Dave Brubeck Quartet – Jazz At Oberlin (1953)

FrontCover1David Warren Brubeck (December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012) was an American jazz pianist and composer. Often regarded as a foremost exponent of cool jazz, Brubeck’s work is characterized by unusual time signatures and superimposing contrasting rhythms, meters, and tonalities.

Born in Concord, California, Brubeck was drafted into the US Army, but was spared from combat service when a Red Cross show he had played at became a hit. Within the US Army, Brubeck formed one of the first racially diverse bands. In 1951, Brubeck formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which kept its name despite shifting personnel.

DaveBrubeck1953A.jpgThe most successful—and prolific—lineup of the quartet was the one between 1958 and 1968. This lineup, in addition to Brubeck, featured saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello. A U.S. Department of State-sponsored tour in 1958 featuring the band inspired Brubeck to record the 1958 album Jazz Impressions of Eurasia. A later work, despite its esoteric theme and contrarian time signatures, Time Out became Brubeck’s highest-selling album, and the first jazz album to sell over one million copies. The lead single from the album, “Take Five”, a tune written by Desmond in 5
4 time, similarly became the highest-selling jazz single of all time. The quartet followed up Time Out with four other albums in non-standard time signatures, and some of the other songs from this series became hits as well, including “Blue Rondo à la Turk”  and “Unsquare Dance”.

Brubeck continued releasing music until his death in 2012.


Brubeck’s style ranged from refined to bombastic, reflecting both his mother’s classical training and his own improvizational skills. He expressed elements of atonality and fugue. Brubeck, with Desmond, used elements of West Coast jazz near the height of its popularity, combining them with the unorthodox time signatures seen in Time Out. Like many of his contemporaries, Brubeck played into the style of the French composer Darius Milhaud, especially his earlier works, including “Serenade Suite” and “Playland-At-The-Beach”. Brubeck’s fusion of classical music and jazz would come to be known as “third stream”, although Brubeck’s use of third stream would predate the coining of the term. John Fordham of The Guardian commented: “Brubeck’s real achievement was to blend European compositional ideas, very demanding rhythmic structures, jazz song-forms and improvisation in expressive and accessible ways.”


Brubeck was the recipient of several music awards and honors throughout his lifetime. In 1996, Brubeck received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2008, Brubeck was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, and a year later, he was given an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music. Brubeck’s 1959 album Time Out was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2005. Noted as “one of Jazz’s first pop stars” by the Los Angeles Times, Brubeck rejected his fame, and felt uncomfortable with Time magazine featuring him on the cover before Duke Ellington. (wikipedia)


Although a touch underrated, Jazz at Oberlin is one of the early Dave Brubeck classic recordings. The interplay between the pianist-leader and altoist Paul Desmond on “Perdido” borders on the miraculous, and their renditions of “The Way You Look Tonight,” “How High the Moon” and “Stardust” are quite memorable. Brubeck’s piano playing on “These Foolish Things” is so percussive and atonal in one spot as to sound like Cecil Taylor, who would not emerge for another two years. With bassist Ron Crotty and drummer Lloyd Davis giving the Quartet quiet and steady support, Brubeck and Desmond were free to play at their most adventurous. Highly recommended. (by Scott Yanow)

Recorded live in Finney Chapel on the campus of Oberlin College in Ohio, this landmark album is essential listening in any collection. A breakthrough in the Cool Jazz style, this event also marked the change in acceptance of this music as both a serious area of study in the classroom and as respected entertainment in the concert hall (Matthew Vacca)

And … Paul Desmond is also a treat here !


Dave Brubeck (piano)
Ron Crotty (bass)
Lloyd Davis (drums)
Paul Desmond (saxophone)

Alternate edition:
Alternate Edition

01. These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You) (Strachey/Marvell/Link) 6.36
02. The Way You Look Tonight (Kern/Fields) 7.46
03. Perdido (Tizol) 7.51
04. Stardust (Carmichael/Parrish) 6.40
05. How High The Moon (Lewis) 9.01



More from Dave Brubeck:


Dizzy Gillespie – Afro (1954)

FrontCover1John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, educator and singer. He was a trumpet virtuoso and improviser, building on the virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge but adding layers of harmonic and rhythmic complexity previously unheard in jazz. His combination of musicianship, showmanship, and wit made him a leading popularizer of the new music called bebop. His beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, scat singing, bent horn, pouched cheeks, and light-hearted personality provided one of bebop’s most prominent symbols.

In the 1940s, Gillespie, with Charlie Parker, became a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz. He taught and influenced many other musicians, including trumpeters Miles Davis, Jon Faddis, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Arturo Sandoval, Lee Morgan, Chuck Mangione, and balladeer Johnny Hartman.

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Scott Yanow wrote, “Dizzy Gillespie’s contributions to jazz were huge. One of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time, Gillespie was such a complex player that his contemporaries ended up being similar to those of Miles Davis and Fats Navarro instead, and it was not until Jon Faddis’s emergence in the 1970s that Dizzy’s style was successfully recreated [….] Gillespie is remembered, by both critics and fans alike, as one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time”.

Afro is an album by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, released in 1954 on the Norgran label.[1] Gillespie worked with many Cuban musicians on the album. (wikipedia)

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Pairing Dizzy Gillespie with Cuban arranger/composer Chico O’Farrill produced a stunning session which originally made up the first half of a Norgran LP. O’Farrill conducts an expanded orchestra which combines a jazz band with a Latin rhythm section; among the participants in the four-part “Manteca Suite” are trumpeters Quincy Jones and Ernie Royal, trombonist J.J. Johnson, tenor saxophonists Hank Mobley and Lucky Thompson, and conga player Mongo Santamaria. “Manteca,” written during the previous decade, serves as an exciting opening movement, while the next two segments build upon this famous theme, though they are jointly credited to O’Farrill as well. “Rhumba-Finale” is straight-ahead jazz with some delicious solo work by Gillespie.


A later small-group session features the trumpeter with an all-Latin rhythm section and flutist Gilberto Valdes, who is heard on “A Night in Tunisia” and “Caravan.” Both of the Latin versions of these pieces are far more interesting than “Con Alma,” as the excessive percussion and dull piano accompaniment add little to this normally captivating theme. Long out of print, this 2002 CD reissue will only be available until May 2005; it is well worth acquiring. (by Ken Dryden)BackCover1Personnel:
Danny Bank (saxophone on 01. – 04.)
Cándido Camero (percussion)
Leon Comegys (trombone on 01. – 04.)
George Dorsey (saxophone on 01. – 04.)
Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet)
Lou Hackney (bass on 01. – 04.)
Réne Hernandez (piano on 05. – 07.)
Hilton Jefferson (saxophone on 01. – 04.)
J. J. Johnson (trombone on 01. – 04.)
Quincy Jones (trumpet)
Wade Legge (piano on 01. – 04.)
José Mangual (percussion)
George Matthews – trombone on 01. – 04.)
Ralph Miranda (percussion on 05. – 07.)
Hank Mobley (saxophone on 01. – 04.)
Ubaldo Nieto (timbales)
Jimmy Nottingham (trumpet)
Charlie Persip (drums on 01. – 04.)
Roberto Rodríguez (bass)
Ernie Royal (trumpet on 01. – 04.)
Mongo Santamaria (percussion on 01. – 04.)
Lucky Thompson (saxophone on 01. – 04.)
Gilbert Valdez (flute on 05. – 07.)

01. Manteca Theme (Fuller/Gillespie/Pozo) – 4:10
“Contraste” (Gillespie, Chico O’Farrill, Pozo) – 2:45
“Jungla” (Gillespie, O’Farrill, Pozo) – 4:44
“Rhumba Finale” (Gillespie, O’Farrill, Pozo) – 4:43
“A Night in Tunisia” (Gillespie, Frank Paparelli) – 4:19
“Con Alma” (Gillespie) – 5:05
“Caravan” (Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Juan Tizol) – 7:19



More from Dizzy Gillespie:

Dizzy Gillespie01

Les 4 Guaranis – 2ème Récital (Chants Et Danses D’Amerique Latine) (1954)

FrontCover1The first recordings of the “Guaranis” with BAM and Barclay are those of the ensemble that arrived in France in 1951 with the Ballets de l’Amérique Latine of Joaquin Perez Fernandez: Cristóbal Cáceres (1917-1995), Angel Sanabria (-1985), Gerardo Servin (harp; 1921-2011) and Francisco Marin (1919-2008). Before their arrival in France, the artists were in Buenos Aires, where they had been members of Felix Pérez Cardozo’s ensemble in 1947. It is Mauricio Cardozo Ocampo who proposes to Joaquin Perez Fernandez these artists for his ballet and the tour in Europe. In France, the “Trovadores Guaranies” of the Ballets show change their name to “les 4 Guaranis” and record their first albums with BAM. The “4 Guaranis” are soon 5 with the French dancer Florence Darband, wife of Francisco Marin. They then recorded with Barclay and the name “Les Guaranis”.

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In 1955, the artists split up and created different ensembles. He lent the discography of Cristóbal Cáceres’ ensemble here. Francisco Marin is left alone with his wife Florence and the dancer Paco Sanchez, and Barclay asks him to change the name of the group to “Les Guaranis de Francisco Marin”. The other members of this group changed in the following years (Lorenzo Leguizamon, Nenequita Cáceres, Armando Rivero, Pedro Leguizamon, Ignacio Alderete, Virgilio Rojas, Romano Zanotti, Milton A. Zapata,…). Ramon Romero,…). Listing the artists on the discs is a difficult thing to do: those who appear on the covers are not always those who sing on the disc. The same record can include different artists. So we find songs of the 4 Guaranies on later albums. For this reason, I have grouped together all the Barclay records of the “Guaranis” and “Guaranis de Francisco Marin”.

Les 4 Guaranis01

And here´s their second album with traditional folksongs from Argentinia.

A real nice addition to every World Music collection … Unadulterated music from a distant continent.

Enjoy it !


Cristóbal Cáceres – Angel Sanabria – Gerardo Servin – Francisco Marin

Alternate edition:
Alternate Edition

01. Che Lucero Aguai’y (Traditional) 2,24
02. Hasta Otro Dia (Thormo) 2.08
03. Llegada (Cardozo) 2.25
04. Ay Para Navidad (Villar) 2.00
05. Burrerita Mayans (Cardozo) 3.31
06. Zamba De Mi Pago (Avalos) 3.24
07. Que Bonito Es El Carmelo (Herrero/Parada) 2.44
08. India (Flores) 4.17
09. La Tropilla (Chazarreta) 1.56
10. Virginia (Mongolez/Chase) 2.31
11. Vidala Del Culampaja (Acosta/Villafane) 4.13



Chet Baker Quartet – Jazz At Ann Arbor (1954)

FrontCover1Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker Jr. (December 23, 1929 – May 13, 1988) was an American jazz trumpeter and vocalist. He is known for major innovations within the cool jazz subgenre leading him to be nicknamed the “prince of cool”.

Baker earned much attention and critical praise through the 1950s, particularly for albums featuring his vocals (Chet Baker Sings (1954), It Could Happen to You (1958). Jazz historian Dave Gelly described the promise of Baker’s early career as “James Dean, Sinatra, and Bix, rolled into one”. His well-publicized drug habit also drove his notoriety and fame. Baker was in and out of jail frequently before enjoying a career resurgence in the late 1970s and 1980s


Early on May 13, 1988, Baker was found dead on the street below his room in Hotel Prins Hendrik, Amsterdam, with serious wounds to his head, apparently having fallen from the second-story window. Heroin and cocaine were found in his room and in his body. No evidence of a struggle was found, and the death was ruled an accident. According to another account, he inadvertently locked himself out of his room and fell while attempting to cross from the balcony of the vacant adjacent room to his own. A plaque was placed outside the hotel in his memory. Baker is buried at the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California, next to his father. (wikipedia)

Plaque at the Hotel Prins Hendrik, in Amsterdam:

Jazz at Ann Arbor is a live album by jazz trumpeter Chet Baker which was recorded at the University of Michigan in 1954 and released on the Pacific Jazz label. (wikipedia)


Chet Baker (trumpet) was arguably at the peak of his prowess when captured in a quartet setting at the Masonic Temple in Ann Arbor, MI, May 9, 1954. He’s joined by Russ Freeman (piano), Carson Smith (bass) and Bob Neel (drums), all of whom provide ample assistance without ever obscuring their leader’s laid-back and refined style. Baker’s sublime sounds also garnered notice from critics, who had placed him atop polls in both Metronome and Down Beat magazines the previous year. Evidence of these lauds are obvious upon listening to the combo as they nestle into one of the cornerstones in their repertoire, the suave “Line for Lyons” — a track dating back to the artist’s short-lived yet genre defining work with the song’s author, Gerry Mulligan.


Almost immediately after establishing the melodic theme, Baker dives into his trademark solos. The fluidity throughout the seemingly off-the-cuff excursions presents confirmation of both his unquestionable timing and understated subtle authority. The rhythm section ably follows the improvisations with solid, yet never overpowering support. Freeman also shines throughout, especially during the stately opening to “Lover Man” or the up-tempo jiving “Maid in Mexico.” Other classics include the stark intimacy of Baker’s signature “My Funny Valentine,” as well as respectively frisky renditions of “Stella by Starlight” and Freeman’s own crowd-pleasing “Russ Job.”

The Ann Arbour Masonic Temple – Michigan:
The Ann Arbour Masonic Temple - Michigan

In 2000, these eight cuts were coupled with five additional previously unreleased sides from the Carlton Theatre in Los Angeles circa August of 1953. The results were Quartet Live, Vol. 1: This Time the Dream’s on Me (2000), the first of three archival volumes featuring Baker during his initial reign as the poster child for West coast cool jazz. (by Lindsay Planer)

This album was released in red vinyl !

Chet Baker (trumpet)
Russ Freeman (piano)
Bob Neel (drums)
Carson Smith (bass)

01. Annoucement 0.18
02. Line For Lyons (Mulligan) 7.17.
03. Lover Man (Sherman/Ramirez/Davis) 6.06
04. My Funny Valentine (Hart/Rodgers) 5.27
05. Maid In Mexico (Freeman) 5.12
06. Stella By Starlight (Washington/Young) 4.33
07. My Old Flame (Johnson/Coslow) 6.04
08. Headline (Montrose) 5.06
09. Russ Job (Freeman) 6.19
10. Zing ! Went The Strings Of My Heart (Hanley) 6.04
11. My Little Suede Shoes (Parker) 6.30
12. Line For Lyons (Mulligan) 5.32
13. My Old Flame (Johnson/Coslow) 5.46
14. Everything Happens To Me (Carmichael/Mercer) 5.20

10. – 14.: Recorded live at the Carlton Theatre in Los Angeles circa August of 1953





More from Chet Baker:


Kenny Clarke – Same (Telefunken Blues) (1955)

OriginalFrontCover1Kenneth Clarke Spearman (January 9, 1914 – January 26, 1985), nicknamed Klook, was an American jazz drummer and bandleader. A major innovator of the bebop style of drumming, he pioneered the use of the Ride cymbal to keep time rather than the hi-hat, along with the use of the bass drum for irregular accents (“dropping bombs”).

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he was orphaned at the age of about five and began playing the drums when he was eight or nine on the urging of a teacher at his orphanage. Turning professional in 1931 at the age of seventeen, he moved to New York City in 1935 when he began to establish his drumming style and reputation. As the house drummer at Minton’s Playhouse in the early 1940s, he participated in the after-hours jams that led to the birth of bebop. After military service in the US and Europe between 1943 and 1946, he returned to New York, but from 1948 to 1951 he was mostly based in Paris. He stayed in New York between 1951 and 1956, performing with the Modern Jazz Quartet and playing on early Miles Davis recordings. He then moved permanently to Paris, where he performed and recorded with European and visiting American musicians and co-led the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band between 1961 and 1972. He continued to perform and record until the month before he died of a heart attack in January 1985.

Telefunken Blues is an album led by jazz drummer Kenny Clarke recorded in late 1954 and early 1955 and first released on the Savoy label. (wikipedia)


Everyone’s in good form on these two sessions from the mid-’50s. The earlier 1954 set, though, is the more interesting. It teams Modern Jazz Quartet alumni Kenny Clarke, Milt Jackson, and Percy Heath with West Coast beboppers Frank Morgan, Walter Benton, and Gerald Wiggins. Jackson’s spirited solos and strong presence in the ensembles make clear he is enjoying a change of pace from the austere formalism of the MJQ. Altoist Frank Morgan, too, comes to play, tempering tart Parker-isms with sounds that Jackie McLean, a Morgan contemporary, was also exploring at this time. Section partner Walter Benton counters with a rich, sonorous Websterian fog, rounding out a horn section that has range, depth, ideas, and chops. Wiggins, a commanding, understated presence, is in a role that would probably have gone to Wynton Kelly or Red Garland if the casting had not been for a West Coaster. Between them, Wiggins, Morgan, and Benton further undermine the artificial and meaningless dichotomy of West Coast cool versus New York City heat.

Alternate frontcover:

The four tracks from the later 1955 date feature a familiar Savoy grouping of Count Basie band members: Frank Wess, Henry Coker, Charlie Fowlkes, and Eddie Jones, with Jackson, and Clarke. In the company of the Count’s men, Clarke and Jackson create a successful hybrid of bop and Basie-style swing. Frank Wess’ tenor and flute playing, both on form, is most at home with the Jackson and Clarke direction. Bassist Jones and Clarke are an effective study in contrasts, with Jones walks his bass unperturbedly as Clarke throws curves and change-ups to his cohorts. Telefunken Blues is recommended for the set with Morgan, Benton, and Wiggins, although the session with the Count’s men does offer several pleasures, notably, the work of the rhythm section, Wess’ flute, and Ernie Wilkins’ arrangements. (by Jim Todd)

Recorded November 1, 1954 in Hollywood, CA (tracks 01-04) & February 7, 1955 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ (tracks 05-08)


Walter Benton (saxophone on 01. – 04.)
Kenny Clarke (drums)
Henry Coker (trombone on 05. – 08.)
Charlie Fowlkes (saxophone on 05. – 08.)
Percy Heath (bass on 01. – 04.)
Milt Jackson (vibraphone on 01. – 04., piano on 05 – 08.)
Eddie Jones (bass on 05. – 08.)
Frank Morgan (saxophone on 01. – 04.)
Frank Wess (saxophone, flute on 05. – 08.)
Gerald Wiggins (piano on 01. – 04.)

01. Strollin’ (Clarke) 4.24
02. Sonor (Wiggins/Clarke) 4.51
03. Blue’s Mood (Clarke) 4.19
04. Skoot (Beal/Garner) 3.49
05. Telefunken Blues (Wilkins) 5.51
06. Klook’s Nook (Wilkins) 5.11
07. Baggin’ The Blues (Wilkins) 5.41
08. Inhibitions (Wilkins) 3.53




Kenny Clarke (January 9, 1914 – January 26, 1985)

Lee Konitz – At Storyville (1954 / 1988)

FrontCover1Leon Konitz (October 13, 1927 – April 15, 2020) was an American composer and alto saxophonist.

He performed successfully in a wide range of jazz styles, including bebop, cool jazz, and avant-garde jazz. Konitz’s association with the cool jazz movement of the 1940s and 1950s includes participation in Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool sessions and his work with pianist Lennie Tristano. He was one of relatively few alto saxophonists of this era to retain a distinctive style, when Charlie Parker exerted a massive influence. Like other students of Tristano, Konitz improvised long, melodic lines with the rhythmic interest coming from odd accents, or odd note groupings suggestive of the imposition of one time signature over another. Other saxophonists were strongly influenced by Konitz, such as Paul Desmond and Art Pepper.

He died during the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic due to complications brought on by COVID-19.

Lee Konitz at Storyville (aka Jazz at Storyville) is a live album by saxophonist and bandleader Lee Konitz featuring performances recorded in at the Storyville nightclub Boston in 1954 which was originally released as a 10 inch LP on George Wein’s Storyville label. The album was rereleased with additional material in 1988 on the Black Lion label. (wikipedia)

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This excellent set gives one a definitive look at altoist Lee Konitz at a period of time when he was breaking away from being a sideman and a student of Lennie Tristano and asserting himself as a leader. With pianist Ronnie Ball, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Alan Levitt, Konitz explores a variety of his favorite chord changes, some of which were disguised by newer melodies such as “Hi Beck,” “Subconscious Lee,” and “Sound Lee.” Among the other high points of this well-recorded set are “Foolin’ Myself” and a lengthy exploration of “If I Had You.” (by Scott Yanow)


Ronnie Ball (piano)
Percy Heath (bass)
Lee Konitz (saxophone)
Al Levitt (drums)

CD front+ backcover from Black, Lion, 1998:

01. Introduction by John McLelland (*) 0.52
02. Hi Beck (Konitz) 7.29
03. If I Had You (*) (King/Shapiro) 11.16
Subconscious Lee (Konitz) 5.33
05. Sound Lee (Konitz) 6.36
06. Foolin’ Myself (*) (Lawrence/Tinturin) 5.58
07. Introduction by John McLelland (*) 0.45
08. Ablution (*) (Konitz) 4.43
These Foolish Things (Link/Marvell/Strachey) 4.09
10. End Announcement by John McLelland (*) 0.34

(*) bonus tracks



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Leon Konitz (October 13, 1927 – April 15, 2020)


Buck Clayton – How Hi The Fi (1954)

FrontCover1.jpgA cornerstone of jazz culture has been the jam sessions. Many groups (regardless of stature) that appeared in the same town concurrently gathered for late-night, jam festivities. Amid the aura of improvisation and camaraderie, legends (and future legends) refined their craft as soloists and ensemble performers. Unfortunately, the results of these collaborations were rarely preserved on vinyl (adding to the legend). But in the early fifties, Columbia Records captured all-star glory with its Buck Clayton jam catalog. Now, Pure Pleasure Records has re-mastered How Hi The Fi to 180-gram vinyl.

Following the success of Buck’s first jam session, Huckle-Buck And Robbins’ Nest (Columbia CL 548), producer George Avakian (with the help of John Hammond) Buck Clayton02assembled a veteran cadre of musicians. Many of these players were part of Count Basie’s band and the group dynamics are present. A last-minute surprise addition (on two sides) was clarinetist Woody Herman, in town on his way to Europe. How High The Fi was recorded in two dates, with an emphasis on spontaneity.

Pure Pleasure Records has brought this mono fidelity session to life on 180-gram vinyl. The original, meticulous engineering sounds flawless. The instrumentation (both individual and combined) is pristine in clarity and mixing. All of the horns and reeds sound great, without a trace of shrillness. The reproduction of the original gatefold is top-notch (including the plug for Columbia needles). [Interesting how the audiophile vinyl reissues often look so much like the original LP release (if someone has it) that even the name of the repressing label doesn’t appear anywhere, even on the vinyl’s center label…Ed.] How Hi The Fi is jazz at its best! (audaud.com)

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Buck Clayton (trumpet on 03. + 04.)
Al Cohn (saxophone on 01. + 02.)
Julian Dash (saxophone)
Lem Davis (saxophone)
Charlie Fowlkes (saxophone on 03. + 04.)
Freddy Green (guitar on 03. + 04.)
Urbie Green (trombone)
Woody Herman (clarinet on 01 – 02.)
Jimmy Jones (piano on 01. + 02.)
Jo Jones (drums)
Steve Jordan (guitar on 01. + 02.)
Joe Newman (trumpet on 03. + 04.)
Walter Page (bass)
Benny Powell (trombone on 03. + 04.)
Joe Thomas (trumpet on 01. + 02.)
Sir Charles Thompson (piano on 03. + 04.)
Trummy Young (trombone on 01. + 02)

01. How Hi The Fi (Clayton) 13.50
02. Blue Moon (Hart/Rodgers) 14.11
03. Sentimental Journey (Green/Brown/Homer) 13.47
04. Moten Swing (Moten) 12.47



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Wilbur Dorsey “Buck” Clayton (November 12, 1911 – December 8, 1991)

Various Artists – Les amis de Boris Vian (2010)

FrontCover1.jpgBoris Vian (10 March 1920 – 23 June 1959) was a French polymath: writer, poet, musician, singer, translator, critic, actor, inventor and engineer. Today he is remembered primarily for his novels. Those published under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan were bizarre parodies of criminal fiction, highly controversial at the time of their release.

Vian’s other fiction, published under his real name, featured a highly individual writing style with numerous made-up words, subtle wordplay and surrealistic plots. His novel L’Écume des jours (literally: “The Foam of Days”) is the best known of these works and one of the few translated into English, under the title of Froth on the Daydream.

Vian was also an important influence on the French jazz scene. He served as liaison for Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis in Paris, wrote for several French jazz-reviews (Le Jazz Hot, Paris Jazz) and published numerous articles dealing with jazz both in the United States and in France. His own music and songs enjoyed popularity during his lifetime, particularly the anti-war song “Le Déserteur” (The Deserter).

Vian was born in 1920 into an upper middle-class family in the wealthy Parisian suburb of Ville d’Avray (Hauts-de-Seine). His parents were Paul Vian, a young rentier, and Yvonne Ravenez, amateur pianist and harpist. From his father Vian inherited a distrust of the church and the military, as well as a love of the bohemian life. Vian was the second of four children: the others were Lélio (1918–1984), Alain (1921–1995) and Ninon (1924–2003). The family occupied the Les Fauvettes villa. The name “Boris” was chosen by Yvonne, an avid classical music lover, after seeing a performance of Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov.


Boris’ later childhood was also marked with sickness as he suffered from Rheumatic fever when he was 12. From then on Boris parents became overprotective toward him, and he would later judge them harshly for this in L’Herbe rouge and L’Arrache-coeur.
Formal education and teenage years

From 1932 to 1937, Vian studied at Lycée Hoche in Versailles. In 1936, Vian and his two brothers started organizing what they called “surprise-parties” (surprise parties). They partook of mescaline in the form of a Mexican cactus called peyote. These gatherings became the basis of his early novels: Trouble dans les andains (Turmoil in the Swaths) (1943) and particularly Vercoquin et le plancton (Vercoquin and the Plankton) (1943–44). It was also in 1936 that Vian got interested in jazz; the next year he started playing the trumpet and joined the Hot Club de France.

In 1937, Vian graduated from Lycée Hoche, passing baccalauréats in mathematics, philosophy, Latin, Greek and German. He subsequently enrolled at Lycée Condorcet, Paris, where he studied special mathematics until 1939. Vian became fully immersed in BorisVian02the French jazz scene: for example, in 1939 he helped organize Duke Ellington’s second concert in France. When WWII started, Vian was not accepted into the army due to poor health. He entered École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris and subsequently moved to Angoulême when the school moved there because of the war.

In 1940, Vian met Michelle Léglise, who became his wife in 1941. She taught Vian English and introduced him to translations of American literature. Also in 1940, Vian met Jacques Loustalot, who became a recurring character in several early novels and short stories as “The Colonel”. Loustalot died accidentally in 1949 falling from a building he was trying to climb on in order to enter into a flat by the window, after a bet. In 1942, Vian and his brothers joined a jazz orchestra under the direction of Claude Abbadie, who became a minor character in Vian’s Vercoquin et le plancton. The same year, Vian graduated from École Centrale with a diploma in metallurgy, and his son Patrick was born.

After Vian’s graduation, he and Michelle moved to the 10th arrondissement of Paris and, on 24 August 1942 he became an engineer at the French Association for Standardisation (AFNOR). By this time he was an accomplished jazz trumpeter, and in 1943 he wrote his first novel, Trouble dans les andains (Turmoil in the Swaths). His literary career started in 1943 with his first publication, a poem, in the Hot Club de France bulletin. The poem was signed Bison Ravi (“Delighted Bison”), an anagram of Vian’s real name. The same year Vian’s father died, murdered at home by burglars.


In 1944 Vian completed Vercoquin et le plancton (Vercoquin and the Plankton), a novel inspired partly by surprise-parties of his youth and partly by his job at the AFNOR (which is heavily satirized in the novel). Raymond Queneau and Jean Rostand helped Vian to publish this work at Éditions Gallimard in 1947, along with several works Vian completed in 1946. These included his first major novels, L’Écume des jours and L’automne à Pékin (Autumn in Peking). The former, a tragic love story in which real world objects respond to the characters’ emotions, is now regarded as Vian’s masterpiece, but at the time of its publication it failed to attract any considerable attention. L’automne à Pékin, which also had a love story at its heart but was somewhat more complex, also failed to sell well.

Frustrated by the commercial failure of his works, Vian vowed he could write a best-seller and wrote the hard-boiled novel I Spit on Your Graves (J’irai cracher sur vos tombes) in only 15 days. The book was ascribed to a fictitious American writer, Vernon Sullivan, with Vian credited as translator. Vian persuaded his publisher friend Jean d’Halluin to publish the novel in 1947. Eventually the hoax became known and the book became one of the best-selling titles of that year. Vian wrote three more Vernon Sullivan novels from 1947 to 1949.


The year 1946 marked a turning point in Vian’s life: At one of the popular parties that he and Michelle hosted he made the acquaintance of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus, became a regular in their literary circles and started regularly publishing various materials in Les Temps Modernes. Vian admired Sartre in particular and gave him a prominent role—as “Jean-Sol Partre”—in L’Écume des jours (litt. “The foam of the days”) published in English under the title: Froth on the Daydream. Ironically, Sartre and Michelle Vian commenced a relationship that would eventually destroy Vian’s marriage.

Despite his literary work becoming more important, Vian never left the jazz scene. He became a regular contributor to various jazz-related magazines, and played trumpet at Le Tabou. As a result, his financial situation improved, and he abandoned the job at the AFNOR. Vian also formed his own choir, La petite chorale de Saint-Germain-des-Pieds.

The year 1948 saw the birth of Vian’s daughter, Carole. He continued his literary career by writing Vernon Sullivan novels, and also published poetry collections: Barnum’s Digest (1948) and Cantilènes en gelée (Cantelinas in Jelly) (1949). Vian also started BorisVian05writing plays, the first of which, L’Équarrissage pour tous (Slaughter for Everyone), was staged the year it was written, 1950. The same year saw the publication of Vian’s third major novel, L’Herbe rouge (The Red Grass). This was a much darker story than its predecessors, centering on a man who built a giant machine that could help him psychoanalyze his soul. Like the previous two books, it did not sell well; Vian’s financial situation had been steadily worsening since late 1948, and he was forced to take up translation of English-language literature and articles in order to get by. Vian separated from his wife, and in 1950 he met Ursula Kübler (1928–2010), a Swiss dancer; the two started an affair, and in 1951 Vian divorced Michelle. Ursula and Boris married in 1954.

Vian’s last novel, L’Arrache-cœur (The Heartsnatcher), was published in 1953, yet again to poor sales and Vian effectively stopped writing fiction. The only work that appeared after 1953 was a revised version of L’automne à Pékin, published 1956. He concentrated on a new field, song-writing and performing, and continued writing poetry. Vian’s songs were successful; in 1954 he embarked on his first tour as singer-songwriter. By 1955, when he was working as art director for Philips, Vian was active in a wide variety of fields: song-writing, opera, screenplays and several more plays. His first album, Chansons possibles et impossibles (Possible and Impossible Songs), was also recorded in 1955. He wrote the first French rock and roll songs with his friend Henri Salvador, who sang them under the nickname Henry Cording. He also wrote “Java Pour Petula” (a song about an English girl arriving in France, written in Parisian argot) for Petula Clark’s first concert performances in France.

Still in 1955, Vian decided to perform some of his songs on stage himself. He had been unhappy about the fact that French singer Marcel Mouloudji (1922-1994), who had interpreted “Le Deserteur” (The Deserter) on stage the year before, had not accepted the original lyrics because he thought that they would lead to the song being banned. Although Vian accepted a change to one verse, the song was banned from TV and radio channels until 1967. The record of Vian’s songs performed by himself was not successful in France until ten years after his death.


Vian’s life was endangered in 1956 by a pulmonary edema, but he survived and continued working with the same intensity as before. In 1957, Vian completed another play: Les Bâtisseurs d’empire (The Empire Builders), which was only published and staged in 1959. In 1958, Vian worked on the opera Fiesta with Darius Milhaud, and a collection of his essays, En avant la zizique… Et par ici les gros sous (On with the Muzak… And Bring in the Big Bucks), was published the same year.

On the morning of 23 June 1959, Vian was at the Cinema Marbeuf for the screening of the film version of I will Spit on Your Graves. He had already fought with the producers over their interpretation of his work, and he publicly denounced the film, stating that he wished to have his name removed from the credits. A few minutes after the film began, he reportedly blurted out: “These guys are supposed to be American? My ass!” He then collapsed into his seat and died from sudden cardiac death en route to the hospital.[3]

During his lifetime, only the novels published under the name of Vernon Sullivan were successful. Those published under his real name, which had real literary value in his eyes, remained a commercial failure, despite the support of famous authors of this time.


Almost immediately after his death, L’Écume des jours, and then L’automne à Pékin, L’Arrache-coeur, and L’Herbe rouge, began to get recognition in France and became cult novels for youths of the 1960s and 1970s.

As a songwriter, Vian had mixed success. When he decided to sing the songs that were rejected by the stars himself, he succeeded only in reaching a limited audience (including Léo Ferré et Georges Brassens), the public remaining unconvinced of his talent for singing.[6] Nevertheless the May 1968 in France generation, even more than the previous ones, loved his songs, especially because of their impertinence.

As a songwriter, Vian also inspired Serge Gainsbourg, who used to attend his show at the cabaret Les Trois Baudets and who wrote, thirty years later: “I took it on the chin […], he sang terrific things […], it is because I heard him that I decided to try something interesting”. As a critic, Boris Vian was the first to support Gainsbourg in Le Canard Enchaîné, in 1957.


Over the years, Vian’s work have become modern classics, often celebrated and selected as subjects for study in schools. Vian is still viewed by many as the emblematic figure of Saint Germain des Prés as it existed during the postwar decade, when this district was the centre of artistic and intellectual life in Paris. (by wikipedia)

And here´s a pretty good sampler with songs from Boris Vian sung by many artists from the Fifties like Petula Cark, Henri Salvador or Juliette Gréco.

What a wonderful way to discover the world of the one and only Boris Vian.


01. Mouloudji: Le deserteur (1954) (Vian/Berg) 3.11
02. Henri Salvador: Faut rigoler (1958) (Salvador/Vian) 3.30
03. Annie Cordy: Nick nack paddy whack (1959) (Vian/Arnold) 2.08
04. Magali Noël: Oh! si y´avait pas ton père (1959) (Salvador/Vian) 2.39
05. Petula Clark: Java pour petula (1959) (Henderson/Steelman/Vian) 2.09
06. Dario Moreno: Venus de milo (1959) (Vian/Freed) 2.34
07. Hugues Aufray: Nous avions vingt ans (1959) (Vian/Goraguer) 2.46
08. Magali Noël: Oh! cest divin (1959) (Vian/Simon) 3.21
09. Juliette Gréco: Musique mecanique (1957) (Vian/Popp) 3.07
10. Philippe Clay: Juste le temps de vivre (1955) (Vian) 1.37
11. Henri Salvador: Moi, je prefere la marche a pied (1958) (Salvador/Vian) 2.31
12. Mouloudji: Je suis snob (1955) (Vian/Walter) 3.12
13. Magali Noël: Mon oncle celestin (1959) (Vian/Bolling) 3.24
14. Claude Piron: D´où reviens-tu Billy Boy (1958) (Scott/Vian) 2.31
15. Henri Salvador: Blouse du dentiste (1958) (Salvador/Vian) 3.29
16. Patachou: On n´est pas la pour se faire engueuler (1955) (Vian/Walter) 3.49
17. Mouloudji: Cinematographe (1955) (Vian/Walter) 3.06
18. Henri Salvador: Va t´faire cuire un (1956) (Legrano/Vian) 2.54




Dave Brubeck Quartet – Jazz At The College Of The Pacific (1954)

FrontCover1.jpgJazz at the College of the Pacific is a live album by Dave Brubeck Quartet. It was recorded and released in December 1953 on Fantasy Records as F 3223. The cover was designed by Ed Colker and drawn by Arnold Roth. Critic Nat Hentoff wrote on Down Beat magazine that the album “ranks with the Oberlin and Storyville sets as the best of Brubeck on record”.

Fantasy released seven additional performances from this concert in 2002 on the album Jazz at the College of the Pacific, Vol. 2. (by wikipedia)

This set is a near-classic, one of many from this period, by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Drummer Joe Dodge had just joined the group, and he works with bassist Ron Crotty in laying down a solid and subtle foundation. The real action, however, takes place up front with pianist Dave Brubeck and altoist Paul Desmond. Their individual solos are full of creative ideas on six standards — most memorable are “All the Things You Are,” “Laura,” and “I’ll Never Smile Again” — and their interaction and tradeoffs are timeless. Recommended. (by Scott Yanow)


Rare French labels

Before he hit it big with Time Out, Dave Brubeck found a niche market with the college crowd. The tweed coat and horn-rimmed glasses set were eager to soak in all that he had to offer, and Brubeck can take part of the credit for turning jazz into a more academic pursuit than it was previously held to be.

His earliest recordings, such as this one from 1953, were mostly standards recorded in various live venues at colleges around the country. While most people are familiar with Brubeck’s later Columbia records that feature all the hits, these early recordings feature a tarnished charm and a glimpse of the foundation of the West Coast sound. Here one can hear the beginnings of the polyrhythmic experiments that would evolve into forays in odd time signatures and the quartet’s ability to have multiple members soloing without muddying the sound.


Paul Desmond and Brubeck are one of the greatest teams jazz ever produced, and even at this early stage both share an ability to navigate tricky melodic concepts while still sounding smooth. Although the up-tempo numbers are the most adventurous, a lovely reading of “Laura” by Brubeck is the most conventional and the most rewarding, and “I’ll Never Smile Again” is a tune tailor made for Desmond’s dry, wistful soloing.

Many will bypass these early recordings in favor of the later concept albums, but with this album of standards in a live setting, Brubeck doesn’t disappoint and shows that he was a little ahead of the game and finding new ways to tread old paths. Those who enjoy this recording will also like the equally fine Jazz at the College of the Pacific Vol. 2, featuring more recordings from this concert. (by David Rickert)


Alternate frontcovers

Dave Brubeck (piano)
Ron Crotty (bass)
Paul Desmond (saxophone)
Joe Dodge (drums)

01. All The Things You Are (Kern/Hammerstein II) 9.12
02. Laura (Raksin/Mercer) 3.12
03. Lullaby In Rhythm (Hirsch/Goodman) 7.25
04. I’ll Never Smile Again (Lowe) 5.28
05. I Remember You (Schertzinger/Mercer) 9.12
07. For All We Know (Coots/Lewis) 5.51



Thelonious Monk – Piano Solo (1954)

FrontCover1.jpgLess than a month after leading a quartet session with Ray Copeland (trumpet), Frank Foster (tenor sax), and Curly Russell (bass), Thelonious Monk (piano) was documented during this June 7, 1954 solo session in Paris for the Vogue label. Over the years these nine performances have been packaged and re-packaged. This mid-’90s CD reissue seems to take a bit of an edge over many of the midline titles as the audio has been remastered and by all accounts sounds excellent. In terms of contents, it is interesting to note that three of the numbers Monk had cut with Copeland, Foster, and Russell on May 11, 1954, he re-recorded in this, his very next studio outing. Those selections include the Monk originals “We See,” “Hackensack,” and cover of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” It is indeed a thrill to hear the artist accompanying himself on eight of his best-known and loved songs. There truly isn’t a dull moment during the half-hour program, beginning with the charm and sophistication of “‘Round Midnight.” With all excessive (read: “other”) instrumentation stripped away, the true density inherent in Monk’s arrangements, as well as his equally complex performance style is more clearly revealed. The hurdy-gurdy of “Evidence” has a playful organic quality that sounds comparatively rigid or structured when placed beside any of the renditions Monk cut in a quartet, for instance. At times, it sounds as if he is genuinely amusing himself as he weaves short responsive phrases. The aforementioned update of Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” is wistful as the melody line spills out, almost as if by accident, from beneath Monk’s fingertips.


The sly understated gamboling on “Well You Needn’t” is often hidden in the context of a larger ensemble. When peeled back, what lays bare are sturdier examples of Monk’s influences — namely the stride style heard in Fats Waller and Willie “The Lion” Smith. Yet he never allows his counterpoint to stray too far. The laid-back and impish “We See” rollicks as Monk’s frenetic runs up and down the keys are punctuated in a taunting manner by emphatically rhythm-centric chord progressions. The pensive nature of “Reflections” resonates with a particular potency masked by the intrusive nature of additional instrumentation. Surely if ever Monk wrote a tune that worked most effectively as a piano solo, it is “Reflections.” And that is a sentiment that could actually extend to the whole (and remainder) of Solo 1954 as well. (by Lindsay Planer)


Alternate frontcover

Thelonious Monk (piano)


01. 1 ‘Round Midnight (Hanighen/Monk/Williams) 5.23
02. Evidence (Monk) 3.10
03. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Kern) 3.28
04. Well, You Needn’t (Monk) 3.29
05. Reflections (Monk) 5.07
06. We See (Monk) 2.39
07. Eronel (Monk) 2.36
08. Off Minor (Monk) 2.35




Thelonious Monk (October 10, 1917 – February 17, 1982)