JJ 02/69: Lightly & Politely, by Stanley Dance

First published Jazz Journal, February 1969



A couple of recent Wes Montgomery albums are full of alarming portents for the future, especially the future of those who have been having fits about stereo-enhanced mono.

‘A Portrait of Wes Montgomery’ (World Pacific Jazz ST-20137) consists of recordings made a decade or so ago that have been enhanced with strings and brass arranged by Gerald Wilson. ‘Willow Weep For Me’ (Verve V6-8765) contains performances with Wynton Kelly that were recorded at the Half Note in 1965 and never previously issued. Four of them have been enhanced by the addition of brass and woodwinds arranged by Claus Ogerman.

We must, in fairness, say that the ‘enhancing’ has been done quite discreetly. The motive in each case is obvious: to bring the album into line instrumentally with those that took the guitarist to peaks of popularity.

The potential in this sort of thing is enormous, especially when it is extended to embrace and enhance re-issues. Offhand, we can think of quite a few lively items. (You can probably do better). Imagine how Bessie Smith is going to sound, so that she can compete with Aretha, when electronic instruments and the voices of the Sweet Inspirations are added.

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five recordings have always needed doctoring. Drums by Sonny Murray and bass by Charlie Haden would appear to be the first step. Then we think Ory’s part should be scored for four trombones, to give the record a more robust quality and to improve the stereo effect.

To those who have found Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club records unsatisfactorily thin, an added choir of four trumpets, four trombones and four French horns, arranged and conducted by Gunther Schuller, would probably have great appeal.

Earl Hines’s early piano solos like I Ain’t Got Nobody can be cheaply updated for the contemporary market by the addition of bongos and a couple of Tijuana trumpets; their appeal will thus be tastefully extended to reach a broader audience.

Jelly Roll Morton’s Hyena Stomp and Billy Goat Stomp are intriniscally well suited to the Now Generation. They can be quite simply renovated by the addition of a full menagerie chorus and conga. Because the piano solos may be dated to some ears, it may be necessarv to substitute passages of similar length by Steve Allen on Rock-si-chord.

Tape excision and substitution is probably the best way of updating Ellington and Basic record libraries. Remove Herschel Evans’s solo from Blue And Sentimental, introduce an equal number of bars by Albert Ayler or Archie Shepp, and you would undoubtedly have something more palatable to today’s discerning listener. In the case of Ellington, and in the interest of economy, it would be logical to have Ornette Coleman substitute for Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Johnny Hodges and Ray Nance. If it became necessary to dub in a new rhythm section, we would suggest the reliable Sonny Murray again, Cecil Taylor, Larry Coryell, and any good Fender fugitive from the rock world.

Well, if they can mess with Wes, how long before Ravi Shankar gets his? Although Joe Berendt may have done his best for Shanks in Germany, he isn’t as big as he could be in the supermarkets. The rackjobbers would look with more favour on him were he to submit to a little artistic Westernization. Buddy Rich, after all, is too esoteric for the housewives. But add The Swingle Singers, Cap’n John Handy, Tony Scott and Art Blakey, and ol’ Ravi could become the rage.