Doug Mettome: A Brief Life in Bop
Chico O'Farrill's "Fiesta Time" once again hits a much more boppish note. The tune is taken at a blazing pace and it's hard to suppress the idea that here we have Rhythm changes taken as fast as anyone can play them. It's safe to say that Mettome's solo is more Dizzy than not, and for the most part, executed very cleanly. If there was ever any doubt about whether or not Wardell, Doug and Benny could fly, this recording will put them to rest. Doug plays another Dizzy-inflected chorus on "Bop Hop." There's also a cover of Dizzy's "Land of Oo-Bla-Dee" with good solos by Wardell and Dougoddly enough supposedly recorded before Gillespie's 1949 version.
On balance, it's probably safe to conclude that Mettome's stint with Goodman represented one of the high points of his career, and that his playing in 1949 was, with few later exceptions with Woody Herman or Pete Rugolo, never surpassed. Another such indication is a live recording that Mettome made with the Herbie Fields Septet at the Flame Club in Minneapolis in November 1949.
The date was recorded and somehow preserved: Mettome's performances are uniformly excellent. His technique throughout is enviably secure and the double-time choruses he plays are impressive without being obtrusive. The band opens with Dizzy's classic "Ow!" on which Mettome starts out very much sounding like Chet Baker, but eventually plays closer to Fats Navarro, decorated by the characteristic squeals into the upper register that became one of his stylistic trademarks. If anything, "Indiana" is even more characteristic of his style at that point. Taken at an extraordinarily fast tempo, Mettome states the theme directly and then heads off into several choruses of improvisation. His statements seem to use a major scale as a kind of launching pad into more complex rhythmic figures, and he has a distinct tendency to use a series of five rising accented eighths to resolve a line. On "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart," Mettome plays something on the order of seven choruses and they are lovely. They give a real taste of what was later to become his best known pretty solo with Pete Rugolo, "Gone With The Wind." On "Lemon Drop," Mettome picks up on Frank Rosolino's scatting, repeats it several times and continues on with a brisk statement. In fact, Mettome's chorus is shaped largely as a response to Rosolino's, a brilliant call-and-response, chase, or whatever one decides to call it.
Sometime in 1950, but certainly by early 1951, Mettome had left Goodman for Woody Herman, where he played in Woody's "Third Herd." The details of his move are, of course, lost, but Mettome and Nick Travis had been together with Goodman. Travis left Goodman for Herman and was replaced on lead by Al Stewart, so it's always possible that Nick recommended him. In any event, at one point or another, Herman's trumpet section included people like Travis, Don Fagerquist, Shorty Rogers, John Bello, John Howell, Roy Caton, Dick Collins, Don Ferrara and Mettome. Fagerquist (playing jazz) and Mettome (playing lead) were in the section simultaneously and their performance on and off the bandstand were the subject of considerable notice by the other musicians.