Buddy DeFranco (cl), Harry Edison (tp), Bob Hardaway (ts), Herbie Mann (fl, b-cl), Jimmy Rowles, Pete Jolly (p), Victor Feldman (vib), Barney Kessel (g), Curtis Counce, Scott LaFaro (b), Alvin Stoller, Frank De Vito, Mel Lewis (d)
Reference: FSRCD 620
Bar code: 8427328606202
The recordings in the present set are typically fluent, compelling De Franco music in a first-class small combo setting. I never abandoned the idea of being able to experience a somatic feeling in addition to the intellectual experience of modern music. Both are essential. You gotta have boththe cerebral and the feel, the funk.
Individually De Franco and Harry Sweets Edison blow with the confidence and assertiveness that have become their hallmarks. Kessel takes care of business, lying quietly in the background until it comes his turn to solo, then leaping out to have his say. Jimmy Rowles, Herbie Mann, Bob Hardaway, and the rest of the men playing here are deeply swinging in healthly, mainstream fashion.
One of the attractions is the delicacy of some of the ensemble textures and the way in which basic harmonies have been amended to fit the character of these 1959 De Franco Septette. Theres a lot of great listening here whatever your bias.
It will be just fine if it does help bring the clarinet back!
"After the prominence it received during the 1930s from Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, the clarinet suddenly became unfashionable with the arrival of bebop. Perhaps the instrument tended to sound thin when compared with the saxophone or trumpet, and only a few clarinettists were bold enough to tackle the new trends in jazz.
The outstanding clarinettist at this time was Buddy DeFranco, who had the facility to play complex sequences while keeping one foot in the mainstream camp. This double CD has the subtitle "Complete 1959 Septette Recordings" and comprises three whole LPs which put Buddy in a mainstream setting. DeFranco had paid his dues in the bands of Charlie Barnet and Tommy Dorsey, as well as being the first white man employed by Count Basie for his small group.
Buddy is quoted in the sleeve-note as saying that the idea of these sessions was "to get together with some of the swinging guys...who came up with the best days of the swing period, as opposed to fellows from the contemporary or out-and-out bop school". In other words, we have a typical set of sessions produced by Norman Granz, leaving the musicians free to play as they pleased. Like many Granz productions, there is a ballad medley, enabling most of the musicians the chance to show their paces at a gentle tempo. In fact this album contains three such medleys, with DeFranco stretching out on 'Round Midnight, I'm Glad There is You and the seldom-heard Now I Lay Me Down to Dream.
Other highlights include Oh, Lady Be Good! which is dressed in new chords; Just Squeeze Me, for which DeFranco devised neat harmonising by trumpet, clarinet and flute; and Buddy's composition Witty, a minor blues. DeFranco's tone might sound cool but these sessions show that he believed in putting soul as well as intellect into his playing. This is clear in the unusually fast version of Blue Lou, introduced with a storming drum solo by Alvin Stoller and including a really hot solo by Buddy. There are also many swinging contributions from Harry Edison. Indeed, all the musicians supporting Buddy DeFranco make worthwhile contributions, including British vibist Victor Feldman, guitarist Barney Kessel and bassist Scott LaFaro (just past his 22nd birthday). It is interesting to hear flautist Herbie Mann playing the bass clarinet - rather well.
The arrangements - presumably by Buddy - are ingenious but the recording quality is occasionally foggy. Listening to this album may convince you that the clarinet never really went away, as Buddy DeFranco kept alive the tradition of virtuoso clarinettists which continued with such musicians as Eddie Daniels and Paquito D'Rivera."
Tony Augarde -MusicWeb International
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