Monday, April 20, 2015

Listening to Prestige 102: Teddy Charles / Bob Brookmeyer

Teddy Charles is back from the West Coast, where he stayed away from the musicians of the emerging West Coast school, like Brubeck and Mulligan, because he "didn’t want to do the West Coast cool jazz thing that was so popular then. Frankly I didn’t care for the West Coast style of playing... Not enough urgency." And the first thing he does on his return to the East is to get together with Bob Brookmeyer, who was just about to decamp for the West Coast and some memorable collaborations with Mulligan.

Actually, I suspect that Charles and Mulligan would have been a great combination, partly because Mulligan could play with anyone, partly because Charles brought out something new and interesting in anyone he teamed up with--and actually, Brookmeyer brought some of that same experimental spirit with him when he joined forces with Mulligan.

Brookmeyer came out of the Claude Thornhill orchestra, which seems to have been an exceptional proving ground for important jazz arrangers. Mulligan and Gil Evans also started with Thornhill. But for most jazz chroniclers, Brookmeyer's careeer begins in earnest when he joined Mulligan on the West Coast. This session with Teddy Charles seems to be overlooked, which is too bad. He shares co-leader credit with the more established jazzman, and deserves it. The lead passes back and forth between the two, and a real conversation is created.

Nancy Overton, wife of Charles's mentor Hall Overton, appears as vocalist on "Nobody's Heart," playing the role of Haunted Hipster, in a vocal performance that owes more to Ken Nordine than Annie Ross or June Christy.  In an odd followup, Overton was soon to join the perky, sweet barbershop harmony stylings of the Chordettes, though not in time for "Mr. Sandman."

"Nobody's Heart" was released on a 78 along with "So Long Broadway" from the West Coast group with Wardell Gray. All four were released on a ten-inch under the dual leadership banner, and later on 12-inch under Brookmeyer's name twice: once on Prestige and once on New Jazz.

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