Although jazzmen based on the West Coast are frequently regarded as rhythmically moribund compared to their East Coast counterparts, there’s nothing effete about Boss Sounds!, a reissue of a 1966 Atlantic release. Recorded live at his club in Hollywood, Shelly Manne sets the pace with his lively yet precise drumming. With an impressive array of rhythms executed by sticks and brushes, adroitly placed beats on the bass drum, and a keen sense of dynamics, he constantly moves the music forward without overplaying. Aside from a couple of eight bar solos on pianist Russ Freeman’s “You Name It,” Manne prefers to stay in the background, directing the action and inspiring the other members of the quintet.
In all matters musical, Manne (who died in 1984) knew how to lead a band. His choice of material for the recording is consistently interesting, and the arrangements (including one each by Jimmy Rowles, Don Specht, and Freeman) are filled with touches that make them very different from standard blowing vehicles. For example, “The Breeze And I” includes bossa nova and straight jazz rhythms, implies a shift in and out of three-quarter time, and a smattering of gospel chords.
Longtime Manne associates bassist Monty Budwig, trumpeter Conte Condoli, and Freeman are on hand to play the charts with finesse and verve as well as taking invigorating solo turns. One of the alto saxophone’s unsung heroes, Frank Strozier, is in brilliant form. Utilizing an acerbic tone, formidable technical prowess, and never straying very far from the blues, each of his solos displays a different aspect of a fully formed style. On his composition, “Frank’s Tune,” he’s all over the horn, deftly mixing skittering, bop-influenced sixteenth note runs with more deliberate lines which are occasionally punctuated by shrieks, honks, and bellows.
Track List:Margie; Idle One; The Breeze And I; Frank’s Tune; Wandering; You Name It.