Lenny Hambro (as, fl), Eddie Bert (tb), Hank Jones, René Hernández, Wade Legge (p), Eddie Costa (vib), Sal Salvador, Dick Garcia (g), Clyde Lombardi, Luis Barreto (b), Sid Bulkin, Gus Johnson (d), Babs Gonzales (vcl), José Mangual, Mongo Santamaria (perc)
Reference: FSRCD 857_2
Bar code: 8427328608572
Influenced in part by Charlie Parker, but a spiritual kin to Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter in particular, New Yorker Lenny Hambro (1923-1995), was an alto saxophonist, flutist and clarinet player. He joined Gene Krupas band at 17 until he was drafted in 1943, and rejoined him after he was discharged. He also played with the bands of Billy Butterfield and Bobby Byrne. In 1951, after a stint with Pupi Campos Latin band, he joined Ray McKinley, doubling on all the reeds. Working out of New York, McKinleys band gave him the chance to record with many groups, including Machitos rhythm section, for the Savoy label.
Forming his own band with pianist Wade Legge in April 1955, he recorded two quintet albums, Message from Hambro (1955) for Columbia and the excellent The Nature of Things (1956), featuring a fresh, vibrant Eddie Costa on piano, for its subsidiary, Epic.
The last three tracks of this set were recorded in Warsaw, while he was touring Eastern Europe with Ray McKinleys Glenn Miller Band in 1957, where he was manager, featured soloist, and leader of his own quintet within the band.
Perhaps the most telling accolade for this hugely capable player came from Ellington whenever Hodges was unavailable, Hambro was Dukes first choice to replace him as lead.
"Jordi Pujols Fresh Sound label is one of the leading European record companies in repackaging and reissuing jazz sessions from the 1950s and 60s. One of the joys of exploring Fresh Sounds vast catalog is discovering talents who are long forgotten. Lenny Hambro was an excellent altoist (equally influenced by Johnny Hodges and Charlie Parker) and flutist. In his career he had important associations with Gene Krupa, Chico OFarrill, Machito and the Glenn Miller Orchestra (when it was led by Ray McKinley). While he appeared on many sessions as a studio musician, all of Hambros dates as a leader are on the two-CD set Lenny Hambro Quintet. Dating from 1953-57, Hambro is teamed with trombonist Eddie Bert in a quintet also featuring singer Babs Gonzalez, matched with Bert and Machitos rhythm section, heads quintets with either Wade Legge or Eddie Costa on piano and sometimes guitarist Sal Salvador, and is featured with a sextet drawn from the Miller Orchestra for a live miniset from Poland. Lenny Hambro plays beautifully throughout this definitive reissue."
Scott Yanow -Los Angeles Jazz Scene (October, 2015)
"Heard here in music culled from a wide variety of sources including 10- and 12-inch LPs, 45s and such, Hambro seems to have been recorded more frequently than many of us recall. He plays throughout with a sweet, clean tone that was so pure that Ellington always sought him as first-choice lead alto in Johnny Hodgess absence. The style is a mix of Benny Carter and Hodges with the strongest influence being Charlie Parker. Hambro was also a consummate swinger, seemingly never happier than when in a combo with Eddie Costa and Gus Johnson, which he is on five tracks here. His flute sound was also pure, similar to the classical style.
The first four tracks here feature a hard-swinging unit with Eddie Bert on trombone and Hank Jones at the piano and on two of them Babs Gonzales demonstrates his bouncy bop, scat vocalising effectively. A bit off the mainstream certainly, Gonzales was one of the first to put bop and scat together and come up with some crazy modernist sounds. Like all Fresh Sound CDs this two-CD set offers good value on a strong cross section of Hambros small group music. Most of it is here and only his big-band contributions are missing. Perhaps the material for a future Fresh Sound venture?"
-Derek Ansell (Jazz Journal, July 2015)
"I play the tenor sax, and the reason I never attempted playing the alto sax is because I realized Id never sound like Johnny Hodges, since no other alto player seemed able to accomplish the feat. Most alto players get to bright and blare out their notes. Even Charlie Parker admitted to sacrificing his tone quality for creative chops.
Well, up comes this guy Lenny Hambro (1923-1995) who made his career with Gene Krupa, Billy Butterfield and Ray McKinleys band before touring regularly with a Glenn Miller Tribute Band. Somewhere along the line, he lead and cut a handful of small group sessions that are simply astounding. Hes got the bebop bug of Bird, and as far as his tone quality-to give you a hint, Duke Ellington had Hambro as his on call replacement for Hodges. Convinced yet?
The first disc starts off with a hint of bebop heaven as Babs Gonzales does some jive on Sad Eyes and Ham Nose while Hambro mixes the lilt of Hodges with the kineticism of Parker. A handful of session with the famed Machitos Rhythm section sends you dancing on the tables with Mucho Pompero, Mambo Barbarita and a wonderful Si You Later. The two albums of his own, Message From Hambro and The Nature of Things include Wade Legge/p and Eddie Costa/p respectively and are episodes of saxophone delight. He sighs like a diva on I Get A Kick Out of You and Easy to Love while skates across the stage like Fred Astaire on Sweet Sue, Just You and Comin Thru. A trio of tunes from a Polish gig has him bopping like Lester Young on Jumping in the Rain and Bernies Tune. The only question youre going to ask by the time this is over is Is this all? Cherish what youve got, my friend. Maybe something else will pop up. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. Heres looking at you, kid."
George W. Harris (Sept. 24, 2015)
-Jazz Weekly, Los Angeles
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