Al Hirt (tp), Billy May, Henri René (arr, dir), Frank Beach, Conrad Gozzo, Mannie Klein (tp), Milt Bernhart, Bill Schaefer, Dick Noel (tb), John Kitzmiller (tuba), Ted Nash (as), Harry Klee, Jules Jacob (ts), Chuck Gentry (bs), Jimmy Rowles (p), Al Hendrickson (g), Ralph Pena (b), Irv Cottler (d), Lou Singer (perc)
Reference: BMCD 891
Bar code: 8427328008914
· Collector's Edition
· Issued in Digipack
· Includes Bonus Tracks
· Original Cover Art and Liner Notes
· Stereo Recordings
· Newly Remastered in 24-Bit
For years, jazz trumpet connoisseurs returned from New Orleans with glowing reports about Al Hirt, most finishing their enthusiastic accounts with the wish to hear Hirt’s vibrant, authoritative trumpet in the full-throated context of a big, swinging band, instead of the more traditional small groups which he normally led.
Billy May, himself a former trumpet player, was the ideal arranger-conductor on Horn A-Plenty, where Al, surrounded by Hollywood’s brass elite, delivers the full swing and originality of Billy’s humor-tinged charts with staggering power, consistency and élan. His reaction to such a superb band says it all; “What a thrill to have top guys like this playing with me, and Billy writing for them!”
He also had a big band, including four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones, and a seven-man rhythm section (piano/vibes, bass, harp, as well as two guitarists and two drummers) for the final six tracks on this CD, drawn from the album The Greatest Horn in the World. For these arranger-conductor Henri René showcased him in front of the cream of New York’s studio musicians, and while the result might suggest a rugged test for your sound system, musically speaking it is considerably more than that.
"In part, this CD represents the return of an old friend; I owned a copy of Horn A-Plenty when it first appeared on vinyl in 1961. Today it stands as a minor milestone, being a reference that catalogues a small part of the post-bop progress in high-note jazz trumpet playing after Harry James and Dizzy Gillespie. With less screech than Cat Anderson, and a heavier tonguing technique than Maynard Ferguson, Hirt's was an alternative - and somewhat commercial (some might say vulgar) - way forward in the days before the arrival of players such as Alan Vizzutti or Doc Cheatham.
Hirt soars in what may be termed a vaudevillian style, while Billy May provides an appropriately virile accompanying ensemble, eschewing the familiar May trademark of portamento-laden unison saxophones while avoiding Hirt's familiar high-voltage Dixieland which, presumably, the trumpeter normally provided to please his New Orleans tourist or conference audience. Making effective use of the lower brass and employing harp, marimba and tubular bells, on four of the tracks four French horns replace the saxophones, an elegant Billy May touch.
Behind all of this, Irv Cottler smashes the ensemble along delightfully, to demonstrate why Frank Sinatra employed him so much. Great fun."
John Robert Brown (September, 2017)
Jazz Journal Magazine