Louie Bellson {Bop}

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Louie Bellson {Bop}

Post by Musicgate on Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:39 am

Louie Bellson - The Louie Bellson Explosion (1975, Pablo) {Bop}

Recording Date: Los Angeles; May 21-22, 1975.
Digital remastering: 1992 - Phil De Lancie
Release Date: 1992, Remaster, Fantasy
Genre: Bop

Leonard Feather
Louis Bellson lives in two worlds, enjoying the best ot both. By this I do not refer to his dual life as a drummer and composer, or composer and bandleader, but rather to his simultaneous occupancy of past and present. There is no better evidence than this new album of his ability to draw on early experiences while infusing his orchestra with a spirit that is contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Louis, of course, paid lengthly dues as a sideman, with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Count Basie, and most notably Duke Ellington. But because of his qualifications as an all-around musician, he probably was destined from the start to be a leader. Historically, it is interesting to note that he undertook this role on records for the first time with a Los Angeles session for Norman Granz's Clef label in 1953. Throughout the 1950s he continued to record for Granz, in addition to touring with Jazz at the Philharmonic. With his appearance in combos on several recent Pablo albums, and particularly with the return to records of his own orchestra via this flourishing new company, the wheel has come full circle.

Writing some years ago about Louis's juggling of multiple careers, I noted that he had found a successful solution to the problems posed by any attempt in the post-swing era to organize a big band. Instead of keeping an ensemble together on a year-round basis, he draws on a pool of important Los Angeles-based musicians who can be counted on to constitute a firm foundation. A key figure has always been trombonist Nick Di Maio, who has doubled as manager for the bands since the 1950s. Di Maio is one of a half dozen members of the present unit who play regularly in Doc Severinsen's band on the Tonight show, as does Louis himself whenever he has a little spare time in town.

Several of the sidemen have credentials that include long associations with Bellson. Cat Anderson was a colleague back in the Ellington days. Pete Christlieb, the powerhouse tenor player, now 30, was 22 when he began working with Louis. His section-mate, composer Don Menza, moved to Los Angeles in 1969 and started gigging with the band almost immediately. A more recent addition is Richard "Blue" Mitchell, the poised and expressive trumpeter who had put in long stints with Horace Silver, Ray Charles, and John Mayall before undertaking a cross-Canada tour with Louis in 1974. The two keyboard occupants who share duties here, Nat Pierce and Ross Tompkins, have worked separately with Louis for several years off and on.
To fortify the rhythm section, it was decided to enlist the services of Dave Levine and Paulo Magalhaes, whose additional percussion work was scattered through the two sessions.

All these elements, along with the band's characteristic esprit de corps in the brass and reed sections, come into focus with the opening track. The intimacy of the Blues is a Billy Strayhorn composition, well remembered from a version recorded by the Duke Ellington orchestra in Duke's memorial album for Strayhorn in 1967. The brilliance of the brass work, Dick Spencer's buoyant alto, and the typical climactic role of Cat Anderson (who was featured on the Ellington record) lend luster to Bellson's treatment.

Quiet Riot is the product of a collaboration between Louis, his frequent writing companion Jack Hayes, and Bill Holman, the Kenton and Herman graduate who has been contributing to the library for many years. The soloists are Blue Mitchell, Christlieb, and Mitch Holder.

Carnaby Street is a title that suggests special, nostalgic overtones for Louis. He has always had a great affection for the city and people of London, where he married Pearl Bailey in 1952 and where he has enjoyed many professional successes. The composition is part of a London Suite written and recorded with an all-British band in the 1960s, released in England but never issued in this country. In this new version, Bellson's gift as a melodic writer is merged with his individual ability to create, through the drums, a sense of tension and excitement that is certainly unique. Christlieb and Mitchell are woven into the colorful textures here.

It is historically notable that Bellson's concept of using two bass drums goes back as far as 1946. Many have tried to emulate the technique, but Bellson remains, if one may quote his own next title, Beyond Category,
Those two words, incidentally, were used often by Duke and were the inspiration for the Bellson-Jack Hayes collaboration that closes the first side. This is a rhythmically ingenious work, starting in 12/8, easing into a fast 4/4 passage, and concluding in 3/4.

Chameleon is a remarkable illustration of the adaptation for jazz purposes, through skillful arranging (by Bill Holman), of a work with jazz/rock combo origins. After starting out in a manner not unlike the original Herbie Hancock version, it gradually shifts colors; the horns come in, Blue makes a muted statement, and the brass section contributes to a massive and beautifully conceived buildup.

Open Your Window is a Harry Nilsson piece which Ella Fitzgerald recorded in one of her pop-oriented albums. The composition's inherent merits are augmented by the arranging, for which Holman again takes credit. As Louis commented, "there's so much clever interweaving of the parts here; and what Bill did with the chord structure is simply brilliant." Christlieb has the tenor solo.

Movin' On is a rock-tinged original by John Bambridge, an alto saxophonist-composer who works in the Doc Severinsen band—as does his colleague Snooky Young, the Jimmie Lunceford veteran whose plunger trumpet is featured here. The track offers an admirable illustration of the band ability to deal with material that has a pop slant. (This is the only tune on which Ross Tompkins plays acoustic piano and Nat Pierce electric. On all others it's vice versa.)

Groove Blues, featuring its composer, Don Menza, is also noteworthy as an example of Don's writing for the full saxophone section. The first trumpet solo is Blue Mitchell's, but it is unmistakably Cat who takes over for the finale.
La Banda Grande, by Hayes and Bellson, is characterized by Louis as "a Chick Corea type Latin thing." Along with contributions by Mitchell and Christlieb, and a brief spot for Mitch Holder, there is a joyous samba groove that brings out the value of that extra percussion as Louis plays off against Levine and Magalhaes. "We really got a good feeling in the studio," says Bellson, "with the help of a natural set-up. The band was arranged just the way we would be in a night club, which enabled us to relax; and the engineer got a great sound. John Williams was fantastic both on acoustic and on electric bass. In fact, I'm very happy about the way the whole album turned out." What Bellson could not add, because bombast is not his style, is that no band of first-class musicians, directed by an instrumentalist so gifted and so unanimously respected, is likely to go very far wrong. "Working for Louis was a ball," somebody remarked to me after a recent gig with the band. I can't remember which sideman said it, because over the years some similar phrase has been echoed by just about everyone who has worked for him. If you don't care to take my word for it, the performance itself offers eloquent proof.

Tracks info:
1. INTIMACY OF THE BLUES 6:îç (Billy Strayhorn)
2. QUIET RIOTS 5:27 (Hayes - Holman - Bellson)
3. CARNABY STREET 6:ç9 (Bellson - Hayes)
4. BEYOND CATEGORY 8:15 (Hayes - Bellson)
5. CHAMELEON 4:25 (Herbie Hancock)
6. OPEN YOOR WINDOW 5:10 (Harry Nilsson)
7. MOVIN' ON 3:25 (John Bambridge)
8. GROOVE BLUES 7:05 (Don Menza)
8. LA BANDA GRANDE 5:18 (Hayes - Beltson)

Personel info:

Releases info:
1992 CD Pablo OJCCD-728-2
Concord Jazz
Pablo 2310 755
1996 CD Original Jazz Classics 728
1975 Original Jazz Classics OJC-728
CD Original Jazz Classics 728
2003 CD Ojc 7282


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