Vinnie Burke: All-Stars And His String Jazz Quartet

The fine and flexible bassist appears with Eddie Costa, Al Cohn, Urbie Green and the outstanding violinist Dick Wetmore


Vinnie Burke was a fine bass player with a big sound who had worked with Benny Goodman and the Sauter-Finegan orchestra. In 1954 his quartet provided accompaniment on one of my favourite recordings by Chris Connor (Affinity 122).

As the leader here Burke solos extensively and has You Don’t Know What Love Is all to himself for two impressive choruses. His flexibility is notable in the way he doubles the melody with Jimmy Raney on Jordu and Joe Puma on his own Unison Blues which is not a blues at all but a standard AABA form.

Inevitably some of the best moments on the All-Stars date are provided by Urbie Green and Al Cohn on I’m Getting Sentimental Over You, Lulu’s Back In Town and Blue Jeans. The trombonist is at his elegant best on Sentimental and Cohn’s soulful, heavy-duty tenor demonstrates once again why his peers called him Mr. Music.

The String Jazz Quartet is occasionally augmented by Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Campbell, the latter for some reason using brushes on a Manhattan telephone directory. Perhaps a regular drum kit was not available. The stand-out performer is Dick Wetmore on violin, who was an important member of a thriving jazz community in Boston. His solos on Night In Tunisia, Topsy and especially Solar are quite outstanding in their construction.

Towards the end of 1957 Gerry Mulligan recorded with Vinnie Burke’s String Jazz Quartet for one of the more unusual albums in his discography (Mosaic 21 Select). It was rumoured that Wetmore, who also doubled cornet, was about to join Mulligan but this did not happen.

[Vinnie Burke All-Stars] (1) I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; (3) Vin-Tin-Tin; You Don’t Know What Love Is; (1) Lulu’s Back In Town; (2) Unison Blues; (3) Jordu; (1) Blue Jeans; (3) Strike Up The Band; [Vinnie Burke’s String Jazz Quartet] (4) A Night In Tunisia; Let’s Do It; Topsy; Blues For Skeeter; Solar; Blues For Esquire; C And V; Sweet And Lovely; Blues In The Closet (74.57)
Burke (b) with:
(1) Al Cohn (ts); Urbie Green (tb); Eddie Costa (p); Jimmy Raney, Joe Puma (elg); Joe Morello (d). NYC, 20 August 1956.
(2) Eddie Costa (p); Joe Puma (elg); Jimmy Campbell (d); NYC, July 1956.
(3) Eddie Costa (p); Jimmy Raney (elg); Joe Morello (d). NYC, 22 July 1956.
(4) Collective personnel: Dick Wetmore (vn); Calo Scott (clo); Bobby Grillo, Kenny Burrell, Paul Palmieri (elg); Jimmy Campbell (pc). NYC, 10 January 1957.
Fresh Sound Records FSR-CD 998