No-one can say that Shelly Manne is not appreciated. This poll-winning drummer has come to the fore just because of those qualities some other drummers lack, chief among them being his apparent (but misleading) simplicity. Manne is among the more forceful drummers in jazz, who has been able to instil some form and conciseness into the otherwise shapeless medium of West Coast jazz. Avoiding the meaningless tricks which disfigure much of the drumming in modern groups, his work is consistent and always imposes a sure form on any number he may be playing.
Leroy walks again in this album (it was recorded a year before his own LP reviewed in this issue) and once again shows how well he and Shelly work together. The rest of the talent is spread rather thin, and one would like the session to have been stiffened up with several more horns – however, the tonal richness achieved in the “Quartet” is impressive. There is a workshop air about much of the performance which limits its appeal, but at no point does it really sag. The curiously intriguing four-part suite by Bill Holman lies in that frontier land between jazz and conventionally intellectual music. I found it fascinating, but in the hands of another drummer it might well have been disastrous.
Jazz is going somewhere in the world when one finds sleeve notes contributed by Jesuit philosophers, although one expects realism from members of that Society. Thick stuff, and one can imagine what Shorty Pederstein would make of it, but the man hits the right chord – “eventually what jazz can not make swing, it drops”. Charlie Mariano’s “Pint of Blues” is the one consistent swinger here.
Moose The Mooche; The Wind; Pint Of Blues (22 min) – Tommyhawk; Quartet (a suite in 4 parts) (20 min)
Stu Williamson (tpt); Charlie Mariano (alt); Russ Freeman (pno); Leroy Vinnegar (bs); Shelly Manne (drs). Los Angeles July and August 1956.
(Vogue LAC 12148. 12inLP. 38s. 3d.)