David Rickert joined All About Jazz in 1999
David Rickert also writes for the Jazz Arts Group in Columbus, Ohio.
Gene Krupa left Benny Goodman to form a band that played nothing but killer-dillers, the fiery numbers like "Sing, Sing, Sing that caused riots at the Paramount. It wasn't too long before Krupa realized that a more even-tempered approach was necessary; no one wants to hear over-the-top for an entire show.
Gerry Mulligan joined the Krupa band in 1946 at the age of 19 and stayed for about a year. His arrangements were resurrected for this 1958 LP and showcase his skills at providing charts that tempered the more extroverted tendencies of the band. At the time of this recording Mulligan was afraid that the arrangements wouldn't stand the test of the time, but they sound quite modern even today. It certainly helps that at the time Mulligan was already scoring Charlie Parker classics in the big band style and he wasn't afraid to tackle "Begin the Beguine, which Artie Shaw pretty much owned, turning it into something new altogether.
The trumpet section and reed section are evenly balanced and feature more counterpoint and interplay than is to be expected from the big band era. Even at this late date Krupa could attract top-notch talent, and Phil Woods, Billy Byers, and Frank Socolow make the most of their time. Since Mulligan did so much scoring for piano-less ensembles it's perhaps appropriate that, with the exception of Krupa, the rhythm section is largely overwhelmed by the busy charts and heard only in brief snatches.
Although Krupa made a name for himself by playing loud and flashy, there's none of the thundering acrobatics here of the Goodman era. Maybe he just grew tired of sweating through suits. But it's telling that the only boring moment here comes on "If You Were The Only Girl In the World, the only ballad on the record; Krupa always preferred to swing rather than relax.
Buddy Rich may be the only drummer in the world that can make a two-minute solo worth listening to. He had the same dramatic flair as Krupa, and was able to use his arsenal of thunder and lightning to create long passages that were built with intelligence, character, and a heavy dose of charisma. But he was also skilled at guiding a band from the drummer's seat; both Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey never really swung until Rich came on board.
Blues Caravan is a rare small-group outing for the drummer and, with a front line of trumpet, vibes and flute, one might assume that the group is a little bottom heavy. However, Rich and company make good use of the unique instrumentation to work through a widely varied program. Horace Silver's "Blowin' The Blues Away features plenty of high-octane soloing and "Young Blood kicks it up a notch further. On the other end of the spectrum, "Caravan (the best performance here) is slowed down to a camel's pace and "I Remember Clifford is a soft ballad to close out the album. While everyone holds their own, Rich is the real star, controlling the dynamics from behind and simmering gently when he isn't in full gear.
Rich was one of the greatest drummers jazz ever produced. Blues Caravan is a terrific album to showcase his talent.
Even though the lounge music revival has been over for quite some time, reissues that would have been big sellers then continue to crop up. The latest entry is Xavier Cugat's Cugi's Cocktails, an album so saturated in '60s kitsch that it seems almost a crime not to have it exclusively on vinyl. Cugat was a band leader who brought Latin music to the masses with his big band, although he had been doing it for quite some time before the demand for exotic music from tropical locales grew.
We have the mambos, cha-chas and other Latin rhythms that bewitched the nation for a brief time, and an entire program of songs named after cocktails, another vanishing element of hipster culture. Although this album is dated from the moment the first song begins, there's an undeniable charm in Cugat's clattering percussion, whistling flutes and catchy dance rhythms. Even though no one's really doing this sort of thing anymore, Cugat's music still holds a great deal of appeal, even if it may be largely nostalgic.
One track here, "One Mint Julep, recently appeared in the campy Rock Hudson-Doris Day knock-off "Down With Love. That may be all you need to know to make an informed decision about picking this one up.
Jazz In 3/4 Time
If you own a copy of Time Out you've heard of this album already, for it's acknowledged in the liner notes that when it comes to working in unusual time signatures, Max Roach beat Brubeck by two years. Although 3/4 time isn't as uncommon as 5/4 or 11/8 or some of the other meters Brubeck tried, it still stubbornly resists swinging. Fortunately Roach is equally stubborn enough (and gifted enough) to make it work, and with a front line of Sonny Rollins and Kenny Dorham the ingredients are all there for a quality jazz session. And they do swing their way through a set of new compositions and standards returned to their original waltz time.
The highlight is a 14-minute runthrough of Rollins' "Valse Hot, one of the only jazz standards in 3/4. The quintet seems to find their groove with plenty of tasty soloing and spirited comping from pianist Billy Wallace. Nothing has the fire of the classic Clifford Brown/Max Roach sides, mainly because the time signature lacks the sense of propulsion that four to the bar provides.
Roach never revisited this tail-wagging-the-dog method of album conceptualization again, but he succeeded in creating a lightly swinging and pleasant album.
Gene Krupa Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements
Tracks: 1. Bird House 2. Margie 3. Mulligan Stew 4. Begin the Beguine 5. Sugar 6. The Way Of All Flesh 7. Disc Jockey Jump 8. Birds Of A Feather 9. Sometimes I'm Happy 10. How High the Moon 11. If You Were the Only Girl In the World 12. Yardbird Suite.
Personnel: Gene Krupa - drums; Gerry Mulligan - arranger, conductor; with various others.
Buddy Rich - Blues Caravan
Tracks: 1. Blowin' the Blues Away 2. B.R. Blues 3. Late Date 4. Caravan 5. Young Blood 6. I Remember Clifford.
Personnel: Buddy Rich - drums; Rolf Ericson - trumpet; Sam Most - flute; Mike Manieri - vibes; Johnny Morris - piano; Wyatt Ruther - bass.
Xavier Cugat - Cugi's Cocktails
Tracks: 1. Cuba Libre 2. One Mint Julep 3. Old-Fashioned 4. Daquiri 5. Cocktails For Two 6. Rum and Coca-Cola 7. Cugi's Cocktail 8. Grasshopper 9. Blue Champagne 10. Zombie 11. Manhattan 12. Singapore Sling.
Personnel: Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra.
Max Roach - Jazz In 3/4 Time
Tracks: 1. Blues Waltz 2. Valse Hot 3. I'll Take Romance 4. Little Folks 5. Lover 6. The Most Beautiful Girl In the World.
Personnel: Max Roach - drums; Kenny Dorham - trumpet; Sonny Rollins - tenor saxophone; Billy Wallace, Ray Bryant - piano; George Morrow - bass.
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