Larry Sonn, Nick Travis, Charlie Shavers, Joe Wilder (tp), Urbie Green, Frank Rehak (tb), Hal McKusick, Phil Woods, Al Cohn, Tony Scott, Georgie Auld, Zoot Sims (reeds), Nat Pierce, Dick Katz (p), Billy Bauer (g), Milt Hinton (b), Gus Johnson (d)
Reference: FSRCD 877_2
Bar code: 8427328608770
Larry Sonn (1919-2015) trumpeter and former sideman with Charlie Barnet, Hal McIntyre, Teddy Powell and other units, moved to Mexico in 1944, where he went on to lead one of the most popular bands in the country. A decade had gone by when in early 1955 he decided to return to the American musical scene and organize a new orchestra to in his own words blow some jazz and some good dance music, too. His new band first received national exploitation via a Saturday night exposure on NBCs Monitor, with commentary by Al Jazzbo Collins.
This CD it shows the development of Sonns American effort, from the inception of the band, through its development and until it had become a settled unit. The first four selections here were recorded Oct. 7, 1955, when the band had been in existence for barely two months. The remaining numbers, played by a crack collection of New York freelancers, were cut at sessions between 1956 and 1958. The bands book grew but remained uncluttered, featuring loose swinging modern arrangements by chief arranger Manny Albam, with contributions by Al Cohn, Nat Pierce, and Bob Brookmeyer, and scores by Sonn himself. It was a short-lived all-star band with a sharp collective bite, flow, and beat, with a bright, handsome, brassy sound, skillful arrangements and some exceptional soloistsmeat and drink to any big band aficionado.
"Back in the mid 50s, big bands were having a tough time finding themselves, being overlooked in favor of the cool sounds of the West Coast or the more complex sounds of bebop or Third Stream music. Here, you get Charlie Barnet alumnus Larry Sonn taking his trumpet and bringing together a collection of swingers with a collection of fresh tunes and charts on this 2 disc set of a handful of albums.
You get here a mix of concert and studio sessions from 1955-56,and the charts include section work and solos by the likes of Phil Woods/as, Al Cohn/ts, Milt Hinton/b, Gus John son/dr, Nat Pierce/p, Munddell Lowe-Freddie Green/g just for starters. The charts are delivered by Al Cohn, Nat Pierce and Bob Brookmeyer as well as Sonn, and they sound like something that would keep Woody Herman up at night in a jealous fit. These guys are SWINGERS!!!
Yes, there are some standards such as Darn That Dream, My Heart Stood Still and King Porter Stomp, but they are goosed up and sound marvelously modern. Lulus Back in Town is as sharp as fins on a 61 Caddie, while Im Glad There Is You is marvelously oozy. What feels as fresh as morning shower are the pieces by Manny Albam such as Ida Bridges Falling Down and Zanzy while Al Cohns tunes like From A to Z and Frank But Earnest make you wonder why youve never heard them before. Brookmeyers cooler tones on Levys Leap and Music For Drowning Your Troubles includes a formidable sax section in Phil Woods, Gene Quill, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims and Gen Allen and they are as fluid as sorghum molasses.
The band swings like its Kansas City on Freddie Greens Down For Double and Tony Scott, Charlie Shavers and Georgie Auld make the Swing Era sound modern on Scotts Tape and The Great Lie. All of the songs are around 2-4 minutes, the solos are concise and lyrical and the rhythm sections make you want to DANCE. Isnt that what jazz was initially created for?"
George W. Harris (January 25, 2016)
Larry Sonn's prime objective was to provide smooth music for dancing, and I thought at first that this would inhibit the stars. But the orchestrations are so brilliant and the soloists, though restrained, are so gifted that I was overcome by the fine quality of the music.
The best jazz comes in the last three sessions where Charlie Shavers, Tony Scott, George Auld and Bob Brookmeyer break out. Al Cohn swing hardest here on Ain't It The Truth, but then he's the most constant swinger throughout all the sessions. The last four tracks are arranged by Brookmeyer and Katz does a lovely Basie. Bob breaks the rules by wailing on Levy's Leap, surely a threat to the ankles of any dancer. The drummer here is Osie, but elsewhere Gus proves that he was one of the most consistently good drummers. Tony Scott dominates the session he's on, whilst Charlie Shavers explodes into it with one typical solo. Georgie Auld is very good, too, playing fine mainstream tenor. There are nice trips for Phil Woods, but overall Al Cohn is the most prolific soloist, also contributing typically good charts. Manny Albam seems to have been Sonn's resident writer in the early sessions, whilst Barry Galbraith is the best of the fine rhythm guitar players. John Williams (yes, it's him) has one piano statement in the first session, and Nat Pierce is quietly efficient, also contributing to the library.
Sonn was a bit of a mystery man, spending most of his career by choice in Mexico. Jordi Pujol has accumulated all the known material in his booklet. Although he's pretty anonymous in his influence, Sonn had the sense to put together amazing groups and then to keep out of their way.
Steve Voce, Jazz Journal (February 2016)
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