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Six Bands That Swing Hard

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Once upon a time in America, big bands could swing their tails off. Count Basie was the gold standard, but there were many lesser-known bands in the 1950s that could rock the house. In some cases, they were studio bands assembled just to record one album. In other cases, they were touring working bands making a stop in the studio. Top musicians loved getting the call for these sessions, since the work reminded them of their big band days and the challenging charts were a ton of fun to sight read.

In the late 1950s, there was a spike in swinging big band albums, largely because labels wanted to put their new stereo format to the audio test. Yesterday I listened to a bunch of these now-forgotten albums. Here are six muscular swingers:

Terry Gibbs—Swingin' (October 1956). Here's Terry playing Bob Brookmeyer's Heads or Tails backed by a rippin' New York all-star band: Bernie Glow, Al Derisi, Ernie Royal, Nick Travis (tp) Don Elliott (tp,mellophone); Bob Brookmeyer (v-tb,arr); Urbie Green, Tom Mitchell, Chauncey Welsch (tb); Sam Marowitz, Hal McKusick (as); Al Cohn (ts,arr) Frank Socolow (ts); Al Epstein (bar); Terry Gibbs (vib); Terry Pollard (p); Turk Van Lake (g); Herman Wright (b) and Jerry Segal (d)...

Heads or Tails

Med Flory—Jazz Wave (June 1957). Here's Bill Holman's arrangement of Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat with a tenor solo and top Hollywood players: Lee Katzman, Jack Hohmann, Al Porcino, Ray Triscari (tp); Lew McCreary (tb); Dave Wells (tb,b-tp); Med Flory (as,ts); Charlie Kennedy (as); Bill Holman, Richie Kamuca (ts); Bill Hood (bar); Russ Freeman (p); Red Kelly (b) and Mel Lewis (d)...

Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat

Gene Krupa Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements (October 1958). This New York one-off featured Al DeRisi, Ernie Royal, Doc Severinsen, Al Stewart (tp); Eddie Bert, Jimmy Cleveland, Billy Byers, Kai Winding (tb); Sam Marowitz, Phil Woods (as); Frank Socolow, Eddie Wasserman (ts); Danny Bank (bar); Hank Jones (p); Barry Galbraith (g); Jimmy Gannon (b); Gene Krupa (d) and Gerry Mulligan (arr,cond). Here's Mulligan's arrangement of Margie...



Rey DeMichel—Cookin' with Rey (January 1959). This one featured a Hollywood studio band and was just one of two albums Rey DeMichel led; Irv Bush, Ollie Mitchell (tp); Dave Wells (tp,b-tb); Ed Freudenberg (tb); Lanny Morgan (as); Jay Corre, Jack Kernan (ts); Dave Madden (bar); Dick Grove (p); Buddy Matlock (g); Jack Smalley (b); Roy Roten (d); John DeFoor (arr) and Rey DeMichel (cond). Here's Meet Rey...



Ted McNabb & Co. (November 1959). Who was Ted McNabb? Go here. For now, here's Marion Evans's arrangement of Have You Met Miss Jones? with the cream of the New York studio scene: Burt Collins, Al Derisi, Doc Severinsen, John Bello (tp); Sy Berger, Frank Rehak, Urbie Green, Dick Hixson (tb); Dick Meldonian, Gene Quill (as); Al Cohn, Zoot Sims (ts); Sol Schlinger (bar); Nat Pierce (p); Barry Galbraith (g); John Drew (b); Don Lamond (d)[ and Marion Evans (ldr,arr,cond)....



Ernie Wilkins—Here Comes the Swingin' Mr. Wilkins (December 1959). This was one of only a handful of big band albums led by the prolific arranger with a chunk of Basie's outfit. And yeah, Zoot and Benny on tenors. Here's Baubles, Bangles and Beads with Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Ernie Royal, Snooky Young (tp); Paul Felice, Al Grey, Mickey Graumme, Jack Rains (tb); Marshal Royal (as,cl); Frank Wess (fl,as,ts); Benny Golson, Zoot Sims (ts); Charlie Fowlkes (bar); Jimmy Jones (p); Eddie Costa (vib); Freddie Green (g); Eddie Jones (b); Charlie Persip (d) and Ernie Wilkins (arr,dir)...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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