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Hy Perbole's Astonishingly Incomparable Superstars: Platinum-Plated Gold

Jack Bowers By

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Hy Perbole's Astonishingly Incomparable Superstars
Platinum-Plated Gold
Peerless Records
2007

Confirming long-whispered rumors of its existence, a mint-condition master tape of what almost everyone this side of uncharted Borneo agrees is absolutely, positively and beyond any doubt the most breathtakingly spectacular jazz recording ever made, Platinum-Plated Gold by Hy Perbole's Astonishingly Incomparable Superstars, has been found lying under rotting carcasses at a meat-packing plant and former recording studio in Secaucus, New Jersey.

The incredible discovery, which was made by none other than Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, acting on a tip from presidential adviser Karl Rove ("give us enough time and we'll expose anything or anyone, Gonzales explained), ends a mystery that began more than forty years ago when Perbole, priceless tapes in hand, emerged in a drunken stupor from the studio and vanished into the night, never to be seen again. It was long assumed that he had carried with him the only copies of the masters. Apparently, however, he had returned later that night and carefully placed them in a locked drawer where they remained even after the studio was sold some years later to Acme Meat Packing, a subsidiary of Halliburton.

At a press conference announcing the find, celebrated musician, educator, historian, raconteur and resident expert Wynton Marsalis boldly declared, "There's no doubt in my mind, adding that he wasn't talking about the recording, simply affirming that "there's no doubt in my mind.

When asked about the extraordinary discovery, Marsalis avowed that its ramifications are "monumental, earth-shaking, unparalleled, not to mention really neat, like "finding the Holy Grail, Noah's Ark, or a recording by the legendary cornetist Buddy Bolden—by the way, did I mention the big fat sound he got out of his horn?

A few historians seemed less certain. "I propose that we listen to the album first, Will Durant suggested, "before rushing to judgment. A number of prominent jazz critics nodded their heads in agreement. "That's a great idea! said one. "Why didn't we think of that?

Before anyone could offer the obvious answer, the meeting was adjourned to a nearby studio where everyone gathered breathlessly around a state-of-the-art console to hear and extol the legendary album for the first time. More than an hour later, as the aficionados filed slowly out of the room, their comments ranged from euphoric to worshipful.

"Stupefying!

"Mesmerizing!

"Breathtaking!

"Awe-inspiring!

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

There was one dissenting voice. "Frankly, I don't see what all the fuss is about, said Thomas Douting, the music reviewer for a small weekly paper in Walrus Tooth, Alaska. His colleagues sought to reason with him, gently applying their powers of persuasion as he was escorted to a nearby elevator shaft and summarily dropped in head-first.

The reviews soon began to appear in magazines and newspapers across the country and overseas, and as envisaged, the critics were unanimous in their adulation of the Incomparable Superstars and Platinum-Plated Gold. As one who was there at the creation, so to speak, I can bear witness that nothing on earth can withstand the insuperable power of Hy Perbole. The album is, in a hyphenated word, mind-boggling, and Perbole's blue-chip ensemble (also hyphenated) is clearly and unmistakably phenomenal.

The only question is where to begin one's exaltation: with the eloquent writing, the effervescent group dynamics or the electrifying improvisations, as everything the group does is the effulgent embodiment of erudition and equanimity. Having depleted the storehouse of evocative adjectives starting with "e, let's move on.

First and foremost, one must look at the arrangements, as no endeavor can succeed without their refulgence, and Perbole has indeed struck gold here, using fiery blueprints by Ralph Burns to counterbalance weightier charts by Neal Hefti. The choice of material is impeccable, consisting for the most part of lesser-known but wonderfully beguiling standards from Hollywood films that mirror the ensemble's dauntless persona. The Superstars open with an inspired three-part medley, "Why Must There Be an Opening Song, "Rarin' to Go and "What a Beautiful Beginning before engaging in some playful one-upmanship on "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better) and "C'est Magnifique. The ensemble guilelessly asks "Isn't It Wonderful? and astutely answers the question with "It's Dynamite.

After proving that they are "Sharp as a Tack, "Terrific Together, "Somethin' Real Special and "One Step Ahead of Everybody, the Stars affirm that they are "Too Marvelous for Words because "We're the Ones and "We Belong Together. The superlative session closes (all too soon) with the irresistible "Dynamic Personality and veracious "We're Great But No One Knows It.

Speaking of great, the group's soloists are consistently sensational, from spicy Art Pepper, throbbing Cecil Payne and zealous Allen Eager to petulant James Moody, master chef Chet Baker, breezy Kai Winding, corpulent Fats Navarro, murky Wardell Gray and confident vocalist Diane Schuur. The rhythm section is enlivened by Dave Tough's muscular drumming, mathematically precise time-keeping by bassist Curtis Counce, and pianist Pete Jolly's hilarious insights.

I'd write more, but Perbole and the Superstars' consummate artistry has left me searching desperately for suitably acclamatory words. No, seriously . . . Platinum-Plated Gold is honestly and unequivocally an album for the ages, and all one can say is long live Hy Perbole. What would we writers do without him?

Tracks: Why Must There Be an Opening Song / Rarin' to Go / What a Beautiful Beginning; Anything You Can Do; C'est Magnifique; Isn't It Wonderful?; It's Dynamite; Sharp as a Tack; Terrific Together; Somethin' Real Special; One Step Ahead of Everybody; Too Marvelous for Words; We're the Ones; We Belong Together; Dynamic Personality; We're Great But No One Knows It.

Personnel: Hy Perbole: leader, conductor, genius; Chet Baker, Fats Navarro: trumpet; Art Pepper: alto sax; James Moody: alto, tenor sax, flute; Allen Eager, Wardell Gray: tenor sax; Cecil Payne: baritone sax; Kai Winding: trombone; Dave Tough: drums; Curtis Counce: bass; Pete Jolly: piano; Diane Schuur: vocals.


Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Peerless Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

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