Don Fagerquist, Jack Sheldon (tp), Ray Sims (tb), Bob Enevoldsen (v-tb), Dave Pell (ts), Marty Berman, Med Flory (bs), Arnold Ross, Paul Moer (p), Tony Rizzi, Tommy Tedesco (g), Bob Bates, Buddy Clark (b), Irving Kluger, Mel Lewis (d)
Reference: FSRCD 739
Bar code: 8427328607391
Shortly after it was formed in 1953, the Dave Pell Octet won best new combo of the year in polls conducted by Americas Daily News and Mirror newspapers. Six of its eight members were included in Down Beat magazines 1953 poll of the top musicians in the country. Pell and his group flipped fans everywhere they appeared, specializing in Proms and School Dances, and becoming the first name jazz group ever to play for dancing at one of the top Sunset Strip clubs, The Crescendo, and also the Hollywood Palladium.
Its jazz was described variously as tasty, sophisticated, subtle, warm, bright, clean, friendly, inventive, happy, and a complete show and concert rolled into one. One successful Octet approach was to have the crowd gather around the bandstand to watch it play a fast jive number featuring the bands excellent soloists.
An essential contributing factor in the Octets success was that Pell hired the West Coasts finest arrangers to write the beguilingly melodic and always attractive, danceable band charts; people of the calibre of Marty Paich, Bill Holman, Shorty Rogers, Jack Montrose, Med Flory, John T. Williams. And it was this canny combination of quality and accessibility that really made the Octets name and gave the music its enduring flavour. In Daves own words: Heres hoping you enjoy our combined dance-and-jazz Campus Hop!
"Dave Pell was a saxophonist who worked in Les Brown's band on the American West Coast from 1947 to 1955. In 1953 he formed his octet, which included some musicians who had played for Les Brown, such as Don Fagerquist and Ray Sims. Dave Pell won considerable popularity by playing in colleges and for high school proms, concentrating on jazz which was suitable for dancing. The music was of high quality, thanks especially to the talented arrangers that Pell employed, including Bill Holman, Marty Paich, Shorty Rogers and Jack Montrose.
The Octet made two LPs called Jazz Goes Dancing, the first in 1956 sub-titled 'Prom to Prom' and the second in 1957 subtitled 'Campus Hop'. This CD contains both albums. They consist of tight, disciplined arrangements which make the most of the eight musicians. Each track contains a good deal of ensemble writing, leaving limited room for jazz solos. What solos there are seldom last for more than 16 bars. Only four of the dozen tracks on the first LP last for longer than three minutes.
One danger of such short, clean arrangements is that they can seem soulless, but that tendency is kept at bay with interesting treatments of the tunes. For instance, Let's Face the Music and Dance is taken at an unusually slow tempo, and Forty-second Street is updated from its old-fashioned mood to sound like a cool modern arrangement.
Dave Pell himself had a clipped style on the tenor sax, without much vibrato - somewhat similar to the style of altoist Lee Konitz. The trumpeters on both LPs are excellent, with Jack Sheldon particularly notable on We're in the Money and Would You Like to Take a Walk. Med Flory's solos on baritone sax are well worth hearing.
This album is certainly well-suited to dancing but also to listening, as it is full of musical subtleties."
Tony Augarde (March, 2013)
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