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"The Feeling of Jazz"
Taffy Twist was written by Mercer Ellington in 1962 when the Twist and Chubby Checker were all the rage. It is a light-hearted affair, and the pianist is clearly enjoying himself. After some Nance cornet, it resolves into a feature for Jimmy Hamilton on tenor saxophone. Hamilton was the band's clarinet virtuoso and he regarded the saxophone with something like contempt, but he played the "inferior" instrument in an earthy manner that was more acceptable to sections of the audience rather than the convoluted style of Paul Gonsalves. Ellington recognized the potential in this number of his son's by incorporating it into one of his later extended works.
Flirtibird is an excellent number from the "Anatomy of A Murder" score, and it is entrusted to Nance, becoming in a sense a concerto for cornet. Because of its quality and originality, the music from this film deserves much more attention than it has ever received.
Smada is a Billy Strayhorn instrumental for the dance book, this one named for a disc jockey friend (just reverse the letters in the title). Ray Nance is again featured on cornet. There is virtually no piano to be heard on this or Boo-dah - because the leader was either conducting or dancing, or both.
What Am I Here For? is a ballad Ellington wrote in 1942 when his band contained such soloists as Rex Stewart, Ben Webster and Tricky Sam Nanton. In this 1962 version the only soloist is the uncompromising Ray Nance. Ellington liked players who could convey emotion by their tone as well as by their phrasing. In this respect, Nance's vocalized cornet tone served him superbly, just as Hodges' tone did on alto saxophone.
Take the 'A' Train was written in 1941 by Billy Strayhorn, Ellington's invaluable colleague and co-composer, who in this instance patterned his arrangement on the work of a great precursor, Fletcher Henderson. Lyrics were added to detail "the quickest way to get to Harlem," and Ellington, with typical largeness of spirit adopted it as his theme. It was soon identified with Eay Nance, whose cornet solo became an integral part of the performance.
Ellington's first movie score was for "Anatomy of A Murder," and to this day it continues to baffle film critics unaccustomed to music in such an uncompromising idion. When Peggy Lee put lyrics to it, the rather sinister introductory theme became I'm Gonna Go Fishin.' In this instrumental version the ominous character of the original is retained. Ellington and Ray Nance are again in the foreground.
Boo-dah is another of several arrangements Billy Strayhorn wrote for the band's dance book around 1950, a time when the provision of dance music was still considered a major function of all big bands. Constructed on clean and lucid lines well sutied to swinging interpretation, Strayhorn's conception makes an elegant showcase for Nance's warm cornet.
Black and Tan Fantasy was a 1927 collaboration between Ellington and Bubber Miley, the band's first plunger mute specialist, and it was used in an art film shot with the same title. In this version, both of the band's pianists can be heard, Ellington in the foreground and Strayhorn more distantly, but effectively on a "tack" piano. Lawrence Brown and Ray Nance make the joint plunger statement together, the cornetist and Harry Carney (on baritone saxophone) being the main soloists.
The Feeling of Jazz, written 1962, served for several years as the theme of the radio show Mercer Ellington recorded this and vocal versions at the time, the only performances of the attractive number with John Coltrane and another with three violinists in Paris. The treatment here is more in accordance with the title, the soloists being the leader, Johnny Hodges, Lawrence Brown, Ray Nance and Jimmy Hamilton.
Jump for Joy, a show described as "A Sun-Tanned Revu-sical," was premired in Los Angeles in 1941. It was what Ellington called one of his "social significance thrusts," and it was full of pointed comment on the racial situation. The lyrics of the title song were originally sung by Herb Jeffries, and their message has been subsequently often been brought to the public's attention by Joe Williams. In this interpretation the vocalist is the multi-talented Ray Nance, and it is his cornet in the first chorus. The alto saxophone solo is by Russel Procope. The texture of the opening ensemble results, incidently, from the use of reeds, trombones and one trumpet only, Cat Anderson's.
I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart, another of Ellington's biggest hits, was written for the 1938 Cotton Club Show - and rejected. It was a major gaffe on the producer's part, on well worthy of Broadway or Hollywood, but the public had better ears and the song has remained a lasting favourite. When Ellington wrote a new variation and called it Never No Lament, audiences still demanded the orginal. With lyrics added, Never No Lament became Don't Get Around Much Anymore, another hit which incidentally proved the wisdom of Ellington's maxim: "It's okay to steal so long as you steal from yourself." Here the two big songs are played back-to-back, Carney and Gonsalves soloing on the first, Ray Nance (vocal and cornet) on the second.
Taffy Twist (5:49), Flirtbird (2:54), Smada (3:30), What Am I Here For? (4:40), Take The A Train (3:49), I'm Gonna Go Fishin (3:52), Boo-Dah (3:42), Black And Tan Fantasy (4:30), The Feeling Of Jazz (3:40), Jump For Joy (3:10), I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart (3:37)
Recorded At Bell Studioa, NYC FEB/JUL1962