Johnny Hamlin (p, acc), Art Mooshagian (tp, vtb), Charles McFadden (cl, fl, piccolo, ts, bs), Leland K. Baska Jr. (fl, cl, as, ts, bs), Bob Barnes (fl, ts), Ken Earnest (b), Donald Hamernick, Bob McKee (d)
Reference: FSRCD 932
Bar code: 8427328609326
When it began its long and successful career in San Diego in 1950, the Johnny Hamlin Quintet, with its swinging, multitextured and multicoloured arrangements, might have invited superficial comparison with the celebrated John Kirby small band of the 1940s. Like the Kirby band, it drew together several elements stemming from the Swing Era, but, aided by the group’s doubling ability—its members handled over a dozen instruments - its use of them was relatively unusual. Although the quintet played tightly knit arrangements with close, rich voicings interspersed with brief, briskly effective solos, there was no sense of imitation about what they did. Among its soloists, Art Mooshagian on trumpet and valve trombone was particularly good, while Leland K. Baska Jr, and Charlie McFadden had the ability to deliver some interesting solos on the multiple reed instruments they play. On piano the leader, Johnny Hamlin, oozed taste and dependability; he also made sage use of the additional colour provided by his accordion, never allowing it to dominate proceedings.
It was a unique mixture of pop and jazz, a world removed from run-of-the-mill, that was successful. The result is a collection of fine originals and favorite standards, always played—despite some changes in personnel—with distinctive sound and styling.
"Johnny Hamlin, not the most well-known figure in jazz, was born 1921 in California and benefits here, like us, from Jordi Pujol’s tireless musical archaeology. During World War II he served with the air force in Iceland and England. Later he led a quintet that toured the USA and Canada. Surprisingly he didn't get an entry in the New Grove Dictionary Of Jazz. His quintet's easy-swinging approach is reminiscent of the John Kirby band of the late 1930s.
This disc contains the contents of two LPs, Polka Dots And Moonbeams and Powder Puff plus a bonus track. Hamlin's occasional accordion interjections don't detract from the overall sound and the ensembles do a good, workmanlike job. I Remember April has a rather dense arrangement. Dancing On The Ceiling has pleasing solos from Baska on tenor and from Mooshagian's trumpet. A Foggy Day is upbeat whilst Summer Love opens with Baska's alto, leading into a complex, interesting arrangement.
On the Powder Puff numbers the easy-swinging Blue Mascara is nuanced by McFadden's flute while Sweet And Lovely gets an unusual upbeat interpretation; there is an engaging relaxed You Stepped Out Of A Dream to follow. The mid-tempo bonus track, Cross Section, brings the programme to a close. Well-played accessible jazz which harks back to earlier eras and which shouldn't scare maiden aunts."
Brian Robinson (September, 2017)
Jazz Journal Magazine