Don Fagerquist (tp), Ray Sims (tb, vcl), Ronny Lang (as, bs, fl), Dave Pell (ts, b-cl, Engh), Jeff Clarkson, Donn Trenner, Claude Williamson (p), Tony Rizzi (g), Rolly Bundock (b), Jack Sperling, Bill Richmond (d), Lucy Ann Polk (vcl), Marty Paich, Shorty Rogers, Jerry Fielding, Johnny Mandel, Bill Holman, Jack Montrose, Med Flory, Wes Hensel, Bob Enevoldsen, Buddy Bregman (arr)
Reference: FSRCD 936
Bar code: 8427328609364
The success of the Dave Pell Octet was one of the fairy-tale stories of the West Coast jazz of the Fifties. Founded by Pell in 1953, this small jazz group, drawn from the nucleus of Les Brown’s orchestra, was among the most popular jazz outfits in Southern California within months. The Octet’s first library had the stimulating and ingeniously voiced arrangements of Shorty Rogers and Wes Hensel, which gave this group the feel of a big band. “We used the guitar as a voice in unison with trumpet,” Pell explained, “and so the Octet sound had a successful formula which allowed us to play a tempo that was danceable and yet still had a jazz feel.”
Bill Brown, Daily News jazz columnist wrote: “Pell and his group have flipped fans everywhere they’ve appeared. It’s a skilled and interesting group and one you should hear.” The Octet’s cohesion was remarkable, and additional scores by such talented arrangers as Marty Paich, Johnny Mandel, and Bill Holman, helped establish its sound and personality.
This 2 CD-set covers all of the Octet’s recordings for the labels Trend (1953-1954) and Kapp (1956), which epitomize its smooth sophistication; with their tightly scored ensembles, the deft styling concealed some excellent musicianship, and they all contain highly individualistic contributions by its stellar soloists, Don Fagerquist, Ray Sims, Ronny Lang, and the airy, swinging tenor of Dave Pell, who said, simply: “We play jazz for dancing. That’s our forte.”
This CD release is dedicated to the memory of Dave Pell (1925-2017)
"Mine is not the approach of a jazz musician who goes into the recording studio to play 40 minutes of completely improvised jazz. Our projects are carefully planned. I feel that our music should be well designed, interesting yet easy to follow. We find it best to state the melody first, then come the spots for the blowing. But even behind a jazz chorus I want backgrounds going at the same time to give an overall big band sound. The restatement of the melody, in one form or another, in the closing completes the pattern."
"What a wonderful group this would be to have in a nightclub! Polished and polite and still musicianly, it would offer a superb background for talking and drinking and eating and then, for those of us who just like to listen, there would be soloists like trumpeter Don Fagerquist, whose rich understatement is the highlight of every track here, and tenorman Pell, Ronnie Lang on alto and bari and pianist Donn Trenner and trombonist Ray Sims and guitarist Tony Rizzi. And all night, there could be tunes like these Rodgers and Hart masterpieces, the like of which one rarely hears all at once, either on records or on a stage or in a room."
—George Simon, Commenting on the Dave Pell Octet, Metronome
"When it comes to Jazz recordings from the halcyon days of the early “modern era” [for sake of discussion, 1945-1965], with a particular emphasis on the music recorded outside of New York city, Fresh Sound Records under the guidance of Jordi Pujol continues to be one of the “go to” labels.
In any transaction, availability and affordability are key elements and, broadly speaking, both of these aspects are relevant to Jordi’s efforts at Fresh Sound as he continually makes available handsomely packaged music from the West Coast Jazz era at very reasonable prices."
—Steven Cerra (March 2, 2021)
"The Dave Pell Octet was formed by Pell in 1953, and he continued to perform with iterations of the group until the ill health that led to his death last May at the age of 92 made it no longer possible for him to get out there. The first recordings of this group are now available on a two-disc set, The Dave Pell Octet Plays Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart and Burke & Van Heusen: The Complete Trend and KAPP recordings 1953-1956 (FSRCD 936).
These tracks were originally released on four albums, the Berlin as a 10” LP, later rereleased as a 12” LP with four additional tracks; the Rodgers & Hart as a 12” LP; and the Burke and Van Heusen released as a 10” LP under the name of vocalist Lucy Ann Polk, and the remainder as a 12” LP with eight instrumental tracks plus four from the Polk LP. The players, many of whom had been on the Les Brown Big Band with Pell, were all first-call West Coast jazzmen. They included Don Fagerquist on trumpet, Ray Sims on trombone, Ronny Lang and Pell on reeds, Jeff Clarkson, Donn Trenner or Claude Williamson on piano, Tony Rizzi on guitar, Rolly Bundock on bass and Jack Sperling or Bill Richmond on drums. The arrangers included Shorty Rodgers, Jerry Fielding, Wes Hensel, Marty Paich, Johnny Mandel, Bill Holman, Bob Enevoldsen, Jack Montrose, Med Flory, Jim Emerson and Buddy Bregman, an all-star lineup indeed. Their charts make the Octet often sound like a full big band. Pell tried to program tunes that were not the obvious ones from these songwriters, so you get to hear Berlin songs like “Love and the Weather,” “Kate,” “I Used to Be Color Blind” and “This Year’s Kisses;” from Rodgers & Hart “Why Do You Suppose,” “You Are Too Beautiful” and “Sing for Your Supper;” and by Burke & Van Heusen “My Heart Is a Hobo,” “It’s Always You,” “Just My Luck” and “Humpty Dumpty Heart.” The playing is superb, the arrangements hip and swinging, and Lucy Ann Polk is a delight. If you love songs, then you will surely dig this set!"
Joe Lang (November, 2017)
New Jersey Jazz Society
"Back in the 1950s, a group of guys from New York and Philadelphia moved to Hollywood to get steady work in the nascent TV and movie recording industry and developed a sound called “West Coast Cool.” Essentially, is was a reaction to the torrid tempos and harmonics of bebop; a kinder, gentler sound, more adaptable to cruising along PCH in your convertible while wearing your Hawaiian shirt. The softer and more arranged sounds have been denigrated by some, but they have surprisingly aged well, especially when the music was in the capable hands of Pres-inspired tenor saxist Dave Pell, who faithfully carried the lighter than sound air and kept it popular until it was finally taken over by the cacophonous shrieks and wails by the barbarians at the gates in the late 50s and early 60s.
This two disc set has the soft and sleek toned tenorist with fellow Angelenos including Don Fagerquist/tp, Ray Sims/tb, Ronny Lang/bs-as, Jeff Clarkson-Don Trenner-Claude Williamson/p, Tony Rizzi/g, Rolly Rundock/b and Bill Richmond-Jack Sperling/dr. The polished chrome arrangements are by the likes of Marty Paich, Shorty Rogers, Johnny Mandel, Med Flory, and Bill Holman among others. The themes of the three albums produced here give tributes to composers Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart and Burke & Van Heusen.
Vocalist Lucy Ann Polk gives girl next door versions of daiquiri-flavored “Like Someone In Love,” Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and “Aren’t You Glad You’re You.” Pell himself is lithe and warm as he coos on “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket” and “Kate.” Pell adds some rich harmonics as he switches to the English horn on “Russian Lullaby” and Ronny Lang wisps on the flute during “It Never Entered My Mind” and “Darn that Dream.” The team is light enough to swing with soft shoes, but thick enough to show some muscle in the process, and the creative charts keep the music concise, coherent and clever.
The liner notes include all of the studio info, as well as some great background on a period when a jazzer could make a good living and buy a house in the Valley just by blowing his horn. Any complaints?"
George W. Harris (August 28, 2017)
-The Dave Pell Octet Plays Irving Berlin
"The Dave Pell Octet was one of the definitive cool jazz groups of the 1950s. Tenor saxophonist Pell played with Les Brown's big band during 1948-56 and started to record with an octet drawn from the orchestra in 1953. His first project was a set of a dozen Irving Berlin tunes, and the results are quite memorable. The swinging and subtle ensembles, concise and emotionally restrained solos, and excellent musicianship would be trademarks of the band. Consisting of Pell; trumpeter Don Fagerquist; trombonist Ray Sims; Ronny Lang on baritone, alto, and flute; pianist Jeff Clarkson; guitarist Tony Rizzi; bassist Rolly Bundock; and drummer Jack Sperling, the octet plays arrangements by Shorty Rogers, Jerry Fielding, and Wes Hensel. Among the highlights are "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket," "Russian Lullaby," "They Say It's Wonderful," and "This Year's Kisses." Recommended."
-The Dave Pell Octet Plays Rodgers & Hart
"The Spanish Fresh Sound label has reissued the earliest recordings by the Dave Pell Octet, one of the top cool jazz bands of the 1950s. The Rodgers & Hart set was one of the group's most famous recordings, with classic renditions of "Mountain Greenery," "The Blue Room," "Spring Is Here," and "Ten Cents a Dance" being among the highpoints. The arrangements (by Marty Paich, Wes Hensel, Shorty Rogers, and Johnny Mandel) practically define the idiom, as do the cool-toned solos. A gem."
-The Dave Pell Octet Plays Burke and Van Heusen
"The Dave Pell Octet was one of the great West Coast jazz-style cool combos of the 1950s. This CD reissues the band's two Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen albums. Lucy Ann Polk sings eight of the 16 selections, and she is a major asset, displaying a relaxed, straightforward, basic, and winning approach, warmly uplifting each song. The arrangements are by Shorty Rogers, Wes Hensel, Bill Holman, Bob Enevoldsen, Jack Montrose, Med Flory, Jim Emerson, and Buddy Bregman. The octet (comprised of trumpeter Don Fagerquist; trombonist Ray Sims; Ronny Lang on baritone, alto and flute; tenor saxophonist Dave Pell; pianist Claude Williamson; guitarist Tony Rizzi; bassist Rolly Bundock, and drummer Jack Sperling) sounds at its best on "But Beautiful," "Suddenly It's Spring," "It's Always You," "Aren't You Glad You're You," "It Could Happen to You," and "Imagination." Timeless music."
All by Scott Yanow -All Music Guide