Reference: FSRCD 1644
Bar code: 8427328616447
With these sides, Herb Geller and his All-Stars set down one of the best jazz versions of Jule Stynes score from the Broadway musical Gypsy.
Gellers brilliant improvisational ability is put to the test in some of the numbers, there are also outstanding contributions from Thad Jones and a young Scott LaFaro on bass, while in four of the tunes Barbara Longs beautiful voice and deep feeling for jazz give Sondheims lyrics the attention they deserve. And Herb Gellers arrangements carry off the difficult feat of not only reflecting the emotional essence of the original show, but also creating the climate where good jazz can flourish.
"Of all the musicals that were hits on Broadway, the Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim collaboration on Gypsy produced songs that were among the most covered by top jazz musicians. I'm sure "West Side Story," "My Fair Lady" and "South Pacific" were up there, too, but they weren't quite as naturally jazzy as "Gypsy." That's because Styne, who wrote the music, came up in the jazz age as a pianist and band leader.
Artists who put a jazz spin on Gypsy's songs include Tony Scott, Annie Ross, Teddy Wilson, the Hi-Lo's, Eddie Heywood, Pearl Bailey, Art Van Damme, Ray Anthony, Dick Hyman, Jonah Jones, Jackie Cain, Barbara Carroll, Maxine Sullivan and Peggy Lee.
One of my favorite jazz interpretations of Gypsy is by Herb Geller. The album was recorded in June 1959, a few months after Herb recorded on Annie Ross's Gypsy, backed by a big band arranged and led by Buddy Bregman.
There are several reasons why Herb's album is special. First, the quintet he led included all three Jones brothers—Thad Jones (cnt), Hank Jones (p) and Elvin Jones (d)—on three songs: Mama's Talking Soft, Everything's Coming Up Roses and Together Wherever We Go. The rest of the album's tracks featured Billy Taylor on piano. Second, the bassist was Scott LaFaro just months before he joined the Bill Evans Trio in December. And third, the singer was Barbara Long. The Chicago club vocalist sang with tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin's trio before she traveled to New York to record Gypsy, her first album. Long's only other album was her own" Soul: The Voice of Barbara Long," for Savoy in 1961. Long had a dry, jazzy sound with a Sarah Vaughan approach.
The Gypsy tracks are Everything's Coming Up Roses, You'll Never Get Away From Me, Together Wherever We Go, Little Lamb, Some People, Mama's Talking Soft, Cow Song and Small World. Cow Song is particularly special since it never made the orchestration phase for the 1959 show. Styne had pulled it. Throughout, Thad Jones on the higher-pitched cornet and Herb on alto saxophone in the upper register are a perfect pair. Both of their solos are crisp and lyrical, with LaFaro punching his notes through the quintet distinctly. What became of Barbara Long after 1961 is unknown."
—Marc Myers (April 12, 2022)
"Gypsy captures Herb Geller at his most daring and challenging -- recording with an exemplary supporting unit including trumpeter Thad Jones, pianist Hank Jones, bassist Scott LaFaro, and drummer Elvin Jones, the altoist transforms Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's familiar Broadway themes into something altogether new and different. Even when applying the most forward-thinking modern jazz sensibilities, Geller maintains the spirit and integrity of indelible Sondheim melodies like "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Small World" -- in fact, his obvious respect for the source material is vital to the session's overall success. While Barbara Long contributes a handful of powerhouse vocal turns, it's the instrumentals that truly dazzle -- the Jones brothers boast the kind of telepathic interplay that comes solely from blood, and their performances push Geller to new heights."
Jason Ankeny -All Music Guide