Bud Shank: Four Classic Albums
Four Classic Albums
Avid Records UK
Bud Shank is typical of the jazz musicians that roamed the West Coast in the fifties in that he was able to work comfortably in a variety of settings: big bands, the studio, and clubs. Like many of the other players, Shank also played more than one instrument, which made him a valuable member of the bandstand and afforded his solo recordings a bit more variety than what was coming out of the cool school at the time. Four Classic Albums collects a handful of records from this period that display not only the range of Shank's capabilities but also serve as a good cross section of what was happening in California mid-century.
The quartet with Claude Williamson on piano, Don Prell on bass, and Chuck Flores on drums was a terrific group who played with enthusiasm and pluck. The Bud Shank Quartet Featuring Claude Williamson from 1956 says it allno gimmicks here. "Bag of Blues" is a typical West Coast blues in that there's nothing really bluesy about it, but it has a memorable melody over a set of chord changes that provides Shank and Williamson with a platform for all sorts of appealing lines. Shank is on alto sax on that one, but switches to flute for a haunting rendition of "Nature Boy"slow and melancholy. Many saxophonists doubled on flute, but none seemed as dedicated as Shank to exploring the tonal possibilities available with the extra instrument. "Walkin'" pulls a more recent tune from the East Coast and is nothing short of remarkable in how the quartet finds arresting ways to work through the simplest of changes. A bouncy "Carioca" closes out the record.
Bud Shank On Tenor from 1957 features the same group and is exactly what it promises. There's always been a fascination for altoists to dabble with the tenor saxophone, and while the fluidity of Shank's playing is present, this is a pretty typical set of standards and Hollywood tunes. "Over the Rainbow" is a nicely done version of a song with a difficult to locate sweet spot; "Body and Soul" is a standby that always brings out the best in everyone. The only misstep is "All The Things You Are" where Shank can't seem to find his footing, he throws phrases over the changes, but is only marginally successful in getting them to stick.
Shank also worked closely with Bob Cooper, a saxophonist with whom he spend a fair amount of time on the Kenton bandstand. The Swing's to TV from 1958 turns television themes into swinging numbers, which sounds like a bad idea until you realize that most television theme songs were either jazz standards or pretty jazzy to begin with. Still, things don't pick up until after a few forgettable numbers with an orchestra. After that, Shank and Cooper turn familiar (at the time) TV fare into breezy swing. Of course considering the pairing it's no surprise that Shank plays the flute and Cooper plays the oboe for their famous combination of the two instruments.
And finally there's I'll Take Romance from 1958 which brings on the orchestra again for a full-blown sax 'n' strings recording. This one was recorded in Italy under the direction of Len Mercer and fares pretty well in a setting that dooms many an ambitious player to the heap of dullness. Mercer's arrangements, however, are tasteful and unobtrusive, providing a backdrop for Shank without overwhelming him with overwrought swells and glissandos, and if things get a little too precious with the flute numbers, it's at least a consistently pleasant record that floats along pleasantly.
Shank never recorded a masterpiece, but did record several fine records in his long career. He was like the guy that you always want to have at parties: not likely to offend or do anything crazy, but simply the guy you wanted to have around to make sure things got started properly. He had a long and successful career, and these sessions were just the start of a musician who remained just outside the spotlight for most of his career, but knew what to do when he was there.
CD1: Bag of Blues; Nature Boy; All This and Heaven Too; Jubilation; Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me; Nocturne For Flute; Walkin'; Carioca; When You Wish Upon A Star; Put Your Dreams Away; Thanks For The Memory; Tenderly; Danny Boy; Dinah; As Long As There's Music; A Romantic Guy; Steve Allen Theme. CD2: The Love Nest; Thou Swell; Tenderly; Over The Rainbow; Long Ago And Far Away; I Never Knew; All The Things You Are; Body and Soul; BLue Lou; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes; Deep Purple; Out Of This World; What A Difference A Day Makes; Embraceable You; I'll Take Romance; These Foolish Things; Someone To Watch Over Me; You Are Too Beautiful; How Deep Is the Ocean; When Your Lover Is Gone.
Bud Shank: alto sax, tenor sax, flute; Claude Williamson: piano (CD1 #1-8, CD2 #2-9); Chuck Flores: drums (CD1 #1-8, CD2 #2-9); Don Prell: bass (CD1 #1-8, CD2); Bob Cooper: tenor sax, oboe (CD1 #9-17, CD2 #1); Jimmy Pratt: drums (CD2 #10-20); Len Mercer: arranger (CD2 #-10-20).