229

Jazzy Soundtracks 3: Kwamina

C. Andrew Hovan By

Sign in to view read count
Billy Taylor Orchestra
Jazzy Soundtracks 3: Kwamina
Mercury
1962

Continuing our look into soundtrack albums of a jazz nature, we depart this month from film scores to take a look at a jazz interpretation of music from a Broadway production. Opening in October of 1961 and running for a mere 32 performances, Kwamina takes place in West Africa in a British colony where a young woman doctor runs into trouble when she falls in love with a local black physician whose name gives the play its title. The cast of the production included Robert Guillaume, Brock Peters, Sally Anne Howes, and Terry Carter, with percussionists Montego Joe and Robert Crowder even taking part in the festivities.

Nominated for a Tony Award for best score, ultimately losing out to Richard Rodgers' No Strings , Richard Alder's music served as inspiration for pianist Billy Taylor's interpretation on the 1962 Mercury album The Original Jazz Score of Kwamina. Somewhat of a rarity these days, this album should have been even more successful than the show itself, but somehow got lost in the shuffle. Picking out nine pieces from the score's original fourteen, Taylor and arranger Jimmy Jones created charts for a large ensemble including Clark Terry, Jimmy Cleveland, Frank Wess, Phil Woods, Jerome Richardson, Julius Watkins, George Duvivier, Les Spann, and Osie Johnson.

Although all the tracks are somewhat brief, each one speaks with its own voice and tempo, allowing for adequate solo space for Taylor and most notably Phil Woods. "Something Big" is easily the most enjoyable of the lot, with it's vamp akin to "Old Devil Moon" and some bristling trumpet work from Clark Terry. "Ordinary People" also gives Wood a brief time to shine during a lush ballad feature. Guitarist Les Spann even gets a chance to say a note or two on the perky "Another Time, Another Place."

In general, not much has really been written about Billy Taylor's recordings, his work in education and other jazz related works somewhat overshadowing his past endeavors. Kwamina definitely deserves to be mentioned among his better works and fans of studio big bands will unlikely be thrilled to hear the superb stereo mix on this one. Although the show may be long forgotten, Taylor's jazz score is ripe for rediscovery.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Artie Butler: Have You Met Miss Jones? Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Artie Butler: Have You Met Miss Jones?
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: November 29, 2005
Read Moacir Santos: Maestro Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Moacir Santos: Maestro
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: May 31, 2005
Read Bobbi Humphrey: Flute-In Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Bobbi Humphrey: Flute-In
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: March 29, 2005
Read Ronnie Foster: On the Avenue & Cheshire Cat Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Ronnie Foster: On the Avenue & Cheshire Cat
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 24, 2005
Read Jazzy Soundtracks 4: Kean Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Jazzy Soundtracks 4: Kean
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: December 16, 2004
Read Jazzy Soundtracks 3: Kwamina Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Jazzy Soundtracks 3: Kwamina
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: November 15, 2004
Read "re: our recent Araminta review" Website News re: our recent Araminta review
by Michael Ricci
Published: March 20, 2017
Read "Ralph Towner: The Accidental Guitarist" Interview Ralph Towner: The Accidental Guitarist
by Mario Calvitti
Published: May 16, 2017
Read "Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon" Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Five Women V – Kathleen Potton, Ariel Pocock, Christina Morrison, Michelle Bradley, Donna E. Scott, Kellye Gray" Bailey's Bundles Five Women V – Kathleen Potton, Ariel Pocock,...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: June 20, 2017
Read "Edgefest 2016" In Pictures Edgefest 2016
by Frank Rubolino
Published: October 22, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.