by Scott Yanow
An appealing and versatile jazz singer who these days is based in Palm Springs, Carolyn Martinez made an all-too-rare appearance recently in L.A. County, performing at Catalina Bar & Grill. Joined by pianist Bill Cantos (who had just toured the world with Burt Bacharach), bassist John Leftwich and drummer Steve Haas, she performed 15 songs during a colorful and highly enjoyable set.
Starting with a happily swinging “The Song Is You” (which included an excellent drum chorus), Martinez performed such numbers as “I’m In The Mood For Love,” the atmospheric “Mas Que Nada,” “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas (“Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”), “Never Never Land,” “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” “So Many Stars” (which had some passionate ballad singing) and “I Keep Going Back To Joe’s.” Cantos contributed background vocals to a few of the songs (most notably during the last part of “The Look Of Love”) and his trading of vocal stanzas with the singer during “On The Street Where You Live” was one of the highpoints. Each of the musicians had opportunities to solo along the way with Leftwich contributing a few bowed solos.
As for Carolyn Martinez, she has a very friendly and inviting style, a clear and attractive voice, hits every note in-tune, and gives each song an easy-going swing along with subtle creativity; she can scat too when it uplifts the material. A recording is long overdue. Hopefully she will be back in L.A. again in the near future.
Bill Savory (1916-2004) certainly had a colorful and productive life. An engineering wizard, he worked in studios and recorded radio shows as early as 1934, opening his own recording studio the following year. Savory later worked for the Columbia Broadcasting System, Columbia records (he was on the team that developed the Lp), Angel Records/EMI, Capitol, on the Mattel Talking Doll and in space technology. Most importantly for jazz, during 1935-41 he worked in a radio transcription studio and he loved swing, later marrying singer Helen Ward. Savory recorded thousands of hours of radio programs and he took very care of a few hundred hours of radio appearances by jazz artists. While he gained recognition during his lifetime for recording some of Benny Goodman radio broadcasts which were released, the treasures that he possessed in his archives were not fully known until after his death.
The fascinating story behind Bill Savory and the struggle to gain access to and release some of the gems in his collection is described in colorful detail in the informative booklet included with The Savory Collection 1935-1940 (Mosaic). The sixCD limited edition box set is full of remarkable performances, most not heard since their original airing. Of the 108 numbers, only six had been out previously on collector’s Lps. While 2/3rds of the music was released during the past couple of years as downloads, the box is the best way to acquire these timeless gems.
The program begins with a magnificent version of “Body And Soul” by tenor great Coleman Hawkins in 1940. While his famous studio recording was two choruses long, this one is four. Hawkins actually plays the melody in this “new” rendition before launching into three choruses of pure magic. Fats Waller is featured on a full broadcast with his Rhythm in 1938 and leading a jam session with Jack and Charlie Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell and Bud Freeman. In general, the jam sessions have the most excitement and surprises. Lionel Hampton heads a group that includes trumpeter Charlie Shavers and tenor-saxophonist Herschel Evans for five songs, trombonist Jack Teagarden and Shavers jam on two songs together, and cornetist Bobby Hackett is wonderful on three numbers. Hackett is also part of what is arguably the most memorable of these broadcasts, four songs in a jam session led by underrated clarinetist Joe Marsala and including baritonist Ernie Caceres (second only to Harry Carney on his instrument at the time), pianist Joe Bushkin and drummer George Wettling; “California Here I Come” (taken a touch slower than usual) and an uptempo “When Did You Leave Heaven” are difficult to top for pure swinging, the individuality of the soloists and their ensemble playing. Because the threeminute limitation of 78s does not apply, many of the performances on these broadcasts are two or close to three times longer.
But that is far from all. Pianist Albert Ammons performs “Boogie Woogie Stomp,” there are appearances by the Benny Carter Orchestra, the Teddy Wilson Big Band, the John Kirby Sextet (with Leo Watson guesting on “Honeysuckle Rose”), the guitar duo of Carl Kress & Dick McDonough, Emilio & Ernie Caceres, Mildred Bailey, and Ella Fitzgerald, three interesting numbers from Glenn Miller, features for Roy Eldridge, Chick Webb and Stuff Smith and private party recordings of pianist Joe Sullivan playing solo. And, as if that were not enough, there are also two full CDs of performances by the Count Basie Orchestra of 1938-40. Lester Young is well featured (he was perfect during that era), there are many valuable additions to the discography of the short-lived Texas tenor Herschel Evans, and many moments from trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, Buddy Tate on tenor and Jimmy Rushing. Quite a few of these arrangements were never recorded and the solos are fresh and new.
Swing and early jazz fans should not hesitate for a moment. The Savory Collection 1935-1940 is available from www.mosaicrecords.com.
It was a career move that, like Igor Stravinsky’s premiere of “The Rite Of Spring” and Bob Dylan going electric, angered fans. British trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton was one of the leaders of the British traditional jazz movement. From the time of his tenure with George Webb’s Dixielanders in 1947 and through his leadership of his influential band which featured clarinetist Wally Fawkes, Lyttelton emphasized 1920s jazz, stirring ensembles and hot jazz. He even recorded with Sidney Bechet. However the addition of altoist Bruce Turner to his group in 1953 concerned his purist fans, some of whom called the Johnny Hodges and Tab Smith-influenced Turner a “dirty bopper. It turned out that their worries would be realized during 1955-56 when Lyttelton turned his group’s direction towards mainstream swing, sometimes sounding close to a Duke Ellington combo from the late 1930s. His band would continue to evolve, having as many as three saxophonists, and focusing more on swing standards than trad jazz.
Proof that Lyttelton did not completely abandon early jazz can be heard on High Class, one of many worthy British jazz CDs from the Lake catalog. The first 16 selections showcase Lyttelton in 1960 as the only horn in a quartet with Cab Kaye taking vocals on ten of the songs. Kaye’s tone at times sounds close to Jimmy Rushing and he proves to be a very likable swing singer. Lyttelton is heard throughout in top form, showing that he was a major soloist with or without his band. Highlights include “Jealous,” “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart,” “You Can Depend On Me,” “When You’re Smiling,” and even “O Sole Mio.” High Class also contains nine songs by Lyttelton’s regular band of 1959-60 with Kaye added for “Cab’s Blues.” The versatile Tony Coe on alto and clarinet is a major asset as is baritonist Joe Temperley and the musicians come up with their own interpretations of a variety of swing tunes.
From the same era, the bulk of Humph Returns To The Conway features Lyttelton’s combo of 1961, a sextet with Coe and Temperley. While the repertoire includes “Solitude,” a rousing “Joshua,” and “Billie’s Bounce,” the highpoints are actually the group’s renditions of such trad material as “All Of Me,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (with Lyttelton taking an effective vocal), and “Bugle Call Rag” which has the leader switching to clarinet and joining in with Coe in exciting fashion. Also included on the CD are seven more swing-oriented numbers from the 1960 band which was an octet that also included trombonist John Picard and tenor-saxophonist Jimmy Skidmore.
High Class and Humph Returns To The Conway are only two of the many valuable and historic trad-oriented releases that are available from Lake (www.fellside.com). Because the label has been slowing down in recent times, now is the time to acquire many of its highly enjoyable releases.
The revolutionary recordings of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie from 1945 did not go unheard overseas. Their brand of bebop was a giant step ahead of swing and, while it took some time for many of Europe’s jazz musicians to adapt to bop, some heard the word from Bird immediately. Altoist Hubert Fol, considered one of the first French beboppers, retained his Johnny Hodges-Tab Smith tone while adopting many of Parker’s ideas.
Jordi Pujol, on his Fresh Sound label, has compiled several CDs of high-quality music from France’s early modern jazz scene. The key musicians should be better known to American jazz collectors, including Fol (1925-95). All of the altoist’s recordings as a leader are included on the two-CD set Hubert Fol And His Be-Bop Minstrels. With such talented sidemen from France and the U.S. as trumpeters Alan Jeffreys and Dick Collins, trombonist Nat Peck, tenor-saxophonist Dave Van Kriedt, pianists Andre Persiany, Raymond Fol (the altoist’s brother), and Bernard Peiffer, bassist Pierre Michelot, and drummer Kenny Clarke, Fol performs music that will impress bop collectors. He is also featured in the 1950s with a pair of quartets, a group that he co-led with guitarist Sacha Distel, a sextet with trumpeter Christian Bellest, four songs on which he and a ten-piece group play the adventurous music of brother Raymond, an all-star jam on “Blues 1950,” and as a sideman with the swing-oriented group Moustache’s Jazz Seven. Raymond Fol largely faded out after the late 1950s and his musical legacy is this perfectly-conceived twofer.
Michel de Villers (1926-92) began his career, like Fol, as a swing-oriented altoist. By 1949 he had switched his main focus to baritone, getting the nickname “Low Reed.” About half of his recordings as a leader are on Low Reed, 24 selections from 1946-56. The first ten numbers (from 1946-48) feature de Villers as an altoist with quintets and a septet. The music is inspired by Coleman Hawkins and the 52nd Street small group swing scene. The second half of the disc (from 1954-56) mostly has de Villers on baritone with combos that include pianist Andre Persiany and, one session, Hubert Fol. The music falls into West Coast cool jazz and shows just how well the French musicians could play in that style.
Rene Urtreger, who is still active today at the age of 84, became an early master of Bud Powell’s style. On Early Trios, Urtreger is featured on two live tracks from 1954, a Bud Powell tribute album (comprised of eight Powell compositions and two of his originals) recorded in1955, and a mixture of standards and swinging originals from 1957. While Urtreger (who was part of Miles Davis’ group when the trumpeter toured France) would later develop into a more individual player, these early bop romps (mostly threeminute gems) are a delight and feature him playing creatively within Powell’s classic style.
All three of these French bop CDs plus hundreds of other worthy sessions are available from www.freshsoundrecords.com.