Shorty Rogers (tp, flh), Conte Candoli, Johnny Audino, Ray Triscari, Jimmy Zito (tp), Harry Betts, Frank Rosolino, George Roberts (tb), Art Pepper, Bud Shank (as), Jimmy Giuffre (cl), Richie Kamuca, Harold Land, Bill Perkins, Bill Holman (ts), Chuck Gentry (bs), Pete Jolly (p), Joe Mondragon (b), Mel Lewis, Frank Capp (d)
Reference: 74321 421212
Bar code: 743214212127
What do Shorty Rogers, Larry Clinton, Les Brown, Hal Mooney, Duke Ellington, Herbie Fields, the Nutty Squirrels and Gene Krupa have in common? All recorded a jazz interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. Of the bunch, Rogers's The Swingin' Nutcracker is probably the hippest and most fun to hear. It still jumps like caramel popcorn on a hot skillet.
The album was recorded for RCA in three sessions—one with a sax quintet and two with a big band. All of the arrangements are by Rogers. The most remarkable aspect about the score is how boldly it re-imagines the original. The Swingin' Nutcracker is contemporary from an American perspective without patronizing the European original. It's a purely West Coast Nutcracker with a 1960 TV theme-song sound. Nearly 60 years after its recording, the music still sounds fresh and sassy. I only wish Rogers had given West Side Story the same West Coast makeover.
-Marc Myers (December 24, 2018)