Considering his importance, Buddy Collette should be better known than he is. He’s played with Mingus, Rosolino, Gerald Wilson, and (in his most famous gig) Chico Hamilton. He was a major part of the “West Coast Sound” during its heyday in the ‘Fifties, and played on many “woodwind jazz” dates for Contemporary Records. He also suggested to Eric Dolphy (his successor at Hamilton’s) to study the bass clarinet. Outstanding credentials, and still overlooked – but not by everybody. In 1996, the American Association of University Women sponsored a concert in Thousand Oaks. Surrounding himself with West Coast stalwarts, playing four horns, Buddy delivers a strength, energy, and swing that defy his years. It’s a great feeling, and a great record.
“Villes Ville is The Place, Man” sets the tone for the album. Barely out of the gate, we are already in JATP country – the horns blare and the rhythm pops. Everyone has fun with it, and there’s a game of quotes: Collette (on alto) does “L’amour” from CARMEN and “Sumertime”, George Bohanon has “March of the Galdiators”, then “It Don’t Mean a thing”, and bassist Richard Simon does “Bei Mir Bist du Schon”! It goes on forever, and it’s too short – always a good sign.
“Veda” has a sharp opening from Simon, then hits a gentle samba pattern. The reeds are warm, and Bohanon blows mightily. Sam Most opens with wistful tenor, trilling pretty and soaring mellow over the surging drums. Bohanon’s tone is round, and he does it soft, swaggering a bit near the end. Collette’s dainty flute is a joy, dancing gently with the bass and claves. Ronnell Bright’s solo is rhythmic, with strutting ascension and nice chords.
Bright next takes the mike for the first of two vocals. “Sea Mist” and “Talk About Loving You” are Bright compositions, with vibrato-filled sound and equally lush piano. They’re an acquired taste (a friend finds them corny) but they do something for me. You rarely hear a male voice this tender, and the lyrics are nice. Think of them as a break from the swinging – which comes back with a vengeance.
“Jazz for Thousand Oaks” is Collette’s tribute ti the event. His lyrical tenor is followed by a similar bit from Most’s alto – it goes Buddy one better. Al Aarons has a gentle flugelhorn, and Bohanon is warm as ever; he was really “on” this day. He quotes “Get Happy”, appropriately. The band sings the title at the conclusion, and Buddy cracks up as he thanks the crowd – they thank him in return.
“Andre” is a happy day kind of tune, and Buddy’s alto goes walking down the street, smiling as he goes. Aarons has his best turn of the day, as he runs to catch up with Buddy. Most is reflective, then steps forward to give us some heat. Simon is more forceful than Viola’s guitar solo before him; he bounces, snaps strings, and gives us “Blues in the Closet”. Buddy comes back for a nice moment, and the ensemble shines at the end.
“Hunt & Peck” is, if anything, sunnier than the last, with bright theme and two flutes. Buddy chirps soulfully, Aarons has a mute this time, and brings some blues to the proceedings. Most’s alto flute is a little breathy at times, but he flies as well; a hummingbird maybe. Buddy riffs on clarinet behind Bohanon’s solo, and the others soon join him. Viols slinks with a good round tone; it’s his best moment. And Simon walks proudly, with firm tone and slippery notes. The exchanges are great: Ndugu Chancler makes each 4-bar segment sound different, and caps a fine performance.