Shelly Manne & His Men
Recording Date: Dec 18, 1953-Jun 24, 1957
Shelly Manne's second "workshop" 10" LP is even more advanced than his first, at times reaching outside the West Coast cool jazz idiom toward contemporary classical music - with no cover tunes this time. Where the first album was centered on a sax ensemble, Vol. 2 is devoted to a four-man brass group - with Russ Freeman or Marty Paich on piano and Joe Mondragon on bass - and this seems to have unleashed a wilder surge of creative freedom among Manne's six arrangers/composers. Indeed, some pieces virtually abandon jazz altogether. Bill Holman's "Lullaby" amounts to a gentle, free-flowing etude for brass and mallets, and Jimmy Giuffre's "Alternation" has no apparent key signature or steady pulse, a series of abstract proclamations colored by percussive effects. Shorty Rogers' extended "Shapes, Motion, Colors" takes off in all kinds of directions, with some straight-forward swinging portions that resemble contemporary classical music and a dialog for bass and tom-toms to close. However, Bob Cooper keeps his "Divertimento for Brass and Rhythm" swinging at all times, Marty Paich's "Dimension in Thirds" is a joyous piece loaded with brasses playing in thirds (big surprise), and Jack Montrose's "Etude De Concert" is a serious, intricate piece of work that somehow maintains a jazz feeling even when not explicitly spelling out the pulse. Manne is such a great, empathetic drummer that he is able to give most of this experimentation a solid rhythmic core on which to play. Given this music's esoteric bent, it's not surprising that it was reissued on CD only in a limited edition.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Continuing the West Coast workshop idea begun in Shelly Manne's first album (C2503), six leading jazz composers were asked to write the music for this set Since the first album featured reeds, we felt it might be interesting to explore the possibilities of the brass sound. Each composer was given complete freedom within the limits of the instrumentation. Each was asked, also, to state briefly something about his composition.
Divertimento for Brass & Rhythm by Bob Cooper. This composition was written with each musician who was to record it and his particular capabilities in mind. It was organized in an imitative style, repeating the first four steps of a minor scale as a basis for development.
I tried to keep the feeling basically jazz to take advantage of the individual interpretative potential, solowise as well as paitwise. Most of the writing is in a contrapuntal style with some block harmony employed to maintain uniform motion.
Alternation by Jimmy Giuffre. The music is atonal. This creates an abundance of new melodic possibilities for jazz, which is usually tonal.
The composition is completely contrapuntal, the harmonies being the result of the melodic lines. Ordinarily, in jazz, the melodies are fitted to the harmonies. By using the various devices of imitation, the original thematic material was developed into a complete composition.
The title was derived from the form. There is an alternation between two themes in the second rondo form. Jazz usually has only one theme and uses the two- or three-part song forms.
The bass, piano, and drums play melodies rather than a rhythmic beat. Another important factor is that to achieve the feeling desired, this composition requires jazz instrumentalists.
One of the strongest influences behind this and all my work has been composer-teacher Dr. Wesley La Violette, with whom I've studied for seven years. I feel that his teachings will have a marked effect upon the future of jazz.
Lullaby by Bill Holman. This short piece is not intended to portray any particular emotion or to describe an experience or a scenic view. Instead, it is designed to create a mood to which the individual listener can ascribe the qualities he feels. In my case, it was the simple directness of a children's piece or lullaby.
A word as to its construction. Composed mainly of freely moving melodies, it is set in a traditional three-part song form to which was added an introduction derived from a fragment of the main theme. In the main body of the piece, the theme is first played as a solo and then briefly discussed by the four voices in the following few bars. This is repeated, with a different voice exposing the theme. The middle section is composed of material unrelated to the first, giving some contrast before returning to the main theme again.
Etude de Concert by Jack Montrose. The introduction is slow, with the piano stating the melodic germ upon which most of the work is based. It is soon taken up by the brass choir, which evolves it into a change of tempo and a brief interlude during which the percussion establishes the tempo and mood for the principal theme. This section has a rhythmic interplay between brass and percussion, with harmonic and rhythmic contrast soon to be supplied by the subordinate theme. An "elision" cadence leads into a 10-bar brass interlude which in turn evolves into the development section, marked by solo drum passages in answer to short contrapuntal brass statements derived wholly from the original material.
The drum solos continue while the brass quartet is soon replaced by piano and bass. This leads into piano and bass solos with the drums playing a repetitious rhythmic fragment reminiscent of the original melody. A short interlude following the trumpet chorus brings about the recapitulation which is a stretto, with first the trumpets and then the trombone and tuba entering in that order.
Etude de Concert is first and last a jazz composition. The main objective I had I mind was that it must swing.
Dimension in Thirds by Marty Paich. This is a homophonic piece of music making use of thirds and its relative interval, the tenth. The lines for the most part move independently of each other, but are treated in a vertical sense as opposed to the polyphonic treatment, in which they move more or less in imitation. The development of ideas is left to the discretion of the jazz soloists. The harmonies are largely based on the cycle of fifths, a style of writing popular in present-day jazz.
I feel that this project, using brass, is of great importance in jazz, showing as it does, that brass instruments can maintain a flexible feeling whether moving in fast passages or reaching for awkward intervals. The combinations of different sounds are definitely limited, because brass must remain in their respective registers, not being able to invert their position, as is possible in string quartets or small woodwind groups by means of contrasting ideas, dissonances, and rhythmic variations. If it can be said that contemporary jazz writing is moving toward symphonic composition, the composers of this album are undoubtedly among those who are closing the gap. The future holds one important question: how will the jazz composer be able to integrate the sounds of Bartok, the rhythms of Stravinsky, the twelve-tone of Schoenberg, and still maintain the most important element in jazz, to swing.
Shapes, Motion, Colors by Shorty Rogers. I believe all art and nature is composed either of shapes, motion, colors, or a combination of them. My composition includes these in the form of: (1) shapes: harmonic shapes (chords, perpendiculars). (2) motion: contrapuntal lines interweaving. (3) colors: achieved by means of orchestration devices.
I didn't consciously try for any specific overall form, preferring free forms in my own thinking. I did however use many devices within this free form, but as ends in themselves and not as means to an end. I realized, after I finished this work, that it had taken the shape of a first rondo, but the form was really a result of an instinct for balance.
In my opinion all good jazz musicians are composers. I have utilized them as composers by having parts in which I merely wrote instructions and left the rest to the men to compose spontaneously, mutual instinct being the connecting link between us.
This is a reflection of my likes in music. I tried only to write what I like, not concerning myself with such thoughts as Is it jazz? or Is it legitimate? or Will anyone like it? Shapes, Motion, Colors is dedicated to my teacher Dr. Wesley La Violette.
These notes appeared on the original album liner of C2511.
Shelly Manne is in context anywhere in jazz. He can ignite and keep aflame a straightaway, free-blowing session; and he is unintimidated by the increasingly involved demands of those writers who are working to shape jazz into more durable, more cohesive, and often more extended forms. Shelly makes it-wailing, reading, both at once, and in between- because his is a restless, inquiring spirit that feeds and grows on challenge.
"Most jazzmen," he points out, "don't like to play extended written compositions because it doesn't give them enough room to express themselves. I find it broadens my musical knowledge to play such works; and I feel that if the composer is also a jazz musician, he keeps the traces of jazz in terms of conception and sound in his compositions so that the works are played better by jazz musicians and in my own case, are enjoyable in the further challenges they offer."
In Shelly's collected works on Contemporary, there's an impressive amount of evidence concerning his viable interest in various facets of exploratory scored modern jazz. There was the 1953 Fugue by Jimmy Giuffre recorded under Shelly's leadership (C3507), and an arresting ten-inch LP (C2511) of 1953-54 sessions that gave hearing room to experimental works by Giuffre, Bill Holman, Bob Cooper, Shorty Rogers, Marty Paich, and Jack Montrose. More recently, Shelly commissioned a long work by Bill Holman, Quartet, that I feel is one of the more organic successes in extending jazz forms without constricting the essential spirit-freedom of the music itself (C3519). Because of Shelly's continuing curiosity and adaptability, he can also usually be found in the band, even at sessions not his own, when other experiments are being tested at Contemporary. He has appeared, for example, on albums by Lyle Murphy (C3506), Duane Tatro (C3514), and Music to Listen to Red Norvo By (C3534) on which Bill Smith's Divertimento took up all of the second side.
Of Divertimento, Paul Sampson of the The Washington Post noted: "One of the principal merits of Smith's piece is its care-free feeling. There is a need in jazz for more exploration of light-hearted good humor, and Divertimento sails happily along (even the slow movement is light and floating). It is by no means inconsequential, however. The themes are interesting and skillfully developed, and the whole composition is carefully written."
From the present Bill Smith Concerto for Clarinet & Combo, which consumes the first half of this collection, I get a similar feeling of exactly balanced airiness, a kind of writing that leaves space for jazz mobiles to move with gentle spontaneity. There is an ordered pleasure in making form alive (as well as a graceful lyricism in the second movement) that pervades the Concerto; and it is executed by Shelly and his colleagues with appositely precise lightness and resilient verve.
The piece was not commissioned by Shelly, but Smith was pleased that Shelly wanted to include it in this album since he is aware of Shelly's sympathy for works that stretch out and in and that generally further orient jazzmen and listeners to more of the possibilities of form-play in jazz.
From Rome, where Smith is currently writing as a result of a Prix de Rome grant, he supplied the following outline: "In the Concerto for Clarinet & Combo, I have tried to write a composition in the jazz idiom constructed like a concerto. In this case, the solo part is mostly improvised. The improvisation sometimes is a variation of melodic ideas previously presented by the combo (for instance, in the first entrance of the clarinet in the 1st and 2nd movements) or it's free improvisation over a predetermined harmonic structure (as in the middle sections of the 1st and 2nd movements). The forms of the movements correspond roughly to those of the classic concerto. The 1st movement is like the 'sonato-allegro' form of a concerto. Two large contrasting sections are played by the combo; there is a varied repetition of these ideas by the soloist; a development section; and finally, a return to the original material. The second theme of the 1st movement is used as the basis for the slow movement which has an overall ABA design. The 3rd movement is like a rondo (ABACABA) in which a new melody is added each time the A section returns."
As for the clarinet cadenza at the end of the final movement, Shelly comments: "Bill had heard me play improvised duets on previous recordings; and on the drum parts, he didn't write anything for the clarinet cadenza. He just wanted me to back him up as I felt it from what he played, spontaneously with no previous planning, and I think that luckily, on that particular cadenza, it came out very well. Bill is really a great clarinet player. He plays the whole instrument from top to bottom with a warm sound and flawless technique."
Bill Smith, who was born in Sacramento, California, September 22, 1926, went to school in Oakland. He began to study clarinet when he was ten, and two years later, organized a school dance band which he continued to head through high school. In 1941, Smith started to study harmony and orchestration, and wrote his first work, a quintet for woodwinds that received its first performance that year. He studied at Juilliard in 1945-46, doubling at Kelly's Stables and also working with a symphony orchestra conducted by Dean Dixon. In 1946-47, Smith studied composition at Mills College in California with Darius Milhaud. He became friendly with another Milhaud student, Dave Brubeck, and from 1947-53, he played with Dave's octet intermittently, a group that was trying to juggle classical forms and jazz content simultaneously, somewhat before the practice had become frequent in most other parts of the country.
Smith's training continued at the University of California in Berkeley where he received a BA in 1950. He studied further with the remarkably underperformed American master, Roger Sessions, at the University of California and was awarded an MA in music in 1951. The winning of the Prix de Paris in 1951 enabled him to study clarinet for a year at the Paris Conservatory (it is generally acknowledged in symphonic circles that the French, by and large, have the most honorable and demanding tradition of classical woodwind playing). In 1953-54, Smith was acting instructor at the University of California; and for the next academic year, he taught and conducted at San Francisco Conservatory. During this time, he also won the composer-in-residence at Montalvo, he taught at the University of Southern California from 1955-57, and is currently on a year's leave of absence from the school. He is married to a former classmate at Mills, and is the father of three.
In the summer of 1957, Smith was honored by being selected as one of the Fromm Players at the Berkshire Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts (part of Tanglewood). They were present to perform any works required of them, including those of student composers. Harold Schonberg noted in the New York Times that these "eleven young musicians... had the faculty and observers, and the students too, running around in a constant euphoric glow. These musicians, everybody swears, are all geniuses, can read anything, play anything, do anything, and are veritable Bunyans of modernism." Bunyan Smith, after Tanglewood was over, strayed over to the adjoining School of Jazz which was starting its first term and stayed long enough to keep his hand in the jazz milieu by lecturing there. Summarized Milton Bass in his aptly titled The Lively Arts column in The Berkshire Eagle: "Smith not only composes in both the classical and jazz fields, but also plays a fine clarinet, which can be formal or as improvisational as the occasion demands." The occasion on this recording demands both sides of Smith, in both his playing and writing, and it is a beguiling matching of personality hemispheres to hear...
- Nat Hentoff (October 6, 1957)