Saturday, September 27, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 35: Dizzy Gillespie Sextet

Another rough one to find. Nothing at all on Spotify, and only one track -- "She's Gone Again" -- is available on YouTube. You can find them on iTunes, on a collection called Dizzy Gillespie 1949-50, but there's something wrong with my iTunes connection, and I can't download them. Amazon doesn't have them at all. Grooveshark does. All of which means the wrong balance between digging for the music and digging the music.

And this must have been some kind of a session. No two tracks are remotely alike. Dizzy sings on two of them, and those two songs are not remotely alike."She's Gone Again"is a robust rhythm-and-bluesy vocal that without missing a beat sails into a series of burning bebop solos by some masters you know well (Dizzy, Milt Jackson, Jimmy Heath), and some masters you may never have heard of, at least I hadn't (Jimmy Oliver). The beboppers for some reason loved nursery rhymes, and here we have the complete "One, two, buckle my shoe" as part of the lyric. "She's Gone Again" made it to YouTube as part of a collection called "The Bebop Singers," but while the instrumental part is bebop of the highest order, the vocal isn't, particularly. I'm not sure the beboppers quite knew what to do with vocals, but I'll dwell on that more in my next blog entry. Stay tuned.

The second vocal track is "Too Much Weight," and it's a pure calypso number, although I haven't yet found a pure calypso version. In fact, the only other version of it that I have found is by Mickey and Sylvia, who give it a rhythm and blues touch. Presumably they recorded it in the late 50s, when Harry Belafonte had ushered in the calypso craze, and presumably they found in on this record of Dizzy's.

The Gillespie version is rhythmically amazing. Dizzy was, of course, a pioneer of Afro-Cuban jazz, and he had long been working with Latin rhythms. The star of this song is drummer Joe Harris, another artist I was unfamiliar with, but he did a lot of work with Dizzy in the 1940s, was the drummer for the house band at the Apollo, and worked steadily through the decades. YouTube has a live Sonny Rollins date from 1959 in Sweden. And as recently as last year, in his late 80s, he was still playing. Harris is also the subject of a play, Clean Drums, by Pittsburgh playwright Joe Penny, which was originally performed with Harris playing himself, and more recently revived with Dennis Garner (Errol's nephew) playing Joe.

I'm guessing that Harris has to make the "Played with Bird" list that Peter Jones and I put together, of living musicians who played with Charlie Parker.

Jimmy Oliver, who burns up "She's Gone Again," recorded very little. He was a Philadelphia resident, and he preferred to stay in Philly, where he played with nearly everyone, but he rarely made it to New York. For this session with Dizzy, he made an exception, subbing for a young friend from the Philly jazz scene (and a musician very much influenced by Oliver at the time), who had gotten sick and couldn't make the date. The younger musician's name was John Coltrane.

The two instrumental tracks also go off in different directions -- :"Nice Work If You Can Get It" boisterous, "Thinking of You" pensive,

Prestige put out "She's Gone Again" b/w "Nice Work if You Can Get It" on a 78, and "Thinking of You" on the flip side of a Sonny Stitt 78. All four cuts were on a New Jazz LP which also featured Miles Davis and Fats Navarro, and the same album was also reissued as a Prestige 16000 series, of which there were only a handful in the early 60s. The Gillespie session was also included on Prestige (J) SLP 47   Various Artists - Early Prestige Sessions 1949/50. I can't quite figure out when it was released.

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