Monday, September 4, 2017

The Shelly Manne Quintet Plays Bill Holman's Quartet

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

If anyone asked me for my list of Desert Island Recordings [these days, one hopes it has access to WiFi], chief among them would be More Swinging Sounds  Shelly Manne and His Men, Vol. 5 [Contemporary C-3519; OJCCD 320-2].

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.”

I thought it might be fun to employ Parts 1,2,3 and 4 of Shelly quintet’s masterful interpretation of Bill Holman's Quartet to individual tributes to the artistry of Shelly Manne and Bill Holman, Charlie Mariano [1923-2009], Jazz Photography in Holland from 1947-1967 and A Salute to Lester Koenig, founder of Contemporary Records [1918-1977], respectively, so as to provide you with some visual variety while you listen to this quite marvelous, extended composition in its entirety.

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