Tommy Shepard (tb, lead), Nick Travis (tp), Hal McKusick (as, cl), Sam Marowitz (as), Al Cohn (ts, b-cl, arr), Charlie O’Kane (bs), Barry Galbraith (g), Nat Pierce (p, arr), Milt Hinton (b), Osie Johnson (d), Manny Albam (arr), Richard Wess (p, arr, lead), Frank Rehak (tb), Jerry Sanfino (as, fl), Johnny Smith, Mundell Lowe, Tony Mottola (g), Aaron Bell (b)
Reference: FSRCD 966
Bar code: 8427328609661
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EAST COAST SERIES · Jazz & Swing Orchestras
Rare & Collectible Albums by Unsung Bandleaders
When the dust from the collapse of the Swing Era settled, there were few big bands left that had survived. Yet, because they loved the swinging drive of a full-on jazz orchestra, a series of adventurous and unsung bandleaders optimistically organized some fine, but short-lived big and medium-sized orchestras that were packed with jazz and studio musicians, holding the flag of Swing high.
The band on Shepard’s Flock is—almost—an All-Star band. It was the debut album of trombonist Tommy Shepard, and the leader, naturally, is heavily featured on trombone, playing with the soft, velvety sound of Tommy Dorsey, his main influence. The memories of Dorsey’s band frequently illuminate the scene, as the musicians load through familiar material and some originals. The arrangements, which stress tight harmonic writing, are all by Manny Albam and Nat Pierce, except Darn That Dream and Stop! Look and Run! which were worked out by Al Cohn, and they all keep in a rolling, relaxed groove.
Music She Digs the Most is a well-organized series of sessions arranged and conducted by pianist Richard Wess. Wess has Cabin in the Sky all to himself, and he comes off as a flowing and sensitive player. Cohn, always blowing with taste and his handsome tone; Travis sounds great throughout, particularly on Lover Man, a moving and declarative solo vehicle for his horn. Rehak managed to express himself effectively, and Richard Wess’ writing on the heads is neat and spare, and helps the group achieve a nice big band feel.
"Fresh Sound Records continues to find wonderfully obscure recordings from the 50s and 60s by unsung jazz artists. They’ve recently started a series of West and East Coast CD sets that focus on studio orchestras that were filled with guys that had successful careers in the Swing Era, and were now finding work playing for TV shows and movies.
The first East Coast Series set features Tommy Shepard’s Shepard’s Flock and Richard Wess’ Music She Digs the Most, both from the mid 50s. Al Cohn and Nat Pierce share the charts with Manny Albam and the band has a Basie-alumnus collection of Osie Johnson/dr, Milt Hinton/b, Nat Pierce/p, Al Cohn/ts along with Barry Galbraith/g, Nick Travis/tp and Hal McKusick/as-cl. Galbraith delivers a lovely “Prelude to a Kiss” and leader Shepherd’s trombone is warm during “The Touch of Your Lips.” The woodwinds do wonders with a reflective “Darn that Dream” with Cohn and McKusick doing some nice harmonies during “Misty.” Richard Wess’ Orchestra includes guitarists Johnny Smith, Mundell Lowe or Tony Mottola along with Hinton, Johnson, Travis and Cohn in their respective chairs. The team swings with ease on “Autumn Leaves” and is peppy on “Hey Now” and the gents deliver a gospel feel on “Cabin in the sky. Obscure gems."
George W. Harris (August 13, 2018)