564

Take A Bow: String Jazz

David Rickert By

Sign in to view read count
Cat On a Hot Fiddle
Stuff Smith
1959

Back in the thirties Stuff Smith entertained crowds at the Onyx Club with a blend of artistry, entertainment, and goofy facial expressions, all this on an instrument whose jazz credentials have always been suspect. Fortunately, he was able to bring the same degree of wit and wizardry to his studio recordings two decades later, and Cat On a Hot Fiddle is a prime example of his work. Featuring backing by two different rhythm sections, Smith bows his way through a program heavy on Gershwin tunes with a few Ellington pieces and originals to round out the set, all of which swing like mad and feature some inspired improvising. Smith has a keen melodic sense and an arsenal of tricks like double stops and pizzicato that employ the noise-making possibilities of the violin and give the instrument a wider range of color than might be imaginable. Each solo is a grab bag of tasty riffs and nifty tricks and the other players seem positively invigorated by Smith, roaring out of the gate with a fiery "Undecided" and rarely letting up from that point on. Of course no Smith session would be complete without a few vocal numbers, and Smith takes "Oh, Lady Be Good" and "Somebody Loves Me" with tongue appropriately in cheek. Cat On a Hot Fiddle lives up to its name, and succeeds in presenting a mix of instrumental barnstorming and dexterous swinging.

I Love John Frigo, He Swings
John Frigo
1957

While Smith at times approaches fiddling as if he was sawing logs, John Frigo takes a more subtle approach, preferring to explore the silky, romantic side of the instrument rather than indulging in hard-swinging acrobatics. Frigo switched to bass early on, presumably because he could find more work that way, yet never gave up in his efforts to present a program devoted to the violin. This session is his first effort in that vein, and finds Frigo exploring different settings to back his playing, mostly on ballads and mid-tempo tunes.

The violinist is joined in the front line by Cy Touff and Vic Val on a series of lush instrumentals like "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and switches gears for a couple of impressionistic pieces along the lines of Chico Hamilton on "You Stepped Out of A Dream" and the original "Blow Fiddle Blow" on which he is joined by Mike Simpson and Herb Ellis. A couple of soft duets with pianist Mike Simpson recall evenings at a European café, especially a lovely "Moonlight in Vermont". On the last track Frigo puts the cherry on top, duetting with himself on violin and bass on "Big Me-Little Me". Although not as satisfying song for song as the Smith record, Frigo turns in a satisfying and entertaining performance in a variety of settings. An obscure yet worthwhile session.

The Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet
Roger Kellaway
1970

With his cello quartet Roger Kellaway fused his various influences into a new musical experiment, "something, hopefully that could encompass the spirit of 'jazz' along with the magnitude of 'classical'". Here's how it worked: the quartet - piano, bass, cello, and marimba - were given a lead sheet with chord changes and notes included. It was then up to the group to determine the tempo and duration of each movement and the A&M Symphony Orchestra was recruited to accompany most of the album. This was quite a tall order, but the results work extremely well: the end product is a little bit jazz, a little bit classical, and all of it beautifully expressed.

Most of the credit goes to Kellaway, whose songs feature lovely chord changes and the sort of light improvisation favored by Vince Guaraldi. But in another inspired move, Kellaway chose his favorite instrument, the cello, as the lead, which gives each track a haunting, passionate quality. Through swirling chord changes and gorgeous melodies, Kellaway and company explore multihued vistas that touch on Copeland, the blues, and chamber music, often in the space of the same track. For all the bad records that the third stream movement generated, it's refreshing to finally hear a work that combined the notion into a pleasant whole. On vinyl, this session has been a cult classic and much sought after. It's good to finally have it in print on CD.

Stuff Smith-Cat On a Hot Fiddle
Tracks: 1. Undecided 2. The Man I Love 3. Oh, Lady, Be Good! 4. Nice Work If You Can Get It 5. Take the "A" Train 6. Blue Violin 7. They Can't Take That Away From Me 8. Somebody Loves Me 9. 'S Wonderful 10. Nice and Warm 11. Strike Up the Band.
Personnel: Stuff Smith - violin, vocal; Paul Smith - piano; Red Mitchell - bass; Sid Bulkin - drums; Shirley Horn - piano; Lewis Powers - bass; Harry Saunders - drums.

I Love John Frigo He Swings
Tracks: 1. What A Difference A Day Made 2. Polka Dots and Moonbeams 3. Blow Fiddle Blow 4. Blue Orchids 5. Gone With the Wind 6. Squeeze Me 7. You Stepped Out of a Dream 8. Moonlight in Vermont 9. If Love Is Good to Me 10. Big Me-Little Me.
Personnel: Tracks 1, 2, 5, 6: John Frigo - violin; Cy Touff - bass trumpet; Vic Val - tenor saxophone; Dick Marx - piano; Ray Brown - bass; Phil Faieta - drums. Tracks 3, 6: John Frigo - violin; Mike Simpson - flute, tenor saxophone; Dick Marx - piano; Herb Ellis - guitar; Ray Brown - bass; Norm Jeffries - drums. Tracks 4, 8: John Frigo - violin; Dick Marx - piano. Track 9: John Frigo - violin; Dick Marx - piano; Ray Brown - bass; Norm Jeffries - drums. Track 10: John Frigo - violin, bass; Dick Marx - celeste; Norm Jeffries - drums.

Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet
Tracks: 1. Saturnia 2. Sunrise 3. Morning Song 4. Jorjana #2 5. Esque 6. On Your Mark Get Set; Blues 7. Invasion of the Forest 8. Jorjana #8.
Personnel: Roger Kellaway - piano, arranger, conductor; Ed Lustgarten - cello; Chuck Domanico - bass; Emil Richards - percussion; the A&M Symphony Orchestra; Tracks 4 and 8: add Joe Pass - guitar; Track 8: Erno Neufield - violin solo.


Verve on the web: www.vervemusicgroup.com


Shop

More Articles

Read Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read New, Notable and Nearly Missed Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas Multiple Reviews Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas
by Doug Collette
Published: January 14, 2017
Read Weekertoft Hits Its Stride… Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio Multiple Reviews Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 4, 2017
Read 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon Multiple Reviews 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 3, 2017
Read "Badbadnotgood Is Truly Goodgoodnotbad" Multiple Reviews Badbadnotgood Is Truly Goodgoodnotbad
by Dave Wayne
Published: December 20, 2016
Read "Paul G. Smyth: Weekertoft downloads" Multiple Reviews Paul G. Smyth: Weekertoft downloads
by John Eyles
Published: September 24, 2016
Read "John David Souther: Black Rose and Home By Dawn" Multiple Reviews John David Souther: Black Rose and Home By Dawn
by Doug Collette
Published: March 26, 2016
Read "Three saxophonists very different paths since "Propagations"" Multiple Reviews Three saxophonists very different paths since "Propagations"
by John Eyles
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Montreux Through The Decades: Jazz Recordings, Part One" Multiple Reviews Montreux Through The Decades: Jazz Recordings, Part One
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 27, 2016
Read "Emanem Tidies Up" Multiple Reviews Emanem Tidies Up
by John Eyles
Published: December 19, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!