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Larry Sonn's All-Star Band


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The big band era continued long after many historians say it ended. While big bands no longer gained much traction with teens by the late 1940s, many great orchestras continued to tour throughout the 1950s and beyond while others recorded for dancers on the new 12-inch album format. One such studio band in 1955 and '56 was led by trumpeter Larry Sonn, whose album, The Sound of Sonn (Coral), featured a superb combination of musicians and arrangers.

In 1955, Sonn had just returned from Mexico, where he led one of that country's top dance bands. Before he left the States, Sonn had studied at the Julliard School of Music and had played trumpet in bands led by Charlie Barnet, Hal McIntyre, Vincent Lopez and Teddy Powell. He returned to the States in '55 after his old trumpet teacher Charles Colin came across a bunch of his Mexican dance-band records and played them for American band agency executives. The band you hear here made its debut during a one-hour NBC broadcast called Monitor in August 1955.

Sonn's went into the studio in October 1955 and recorded four tracks—Zanny, Ida Bridges Falling Down, O Dem Bums and Close Cover Before Striking. The remaining eight were recorded in Apri 1956. The personnel on the 1955 session featured  Larry Sonn, Jack Hanson, Abbey Hoeffer, Al Maiorca, Jimmy Nottingham (tp) Bob Ascher, Fred Zito, Sid Harris, Mort Troutman (tb) Hal McKusick, Rich Henry (as) Frank Socolow, Bernie Fox (ts) Danny Bank (bar) George Devens (vib) Fern Facon (p) Roy Shane (b) Maurice Marks (d) Manny Albam, Al Cohn (arr).

In 1956, there were a few changes:  Larry Sonn, Jack Hanson, Abbey Hoeffer, Al Maiorca, Jimmy Nottingham (tp) Bob Ascher, Harry DiVito, George Monte, Fred Zito (tb) Sam Marowitz, Hal McKusick (as) Al Cohn, Frank Socolow (ts) Charlie O'Kane (bar) Nat Pierce (p) Ted Sommer (vib) Billy Bauer (g) Milt Hinton (b) Gus Johnson (d) Al Cohn, Manny Albam (arr). On the second '56 session, Mundell Lowe replaced Bauer.

Al Cohn arranged these: O Dem Bums, Nutty, Close Cover Before Striking, Frank but Ernest, From A to Z and We Three.

Manny Albam arranged these: Zanny, Ida Bridges Falling Down, It Looks Like Rain in Cherry Blossom Lane, The Flat Cap, The Sonn Also Rises and Lemon Twist.

The Sound of Sonn is a solid album with a steady dance pace and fine penwork by Albam and Cohn. And another hidden gem from 1955-'56, right at the dawn of the 12-inch LP.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Larry Sonn's The Sound of Sonn here.

JazzWax clips: Here's Al Cohn's arrangement of Nutty: Nutty

And here's Manny Albam's The Sonn Also Rises: The Sonn Also Rises

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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