Sunday, February 22, 2015

Listening to Prestige Records Part 85: Billy Taylor

Have you noticed that the fun has gone out of names in the jazz world? No more bop-punning titles like "Flight of the Bopple Bee." No more group names like "J. J. Johnson's Boppers" or "Terry Gibbs New Jazz Pirates" (oh...Terry and the Pirates. I just got it!) Now if anyone even thought of calling this group "Billy Taylor and his Mambo Maniacs" ... but no. Nobody did.

 Billy Taylor was a good choice for Prestige's latest mambo jazz entry. There's the fact that he could play anything, from bop to swing and all points in between. More to the point, much of his early background had been Latin, with Candido and Mario Bauza.

It's very hard to find any of this album to listen to on the Internet. Spotify nothing, although Taylor's later Latin work is represented. YouTube is better. I found one track -- "Early Morning Mambo" -- on a site called Office Naps, which has a whole page on Prestige and Latin jazz, and it's a very good page, although the guy does stoop to giving the inevitable backhanded compliment to Bob Weinstock (Prestige "operated on a dizzyingly prolific schedule, occasionally at the expense of quality and fidelity"). He also mildly chastises Prestige for its commercial aspirations:
Prestige Records had an eye attuned to commercial markets from the start, perhaps more than any other jazz-oriented label in its day, with many bop singles issued, a handful of them – including sides by King Pleasure (“Moody’s Mood for Love,” 1952), Stan Getz (“Four and One More,” 1949), Sonny Stitt (“All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm,” 1949) and Annie Ross (“Twisted,” 1952) – achieving some modest chart success.
Come on. In the first place, commercial success is not a bad thing. It was a healthy thing for American popular music that great jazz of the bebop era made the charts. In the second place, this
was a label for which the very first recording session was Lennie Tristano, which put Miles Davis and Lee Konitz back together, after the commercial failure of the nonet recordings, for an even more experimental session, which gave Teddy Charles his head and predated the electronic experiments of LaMonte Young and Steve Reich.

Anyway, thanks to Office Naps for some good information, and most of all for "Early Morning Mambo," and the cover art.

These four sides were released as two singles, and as an EP. Once again, all great stuff. I suppose if I were stuck on a desert island and could only take one, I'd go with "Mambo Azul" (below, from YouTube). Hard to choose, though.

A little disagreement on the personnel. The  Japanese site, which I'm using as my Bible for this whole project, lists the three percussionists as Chico Guerrero, Jose Mangual, and Ubaldo Nieto (bongos, congas). The YouTube uploader credits the group as "Billy Taylor Trio with Machito's Rhythm Section," and lists the three percussionists as Joe Mangual (Bongos), Uba Nieto (Timbales ), Machito (Maracas ). Looks as though the YouTube guy was right. a faded 45 RPM lists Mangual Nieto, and "Chicho" on maracas (undoubtedly Chicho was a cousin of Charlie Chan and Sven Coolson). The record label and the EP cover omit both "Trio" and "Sextet" and simply go with Billy Taylor Mambos.

1 comment:

DJ Little Danny said...

Haha, no disservice meant to Prestige Records at all - their back catalog is frequently essential, always fascinating. And I actually kinda like the spontaneity and one-shot approach of a lot in their discography. My only realy criticism is of the blowing sessions, which I find to be somewhat tedious, though their are of course many exceptions.