If you were to wander up and down the West Coast in the fifties you were more likely to find Dave Pell playing dances on college campuses than in clubs. Despite filling his octet with seasoned musicians who could really cut loose when given the chance, Pell's studio recordings always have a hint of crepe and balloons about them. They represent the extremely well-mannered style of West Coast jazz,and are pleasant almost to a fault.
The first two sessions on this compilation come from Pell's dance repertoire. Jazz & Romantic Places from 1955 is a theme record of songs titled after romantic places like Paris, Rio, and, err... Buffalo. Jazz Goes Dancing: Prom to Prom from 1956 couldn't be more clear about its purpose.
But since almost everyone on the West Coast could write an interesting chart, the arrangements are witty and sophisticated. And look who's in the band: Tony Rizzi on guitar, Don Fagerquist on trumpet, and the exceptional Bob Gordon on baritone sax round out by a bunch of others who, like Pell, earned their stripes in the top-notch Les Brown band. Like Brown, Pell uses trumpet and guitar in unison for the melody which creates a different and pleasant sound for the ensemble.
All of the tracks are around three minutesPell would have been right at home in the 78 eraallowing time for a few economical solos from the band. For every song that's a little too precious, like "When I Take My Sugar To Tea," there's a captivating treatment like the celeste-based "London in July." Pell mines popular songs for a program taken at easy tempos. However, there's alway a sense that were meant for the purpose of dancing rather than serious listening.
I Had the Craziest Dream from 1955 is widely held to be Pell's best, and for a long time was the only record of his readily available. That Capitol reissue added some throwaway bonus tracks and some extras from a Don Fagerquist nonet. Those tracks aren't included in the compilation, but the result is a tighter, more satisfying record that is a perfect representation of the West Coast sound. The success of this recording is due the excellent arrangements from Marty Paich, Shorty Rogers, Jack Montrose, Bill Holman, Wes Hensel, and Andre Previn. The sophisticated and debonair charts are the stuff these players can really sink their teeth into, and inventively complex versions of "Star Eyes" and "My Hearts Belongs To Daddy."
A Pell of A Time from 1957 is just as good. Pell gives his players the opportunity to stretch their legs on longer tracks. Although his brand of "down home" and "funky" jazz (as he calls it) is about as free swinging as a loose tie, the resulting record is a slightly tougher swinging session made up largely of originals from the same bunch of West Coasters that provided the charts for I Had the Craziest Dream. Pell's regular octet was not his touring group due to studio commitments, and the group he brought into clubs was a nimble unit anchored by Jack Sheldon on trumpet and Pepper Adams on baritone, two men who could solo with the best of them. Everyone is given plenty of solo time and Pell turns in some of his best solo work here.
It wouldn't be too long before rock music would capture the minds of youth and this style of dance music would fall quickly out of fashion. However, these four sessions from Pell present some sophisticated, urbane jazz from the heyday of the fifties West Coast scene.
CD1: How Are Things in Glocca Morra?; On A Slow Boat to China; Memphis in June; Paris in
Spring; London in July; Isle Of Capri; The White Cliffs of Dover; Sunday in Savannah; Deep in
the Heart of Texas; Shuffle Off to Buffalo; New Orleans; Flying Down to Rio; Look Who’s
Dancing; East of the Sun; You; Young & Healthy; The Continental; Dance For Daddy; When I
Take My Sugar To Tea; If I Had You; Cheek To Cheek; Let’s Face the Music and Dance; Prom
to Prom; Walkin’ My Baby Back Home. CD2: I Had the Craziest Dream; The Way You Look
Tonight; Nap’s Dream; Time After Time; My Heart Belongs To Daddy; Jazz Wagner; On the
Good Ship Lollypop; Crescendo Date; People in Love; Star Eyes; Jazz Goes to Siwash; Suze
Blues; Grey Flannel; Angel Eyes; G Tune; Sandy Shoes; Cameo; Love Me Or Leave Me; Them
Dave Pell: tenor sax; Bob Gordon: baritone sax (CD1#1-12, CD2#1, 5-8); Don
Fagerquist: trumpet (CD1, CD2#1-10); Ray Sims: trombone (CD1, CD2#1-10); Donn
Trenner: piano, celeste (CD#1-12); Tony Rizzi: guitar (CD1, CD2#1-10); Buddy
Clark: bass (CD#1-12); Bill Richmond: drums (CD1#1-12); Marty Berman: baritone sax
(CD1#13-24); Arnold Ross: piano (CD1#13-24); Bob Bates: bass (CD1#13-24); Irving
Kluger: drums CD1#13-24); Ronny Lang: baritone sax (CD1#2-4, 9-10); Paul Smith:
piano (CD2#1-10); Rolly Bundock: bass (CD2#1-10); Jack Sperling: drums (CD2#1-
10); Roy Hart: bongos (CD2#7); Jack Sheldon: trumpet (CD2#11-19); Bobby Burgess:
trombone (CD2#11, 13-14, 16, 18); Pepper Adams: baritone sax (CD2#11-19); Tom
Kelly: bass (CD2#11-19); Marty Paich: piano (CD2#11,13-14, 16, 18); Paul Moer: piano
(CD2#12, 15, 17); Tommy Tedsco: guitar (CD#2, 11-19); Mel Lewis: drums (CD2#11-
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