Joe Maini, are on the same bandstand. Then the between-tunes periods—and these interludes have understandably irritated many a play-for-pay clubowner—frequently develop into minor riots. Without a cue, the two may take off into a zany, impromptu dialog, Sheldon may deliver a speech to the customers on any subject that pops into his head, or he and Maini may decide that a duet shuffle dance is in order. It isn't so much that the two are off their rockers; it's just that, for them, life is like that.

For almost a year, Sheldon has been creating original song material for himself, centered in what he terms a jazz opera, hopefully titled Freaky Friday.

The role of singer is not new to him. As a youth in his native Jacksonville, Fla., he sang regularly with USO shows. He resumed singing when he joined the Stan Kenton Band in 1958 and has been vocalizing in public more or less regularly ever since—with Benny Goodman (with whose band he toured Europe in the fall of '59), with Julie London in her night-club act, with whatever groups he has taken into various jazz spots, and most recently on Capitol records in his own album, aptly titled Out!, which is scheduled to be released in March.

Freaky Friday, now almost completed, might well be subtitled The Far-Out Soul of Jack Sheldon. As he now envisions the production—and he solemnly vows it will be produced, grandly —the cast will consist of his big band; the heroine, Freka ("She's a German girl," he blandly explains); and himself in the role of the male lead, Dandelion.

"Dandelion," he said recently, "got his name because he's a dandy liar; he lays down a dandy line. He's always lying to Freka, but he really loves her. She loves him too, but one night when he's putting some valve oil on his horn, one of the musicians steals Freka away for some romance. When she comes back, she tells Dandelion she's sorry, that he's the one she really loves and sings The Forgive Me Waltz to him."

There are five songs in the opera so far, Sheldon said. The big love song, which Dandelion sings to Freka, is titled Atomic Bomb. He said that this tune, more than any of the other four, truly captures the message he has to convey to operagoers. It is included in his Capitol album and may even be released as a single by the company. The three remaining songs are Freaky Friday, Dandelion, and That's the Way It Goes.

"The title came to me in Pittsburgh," he explained, "when I was working with Benny Goodman's band there. One Friday night a bunch of the guys from the band and myself went to this all-night joint, and the way one couple was acting — in a booth — inspired me to do the opera and to name it Freaky Friday."

Nowadays, when he's not on the road with either Julie London or June Christy, Sheldon's days are taken up teaching swimming at his mother's swim school in Hollywood. A champion swimmer and exhibition diver, he taught the older of his two daughters, Julie, now 9, to swim at the age of two months. The infant's aquatics were pictured at the time in Life magazine. Sheldon's younger children, Kevin and Jessie, are equally enthusiastic pool denizens.

ALTHOUGH Sheldon was previously recorded by the Jazz:West label, now defunct, and more recently by Reprise, neither of the firms took advantage of what Capitol's a&r men consider one of the trumpeter's principal assets— his comedy flair. It is his overriding sense of fun that constitutes much of his appeal in night clubs. Understandably the record producers hope this rubs off successfully on vinyl.

It is as a jazz trumpeter, however, that Sheldon maintains a well-earned reputation as one of the best; and for all his clowning, it is as a horn man that he continues to command respect."

You can check out Jack’s singular trumpet style as he takes the first solo on the following video tribute to composer-arranger Marty Paich, with whom, Jack had a long association.

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