Thursday, April 09, 2015

Listening to Prestige Part 98: Joe Holiday - Billy Taylor

Billy Taylor, during this period, was developing quite a reputation for Latin rhythms, so it made sense to put him together with Joe Holiday, the king of mambo jazz. Taylor brings with him his regular rhythm section of Earl May and Charlie Smith, plus the musicians from Machito's band that he had used on his last session, including Machito himself, this time apparently under his own name.

Taylor was at the beginning of a long and distinguished career, of which Latin jazz was only a small part. Holiday would record very little after this. He would do one more session with Billy Taylor, nearly a year after this one. He made an album for Decca, Holiday for Jazz, in 1957, and played on a couple of tracks for keyboardist Larry Young's debut album on Prestige.

And there were a few singles for Federal, in 1951. Federal was an odd little label. They released some jazz recordings. They had some rhythm and blues classics, including the Midnighters' "Annie" series, and Billy Ward and the Dominoes' "Sixty Minute Man," and James Brown's "Please, Please, Please." They released a number of singles by the Platters, including a mambo and the "Beer Barrel Polka," before finally finding their romantic R&B sound with "Only You," after which the Platters moved on to bigger and better things. Federal was owned by Syd Nathan, out of Cincinnati, as a subsidiary to his King label. So it's no surprise that in 1951, the same year they recorded Joe Holiday, Marian McPartland, Red Callender and Memphis Slim, they were primarily a country and western label.

Anyway, Holiday should have been recorded much more.

Machito's men cook up a storm on this session, especially on "Sleep." I'd say they add a touch of authenticity, but I don't really think it's appropriate here. Everyone on this session is authentic. Italy-born Joe Holiday and North Carolina-born Billy Taylor play mambos that have a good beat -- you can dance to them. And you can listen to them. Holiday had the rhythmic sureness, the tonality, the musical skills and the inventiveness of Stan Getz, another gringo who would make a name for himself in later years for playing a Latin American dance rhythm.

So it all adds up to total pleasure -- and I haven't even talked about Billy Taylor's contribution yet--not his piano work, and not his organ playing on "Besame Mucho," a hoary chestnut of Latin orchestras and singers which these turn into something exciting and moving. The organ is a perfect choice for it.

 "Sleep" was released on both 78 and 45, b/w "My Funny Valentine" from the March octet session. "Besame Mucho" and "Fiesta" were a 78, and "I Don't Want to Walk Without You" also paired up with a song from the earlier session, "Martha's Harp," on 78 and 45. All four tunes, along with the later Holiday/Taylor session, were included on a 10-inch LP.

No comments: