Friday, December 22, 2017

Wrapping up 1958 - part 2

Who were jazz fans digging in 1958? Certainly the best place to look would be the annual Down Beat readers’ poll. It wasn’t the only one. Metronome had a jazz poll, and Metronome attracted some serious jazz buffs. It was edited by Leonard Feather and Barry Ulanov, of whom Miles Davis had said that they were the only white critics who understood bebop. But Metronome was on shaky legs at this point. It would go under in 1961. The Jazz Review had just begun publication in 1958, edited by Nat Hentoff and Martin Williams, and it was certainly for the really serious jazz aficionado, but maybe there weren’t enough of us, because it, too, went down for the count in 1961. Playboy had begun its jazz poll in 1957, and it was certainly the biggest, with Playboy’s immense readership, but not always the most serious. When Johnny Carson took over the Tonight show in 1962, Doc Severinsen began beating out Miles and Dizzy for best trumpeter, and by the mid-1960s, as Paul McCartney started dominating the bass category and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson the flute, Playboy threw in the towel and changed the poll’s name to Jazz and Pop.

And, once again, I offer up my annual plea. How is it possible that Down Beat’s archives have still not been digitized? This is an American cultural treasure, covering jazz since 1934, with reviews, interviews, blindfold tests, club and festival news. And the annual jazz polls, which you aren’t going to find on the Internet. Thank goodness for the New York Public Library, still a researcher’s best friend.

Here’s 1958.

1958 Down Beat Poll Winners

Personalities: Jazz
1.    Miles Davis
2.    Count Basie
3.    Duke Ellington
4.    Thelonious Monk
5.    Erroll Garner
6.    Modern Jazz Quartet
7.    Dave Brubeck
8.    Ella Fitzgerald
9.    Stan Kenton
10.  Sonny Rollins

What makes a jazz personality? Miles certainly had charisma to spare. Turning your back on the audience while you're playing may seem anti-theatrical, but there's nothing more theatrical than the anti-theatrical. But by those standards, I would have put Mingus high on the list, and he didn't make it at all.

Why Basie? He wasn't at the height of his popularity then, and many critics downgraded his 1950s bands in comparison to the heyday of Lester Young, but time has given assent to the greatness of this era in the Basie story, and it seems as though listeners, if not all critics, agreed. Basie was also voted the number one jazz band.

You would think Stan Kenton made more of an impact as a personality two years earlier, when he accused jazz fans and critics of prejudice against "a new minority, white jazz musicians." Or later, in the 1970s, when his son tried to kill a lawyer by putting a rattlesnake in his mailbox.  But Kenton was still very popular throughout the 1950s, and he was doing it with music that was often difficult and challenging, so he must have had some force of personality.

Personalities: Pop
1.    Frank Sinatra
2.    Johnny Mathis
3.    Ella Fitzgerald
4.    Nat “King” Cole
5.    Eydie Gorme
6.    Perry Como
7.    Peggy Lee
8.    Keely Smith
9.    Patti Page
10.  Tony Bennett

What makes a pop personality? Obviously, the answer is that no one knows, and very few would be able to agree on criteria for voting, unlike, say, the criteria for alto sax players. Still, it's hard to figure out what definition of personality would include Eydie Gorme and not Sammy Davis Jr. or Harry Belafonte.

Personalities: Rhythm and Blues
1.    Ray Charles
2.    Joe Williams
3.    Fats Domino
4.    Joe Turner
5.    Dinah Washington
6.    Elvis Presley
7.    Chuck Berry
8.    Bill Doggett
9.    Jimmy Rushing
10.  The Platters

Rhythm and blues gets its nose under the tent here. By 1958, most of the great rhythm and blues bandleaders like Joe Liggins and Frank "Floorshow" Culley had faded into oblivion, although Big Jay McNeely would still have a hit or two, and the Down Beat voters thought of R&B as primarily a vocalist's medium, although of course Ray Charles was much, much more than that.

Male singer
1.    Frank Sinatra
2.    Joe Williams
3.    Jimmy Rushing
4.    Mel Torme
5.    Johnny Mathis
6.    Nat Cole
7.    Jackie Paris
8.    Ray Charles
9.    David Allen
10.  Louis Armstrong

I’d never heard of David Allen, and had a rough time finding anything about him until I discovered that Down Beat had misspelled David Allyn’s name, not that I knew him better under the correct spelling. He had begun as vocalist with Jack Teagarden in the 1940s, sang with Boyd Raeburn and others. I found a video of him on YouTube. Not bad. Good to see Jackie Paris, that most uncompromising of bebop singers, on the list. Mose Allison gets some votes lower down on the list, as does Al Hibbler. King Pleasure barely makes it, and Eddie Jefferson not at all. Nor Earl Coleman, although he was certainly still around.

Female singer
1.    Ella Fitzgerald
2.    Anita O’Day
3.    June Christy
4.    Dakota Staton
5.    Chris Connor
6.    Sarah Vaughan
7.    Billie Holiday
8.    Eydie Gorme
9.    Mahalia Jackson
10.  Peggy Lee

The big surprise here – nowhere in the top 25 is Nina Simone to be found, although she’d released her first album on Bethlehem and had a hit with “I Loves You Porgy.” Neither Ruth Brown nor Lavern Baker gets a mention. Today, the royalty of that era is Ella, Sarah, Billie and Dinah, but the 1958 voters didn’t see it that way. Dakota Staton was probably at the peak of her popularity after the 1957 release of “The Late Late Show.” I’d be surprised if Eydie Gorme would rate as high in retrospect, and Mahalia Jackson, though her reputation has never declined, did stop being thought of as a jazz singer.

Vocal Group
1.    Four Freshman
2.    Hi-Los
3.    Dave Lambert Singers with Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross
4.    Jackie and Roy
5.    Axidentals
6.    Mills Brothers
7.    King Sisters
8.    Four Lads
9.    Kirby Stone Quartet
10.  Platters
The Axidentals appear to have made one record with Maynard Ferguson and one with Kai Winding before fading into obscurity. Were the Four Freshmen and the Hi-Los really that popular? They were always one-two in every poll like this, and by a huge margin ahead of the field, but maybe that was because no one knew exactly what a jazz vocal group was. The Mills Brothers had had some good jazz credentials, and they were still good, but not exactly jazz.
So what is a jazz vocalist? I’ve given my definition before: anyone who can sing with good jazz musicians and not get hopelessly lost. That would rule out most of the groups on this list, but would not necessarily rule out a lot who never made these lists: groups like the Clovers, who played with the fine jazz musicians Atlantic had in its house band. Perhaps jazz vocal groups were the ones who sang standards from what had not yet been called the Great American Songbook (which doesn’t exactly explain the Kingston Trio at #11 on the list), but the vocal groups who were really keeping the standards alive in the 1950s were the doowop harmony groups like the Five Keys and the Flamingoes.

1.    J. J. Johnson
2.    Bob Brookmeyer
3.    Kai Winding
4.    Frank Rosolino
5.    Jimmy Cleveland
6.    Bill Harris
7.    Jack Teagarden
8.    Urbie Green
9.    Jimmy Knepper
10.  Carl Fontana

The team of J. J. and Kai seems to have receded in the minds of jazz fans, and J. J. is king of the mountain, with no else close. He pulled 2355 of the trombone votes, with Bob Brookmeyer a distant second (813) and no one else even breaking 300. Curtis Fuller was perhaps still too new to crack the top ten, though you’d think there’d have been a place for Bennie Green.

1.    Miles Davis
2.    Dizzy Gillespie
3.    Maynard Ferguson
4.    Chet Baker
5.    Art Farmer
6.    Jonah Jones
7.    Louis Armstrong
8.    Shorty Rogers
9.    Roy Eldridge
10.  Donald Byrd

No surprise on the first two, with maybe a little surprise that Miles is so far ahead of Dizzy – 2352 to 696. Jonah Jones had more popularity than critical acclaim, and he would not likely be ranked that high by today’s jazz aficionados. Shorty Rogers was on a path from the avant garde (he is said to have influenced Igor Stravinsky) to such credits as The Monkees and The Partridge Family. What his reputation is now, I couldn’t begin to say. I guess it depends on which Shorty you listen to. In 1958 he put out three albums for RCA Victor: jazz versions of songs from the movie musical Gigi, including “Thank Heaven for Little Girls;” an album of Afro-Cuban rhythms with a group that didn’t include any Africans but did have a group of Cubans on percussion and vocals; and an album called Chances Are It Swings, dedicated to the proposition that contemporary popular songs were as good a basis for jazz improvisation as any of the standards, a proposition which was not endorsed by Down Beat’s reviewer. Kenny Dorham, Clark Terry and Lee Morgan were all on lower rungs. Freddie Hubbard was new on the scene, and had started to make waves in New York jazz circles, but was still flying under the public radar. He appeared on John Coltrane’s last recording session for Prestige, but that of course would not be released for another few years.

Alto sax:
1.    Paul Desmond 
2.    Lee Konitz
3.    Art Pepper 
4.    Julian Adderley
5.    Sonny Stitt
6.    Johnny Hodges
7.    Bud Shank
8.    Phil Woods
9.    Jacki McLean
10.  Benny Carter

Fans of the alto were remarkably consistent in the late 1950s. This list is nearly identical to the 1957 vote. Cannonball Adderley has moved up, Benny Carter has edged out Zoot Sims for the tenth spot. The significant new name—and he’s way down at the bottom, his 21 votes just enough to qualify him—is Ornette Coleman. So a few people were starting to listen.

Tenor sax:
1.    Stan Getz    
2.    Sonny Rollins 
3.    John Coltrane
4.    Zoot Sims
5.    Coleman Hawkins
6.    Ben Webster
7.    Bill Perkins
8.    Lester Young
9.    Johnny Griffin
10.  Al Cohn

The big movement here is John Coltrane, from also-ran in 1957 to third place in the hearts of Down Beat readers, though Getz is still far out in front of the pack, and would remain there for a long time.

Baritone Sax
1.    Gerry Mulligan 
2.    Harry Carney  
3.    Pepper Adams
4.    Cecil Payne
5.    Jimmy Giuffre 
6.    Tony Scott
7.    Gil Melle
8.    Bud Shank
9.    Charlie Ventura
10.  Al Cohn

 This is still Gerry Mulligan and everyone else, and it's hard to argue that.

1.    Tony Scott  
2.    Jimmy Giuffre    
3.    Buddy deFranco
4.    Benny Goodman  
5.    PeeWee Russell
6.    Jimmy Hamilton
7.    Buddy Collette
8.    Woody Herman
9.    Pete Fountain
10.  John LaPorta

You’d think by this time, the clarinet would have been folded into “Miscellaneous Instrument.” But I guess there were still more clarinet players than soprano sax players.

1.    Errol Garner
2.    Thelonious Monk
3.    Oscar Peterson  
4.    Dave Brubeck  
5.    Andre Previn
6.    Horace Silver
7.    John Lewis
8.    Red Garland
9.    Hampton Hawes
10.  Billy Taylor

There were so many great piano players. When a personal favorite like Mose Allison straggles in at 20th, or Ray Bryant 30th, you may say, “Wait a second, what’s that all about?” But you look at the musicians above them, and there aren’t many you’d drop down. Ahmad Jamal and George Shearing probably sold more records than any other jazz pianists, but Jamal had the stigma, which would later be erased, of the cocktail lounge, and Shearing was thought of as a bit of a sellout. If 1958's piano heroes were being voted on today, there's a good chance Marian McPartland would make the list. Longevity and a beloved radio show will do that for you, but she also really was that good.

1.    Barney Kessel   
2.    Herb Ellis
3.    Jim Hall
4.    Kenny Burrell
5.    Johnny Smith
6.    Tal Farlow 
7.    Freddie Green
8.    Mundell Lowe
9.    Laurindo Almeida
10.  Jimmy Raney

The most interesting guy to fall short here is Wes Montgomery, and he’s close – 12th on the list, with 84 votes. Montgomery released his first two albums in 1958, on Pacific Jazz, and at least a few people were listening.

1.    Herbie Mann
2.    Bud Shank
3.    Frank Wess
4.    Buddy Collette
5.    Sam Most
6.    Moe Koffman
7.    Paul Horn
8.    Bobby Jaspar
9.    Yusef Lateef
10.  Jerome Richardson

Herbie Mann continues to sit atop the flute pyramid, but Bud Shank and Frank Wess were right up there.

1.    Milt Jackson   
2.    Terry Gibbs  
3.    Lionel Hampton  
4.    Red Norvo
5.    Cal Tjader
6.    Teddy Charles
7.    Larry Bunker
8.    Don Elliott
9.    Harry Sheppard
10.  Vic Feldman

Here it’s still Milt Jackson and no one else close. I’d always thought of Vic Feldman as a pianist (and I’d always thought of him as Victor Feldman), but he made his early mark, first in England and then in America, on the vibes.

1.    Ray Brown  
2.    Paul Chambers
3.    Red Mitchell
4.    Leroy Vinnegar
5.    Oscar Pettiford
6.    Charles Mingus
7.    Percy Heath
8.    Milt Hinton
9.    Wilbur Ware
10.  Chubby Jackson

This is the first category to see a major shift in popularity from the previous year, with Oscar Pettiford’s popularity dipping precipitously. New on the list is Charles Mingus. Last year’s sixth place finisher was Charlie Mingus—this apparently was the year that Mingus became respected enough to be called by the name he preferred. It’s a little surprising to see Chubby Jackson still in the top ten, not because he wasn’t good, but because he really didn’t record that much. By 1959, he would have embarked on his new career as kiddie TV host.

1.    Shelly Manne
2.    Max Roach
3.    Joe Morello
4.    Art Blakey
5.    Chico Hamilton
6.    Jo Jones
7.    Gene Krupa
8.    Philly Joe Jones
9.    Mel Lewis
10.  Buddy Rich

If the West Coast is triumphant anywhere, it has to be here. Voters couldn’t overlook bebop pioneers and acknowledged masters Max Roach and Art Blakey, but the rest of the top five are from that other coast. Although Red Garland and Paul Chambers have shot up in popularity, much of that must have come from their work with Miles Davis, rather than the trio work and the John Coltrane sessions on Prestige, because Art Taylor is way down on the list with a handful of votes.

Miscellaneous Instrument
1.    Don Elliot (Mellophone)  
2.    Jimmy Smith (organ)
3.    Bob Cooper (oboe)
4.    Fred Katz (Cello)
5.    Toots Thielemans (harmonica)
6.    Shorty Rogers (flugelhorn)
7.    Candido (congas)
8.    Miles Davis (flugelhorn)
9.    Stuff Smith (violin)
10.  Julius Watkins (French horn)

I don’t think organ is going to remain a miscellaneous instrument much longer. And I guess they didn’t quite know what to do with the flugelhorn. It was also gaining in popularity, though mostly as a second choice for trumpet players. And if they did make it a separate category, what would they do when Art Farmer invented the flumpet?

Candido is the only Latin percussionist anyone can think of? And percussion doesn’t have its own category?

1.    Duke Ellington   
2.    John Lewis         
3.    Gil Evans
4.    Bill Holman
5.    Thelonious Monk
6.    Johnny Richards
7.    Jimmy Giuffre
8.    Neal Hefti
9.    Benny Golson
10.  Pete Rugolo

Ellington and John Lewis continue to lead the pack, and the Composer category gets fewer total votes than most, as at least some jazz fans have more passionate feelings about instrumentalists and improvisers than they do about composers.

It’s hard to remember how slow Monk’s reputation was in growing, although the movement has certainly begun. In 1957 he ranked 13th among Down Beat readers in this category; by 1958 he’s up to fifth. Today, a vote on the all time greatest jazz composers by contemporary jazz fans at puts Monk in second place, behind only Ellington. John Lewis, perennial jouster for the top spot with the Duke, slips way down in the ranker poll, and that doesn’t seem right. How far down is a variable--online polls are always works in progress, and although the top spots generally have enough votes that they don't change much, the lower ranks are more fluid. Lewis was 69th on one day, 43rd a few days later.

Of course, a lot changed in jazz over the years. The ranker voters have Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus in the third, fourth and fifth slot, and only Mingus (#22) got any votes at all in 1958. But Davis’s reputation as a composer—and certainly Coltrane’s—developed later.

And the concept of what a composer was changed too, over the years. The 1950s voters seemed to want to distinguish between musicians who would bring tunes into a session and Composers with a capital “C.” The present day fans are just the reverse. Johnny Richards and Neal Hefti were probably more arrangers than composers, and their reputations were largely tied to Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, both of whom have receded in importance to contemporary ears.

Bill Holman was also largely tied to Kenton, and like Richards and Hefti, is completely forgotten by the new jazz fans, unjustly. As late as the mid-90s, Holman was still winning Grammys as a composer.

What about Mose Allison? He should have been on the radar of the 1958 voters. In his early albums for Prestige, he certainly distinguished himself as a composer. Perhaps to the contemporary voters, he was viewed more as a songwriter.

And it’s hard to see how Gil Evans can have been so overlooked by today’s voters, especially since so much of his important work came after 1958.

Antonio Carlos Jobim and Airto Moreira are the only Latin composers on the contemporary list.

Ellington makes the BBC’s list of the ten most important composers of the 20th Century, any genre.

Since ranker is a list in progress, I added Mal Waldron, Tito Puente and Gil Evans. Let’s see if anyone follows my lead, and they move up.

Jazz Band:
1.    Count Basie
2.    Duke Ellington
3.    Stan Kenton
4.    Maynard Ferguson
5.    Herb Pomeroy
6.    Johnny Richards
7.    Dizzy Gillespie
8.    Woody Herman
9.    Ted Heath
10.  Harry James

Dance Band:
1.    Les Brown
2.    Les and Larry Elgart
3.    Count Basie
4.    Harry James
5.    Stan Kenton
6.    Ray Anthony
7.    Ray McKinley
8.    Ted Heath
9.    Woody Herman
10.  Buddy Morrow

Why Harry James, and not the Tommy Dorsey band (led by Warren Covington) which has a sizeable hit in 1958? This category seems to be handout to the old guard, otherwise, if you’re talking about bands that people would dance to, why not the Alan Freed stage band, with jazz notables like Sam “the Man” Taylor, Al Sears and Panama Francis. And at a time when the mambo and the cha-cha were the hottest dances around (the Dorsey band’s hit was “Tea for Two Cha-Cha-Cha”) did no one think to recognize the great Tito Puente?


Anonymous said...

Tad--How could they leave Blossom Dearie off the list of Female Vocalists? She could make it solely on the strength of her version of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most." Not to mention "Peel Me A Grape." Bob B.

Tad Richards said...

I wouldn’t have left her off, that’s for sure. So who would you replace? Most of the singers on this list are perennials. The ones that maybe aren’t? Dakota Staton was huge then, mostly in the afterglow of her huge hit, “The Late Late Show.”

Eydie Gorme? Why? She was all over the place in 1958, with four album releases, none of them really in the jazz idiom. Perhaps it was because she and Steve Lawrence had their own TV show that year, as a summer replacement for Steve Allen, who was known for showcasing jazz musicians.

No one really knew what to do with Mahalia Jackson back then. Everyone thought she would have been a great jazz singer, or a great blues singer, or even a great pop singer, but she would not sing anything except gospel, with anything except gospel instrumentation and arrangements. So she’s voted in on the strength of the awe she was held in, deservedly, in spite of the fact that she did not sing with jazz musicians. And other singers who did sing with jazz musicians don’t make the cut. Like Ruth Brown or LaVern Baker. Or lesser known fine singers like Varetta Dillard or Faye Adams. Because they were rhythm and blues singers, and everyone knows that’s not jazz.

I’d give Dakota her moment in the sun. She made some fine records, and she deserved it. But all due respect to Eydie and Mahalia, I would put Blossom ahead of them.

Anonymous said...

Tad--Yeah, I never thought of Eydie Gorme as a jazz singer, so I'd give her slot to Blossom Dearie. And I used to like Peggy King, who sang almost every week on George Gobel's TV show, but she was a pop singer, not a jazz singer.
Pax et Musica. Bob B.

Tad Richards said...

The one that continues to shock me is that in this era of the mambo and the cha-cha-cha, not a single Latin band made it in the Dance Band category.