More Fresh Sounds From Fresh Sound
Also in the tragicand legendarycategory is Philadelphia guitarist Billy Bean, who passed away in February at the age of 79. Today, the name of Bean is one that is almost beyond obscure, but he is still regarded by those in the Philadelphia musical community who remember him, as one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived. Discovered by another Philadelphian in the mid-1950s, saxophonist Charlie Ventura, Bean was another in a long line of young talents nurtured by Chaz during the years. But Bean was special, kind of a modern day Charlie Christian, with clean and clear lines, devoid of clichés or licks. There's some Tal Farlow in there, to be sure, but with an edge. Yet another Philadelphian, guitarist Pat Martino, listened closely to Bean, as did Larry Coryell, who actually wrote a composition titled "Billy Bean."
These two efforts, recorded on the west coast in 1958 for Decca's Mood Jazz series, are among the few released under Bean's name, in this case, co-billed with fellow guitarist John Pisano. Makin' It (1957) and Take Your Pick (1958) are tightly arranged period pieces with a cool orientation, sort a "west coast jazz meets the Third Stream" with plenty of violas, cellos, flutes, vibes, and a bass clarinet and oboe in evidence. What makes these sides work and hold up extraordinary well is the playing of Bean and Pisano, which defies labels or categorization. Sadly, alcohol abuse destroyed Bean's career, and he dropped out of sight decades ago. Thankfully, Pisano is still very much with us, and is still wailing, notably at John Pisano's Guitar Night at a club in Toluca Lake, where he's been holding forth on Tuesday nights for 15 years.
There are a number of other newly-released Fresh Sound titles, all with something to recommend. Briefly noted, they include:
Inez Jones, Featuring Oscar Moore, from 1956 and 1957, features the delightful vocals of Jones, whose talents were not heard much beyond her native San Francisco, and in a very tasteful accompanying role, the guitar of Moore, heard in a rare setting away from the Nat "King" Cole group, where he first made his name.
Trios led by Chicago-based pianist John Young played behind hundreds of name jazz visitors to Chi-Town though the years, and recorded with dozens of them as well, including players like saxophonists Dexter Gordon, Zoot Sims and Sonny Stitt. The two-CD John Young Trios collects everything the Garner and Jamal-influenced pianist recorded for Argo and Vee-Jay in 1957, 1961 and 1962. Deservedly revered in his home town until his passing in 2008, it's too bad his fame didn't go beyond Chicago. He was a solid, versatile swinger with his own sound.
Opus De Blues, subtitled Frank Wess and Thad Jones Septets, features the saxophonist/flutist and the trumpeter/arranger/composer on two, wailing dates from 1959 and 1960. Blowing sessions, yes, but these have compactly swinging arrangements that frame solos by the co-leaders, as well as players like trombonists Curtis Fuller and Al Grey, and tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell. Particularly standing out on the 1959 session is the drumming of Gus Johnson, who personifies taste and swing.
Trumpeter Richard Williams and alto saxophonist/flutist/arranger Leo Wright were another pair who never got the recognition due them. New Horn in Town and Blues Shout, both from 1960, represents the duo's first recordings. Wright, who later did gain some fame via his tenure with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespiefrom 1959 to 1962, is the more mature of the pair here with a rather personal style on altosounding like a cool Cannonball Adderley, if there is such a thingand flute. Williams, who in later years was much in demand in Broadway pit bands and in classical ensembles, was still finding himself as a soloist. Not yet 30 years of age here, he often sounds like trumpeter Clifford Brown, but with a more pronounced vibrato.