Saturday, February 17, 2018

Marty Paich

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

"Dans The Broadway Bit, I Get Boot Of You et What's New, il remet tranquillement en cause la conception usuelle du grand orchestre, car «pourquoi ne pas se servir d'une petite formation à l'intérieur d'une grande ? » Mulligan esquissait déjà cette position avec son tentette. Sections ou ensembles se voient ramenés au second plan : ils lient les solos, exposent parfois les thèmes, relancent brièvement la tension, puis s'effacent pour laisser le champ libre aux solistes supportés par la seule rythmique. Ces derniers sont des familiers de Marty Paich : Art Pepper, Jack Sheldon, Vie Feldman et Jimmy Giuffre. La précision des jonctions petite formation / grand orchestre garantissent l'équilibre de l'ensemble. L'arrangeur applique cette même formule lorsqu'il a en charge la célébration de deux solistes, Art Pepper et Ray Brown. Pour l'alto, il construit de véritables concertos : «Je voulais lui apporter une source d'inspiration différente de celle à laquelle il était habitué avec son quartette. Je voulais qu'Art sente derrière lui l'impact d'un orchestre.» Soutenir, mais ne pas étouffer. Une fois les choses mises en route, l'alto se retrouve bien souvent seul devant Russ Freeman, Joe Mondragon et Mel Lewis."
- Alain Tercinet, West Coast Jazz [Marseille, Parenthesis/Epistrophy, 1986]
"In The Broadway Bit, I Get Boot Of You and What's New, he [Paich] quietly questions the usual design of the great orchestra because "why not use a smaller group inside a big one? Mulligan already sketched this position with his tentette. Sections or ensembles are brought to the background: they link the solos, sometimes expose the themes, briefly relaunch the tension, then fade to leave the field free to the soloists borne by the rhythm section alone. The latter are familiar with Marty Paich: Art Pepper, Jack Sheldon, Vic Feldman and Jimmy Giuffre. The precision of the junctions small formation / large orchestra guarantees the balance of the ensemble. The arranger applies this same formula when he is in charge of the celebration of two soloists, Art Pepper and Ray Brown. For the alto, he built real concertos: "I wanted to bring him a source of inspiration different from the one he was used to with his quartet. I wanted Art to feel the impact of an orchestra behind him. "Support, but not stifle. Once started, the alto often finds himself alone in front of Russ Freeman, Joe Mondragon and Mel Lewis."

I wanted to re-post this piece on Marty from the earliest days of the blog to clean-up some line breaks, correct some typos [wanna bet more than a few remain?], and to add the opening quotation from Alain Tercinet's West Coast Jazz [I did not own a copy of this work when I was writing the original piece] and the video at the end that feature Marty's work on alto saxophonist Art Pepper classic album.

But most of all, I wanted to re-read it myself as a way of remembering how much pleasure Marty's skills as an arranger have given me over the years.

His writing takes me back to the ebullience of my youngest days in the music when I was surrounded by the melodic and rhythmic sounds of West Coast Jazz. Marty provided a "voice" for a lot of the artists who became closely associated with this style of Jazz: the big bands of Stan Kenton and Terry Gibbs, vocalists like Mel Torme, and the small groups of Shorty Rogers and Art Pepper.

Extended pieces or "profiles" such as this one is what helped set my course when I first started blogging about my Jazz heroes ten years ago [has it really been that long?]

My motivation then, as it is now, was to pay tribute to my Jazz "inspirations" and "teachers" with lengthy narratives, hopefully well-researched in the Jazz literature at my disposal, as a way of commemorating them.  After all, our immortality rests in the mind of others.

It is hard to disagree with Ted Gioia’s claim that “Marty Paich is one of the unsung heroes of West Coast Jazz.” [West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960: [New York: Oxford University Press, 1992]

As revealed by Charles Barber, curator of the Marty Paich website, this anonymity may in part be due to the fact that Marty “… took little interest in self-promotion, never acquired a personal agent, happily saw his business affairs managed by his capable first wife Huddy, and as soon as finances permitted decamped Los Angeles for a ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara.” 

Or as Gioia’s asserts: “His personal lifestyle had none of the flamboyance and eccentricity of his long-time friend and collaborator Art Pepper’s, and his years of extended labors in the studios make it all too easy to overlook his contributions to jazz.” 

And yet, Marty Paich was a prodigious talent: a pianist, composer, arranger, conductor, producer, and musical director whose career spanned half a century, and included work with such Jazz artists as Shorty Rogers, Buddy DeFranco, Anita O’Day, Shelly Manne, Stan Kenton, Art Pepper, the Terry Gibbs Dream Band, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, as well as, popular music artists including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, Stan Getz, Sammy Davis Jr., Michael Jackson, and many more. Not a bad resume for a name that is largely unknown outside of professional circles.

Born in Oakland, California on January 23, 1925, Martin Louis Paich came from a non-musical family which may explain why his first instrument was an accordion! He would be asked to play it on picnics and family special occasions. Although his earliest music lessons were on the accordion, he also took instruction on the piano.

As Charles Barber details: by age 10, Marty had formed the first of numerous bands, and by age 12 was regularly playing at weddings and similar affairs. While attending McClymonds High School, Marty also took up trumpet.

After graduating from McClymonds High School, Paich attended a series of professional schools in music, including Chapman College, San Francisco State University, the University of Southern California, and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music where he graduated (1951) magna cum laude with a Master's degree in composition.

In a 1988 interview with Ted Gioia, Marty explained that during his service career following WW II:

“There was no pianist in the band that I was attached to, an air force band. And being that I was an accordion player, closest to the keyboard, they said, ‘Paich, sit at the piano.’ My right hand was all right, but I had no left hand at all.” 
Gioia goes on to state that Marty developed into a first-rate pianist as can be heard on his Mode trio LP [105, reissued on CD as VSOP #64], “… a talent that has been overshadowed by his greater recognition as an arranger.” 

I have always thought that Marty played what musicians’ refer to as “arranger’s piano” which has less emphasis on single note runs and horn-like phrases and uses more chords played with one or both hands to develop rhythmic motifs. Or as Joe Quinn states in the liner notes to the Mode trio LP:

“Marty’s arranging and composing talents are as much in evidence in this LP as his playing technique which is an added bonus in this interpretive collection.” Joe goes on to explain that “Marty’s prominence as an arranger has grown so during the past five years [c. 1952-57] that he has had little opportunity to purvey his talents as a pianist on record. In fact, although he has worked as a sideman on several dates, this is the first recorded set [along with red Mitchell on bass and Mel Lewis on drums] which has appeared under his own name.” 

Following his discharge from military service, Marty took some classes at San Francisco State before ultimately receiving a master’s degree in composition with high honors in 1951 from the Los Angeles Conservatory of music. Additionally, he was able to use the GI Bill to study with composers outside the faculty at the conservatory and Marty applied these funds to work under Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. As told to Gioia during their interview: “I spent four years with him being my composition and orchestrations teacher. And that’s how I got ninety percent of my formal knowledge.”

And yet, the beginning of his involvement in composition and arrangement pre-date his formal study as Marty “… started arranging when I was about twelve years old. … By the time I was sixteen years old I was actually selling my arrangements, I think for about $20 or $25.” [Gioia interview] Marty sold these early charts to Gary Nottingham since his orchestra provided his earliest paying work as arranger; together with Pete Rugolo he wrote some of that band's best-known charts.

What Gioia refers to as “street smart” arranging skills probably came about in the following manner as described by Charles Barber, curator of Marty’s website:

“From the beginning of his professional career, he also learned music in the time-honored ways: he transcribed countless tunes and charts from recordings, he attended innumerable concerts, and he sat-in on a thousand jams. And from the beginning Paich had an extraordinary ear for style, and tremendously eclectic taste. These gifts would serve him well in his career and provide the opportunity to work in an amazingly large circle of musicians.”

Although most of his small group recordings with The Giants would feature either Pete Jolly or Lou Levy on piano, two of Shorty Rogers earliest quintet LPs would include Marty on piano. These were the 1953 tracks on the seminal Cool and Crazy LP [RCA BMG 74321610582] and the RCA Bluebird compilation released on CD as Shorty Rogers – Short Stops [5917-2-RB].
In addition to working with Shorty’s small group primarily in 1953, Paich took a series of jobs in the Los Angeles music and recording industry. These included arranging (and playing) the score for the Disney Studio's full length cartoon film The Lady and The Tramp, working as accompanist for vocalist Peggy Lee [who was also heavily involved in developing the music for the Disney animation], touring with Dorothy Dandridge, and providing arrangements for many local bands in Los Angeles.

In 1954, and perhaps as an extension of his time with Shorty Rogers, Marty began his writing experiments for larger small groups or what he would ultimately call “a band within the band.” Octets and dek-tettes [10-piece groups] would become the vehicle for such arranging platforms beginning with Marty Paich Octet: Tenors West Vol. No. 10, GNP-153. Paich's work on this recording reflected one of his greatest strengths as an arranger: making relatively small groups sound like full-size orchestras.
Employing Bob Enevoldsen on everything from valve trombone to vibes to tenor saxophone, Harry Klee on bass as well as alto flute using the piano’s upper register to play unison lines in the upper horn or trumpet register, Paich develops orchestral colors that are reminiscent of everything from the Woody Herman four brothers sound [from which, no doubt, the name – “Tenors West” – is derived] to the yet-to-come Henry Mancini hip, slick and cool Peter Gunn resonances. A trumpet plays under a baritone sax, a bass plays “lead” in a “choir” made up of trumpet, flute and piano, and rhythmic riffs and motifs punctuate backgrounds everywhere. On this recording, Marty is the musical equivalent of a kid in a toy store trying everything in every combination.

In addition to eight originals, Paich especially employs the “four brothers tenor sound” using three tenors and either Harry Klee’s flute or a baritone sax played by Jack Dulong to create beautiful renditions of three standards: There’s No You, Take the “A” Train, and Mulligan’s Line for Lyons, breathing new life into these familiar melodies with his intriguing arrangements. Incidentally, Conte Candoli on trumpet has never sounded better as his usual, fiery self. Also, if you’ve ever wondered what the “Chet-Baker-side” of Conte would sound like, this is the album to checkout.

Throughout the decade of the 1950's, Paich was active in West Coast Jazz performance while also working intensively in the studios. He not only played on, but arranged and produced, numerous West Coast jazz recordings, including albums by Ray Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Terry Gibbs, Stan Kenton, Shelley Manne, Anita O'Day, Dave Pell, Art Pepper, Buddy Rich, Shorty Rogers, and Mel Tormé. His professional and personal association with Tormé, "though occasionally a difficult one," would last decades. Many jazz critics feel their work together with the Marty Paich Dektette to be the high point of their respective careers.

One of Marty enduring contributions to the “West Coast Sound” was the development of arrangements that “… are gems of control and restraint; they boot the musicians along without unduly distracting attention from the soloists.” [Bob Gordon, Jazz West Coast: The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s, London: Quartet Books, 1986, p. 177]. Marty also became quite adept at voicing his arrangements to accentuate the signature sound of some of the more notable West Coast Jazz instrumentalists such as Jack Sheldon’s puckish trumpet and the full, mellow alto saxophone tone of Art Pepper.
Charles Barber described Marty’s skills as a composer arranger as follows:

“The music of Marty Paich is characterized by a wide-ranging catholicity of style, a tremendous sense of color, and impeccable taste. He was never a musical braggart, and never put himself first. His dedication was to the music he wrote and arranged, to the text it endorsed, and to the artists with whom he worked. Although notoriously perfectionist and demanding in the studio and onstage, Marty was a man of uncommon humility.

He was influenced by many forces: his classical training gave him skill and superb technique. His experience in jazz created a sense of driven pulse and easy improvisation. ...

And he was fast. What composer-conductor John Williams described as “the best ears in the business” could work with terrific speed, hearing instantly what was needed, and what was possible. He was often called upon to bail out others who had gotten stuck in muddy waters. In that regard, a fair amount of his music went un-credited.”

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the chronological emphasis for this piece, whether Marty was writing for Ray Brown, Stan Kenton, Terry Gibbs, Art Pepper or Mel Tormé, he always wrote in the context of the signature sounds of these musicians or groups.

It would be difficult to find a better example of this strength than Ray Brown’s Bass Hit [Verve 314 559 829-2] as arranged and conducted by Marty for as Don Heckman states in his insert notes :

“Bass players have rarely appeared as soloists with a big band. … Ray Brown has never been one to avoid a challenge. … Holding everything together are the arrangements of Marty Paich. … Although Paich’s charts, for the most part, have the sprightly rhythmic uplift one associates with West Coast, he also brings a Count Basie-like sensibility to several numbers, perhaps most notably “Blues for Sylvia” [co-composed by Brown and Paich].”
On Bass Hit, Paich surrounds Brown with his “small” big band, a format, as has been noted, that Paich was becoming quite expert at. This one included such distinctive soloists as trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, Herb Geller on alto sax, clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre with his signature lower and mid range sound, guitarist Herb Ellis along with pianist Jimmy Rowles and the always-present-on-Marty-Paich-led-dates, Mel Lewis on drums, to round-out the rhythm section. Ray Brown and the stellar players joining him on this recording all benefited from Marty’s “gift” of writing arrangements that allowed them to put their personality into the music.

To paraphrase Don Heckman: “In a sense, the real question about Bass Hit was how well Brown would fit into the kind of orchestral context provided by Paich, in association with these soloists – both stylistically and as a lead instrumentalist. The answer, best stated by the music itself, is testimony to the great adaptability that [both Paich] and Brown have demonstrated throughout their careers.” 

During this period, Marty also prepared arrangements for what many considered the most swinging version of the Stan Kenton orchestra as co-led by lead trumpeter Al Porcino and drummer Mel Lewis. This swinging emphasis was no doubt due to the fact that the band performed arrangements written by Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman, Johnny Richards and Marty.
In 1957, Marty contributed two charts to the Kenton book that were recorded in January of the following year for Stan’s Back to Balboa album [Capitol Jazz 7243 5 93094 2]. These were the furiously up-tempo The Big Chase and an absolutely stunning arrangement of My Old Flame. Michael Sparke, the noted expert on all-things-Kenton when its comes to his studio recordings had this to say about Marty’s association with Stan and these arrangements:

“Marty Paich was never a regular member of the arranging staff, but was one of the few writers that Stan entrusted to submit the occasional chart, and ‘My Old Flame’ became a classic in the book. In [Kenton trumpeter] Phil Gilbert’s view, ‘Marty Paich was one of Hollywood’s great arrangers. He wrote lush, rich charts for dozens of the best singers. His ballads were unique in their harmonies and extraordinary originality. I still remember the feeling I got when we first rehearsed ‘My Old Flame’ at Zardi’s [a Beverly Hills, CA supper club]. After all the moving moods throughout, came the classical climax. I said, ‘My God, that’s gorgeous. Everyone was stunned." 

… Nothing could better portray Paich’s versatility or be a stronger contrast to ‘Flame’ than ‘The Big Chase,’ which sweeps all before it in an exciting surge of sound. “Playing’ The Big Chase’ felt like the number for a circus high-wire act,’ continued Phil Gilbert. ‘Maybe Stan said, “Marty, write something at 150 miles an hour.”’ 

In 1991, Marty was to conduct The Big Chase and My Old Flame along with reprisals of his Body and Soul arrangement for the Kenton band and his original composition Neophonic Impressions 65 done in 1965 for Kenton’s 1960’s Neophonic Orchestra.
The occasion would be a four day-celebration involving alumni members of the Kenton band organized by Ken Poston, then of jazz radio station FM88.1 KLON, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kenton Orchestra’s debut at the Rendezvous Ballroom on Balboa Island, CA.

In the four CD Stan Kenton Retrospective [Capitol CDP 7 97351/52/53/54 2] Ted Daryll comments: “Two sessions in January of ’58 delivered, among others, Marty Paich’s gorgeous idea on ‘My Old Flame’ that featured the equally beautiful sound of Bill Perkins’ tenor [saxophone].
A few years later at another of Ken Poston’s four-day festivals dedicated to Jazz on the West Coast, this time under the auspices of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute, I asked Bill Perkins for his recollections about playing on Marty’s arrangement of My Old Flame and he had this to say:

“It was a wonderful work, but I really had to concentrate or I’d be swept away by all the beauty that was going on around me. Everybody on the band loved to play that chart; it was so moving and beautiful. I must have played it a hundred times and it was a relief each time it was over because I didn’t want to mess up what Marty had done with it.” Also in 1957, Marty continued his band-within-band love affair with the release of nine of his original compositions on the Cadence Records Marty Paich Big Band [CLP-3010] which was issued on CD as Marty Paich: The Picasso of Big Band Jazz [Candid CCD 79031].

According to Frankie Nemko-Graham’s insert notes for the Candid CD:

“During the past years Paich has written many small band arrangements for such groups as the Dave Pell Octet, Shelly Manne, and several vocalists, using the trumpet, alto sax, tenor sax, trombone, baritone sax and the French Horn.
With this instrumentation he was able to run the gamut of color. Which gave him an idea. ‘Why not,’ he thought, ‘use this small band with a big band?’ So when Albert Marx asked him to write an album he decided to practice his theory. To the six instruments mentioned [Jack Sheldon, Herb Geller, Bob Cooper, Bob Enevoldsen, Marty Berman, Vince De Rosa] he added two trumpets [Pete Candoli and Buddy Childers], another trombone [Herbie Harper], another sax [Bill Perkins] and a rhythm section [Marty on piano, Joe Mondragon, bass and Mel Lewis on drums].

He wasn’t trying for a big band sound. He wanted, instead, to help swing and excite the small band in front. The results are something new and different. In the first track “From Now On,” for instance, the five brasses are playing the melody while the small band is supplying the harmony. When the trumpet solo starts, the background would usually be the standard sax section. Instead, Paich wrote a figure in the brass. With this he used the remaining front line to play in unison.

Paich says he can’t give enough credit to the soloists on this album. To Jack Sheldon on trumpet for his tasty conception of “From Now On.” Bob Enevoldsen on valve trombone on almost every track. Bob Cooper on tenor sax playing his usual best. Vince De Rosa for his wonderful French Horn and Marty Berman on baritone.”
[All of whom are featured in a significant way to help create the trademark Paich small-band-sound-within-a-larger-band sound].”

Paralleling Marty instrumental work during the mid-1950s, Marty also employed his developing arranging skills and small band within a big band format to assist in launching the career of vocalist Mel Tormé in a new direction.

Initially this was accomplished through a series of 5 albums that Tormé and Paich made together on the Bethlehem label beginning in 1955 with It’s A Blue World [30152].

However, it wasn't until the 1956 release of two albums that the tandem of Tormé and Paich really hit it stride. These were Lulu’s Back in Town: Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-tette [CD R2 75732] and Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire [CD R2 79847].
Joe Quinn provides this background as to how the design for this recording came about in his insert notes:

“Because he is jazz oriented, one of the first sounds to attract Mel’s attention in the modern vein was the Gerry Mulligan tentet which operated on the west coast some years ago, and produced some of the freshest combinations which are in vogue today. Mel always felt that these same patterns, re-worked for the proper vocalist, would be a distinctive blending of voice and instrument to the mutual satisfaction of both.”

In his review of the recording for, Scott Yanow had this to say: 

“This Bethlehem LP (last reissued in 1978 and originally known as Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette) is a classic. Singer Mel Tormé was matched for the first time with arranger Marty Paich’s ten piece group which was called Dek-tette. Among the sidemen are trumpeters Pete Candoli and Don Fagerquist, valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen, Bud Shank on alto and flute and either Bob Cooper or Jack Montrose on tenors; in addition Paich uses both a French horn and a tuba. The arranged ensembles and cool-toned soloists match perfectly with Tormé's warm voice and there are many highpoints to this essential date. In particular "Lulu's Back in Town," "When the Sun Comes Out," "Fascinatin' Rhythm," "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Lullaby of Birdland" are standouts but all dozen selections are excellent. This is one of Mel Tormé's finest records of the 1950s.”

Finally, Joseph F. Laredo in his supplemental notes to the CD offered these insights about the powerful association between Tormé and Paich and why their names deserved to be linked as co-creators in these collaborative Bethlehem efforts:

“Although four decades have passed since its debut, this album, universally acknowledged to be a milestone in the history of vocal jazz, remains an electrifying listening experience. Mel Torme arrived at Bethlehem in 1955, having weathered a brief flirtation with the trappings of bobby-soxer idolatry in the late '40s, and was determined to explore the full range of his artistic potential. The most empathetic partner imaginable soon entered his life in the person of arranger Marty Paich, whose inventive charts for a group led by drummer Shelly Manne had made a forceful impression on Mel. Together, they developed the concept of a versatile ten-piece instrumental backing ensemble dubbed the "Deck-tette, " modeled along the lines of the contemporaneous Gerry Mulligan Tentet and the Miles Davis Nonet of "Birth of the Cool" fame.

In 1956, Tormé and Paich recorded this masterpiece. Mel later gleefully reflected that the opening selection, "Lulu's Back In Town," seemed to "Stick to me in a glue-like manner," and his romp through the tune became an instant signature performance. Each subsequent track shimmers with similar brilliance, although special mention must be made of an extended dissection of George Shearing,"Lullaby Of Birdland, " which features Mel improvising and interpolating like a virtuoso possessed. In the 1980s, Torme embarked on a series of enormously successful album collaborations with Shearing for the Concord label, efforts which resulted in the singer's first Grammy Awards .

The Tormé and Paich partnership flourished at Bethlehem until the label folded in late '50s, at which point it was briefly continued at Verve, and later revived on a pair of critically acclaimed outings for Concord in the '80s. The singularly gifted and prolific Marty Paich, who worked effectively with everyone from Mahalia Jackson to Michael Jackson over the years, died in 1995. A little over a year later, Mel Torme suffered a debilitating stroke that has curtailed his career to date. Fortunately, both artists were captured for posterity, at the very height of their considerable powers, on the unforgettable collection you are holding now."

-Joseph F. Laredo

The second, equally unforgettable partnership between Tormé and Paich on Bethlehem took place later in 1956 on Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire which John Bush considers to be the best of the lot as noted in the following critique that appears on
“Though it's sometimes relegated to second or third place among Tormé's best albums of the '50s (behind Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette and It's a Blue World), it's difficult to hear how Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire can't be the best album of his entire career. Featuring an artist at the peak of his ability and talent, a collection of top-drawer songs from the best pop composers ever, and a swinging ten-piece that forms the perfect accompaniment, Sings Fred Astaire is one of the best up-tempo vocal albums ever recorded. Coming hot on the heels of Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette in 1956, this tribute to Hollywood's most stylish dancer finds Tormé obliging with his nimblest and most elegant singing. Even while Marty Paich’s band takes "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Cheek to Cheek" at a breakneck pace that Astaire himself would've had trouble with, Tormé floats over the top with death-defying vocal acrobatics. He's breezy and sophisticated on "They Can't Take That Away from Me," ecstatic and effervescent on "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" (matching an exuberant solo by trumpeter Pete Candoli), and even breaks out an affectionate croon for "A Foggy Day." A collection of perfect hard-swinging pop with a few ballads thrown in for good measure makes Sings Fred Astaire a masterpiece of the vocal era.”

And once again from Joseph F. Laredo’s supplemental insert notes:

“Recorded in November of 1956, this collection forged another link in the brilliant chain of successes that Tormé would string together while at Bethlehem in collaboration with Marty Paich. … ‘Once again, Marty’s colorful writing was right on target,’ Tormé later explained while reflecting on this Astaire tribute. “He placed the tuba, the low end of the Dektette, in many positions other than the obligatory bass note. Sometimes he would write a unison line for the trumpet and alto, using the rest of the band as a bed under them. The results were sensational.’ It is difficult to disagree with this assessment.

The pleasure Tormé took in making these recordings is palpable.”

Following the demise of the Bethlehem label, Tormé and Paich kept their artistic juices following together with a move to Verve and the release of Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley [821-581-2], although this time Marty had graduated to a full orchestra for the date including Art Pepper on alto sax.
In his liner notes for the album, Lawrence D. Stewart observed that:

“Geometry insists that the whole is equal to the sum of its parts; but when the proposition is Mel Tormé plus Marty Paich, the result is far more than a combination of singular talents. Tormé and Paich have made over half a dozen records together, always experimenting in the balancing of this jazz equation. But the formula they have uncovered for this set is the most astonishing yet.

Tormé does not conceive of himself as a soloist with a background accompaniment. Instead, he treats his voice as one more instrument in the band and achieves his effects by balance, counter-rhythm and even harmonic dissonances, which ring against these instrumental changes. ‘Most singers want to finish singing and then have the band come in for a bar and a half – and then they’re on again,’ observes Paich. ‘But Mel’s always saying “Let the band play – let the band play.” It’s quite unselfish from his standpoint and it doesn’t overload the album. It makes for good listening.’ It does even more than that: it gives a totally new conception to some rather traditional music.”

Richard Cook & Brian Morton had this to say about the album in The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD: 6th Edition [London: Penguin, 2002]:

“This is arguably Tormé’s greatest period on record, and it captures the singer in full flight. His range had grown a shade tougher since his 1940s records, but his voice is more flexible, his phrasing infinitely assured, and the essential lightness of timbre is used to suggest a unique kind of tenderness.

Marty Paich’s arrangements are beautifully polished and rich-toned, the French horns lending distinctive color to ensembles which sound brassy without being metallic. There may be only a few spots for soloists but they’re all made to count, in the West Coast manner of the day.

It’s loaded with note perfect scores from Paich and a couple of pinnacles of sheer swing ….”
[p. 1456].

If you haven’t heard these recordings by Tormé and Paich, get them and listen to sheer genius at work.
In 1959, the year before the Shubert Alley recording, vibraphonist Terry Gibbs began fronting a big band on Monday nights [the customary off night for working musicians] at a few venues in Hollywood. Later to be called the “Dream Band,” during its initial existence is was sometimes referred to as “The Bill Holman Band” because most of the bands early charts were “loaned” by Bill as Terry could barely afford to pay the musicians, let alone, buy arrangements.

However, the band did “make a go of it” for a couple of years and Terry did commission three charts from Marty for the band. These were: Opus One, I’m Getting Sentimental Over You and Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise. Lest anyone be concerned about what Marty could do with a “full Armada under his command,” the three arrangements announce immediately that Paich could take the additional instrumentation of a larger band to new heights of power and propulsion. These charts for the Terry Gibbs Dream Band provide a microcosmic laboratory for studying a master, big band orchestrator at work.

Beyond his continuing work with Tormé and the definitive, big band arrangements for Gibbs, Marty would be involved with two more very special projects in 1959.

The first of these involved alto saxophonist Art Pepper whom Marty once described this way:

“When I first met Art he was the greatest saxophone player that I had heard. Far above anybody else. I couldn’t believe how beautifully he played. And at that time there was the battle going on: a lot of writers were writing about East Coast Jazz and West Coast Jazz. Art to me was the ‘sound’ of West Coast Jazz, that melodic style he played, rather than that hard-driving New York style that a lot of guys were playing. I just fell in love with him the first time I heard him. And then eventually we worked together.” Gordon, p.165].

At the time, Marty’s devotion to Pepper turned out to be a good thing for us Ted Gioia points out: “Between 1958 and 1960, Paich was directly or indirectly responsible for about half of the recordings in the Pepper discography.” [Gioia, p.303] 

What makes this fact even more significant is that after 1960, Pepper would spend long stretches in prison because of nefarious activities associated with his drug habit and not re-surface again on the Jazz scene until 1975.
On Art Pepper + Eleven: A Treasury of Modern Jazz Classics [Contemporary OJCCD 341-2] the Pepper- Paich mutual admiration society produced a Jazz classic with a recording that is an almost perfect representation of the skills of everyone involved: from Les Koenig, owner of Contemporary whose idea it was to put the pair together in such a setting, to Pepper’s outstanding soloing on alto sax, tenor sax and clarinet [not to mention Jack Sheldon’s as the “other voice” on trumpet]; to Marty’s scintillating and inspiring arrangements; to all of the musicians on the date in executing his charts both with accuracy, style and for infusing them with a sense of excitement.

In his insert notes to an album, Nat Hentoff explains:

“In this new, uniquely integrated set, Pepper receives a differently challenging, frame work from Marty Paich than he – or most other soloists – has yet received on records. And Art responds with consistent brilliance.

What Paich has done has been to provide more than just accompaniment for Art. He has integrated the resilient band backgrounds with Art’s playing in a way that stimulates Pepper but doesn’t obstruct the improvisatory flow of ideas. Paich was able to accomplish this fusion because he knows Pepper’s style well through several years of association, including dates on which Marty was a pianist for Art. 

“I wanted to give him,’ Paich notes, ‘a different kind of inspiration than he’s used to with just a quartet behind him. I wanted Art to feel the ‘impact’ of the band, and I thought this setting would spur him to play differently than usual – though still freely within his natural style. And it did. Art and I have always thought very much alike. I couldn’t have asked for a more compatible soloist.’ Keeping Art free and yet integrated with the band was the main challenge for Paich. ‘There are even sections here – unlike the usual big band situation – in which Art improvises with ‘just’ the rhythm section.’”

Or astutely put another way by Ted Gioia, the overriding reason for the album’s success was that:

“Paich’s sensitivity to Pepper’s distinctive talent is evident throughout ‘Art Pepper plus Eleven.’ Other arrangers had been able to capture specific sides of Pepper’s musical personality; - Shorty Rogers, for example, had created several successful settings to feature the lyrical quality in Pepper’s ballad work – but Paich was able to develop settings that wrapped perfectly around the full range of Pepper’s sound, not only utilizing his alto voice in different contexts, but also effectively exploring his seldom-heard playing on clarinet and tenor sax.” [p.304]

“The collaborations between these two artists remain among the most satisfying meetings of musical minds West Coast jazz produced.” [p.303].
And finally, after contributing full big band arrangements for others during 1959, Marty was given the opportunity to write them for his own big band when Warner Brothers records approached him to make an album which was eventually combined with an earlier 1957 recording on Cadence and issued and re-issued under a variety of titles [Moanin', The Broadway Bit, I Get A Boot ouf of You].

As usual, Marty remained loyal and employed the distinctive sounds of trumpeter Jack Sheldon, of valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen, French Horn player Vince De Rosa, tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins, and drummer Mel Lewis, but he also would relinquish the piano chair to Russ Freeman and add vibist Victor Feldman whose work he greatly admired. And, of course, there’s more from Art Pepper on these tracks.
In 1959, there was also the continuing alliance with Art Pepper, although as Ted Gioia makes clear:

"The Paich big band sessions for Warner Brothers, coming only a few weeks after the recording of ‘Art Pepper plus Eleven,’ serve in many ways as a counterpoint to that work. Once again Pepper is featured prominently, and Paich, relying heavily on Ellington compositions, shows that he has also learned Duke’s technique of tailoring the arrangements to the players involved. [Emphasis mine]."

This album was a great way for Marty to close the decade of the 1950s and an ideal stopping-point for the editorial staff at Jazz Profiles to close this all-too-brief retrospective on the career of one of the most talented composers and arrangers in American popular music during the second half of the 20th century.

While compiling this piece, the editors of Jazz Profiles had the delightful experience of listening to Marty’s arranging and composing mastery in these broad settings while realizing, at the same time, that what was under review was ONLY Paich’s work during the decade of the 1950s! Marty was to go on to actively make use of his wondrous writing skills for another thirty years!! As Messer’s Barber and Gioia point out, each in their own way, a major key to Marty success during these three decades would be his continuing humility and sensitivity to the talents of others.

“As you discover Marty’s music for yourself, please consider these findings: When he was alive, his music changed by artist and occasion. Now that he is gone, the music will live within and be further transformed by musicians like yourselves.”
-Charles Barber, curator Marty Paich website


  1. This is really a terrific piece. All congratulations. I first worked for Marty when at Stanford in 1986, in a concert with Stan Getz, using charts he originally conceived for Sarah Vaughn. For the next decade I was Marty's musical gofer, assistant, and student. These were among the best years in my musical life.

    Why? Read the Profile again, please.

    It captures his kaleidoscopic, amazingly wide-horizoned style -- and always with care, and always with taste. Marty died of cancer on a Saturday. On the Thursday prior, he called me into his last room, and told me to get my pad. Even at the end he still heard music, and wanted to get it down. Utterly incredible, and heartbreaking.

    Thank you, again, for remembering this genius of our music.

    Dr Charles Barber

  2. Bravo. Thank you for the biographical information. In my opinion Marty Paich was a rare genius and a national treasure.

  3. Marty Paich's take on music was original & fresh. This is what put him on top. His mastery will never be equaled, & he will never stop being heard.


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