Paul Benson (1st tenor), Julius Robinson (2nd tenor), Johnny Oglesby (baritone), Charles “Woody” Woodford (bass), Sam Reed (as), Leroy Lovett, Junior Mance (p), Billy Davis, Les Spann (g), Jay Roland (vib), Winston Williams, Henry Grimes, Arthur Harper (b), William “Bubbles” Ross, Grady Tate, Roy McCurdy (d), Melba Liston (arr)
Bar code: 8427328611251
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The Metronomes were a vocal group formed in 1959 in Philadelphia noted for their fresh and engaging sound based on expanded jazz-style harmonies.
Its members were: Paul Benson, first tenor, Julius Robinson, second tenor, Johnny Oglesby, baritone, and Charles “Woody” Woodford, bass. Although they were virtually unknown, pianist and producer Leroy “Lee” Lovett saw their talents and immediately decided to record them for his new Wynne label. For the recording, Lovett organized a sextet with himself as piano soloist, and with Sam Reed, another Philadelphia jazzman, featured on alto saxophone. The album “and now…TheMetronomes” was released in October 1959 and marked the introduction and beginning of the group. As time passed, the group gradually developed more cohesiveness and unity together, as they began to attract some attention in hometown engagements.
In 1961, Conrad Moore replaced Oglesby as baritone, and shortly thereafter the group made its debut at Philadelphia’s Peps Club. Melba Liston, a former trombonist and arranger for Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, was present for the performance. “They made a guest appearance at the club,” said Melba, “singing mostly standards, and we all noted that they had a really nice mix and what seemed like a pretty laidback, upbeat style.” So the manager of the group and Melba planned to record an album, and the Metronomes-Liston alliance went into action. Before recording for the Jazzland label, Miss Liston worked a long time on all the vocal and instrumental arrangements and also chose much of the repertoire for the “Something Big!” album. Pianist Junior Mance is also a brilliant contributor to the excellent rhythm quartet that Melba put together, and that provides appropiate and distinctive support to The Metronomes. As Melba said, “I think there’s plenty here for people to listen to and dig…” to and dig…”
"The Metronomes were four guys from Philadelphia who liked to sing together. It was 1959 and doo-wop ruled. The Dells had their huge hit with ‘Oh What A Nite.’ But there were a ton of great Philly doo-wop groups; The Delfonics, The Orleans, The Moonglows, The Spaniels, and more.
The Metronomes wanted to be different. They sang jazz. They only made two records. The first, AND NOW… THE METRONOMES was arranged and produced by piano player Leroy Lovett. Sam Reed played outstanding alto sax on a lot of the tunes.
The Metronomes could easily have sung doo-wop. Listen to the first track ‘Pennies From Heaven.’ Some of the lyrics even include “doo-wop, doo-wop.”
The song’s upbeat with tight vocal harmonies. Doo-wop groups often had minimal instrumentation, sometimes none at all. What pushed The Metronomes toward jazz was the addition of sax, guitar, piano, and some jazzier arrangements.
Melba Liston arranged the second Metronomes record, SOMETHING BIG! In the liner notes she said she pushed the guys pretty hard. I’m glad she did. She helped make a great jazz vocal album. Melba Liston played trombone but I think her arranging is what she’ll be remembered for. I’ve always loved the work she did with Randy Weston.
There are two Monk tunes on SOMETHING BIG! I swear I hear Brian Wilson on the wordless ‘Monk’s Mood.’ The Beachboys always listed The Four Freshmen as an influence. Why not The Metronomes as well?
‘Round Midnight ’is slowed way down but the vocal arrangements are like Monk’s playing. They’re angular and complex with some dissonant harmonies. I bet this was a hard one to sing. Junior Mance does a fine job on piano. SOMETHING BIG! had great players behind the singers.
Besides Mance, there’s Les Spain on guitar, Henry Grimes or Arthur Harper on bass, and Grady Tate or Roy McCurdy on drums.
A Night In Tunisia’ is one of the hippest tunes on the CD. The phrasing reminds me of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross.
Most of the lead singing is done by tenors Paul Benson and Julius Robinson. Baritone Conrad Moore takes the lead on ‘Love Is the Thing” and he nails it. The harmonies with the rest of the group are spot on.
If you like jazz vocals pick up this Fresh Sound Records reissue of The Metronomes. I think you’ll be impressed by the group’s vocal precision and the way they interact with each other. Fresh Sound is really good about including pictures of the original covers plus the liner notes."
—Tim Larsen (Jun 8, 2023)
Ringer of the Week ★★★★★
"Really? A black vocal quartet in the 1950s doing jazz? You sure it’s not doo wop? I’m sure!
First tenor Paul Benson, second tenor Julius Robinson, baritone John Oglesby/Conrad Moore and bass Charles “Woody” Woodford took the smooth delivery of the Ink Spots, added a dash of the Jordanaires, and the ideas of The Four Freshman to come up with their own unique and clever vocal team. This two album collection might be all you’ll ever hear from them, so you better enjoy it!
The first album from 1959 has them backed by a soulful stew of Sam Reed/as, Leroy Lovett/p, Billy Davis/g, Jay Roland/vib, Winston Williams/b and William Ross/dr for a gorgeous collection of smoother than silk takes of “You’re Mine You”, “Fools Rush In” and “Don’t Blame Me” with clever and concise solos by Reed and Davis at just the right time. Fast forward to 1962 for your next chance, and the team has heavy hitters Junior Mance/p, Les Spann/g, Henry Grimes-Arthur Harper/b and Grady Tate-Roy McCurdy/dr, all conducted by Melba Liston. Wait until you hear what they do with “Monk’s Mood” and “’Round Midnight”, and hang on to your hat for “A Night In Tunisia”. A take of “Back Door Blues” shows the grit under the nails, while “Til I Met You” glows like a full moon.
The original liner notes and some writing by Ms. Liston give a bit of background, but nothing is going to take the place of just sitting down with this collection, listening to it, and if you’re not singing along by the third spin, something is wrong with you!!!"
—George W. Harris (March 23, 2023)