Monday, December 15, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 60: Wardell Gray

I've written about Wardell Gray here, here, and here, and I don't know that there's a lot I can add, so maybe I'll just dedicate this blog entry/appreciation to my recent Facebook friend, Anita Gray, Wardell's daughter. Listening to any Wardell Gray recording session is a special experience, whether he's playing swing or bop or blues or R&B, in a big band like Basie's, as part of Benny Goodman's experimental bebop group, backing up singers as diverse as Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine and Little Willie Littlefield, engaging in legendary tenor sax battles with Dexter Gordon, or leading his own group, as in this session for Prestige.

By 1952, Gray was beginning the decline that marked the last years of his life. He had settled on the West Coast, but West Coast gigs were few and far between. And it was probably about this time that this brilliant, educated man, role model for many younger musicians, great musician in his own right, began to slip into the heroin addiction that was so much the scourge of that era. He would only record sporadically after this, and he died in 1955, in Las Vegas, under circumstances that will never be fully known -- never, because Las Vegas was as racist as any town in Mississippi in those days, and the police were not going to be bothered investigating the death of a black man. I'm including here a photo of his headstone, designed by Anita Gray.

This is a wonderful session, his last for Prestige as a leader, although he did make one more for the label, in a group led by Teddy Charles. He is still at the top of his form here, swinging throughout, making every note the right one.

Also on this session is 23-year-old Art Farmer, making his recording debut. Farmer has said of Gray

Wardell was one of the nicest people I ever have known and he was like a big brother to me. He never hesitated to tell me what he felt I needed to know. I can't think of anything about this man as a man or as a musician to find fault with. It's just too bad that he didn't live long enough for the rest of the world to hear him.  
As a young jazz snob, when I went out to a club, I would snootily resent audience applause at the end of a solo, wanting to listen to how one soloist picked up on what the previous soloist had done. I've since learned that there can never be such a thing as too much applause, and a brilliant solo deserves it, but I still like listening to those moments, and I love, in this session, the passion and immediacy with which Farmer picks up Gray's ideas.

Farmer was contributing ideas of his own, too. "Farmers Market" is his composition (and unlike Miles Davis, Gray allows him full credit for it).

Also represented as composer is pianist Hampton Hawes. with "Jackie." Hawes was also 23, but
already a seasoned veteran, having played with major jazz artists (including Charlie Parker) since he was 19.  His playing on this session is a revelation. He's really unlike anyone else -- so percussive, so cutting, so inventive, and yet so melodic.

All of these were released on 78 -- I/m not sure about 45 -- and on LP.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 59: Wrapping up 1951

A productive year for Bob Weinstock and Prestige, as the label could now lay claim to being as important as any in jazz. Among Weinstock's chief accomplishments -- getting Miles Davis back to New York and into the studio, making a commitment to LP records so that recordings could last more than three minutes.

Fifty recording sessions, almost all of them in New York - and that's leaving out the Swedish groups. That's an average of pretty near one a week. Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons were the workhorses, with eight sessions -- three under Stitt's name, five under Ammons's. Sonny Rollins recorded two (one of them an afterthought to a Miles Davis session) -- these were his first recordings as leader. Miles Davis had two sessions -- the second, in October, being Prestige's first to take advantage of the new LP possibilities, And two sessions for Lee Konitz, both in the same week, one featuring Miles, the other a duet with Billy Bauer. Teddy Charles, Red Rodney, Bennie Green, Gerry Mulligan all one session each, It was also Mulligan's first session as a leader, so that makes two pretty impressive debuts.James Moody had five sessions, all on the same three days in January, all in Sweden.

Incredible records that took me by surprise -- Charlie Mariano, Joe Holiday. And nice to meet -- on Facebook -- Artie Schroeck, who played with Holiday,

Mildred Bailey, Jimmy Yancey and Big Sid Catlett died in 1951.

Some highlights of the year from All About Jazz:

  • The first American Jazz festival occurs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. in the autumn. This festival precedes the first Newport Jazz Festival by almost three years. 
  • John Coltrane moves back to Philadelphia and enters the Granoff School of Music to study the saxophone and music theory with Dennis Sandole. 
  • Musicians such as trumpeter Chet Baker and saxophonist Gerry Mulligan form the "Cool School" in California, of course. 
  • Sidney Bechet moves to Paris. Sidney becomes one of the first black American musicians to do this. Many more (Bud Powell, etc.) will follow due to less racial tension. 
  • Thelonious Monk records the classic of modern music Straight, No Chaser. 
  • Thelonious Monk is sentenced for drugs and is banned from playing the NYC clubs for six years. Narcotics which were probably not his were found in Monk's car. Monk will not inform. Although he could not play in clubs, he could record. 
  • Ornette Coleman is working as a day laborer in L.A. He gets gigs when he can, but they are few. People think that he doesn't know how to play. He'll spend nine tough years this way. 
  • Roy Eldridge makes the claim that he can tell the difference between a black player and a white player merely by listening. Leonard Feather gives Roy a blindfold test. Roy fails. 
Atlantic was establishing itself as one of the greatest rhythm and blues labels, but the Ertegun brothers' first love was jazz, and they recorded some jazz greats in 1951: Jimmy and Mama Yancey (perhaps Jimmy's last recording? He would die before the year was out), Billy Taylor, Mary Lou Williams, Don Byas, Mabel Mercer, Meade Lux Lewis. 

Dial, once noted as Charlie Parker's label was pretty much finished (1951 was their last year) but they did release two French sessions, one by Roy Eldridge (duets with Claude Bolling), one by Sidney Bechet. Savoy, the other Parker label, was mostly into rhythm and blues now, and their R&B releases were great. but they still made room for Dizzy Gillespie, Red Norvo, Milt Jackson, Terry Gibbs and others.

Fantasy, which would eventually purchase Prestige,  had been started in 1949 when the owners of a San Francisco record pressing plant bought the masters of a Dave Brubeck trio session from a guy who'd wanted to start a record label but hadn't been able to pull it together, and decided that since they these recordings, they might as well start their own label. They were still tiny in 1951, but they did two sessions with Brubeck and Desmond, and two with Cal Tjader.

Capitol and Mercury were two major labels that I think of as having had a significant jazz presence in those days, but actually they were pretty light in 1951 Capitol had Stan Kenton, which was a very big deal at that time. Beyond that, not much. Although they did issue records by Art Tatum and Shorty Rogers. Mercury did better, with Dinah Washington, Roy Eldridge, Paul Quinichette, James Moody, Jay McShann, and Ben Webster.

Columbia was a giant then and now, and even though jazz was never their main interest, they still had plenty of it: a lot of Benny Goodman, plus Billie Holiday, Claude Thornhill, Jimmy Dorsey, Lee Wiley, Earl Hines, Errol Garner, George Wettling, Stan Freeman, Steve Allen.

Decca was still a major label, and they were well stocked. Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, the Dorsey Brothers. RCA Victor I can't find.

 I think of Blue Note as running neck and neck with Prestige, but actually they only produced six sessions in 1951 -- about the same amount in jazz as Savoy, but Savoy was busy all year with R&B. Blue Note had Bud Powell, Sidney DeParis. Thelonious Monk, two by Wynton Kelly. and Sidney Bechet.

Verve was actually the other most prolific independent jazz label, recording Bud Powell, Lester Yung, Charlie Barnet, Slim Gaillard, Charlie Ventura, Flip Phillips, Roy Eldridge and Oscar Peterson, most of them multiple times. Most of these musicians had been part of Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic tours.

So the big labels had the big names -- and more power to them. But Savoy, Blue Note, Verve and especially Prestige were keeping bebop alive, and presenting the new talent like Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis.

Who could you see in the New Year with in New York? I continue to be frustrated that you can't get Down Beat's archives on line. So all I have is the New Yorker, and they still aren't covering modern jazz. Not that Eddie Condon and the other Dixielanders weren't great, but there was more than that going on. The Embers had Joe Bushkin, who was a trad kinda guy, backed up by some greats -- Jo Jones, Jonah Jones, and Milt Hinton. Birdland is still the only club hospitable to modern jazz that the New Yorker covers. Birdland's New Years Eve offering was Ella Fitzgerald, and the New Yorker once again uses her for a backhand swipe at bebop -- according to them, she "was singing bop before the amateurs got hold of it."

On to 1952.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 58: Charlie Mariano Boston All-Stars

Another undated December session, perhaps because they didn't keep detailed records in Boston -- but they did remember to get the names of the musicians and the tunes, which is what we really need. Charlie Mariano was a Boston native, and still primarily based in that city in 1951, In 1953 he would get out onto the national stage with the Kenton orchestra, and he'd remain a major for the next four decades, playing with, among others, Sheley Manne and Charles Mingus--and with Toshiko Akiyoshi, his wife from 1960-65. By the late 1960s -- back in Boston, teaching at the Berklee School of Music -- he had moved into jazz fusion, and by the early 1970s, he had moved to Europe, where he was to open up to a wide variety of musical experiments, including Asian music.

This, one of his earliest recording sessions, featured Boston musicians. some of who would also go on to larger stages. Trumpeter Joe Gordon played with Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver and others, before dying young in a house fire in 1963. Perhaps his most famous date was one that remained undiscovered until 1996 -- a radio broadcast from Boston, featuring Charlie Parker and a group either brought with him or picked up in Boston: Gordon, Dick Twardzik, Charles Mingus and Roy Haynes,

Dick Twardzik's radio gig with Charlie Parker led a discovery that the two of them shared a passion for Bartok, and to an intense and legendary collaboration with Bird -- legendary because almost none of it was ever recorded. Twardzik unfortunately had, as mentors, two of the leading heroin addicts of that time. On a European tour with Chet Baker, he died of an overdose in 1955.

Sonny Truitt is mostly known as a Boston musician, but he did some impressive work with Miles Davis, among others,

Anyway, this is an impressive group of musicians, and a wonderful album. The arrangements carry the liveliness of big band swing and the freshness of bebop, and the ensemble parts provide an excellent springboard for the solos. Almost all of the solo space is Mariano, and that's a good thing. As good as the other musicians (particularly Gordon) are, it's Mariano who really shines. There is a beautiful piano solo (Twartdzik?) on "Autumn in New York."

Maybe not Twardzik. Another website devoted specifically to Charlie Mariano only lists Frazee on piano (and gives the drummer's name as Gene Glennon, which a little more research confirms as correct), but the onine Encyclopedia of  Jazz Musicians unequivocally states that Twardzik played on the date.

The original compositions are strong, particularly "Boston Uncommon," though it's "The Wizard"
(b/w "Autumn in New York") that was released as the single. Not at all a bad choice. But "Tzoris" is an irresistible number, beginning with an almost jarringly sprightly couple of choruses of a traditional song that traditionally has nothing to with tzoris -- suggesting, instead, that you pack it up in your old kit bag. And from there, Mariano takes off on an improv that would make anyone forget his or her tzoris.

One single off the album, released on both Prestige and New Jazz. A ten-inch LP covered the whole session, and then nothing till a much later reissue on Original Jazz Classics.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 57: Blues

Sometime in late 1951 (no exact dates are given)  Prestige recorded a few blues singers. Much, much later, in 1959, Bob Weinstock would launch a separate Bluesville imprint, but in this early postwar era there wasn't much of a blues scene in New York. The Great Migration, which started after World War I, brought many blues singers north, but mostly not to New York. Bluesmen from the Delta tended to go straight north, to Chicago and Detroit; from Texas and Oklahoma, they mostly gravitated toward the West Coast, most often to Los Angeles. Many New Orleans jazzmen, inspired by King Oliver, went to Chicago, and from there some -- most notably Louis Armstrong -- came to New York. But jazz was a different species. 
The postwar blues scene in Chicago coalesced around Chess Records, mostly. In California a lot of blues singers recorded for the Bihari brothers' Modern/RPM labels. In New York, in 1948, the Ertegun brothers and Jerry Wexler went to Washington, DC, to try to sign Ruth Brown to a new blues label they were starting. Brown was a jazz singer, whose repertoire was mostly standards. "Why me?" She is said to have asked. "I don't sing the blues. I hate the blues."
"Don't worry," they said. "We're going to be doing a whole new kind of blues."

And they did sign her, and they did create a new kind of blues, and she was as good as they thought she'd be, and Atlantic became known as "the House that Ruth built."
Wexler and the Erteguns and Cliffie Stone and the other folks who crafted the Atlantic sound had to create a new kind of blues, because they didn't have a native sound to build on, the way the Chess brothers did in Chicago, bringing the music of the streets and the small clubs into their studio. New York was a jazz town. It became a doowop town, as that style came up from the streets. But blues, not so much.
The blues singers who came to New York, like Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, like Lead Belly, were mostly presented as folk singers, not blues singers, which meant that their main audiences were white leftists, and also that they were frequently recorded with white folk singers like Woody Guthrie. One of Sonny Terry's first gigs in New York was in the Broadway musical "Finian's Rainbow." When Leadbelly appeared at the Apollo, audiences didn't like him much. This made for an interesting dynamic. The blues is a music of hard realism -- its message is essentially that life is tough and it's going to stay that way. Urban white leftists tended to believe, and wanted their music to reflect it, that the world could be made a better place. The job of a professional musician is basically to give the public what it wants, so blues singers started writing songs --and they were great songs -- about Washington being a bourgeois town, and how we need to get together and break up the old Jim Crow.

So when Bob Weinstock ventured outside of the jazz realm he knew best to record blues and R&B, it was a little bit of a hit-or-miss proposition. In jazz he had the finest musicians in the world to choose from; in blues, things were a little less clear-cut. Which is not to say the choices weren't good ones, because they were very good.
H-Bomb Ferguson came out of a tradition that was essentially Midwestern, urban blues but not the Chicago urban blues of electric guitars and harmonicas. This was the jazz-based urban blues that was built on piano and horns, preeminently the tenor sax, and went back to Bessie Smith and the so-called classic blues singers. More specifically, it had its roots in the Kansas City of Big Joe Turner (who was soon to record for Atlantic) and Jimmy Rushing, and was carried on into the rhythm and blues era by performers like Wynonie Harris and Amos Miburn. 
Ferguson came to New York with Joe Liggins' Honeydrippers (West Coast R&B). He stayed for a while, was a protege of Nipsey Russell, then the MC at the Baby Grand, a legendary Harlem jazz club. He stayed long enough to make this one record for Prestige, and a few for Savoy, another jazz label that was dipping a toe into rhythm and blues, though Savoy would dip much more than a toe, becoming one of the important R&B labels. He didn't stay in New York, building most of his career in the Midwest. He never had the career of Harris or Milburn, but he made some good records, and this is one of them.
They generally didn't give a complete band list for blues and R&B records, and this one is no exception. The band was led by Jack "the Bear" Parker, a jazz drummer and R& bandleader, about whom I couldn't get much in the way of biographical info, although he was a solid player and got a lot of work.
They recorded ten tunes for Prestige that day, but only released two of them -- too bad, but I guess they'd decided they were t going to get behind Ferguson - and in fact in the same week that Prestige released its H-Bomb Ferguson single, Billboard's R&B page had another Ferguson release, on Atlas, as one of its picks.
The other Prestige blues sessions of December 1951 featured Brownie McGhee and Ralph Willis.
Eleven songs were recorded, of which four were released under McGhee's name, four under Willis's name, and three never released. Today on Spotify, all can be found by searching under Ralph Willis.
These are the folk blues of acoustic instruments--guitar and harmonica, like the Chess bluesmen, but we know, from the famous reception given to Bob Dylan at Newport, what East Coast folkies thought of electric amplification.

Brownie McGhee and Ralph Willis both were practitioners of what came to be known as Piedmont
blues, a style pioneered by Blind Boy Fuller. McGhee and Sonny Terry actually tried their hand at rhythm and blues when they first came to New York -- and McGhee's brother, Stick, made an R&B classic for Atlantic, "Drinkin' Wine Spo-de-o-dee"-- but the folk blues were where the market was. Later, in the 60s, when rural blues were rediscovered, it was the Delta blues of Charley Patton, Robert Johnson and Son House that drew the attention, and except for McGhee and Terry, who had attained legendary status, other Piedmont blues singers like Willis and Alec Seward (Stewart) saw their reputations eclipsed.

All four of the Willis sides were released on two 78s. McGhee cut seven altogether, three of which went unreleased. Of the others, "Cold Chills" and "Amen" came out on Prestige, "It's Too Late" and "I'll Never Love Again" on the short-lived Par Presentation label.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 56: Teacho Wiltshire sessions

Weinstock tossed in a lot of sessions in mid and late December, trying a bit of everything. On December 18, he cut two sides with Dr. Alvin A. Childs (preaching) and his congregation (singing). Can't find them anywhere, nor any indication that Dr. Childs ever recorded anything else, but he did found a church in Harlem: Childs' Memorial Temple. Also in December (no specific date given) two other gospel groups, Silver Trumpets and Rev. Felix Johnson,

On December 20, he seems to have scheduled a number of performers, with Teacho Wiltshire's band backing them up.

I wish I could tell you more about Teacho Witlshire. He seems to have been incredibly prolific as a studio arranger and bandleader, mostly for rhythm and blues sessions -- but also including King Pleasure's "Moody's Mood" session -- but I can't find any biographical material at all, which is a little strange, considering how ubiquitous he was on the New York music scene. The only soloist credited here is Lem Davis, who also recorded two songs that day under his own name, which were released on a Prestige 78, but I can't find them.

The Cabineers' two songs were released on 78 and 45, under Prestige's Rhythm and Blue Series, but
they aren't really rhythm and blues -- they're more descendants of the Mills Brothers and the jazz vocal quartets of the swing era; Marv Goldberg, who knows pretty much everything about every doo-wop group, regrets that he doesn't know more about the Cabineers. They were around for a while, with several personnel changes, and these are the last two songs that they recorded. They're very good, but they're a jazz producer's idea of doowop. The genre was still pretty new in 1951, but several groups -- the Orioles, the Clovers, the Ravens, the Dominoes -- had already established a template. They can't be found on Spotify, but they're well represented on YouTube.

Next up was John Bennings -- again, nothing, He made a few records for Savoy, and this one for Prestige, but I can't find any of them. Then the Dixieaires, cutting six gospel songs, only two of which were released. The Dixieaires were a prolific group -- their name says "gospel," but they cut a lot of R&B, too. You can find them on YouTube, but not their Prestige recordings.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 55: Sonny Rollins

The good thing about this Prestige blogging project is that I always have some new and exciting recording session to look forward to. The only bad thing is leaving a session behind when you really want to keep listening to it, whether it's a new discovery like Joe Holiday or a full fledged legend like Sonny Rollins, who I've been listening to for the last two days. But I have twenty years of music ahead of me, so best to keep going.

A last note on Joe Holiday, though -- from Artie Shroeck on the Be Bop Fans Facebook page: "I knew Jordin as Jordin Fordia, he was a wonderful jazz composer. I played with Joe Holiday at Sugar Hill in Newark NJ opposite Jordin. His band included Lou Donaldson."

Artie is a fine jazzman himself -- piano, vibes, vocals. Check him out on YouTube.

Bob Weinstock packed a lot of recording sessions into the month of December, 1951. This session was booked only four days after the Joe Holiday session, and it was 21-year-old Rollins's first real session as leader -- he had been the nominal leader for one song on the Miles Davis January 17 session, when Miles gave up,the leader role he'd had for the rest of the session, and sat in on piano for a Rollins quartet session.

For Rollins' real debut as leader, he chose Kenny Drew for piano -- a reunion of sorts: the two had
first played together in a high school band. Drew was just 23, and had made his recording debut two years earlier with Howard McGhee, but since then he had been in nearly constant demand. In 1950, he recorded with Sonny Stitt, Lester Young (multiple sessions), Charlie Parker. In 1951 Oscar Pettiford, Miles Davis and Paul Quinichette, before the Rollins session. Art Blakey was already a veteran, and had become, along with Max Roach and Kenny Clarke, one of the real drum innovators of the bebop movement-- and of the most prolific drummers of his time. This would be his 9th session for Prestige. Both Blakey and Percy Heath would, of course, become associated with two of the most legendary groups of this golden age of jazz -- Blakey's own Jazz Messengers and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Drew would leave the United States in 1961 and settle in Denmark, removing himself from the mainstream of the jazz world, but continuing to make great music.

It was a tough time for Rollins. After impressing the jazz  community, including Charlie Parker, with his musicianship, he fell into the trap that claimed too many admirers of Parker in those years: heroin addiction. In 1951, as he made his way back into the recording studios, he had just been released from serving 10 months of a three year prison sentence for armed robbery, to support his habit.

So, let's look at the session --  the first of many great recording sessions for Prestige and other labels. He opens with a ballad -- one of four standards on this session, and each one of them a beauty -- inventive and lyrical. "Time on My Hands" is the one tune on this session where Sonny stays out front the whole time, and we really get to hear him develop an idea fully. Then -- did the mambo craze come home to Prestige in time for Christmas? Sonny gives his own twist to the Latin rhythm, with some significant assistance from Kenny Drew, who would continue to figure prominently throughout the session. Here we have Sonny showing the instinct for drawing on unexpected rhythmic and melodic sources that would continue through the calypso masterpieces of his later career.

And he keeps it going with "Shadrack," which is kind of a corny pop tune pastiche of a gospel number, although it's been recorded by a number of jazz masters, including Louis Armstrong (and a number of gospel groups) and turns it into a virtual bebop anthem. It would be hard to pick a favorite cut from this album, but certainly this one could be it.

He finishes with two originals, "Scoops" and "Newk's Fadeaway," both of which feature short but powerful solos by Art Blakey. Blakey had the chops and the flamboyance to dominate any session he chose to, but here he doesn't hold back on flamboyance, but the solos flow organically out of each piece as a whole.

Note -- you'll see these two songs -- and others from this session -- often attributed to Sonny Rollins and the Modern Jazz Quartet, but that's because they were part of a reissue called, misleadingly, Sonny Rollins and the Modern Jazz Quartet, but actually packaging a few different Prestige sessions together, including the one with the MJQ.

"Newk's Fadeaway" takes it's title from the nickname given to Sonny because of his resemblance to the Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe -- they both had the same prominent nose. It's worth mentioning because while history reminds of what an incredible role Jackie Robinson played in baseball and American society as a whole, the players who came right after him -- Larry Dobyfor the Cleveland Indians, Newcombe and Roy Campanella and Dan Bankhead for the Dodgers -- were trailblazers too, and to be linked with Don Newcombe was no small thing. Robinson was hailed in song -- Count Basie recorded "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?", and Chuck Berry played tribute to the brown-eyed handsome man who won the game with a high fly into the stands. Newcombe gets a nod here, though an odd one -- Big Newk was famous for his high hard one, not his fadeaway, and Sonny scarcely fades away here.

"Mambo Bounce" and "Shadrack" both became the A sides of singles -- looks like just 78 RPM, I don't find them on 45. The session was released as a 10 inch LP and on a few different 7000-series reissues.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 54 - Joe Holiday

Another unexpected delight -- another musician I had not heard of at all, and clearly it was my loss. Holiday made a few albums for Prestige, and then pretty much nothing else. This one was with otherwise unknown musicians (I did find out that Clarence Johnson played bass on Lloyd Price's recording of "Stagger Lee"), and although he did record later with some of the big names in jazz, this session is a solid introduction.

A word of advice on finding him -- I did a Spotify search on "Joe Holiday" and found nothing except a country singer named Joey Holiday. Looked on YouTube, found a few things, but none from this session (ultimately I did, so it's linked to here). Continuing to research Holiday, I discovered that he'd had a hit in 1951 with "This is Happiness," so I went back to Spotify, searched on "This is Happiness," and found the whole session and more. A lot of Holiday's work was reissued on Original Jazz Classics, one of the Prestige reissue labels, and Spotify has that, with album cover art that looks
like the art for mambo album of the 50s, for which I give them credit. Actually, looking a little farther, I find a second cover, also with the OJC logo, that must certainly be from the early 50s.

On this session, Holiday plays some bebop, some rhythm and blues riffs, some ballads -- eveything that adds up to what we now call straight-ahead jazz. And he plays some mambos, the musical form with which he came to be associated, which is why he achieved a measure of popularity in the 50s, and probably why he was mostly overlooked afterwards.

Latin jazz has never gotten its full due -- if you don't believe me, look at anybody's list of the greatest jazz trumpeters ever, and see if you find Mario Bauza's name. You won't. and he was the equal of anyone you will find on those lists. Or look at anyone's list of the best jazz albums of the 1980s and '90s, and see if you find anything by Tito Puente. And his jazz recordings during that period were better than anything else being recorded.

The mambo craze hit New York in 1951 -- I would have guessed later, but that's because I grew up as a white kid in the sticks, and although I was able to find my way to blues and rhythm and blues, I was totally ignorant of Latin popular music, so all I knew of the mambo were the mid-50s pop tunes by people like Perry Como and Vaughan Monroe -- and Perez Prado's 1955 hit, "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White," which by some reckonings was the most popular record of the decade.

But it was Prado who actually brought the mambo to New York in 1951, with "Mambo Jambo" and "Mambo #5," the latter of which would become a huge hit again in 1999. And Joe Holiday was one of the few jazzmen who embraced the genre -- which, as I say, marginalized him a jazz musician.

And shouldn't have. Holiday proves his bebop credentials with "Hello to You" and "Nice and Easy," but he really comes into his own with his jazz mambos -- "This is Happiness," which was his hit on the Latin charts, and especially "Mambo Holiday," an extended piece at just over five minutes, which made it a two-sided single, on both 78 and 45, and which, yeah, you have to listen to.

Joe Holiday is still around. From Wikipedia:

Holiday also does abstract painting. Joe and his wife, Kelly Holiday are president and vice-president, respectively, of the St. Lucie Professional Arts League based in Port St. Lucie, FL, where he has presented annual "Art & All That Jazz" events, which have included Linda Cole, Jazz singing daughter of Nat King Cole; Miami musicians Ira Sullivan, violinist Nicola Yearling and pianist Lenore Raphael.