By Request encompasses more than a dozen songs recorded on at least four occasions some years ago by trumpeter Leslie Drayton’s orchestra; I can’t say how much of what is included was previously released, but unless you’re an ardent and well–informed connoisseur of the big–band scene, the chances are better than even that Drayton’s gregarious charts (he arranged everything and wrote all but “Stormy Monday”) will be as fresh and charming to you as they were to me. He adroitly combines tasteful elements of Basie, Herman, Jones/Lewis, Clarke/Boland and other modern swing–based ensembles without sounding too much like any of them (“Greasy Brown Paper Sack,” for example, shuffles parallel to but suitably apart from Herman’s “Greasy Sack Blues”). Speaking of the blues, Barbara Morrison comes aboard for two numbers that effectively mine that rich vein, “Stormy Monday” and Drayton’s “When Will You Be Mine?” Drayton has a number of respected sidemen in the various bands, and it’s good to hear from such as Curtis Peagler (“Rush–Hour,” “Fos–Alarm,” “Love Is a Four–Letter Word”), Al Aarons (“Fos–Alarm”), Fostina Dixon (“Southern Extremity,” “Take a Plunge”), Jackie Kelso (“Plunge”) and Snooky Young (“Plunge,” “Stormy Monday”). Young, by the way, is one of the album’s two dedicatees (the other is composer/trombonist Melba Liston, whom Drayton calls “my musical mother”). Among the best of Drayton’s charts — each of which swings ferociously — are “Rush–Hour,” “Fos–Alarm,” “May I?,” “Southern Extremity,” “Making Ends Meet” and “Take a Plunge.” As for Drayton’s trumpet, heard solo on “Rush–Hour,” “May I?,” “Paper Sack” and “Making Ends Meet,” a friend says Leslie reminds him of the talented American expatriate Benny Bailey, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. Nor would I argue that By Request is anything less than a pleasurable and swinging endeavor from one end to (almost) the other (I could live without the mawkish and syrupy closing track, but at least it’s placed conveniently after the others).
Track listing: Rush–Hour Traffic; Fos–Alarm; When Will You Be Mine?; Turning a Corner; May I?; The Southern Extremity; A Greasy Brown Paper Sack; Le Boulevard St. Germain; Stormy Monday; Making Ends Meet; Take a Plunge; Pent–Up Emotions; Love Is a Four–Letter Word (71:35).
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.