Frank Marocco (accordion), Victor Feldman (vib), Al Hendrickson, Dave Koonse (g), Lloyd Lunham, Putter Smith (b), Milt Holland, John Tirabasso (b), Gary Foster (as, ts)
Reference: FSRCD 940
Bar code: 8427328609401
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The accordion, at one time a much neglected instrument, became after World War II an important element of the American musical scene. By the mid Fifties it may not have been as widely used as other instruments, but at least it was no longer considered a stranger to jazz. However, because black musicians never took to the instrument, it can’t be said that the accordion was ever totally in the mainstream of jazz.
Frank Marocco (1931-2012), a member of the Hollywood studio brigade, was one of the world’s most versatile performers on the instrument. At home with any style or school of playing, he was happiest, in the stimulating area of modern jazz. So for his first jazz album— Like Frank Marocco, recorded in 1960—he led a quintet that featured Victor Feldman on vibes and Al Hendrickson on guitar.
After several years focused in the more lucrative path of the studio musician, Frank decided to devote more time to playing jazz, and in 1977 he appeared again on a record with a group of friends; a quintet with Gary Foster, sax, Dave Koonse, guitar, and Putter Smith, bass, under the leadership of drummer John Tirabasso. All solos are of consistent interest, with Marocco displaying worthwhile concern for the melodic lines, considerable facility and modern conception.
An excellent technician, as a jazzman Marocco rarely exhibited a tendency toward wildness or experimentation, but he knew where his roots grew: the lines he developed were logical, and his use of chording effective and exciting. These two fine but longforgotten albums—featuring accomplished musicians from the West Coast jazz scene—give us the chance to rediscover Frank Marocco, a player who made the accordion no longer a right hand only instrument.
"Franc Marocco shows that the accordion doesn’t have to be relegated to Weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. His cd has him in two swinging small group sessions, one from 1960 and the second 17 years later. The Hollywood session from the Kennedy years has him with the hip team of Victor Feldman/vib, Al Hendrickson/g, Lloyd Lunham/b and Milt Holland/dr for bouncy reads of “Anything Goes,” “Umbrella Man” and a wheezing engine drive of “ Take the ‘A’ Train.” A nice bluesy bopper on “ Tiny’s Blues” has Marocco hitting the keys with delight and the band gets greasy on “Southern Fried.”
The 1977 Hollywood session includes Gary Foster/ts-as, Dave Koonse/g, Putter Smith/b and John Tirabasso/dr with a sauntering “Happy Samba” and driving “Night in Morocco.” Foster’s tenor oozes on ”Yours is My Heart Alone” and the team rumbles on the swinging “Southbound Express. A squeeze box filled with joy."
George W. Harris (November 2, 2017)
"Some regard the accordion as a bit of a joke, but I like the harmonically teeming sound, gravelly and rich with overtones - the same appeal as the harmonica, with a similarly folky exoticism. It swings unfailingly everywhere in the 1960 Like Frank Marocco, with a top-notch Californian small group. It’s micro-arranged (no problem in that) with pithy solos. Among the highlights are Tiny’s Blues, a bright boppy theme with some lively trading, and Road To Morocco, a brisk bebop theme. I love the varied use of that cloudy Lydian ending, e.g., on Frank’s Tune, Road To Morocco and Fascinating Rhythm (on which Feldman has a great break). It’s a 50s classic that Donald Fagen copped to close Walk Between The Raindrops. The unvarying timbres and the smooth production can get a little cloying but the musicianship is constantly engaging.
The 1977 set has a lot more jazz - a lot more soloing anyway - notably from former Akiyoshi-Tabackin bebopper Gary Foster. Happy Samba has a taste of the sort of thing Concord was putting out in 1977, Foster in the Brazilian context reminding of Paul Desmond. In the yards of soloing there is more “jazz” than in the 1960 date but in a sense less musical interest. The drums are very jam-session, Tirabasso purveying a cardboard-box drum sound and loose execution. Very much of its time and a musical low point, his Dobre Drums is a shapeless modal meditation that gets nowhere. Happily, quality is restored with the fleet bebop blues closer, Southbound Express.
Jordi Pujol has dug out another gem. Like Frank is a real pleasure and I’d likely never have known the estimable Marocco otherwise, a stone exponent of the bebop and changes vocabulary on a still unusual jazz instrument."
Mark Gilbert (November, 2017)
Jazz Journal Magazine