Blue Mitchell, Clark Terry, Ernie Royal (tp), Jimmy Cleveland (tb), Julius Watkins (frh), Jimmy Heath, Jerome Richardson, Oliver Nelson, 'Babe' Clarke (saxes), Bobby Timmons, Junior Mance (p), Ron Carter, George Duvivier (b), Albert 'Tootie' Heath (d)
Reference: FSRCD 828
Bar code: 8427328608282
Producer Orrin Keepnews assembled the Riverside Jazz Stars to record the music from the 1961 Broadway musical Kean, a rich melodic score by Robert Wright and George Forrest. Using brass, reeds, and rhythmthree of eachthis Jazz Version of Kean was arranged by Ernie Wilkins, Jimmy Heath and Melba Liston, emphasising the melodic, hard-swinging and soulful qualities of East Coast jazz.
In the band, conducted by Wilkins and Liston, most of the solo space was taken by three brilliant jazzmen, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor sax Jimmy Heath, and pianist Bobby Timmons, while Julius Watkins and Clark Terry are also prominent on French horn and flugelhorn respectively.
The Soul of Hollywood, the second album here, is a collection of well-known movie songs and a tribute to the talents of pianist Junior Mance and arranger Melba Liston, who provided the vividly-colored orchestral settings to Mances earthy and forceful piano. His gentle solos reflect the melodies, but he can project a variety of moods and sustain interest, while Clark Terry plays buoyantly on The Apartment and on Green Dolphin. All in all, this is an enjoyable set for which Liston managed to extract full and diverse measures of soul and heart from the music of Hollywood.
"Heres another entry in the Fresh Sound Cabinet of Curiosities and an interesting conjunction of some forgotten sessions. First up, the Riverside Jazz Stars (as assembled by producer Orrin Keepnews) tackle the principal songs from Kean, a largely overlooked musical about the Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean which ran for just 92 performances on Broadway in 1961, without leaving much of a mark. Given the likes of Bobby Timmons on piano, trumpeters Blue Mitchell and Clark Terry with Tootie Heath on drums, you can assume that the playing is of a very high order indeed. And so it proves, the arrangements by Jimmy Heath, Ernie Wilkins and Melba Liston eliciting the best from these fine musicians albeit on modest material. Is there much here of genuine consequence? Probably not.
The second part of this compilation is a repeat of a Jazzland album featuring pianist Junior Mance with another pack of top studio cats in a set of movie themes, orchestrated by Liston. Mance is the main solo voice and once again, the performances are highly accomplished. If youre looking for jazz versions of Maria or The Apartment or Exodus then this is for you. Formulaic music, designed to tap into a then current interest in soundtrack and cast albums, but with a jazz twist. Think Music For Pleasure. Ideal background for a themed 60s-style party."
Peter Vacher (October, 2014)
The Jazz Rag
"I will confess, immediately, my ignorance of the musical Kean which apparently was based on the career of the great early 19th century Shakespearean actor focussing mainly on his tempestuous love life. It opened on Broadway in early November 1961 and after 92 performances ended its run of less than three months. Maybe such a short run inhibited further productions including perhaps a London run. Nevertheless Google informs me that Anoriginal cast recording was released by Columbia Records. This album is one of the most valuable original cast albums because of its scarcity.
So, I must comment on music I scarcely know and on jazz arrangements played here by highly talented musicians delivering a tuneful, mightily swinging, thoroughly enjoyable concert. What more need I say.
The other half of this double bill had instant appeal to me as the Founder Editor of Film Music on the Web. These arrangements, it should be said, are idiosyncratic so anyone expecting slavishly emulated performances of the original conceptions of much loved movie themes will be disappointed.
Pianist, Junior Mance, was a member of several notable jazz groups (Dizzie Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley etc.) before forming his own highly successful trio. Arranger Melba Liston first shone as a trombonist in orchestras led by Gillespie and Quincy Jones. She has suited the makeup of this orchestra to fit the needs of the specific film themes. Just to mention a few here: Exodus still retains a basically noble and heroic mood, Max Steiners Taras Theme from Gone With the Wind manages to retain all its epic sweep and its romantic intensity and its intimacy while the immoral morality tale that was The Apartment has an added raciness and tenderness through Melba Liston shrewd vision. Even the sacrosanct Brahms Third Symphony sounds fresh and entrancing (Well, after all it was once used as the popular song, (Youre) The Song Angels Sing in the film Goodbye Again). An entertaining album."
Ian Lace (October, 2014)
-The Soul of Hollywood
"The Soul of Hollywood was an interesting departure for Junior Mance. Most of the time he has been heard in small-group settings, but on this album the pianist is backed by an orchestra arranged and conducted by trombonist Melba Liston. With Orrin Keepnews serving as producer, Mance and Liston turn their attention to film music -- and the films that they acknowledge range from musicals (West Side Story) to Westerns (One-Eyed Jacks). Because the material is heavily arranged, Mance doesn't have as much room to stretch out and improvise. Nonetheless, he manages to get in his share of noteworthy solos, and Liston's tasteful arrangements make The Soul of Hollywood well worth the price of admission. In some cases, albums of film music can become albums of background music, but that isn't a problem on this release (which was recorded in 1961 and early 1962). Liston's arrangements are always in good taste, and that is true whether the participants are tackling "Maria" from West Side Story, "Tara's Theme" from Gone With the Wind, or Greek star Manos Hadjidakis' charming theme from Never on Sunday. Meanwhile, "On Green Dolphin Street" and the haunting "Invitation" are both well-known Bronislaw Kaper standards from films that starred Lana Turner.
The interesting thing is that, even though "Invitation" has been recorded countless times over the years, the movie that Kaper wrote it for was far from a box office smash; "Invitation" is from 1950's very underrated A Life of Her Own, which stars Turner as a supermodel who falls in love with a married man but ultimately decides against breaking up his marriage. The Soul of Hollywood isn't quite in a class with Gil Evans or Oliver Nelson's best work, but it's still a decent example of orchestral jazz."
Alex Henderson -All Music Guide
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