Request Records: Live At Club 15

David Rickert By

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Request Records has recently issued a series of live recordings from Club 15 in Las Vegas, all from 1966. By this time Las Vegas was the world's playground, and a legion of entertainers descended there. Mike Gold broadcast the performances live from the club; his wife and the sound engineer recorded them for posterity. After Gold had passed, his grandchildren dug out the tapes and recorded them digitally as they played, just in case the tapes wouldn't stand up to more than one playing.

These never before released recordings capture some great performances by some of jazz's greatest players. However, due to the nature of the project, no personnel info or background on the performances is included.

George Shearing Quintet
Lullaby Of Birdland And More
Request Records

It may seem odd that pianist George Shearing was immortalized as a keyboard pounder in Jack Kerouac's On the Road, since the Englishman's demeanor was always more elegant ballroom than seedy bar. And his quintet features the rather quiet front line of vibraphone and guitar (played by Joe Pass.) This results in an enchanting music that never breaks a sweat; improvisation flows seamlessly into the melody and never wanders too far astray. However, in addition to expected tunes like "Lullaby Of Birdland, Shearing throws in a few nifty originals like "Waltz For Sheba and "Aldo Nova, as well as a medley of popular tunes that, ironically, had squeezed out the demand for the style of jazz he himself peddled. A nice collection of subtlety and sophistication.

Louis Prima & Pete Fountain
Louis Prima With Sam Buttera & The Witnesses/Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
Request Records

He was no Keely Smith, but Louis Prima was still able to whip the bandstand up into a frenzy. The R&B craze that Prima helped started had obviously been passed up by rock'n'roll, but his style more that most was easily transported to the present (1966 present, that is) with its pop sensibilities, all on songs that were fairly old-fashioned at the time. There's plenty of honing and wailing from the saxophonists, and the rhythm section keeping things swinging. The swing revival of the 1990s would rescue Prima from obscurity; it's interesting to note that his music was so timeless it never borrowed from current trends.

Pete Fountain is here called the King of Dixieland, which some may strike as heresy. But consider that Fountain did bring New Orleans to the masses through Lawrence Welk, at a time when many had cast the music by the wayside. Some may criticize Fountain's choice of instrumentation (vibraphone?) but there's no doubt that his band could create some seriously entertaining music when given the chance. Here they are able to really stretch out; their half of the disc only has four songs and all of the soloists seem to get as much time as the want.

Fountain, for his part, proves to be a tougher customer than one might expect, soloing effortlessly and ebulliently. While this style of Dixieland may be overly polite, Fountain should be commended for sticking to his guns and preserving this piece of history.

Stan Getz, Gene Krupa and Maynard Ferguson
Stan Getz Quartet/Gene Krupa/Maynard Ferguson & His Orchestra
Request Records

The series of bossa nova recordings made a few years before this performance had turned Getz into a household name and made him quite wealthy, no matter how skilled he was at other styles. It's no surprise then that Getz and his quartet (presumably the stellar line up of Gary Burton, Steve Swallow, and Roy Haynes) rushes through "Desafinado as if eager to put the past behind them. There's also a lovely ballad treatment of "The Shadow Of Your Smile, at the time a recent hit, as well as a shimmering version of "Tonight I Shall Sleep to cap things off.

Gene Krupa's high energy unit was beginning to show some wear and tear in the sixties. "Lover features an imbalance in the soft brass and the powerful reeds (which may be due to miking problems). "Honeysuckle Rose is saved by the return of Anita O'Day to the bandstand, but things get sketchy again with an oddly arranged version of "Flying Home which, instead of sounding modern, just pales in comparison to the original. Fortunately, these performances are often saved by terrific soloing.

Maynard Ferguson's big band made judicious use of the leader's ability to navigate the high register of his instrument and the trumpet section often follows suit with expressive blasts from behind. However, this approach soon grows tiresome, as it seems designed mainly to showcase Ferguson's ability to reach notes previously unheard of (literally). He would later go on to make a name for himself with the theme from "Rocky, but at this point his relatively new attempt at playing big band music seems filled with bombast and lacks subtlety.

Guy Lombardo
Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians
Request Records

Want to know why many people don't like Guy Lombardo? Give a listen to this set, which would have been fine as an abbreviated selection of songs paired with another artist (like Glenn Miller) but ends up being song after song of pop schlock. No one seriously thinks of the accordion as a worthwhile big band instrument, yet here it is—while, certainly used to great effect elsewhere, it has a feel of Lawrence Welk about it. "The Chicken Song isn't the song played ad nauseum at weddings—it's actually even more annoying.

Not much in the way of jazz here, or big band music, for that matter. While Lombardo always had a band for dancing, there are plenty of outfits out there who could (and did) do it better.

Glenn Miller and Si Zentner
The Glenn Miller Orchestra/Si Zentner & His Orchestra
Request Records

Glenn Miller was long gone in 1966, and it is commonly known that his ghost band was never as good. However, with Buddy DeFranco at the helm, a man who loved bebop, one could expect something unexpectedly interesting might happen. However, DeFranco plays it straight, aping Miller's style on a selection of hits from bygone days. As a big band set, the Miller band, which could attract top flight talent on the bandstand, serves the history of the big band era well. There's no "In The Mood, but "A String Of Pearls brings back bygone days (before unfortunately being cut off by time constraints.)

Si Zenter may have the most schizophrenic big band of them all in that he integrated arrangements of modern classics (and not just pop tunes) into his repertoire. Where else can you hear "Japanese Sandman followed immediately by "Watermelon Man? Mel Torme lends a hand on a couple of numbers, giving some focus to a band that seems inclined to cover the entire history of music in a brief period of time. Big band purists won't care much for Zenter's approach, but those who have never heard of him and are intrigued by his method may find a new face to seek out.

Track Listings

Lullaby Of Birdland And More

Lullaby Of Birdland And More: Oh Look At Me Now/You Are There; Call Me Irresponsible; As Bach Would Say; Aren't You Glad You're You?; Waltz For Sheba; Aldo Nova; Lullaby Of Birdland; Be Careful It's My Heart; The Sweetest Sound; Medley: The Shadow Of Your Smile/The Days Of Wine And Roses/Yesterday/Hello Dolly/L-O-V-E; What Is This Thing Called Love; Bags Groove.

Louis Prima With Sam Buttera & The Witnesses/Way Down Yonder In New Orleans

Louis Prima With Sam Buttera & The Witnesses: When You're Smiling; Oh Marie; Buona Sera; Imagination; I Love Paris In The Springtime; Up Jumped A Rabbit; Georgia On My Mind; I Want You To Be My Baby; Baby Won't You Please Come Home; When The Saints Go Marching In. Pete Fountain & His Orchestra Way Down Yonder in New Orleans: Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?; Struttin' With Some Barbeque; She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain.

Stan Getz Quartet/Gene Krupa/Maynard Ferguson & His Orchestra

Stan Getz Quartet: Desafinado; The Shadow Of Your Smile; Tonight I Shall Sleep. Gene Krupa: Lover; Honeysuckle Rose; Flying Home. Maynard Ferguson & His Orchestra: Take The A Train; Got The Spirit.

Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians

Auld Lange Syne/Dearheart; Ain't She Sweet?; Maria Elena; Canadian Capers; Medley: Blues In The Night/Birth Of The Blues/I've Got A Right To Sing The Blues; Girl From Ipanema; The Chicken Song; East Of The Sun; When My Sugar Walks Down The Street; Moon River; 12th Street Rag; Red Roses For A Blue Lady; The Sweetheart Tree; The Pie In The Face Polka; Oh Marie; More; Auld Lange Syne.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra/Si Zentner and His Orchestra

The Glenn Miller Orchestra: Moonlight Serenade; Speak Low; Rhapsody In Blue; St. Louis Blues March; Enjoy Joy; Love Love; Medley: Brotherhood Of Man/If I Had A Hammer/Somebody Loves Me; String of Pearls. Si Zentner and His Orchestra: Mission To Moscow; Japanese Sandman; Watermelon Man; Riding High; Foggy Day In London Town; Up A Lazy River.


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