This Portrait of Shorty is an unfinished portrait, of course, but no less pleasing because of it. Rogers called his big band “The Giants,” which is entirely appropriate, as he himself was widely recognized as one of the giants of the so–called West Coast school of “cool Jazz” that was born in the early ’50s and flourished for the next decade and beyond. While Portrait, recorded in 1957, gives a pretty fair representation of Shorty’s skills as big–band composer / arranger, it can’t compete with most of his other recordings of the period such as Short Stops, Shorty Courts the Count or The Wizard of Oz and Other Harold Arlen Songs. Still, as with anything Rogers devised, there’s plenty of cleverly contoured music to appreciate. And it must be said that no other trumpeter ever sounded exactly like Shorty, who had a lively and swinging language all his own. His voicings for the trumpet section were similarly unexampled, and made any Rogers arrangement almost immediately identifiable. He favored brief solos and seldom allowed space for more than a chorus, even by such renowned sidemen as Herb Geller, Richie Kamuca, Bill Holman, Jack Montrose, Pepper Adams, Sweets Edison, Conte Candoli, Frank Rosolino, Bob Enevoldsen or Lou Levy, all of whom appear on Portrait. Still, everything works, thanks to Shorty’s remarkable charts and the uncanny ability of his colleagues to speak volumes in only a few phrases. Rogers withdrew into the Hollywood studios in the early ’60s and didn’t reappear until 1983, when he and old friend Bud Shank recorded Yesterday, Today and Forever for Concord Records. Shorty and the Lighthouse All–Stars then regrouped for a couple of well–received albums before his death in November 1994 at age 70. Shorty Rogers was a true original, as one can readily hear on Portrait, which is recommended for its many virtues and in spite of its modest 41–minute playing time.
Track listing: Saturnian Sleigh Ride; Martians’ Lullaby; The Line Backer; Grand Slam; Play! Boy; A Geophysical Ear; Red Dog Play; Bluezies (41:07).
Shorty Rogers, leader, arranger, trumpet, flugelhorn; Herb Geller, alto, tenor sax; Bill Holman, Richie Kamuca, Jack Montrose, tenor sax; Pepper Adams, baritone sax; Al Porcino, Conrad Gozzo, Don Fagerquist, Conte Candoli, Pete Candoli, Harry