Friday, July 11, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records project - Part 4

I'm finding out a little more about Prestige's very early days. The Bill Coleman- Don Byas recording from Paris, though it was later released on Prestige's 7000 series, was not actually a Prestige recording. The January 11, 1949, Tristano session, which was my second blog entry, was the first actual recording for then-20-year-old Bob Weinstock's label, then called New Jazz, although it appears not to have been the label's first release. It appears as New Jazz 832 -- the 800 series were mostly 78s, though some were issued on 45. Not many, I'd guess, and certainly not in 1949. The 45
RPM record was only invented that year, by RCA Victor (the 33 1/3 RPM long playing record had only debuted the year before, from Columbia). But the Tristano session did become the label's first LP release -- New Jazz 101. The great cover art that was to become one of the hallmarks of 1950s jazz -- not just on Prestige -- was still in the future.

The actual first release -- New Jazz 800 -- came from the session we're about to explore. Weinstock apparently had access to a bunch of Woody Herman's Herdsmen, and recorded them in different groupings. Perhaps the Herd was playing a series of dates at the Metropole Cafe. Bill Crow remembers a later version of the band playing there, lined up along the runway.

In any event, Terry Gibbs, Bill Swope, Stan Getz and Shorty Rogers (playing trumpet this time - he's just listed as arranger on the Serge Chaloff date) were back in the studio on March 14, 1949, four days after the Chaloff sessions, with a different but equally potent rhythm section -- George Wallingford (p), Curly Russell (b), Shadow Wilson (d).

LP records were originally thought of as a vehicle for classical music, pop (and jazz) songs being of a length that a 78 RPM record could accommodate easily. If a composition was longer, it was generally structured in such a way that it could have a break in the middle, and be presented as "part one" and "part two," sometimes with a different arrangement or emphasis. Bill Doggett's R&B classic "Honky Tonk," with the two sides showcasing, respectively, Billy Butler's guitar solo and Clifford Scott's saxophone solo.

Something similar occurs on this 1949 recording date, in "Michelle, parts 1 and 2." The first part is completely structured around Terry Gibbs on vibes, with a horn section providing an atonal cushion for him that sounds more Kenton than Herman, while the second part gives some serious solo space to Stan Getz -- which is really why these sessions are remembered today. They've been rereleased in the Concord Original Jazz classics series as "Early Stan", along with another recording date led by Jimmy Raney. The Getz solos really are the best part. This album is also available on Spotify, though not on YouTube. The Spotify release is not really well labeled -- all the cuts are listed as Terry Gibbs/Jimmy Raney.

Weinstock was famous for recording everything in one take, so what makes this session particularly unusual is the existence of alternate takes. "Michelle"and "Terry's Tune" both have two alternate takes (and the latter has an alternate title - it's also called "Terry's Blues"). Both alternate takes are of Part One, so neither has the Getz solo. The final cut from the session appears to have had alternate mentalities at work, at least for the titling of the number: "Cuddles (Speedway)."

Almost all the takes got released, though, and sooner rather than later. "T and S" and "Terry's Blues" were the first release on the New Jazz 78 RPM series (NJ 800), and "Cuddles" became one side of NJ 802 (the other was a J. J. Johnson cut, about which more later. "Michelle" parts one and two were New Jazz 804, and the first alternate take became a Prestige 78 (Prestige 729) and later part of a 45 RPM EP (PREP 1312). I still haven't figured out when Prestige started issuing 45s, but the first of the series (PREP 1301) was an Annie Ross set (actually the classic Annie Ross set, with "Twisted" and "Farmer's Market), recorded in 1952.

Terry Gibbs is not only still around, but still playing. Along with Shorty Rogers, he decamped for the West Coast (after a stint with Benny Goodman), and left the Prestige circle. Something that surprised me: he was one of the first bandleaders to employ Alice McLeod, later much better known as Alice Coltrane.

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