Bob Keene Septet: Solo For Seven & Lex Golden Jazz Octet – In Hi-Fi 

Clarinettist Bob Keene might have fallen from view but his bands included Pepper Adams, Red Norvo, Shelly Manne and more


This is one of a series released by Fresh Sound Records under the banner “Rare and Obscure Jazz Albums. Two hard-to-find LPs are on each CD”.

When clarinettist Bob Keene led an 18-piece orchestra in 1951 it was billed as one of the greatest bands since Artie Shaw’s. Shaw gave it his stamp of approval and considered Keene to be a worthy successor. However, Keene’s fame was fleeting and he’s since faded into obscurity. But members of his septet heard here, such as Pepper Adams, Red Norvo and Shelly Manne, still register strongly in the collective memory.

Standards from the likes of Kern, Loesser and Arlen are rearranged by Jack Montrose and provide us with 11 compact, highly melodic tracks delivered in cool jazz and swing style. The average length of each clocks in at 2.7 minutes. There’s nothing long-winded about Bob Keene!

Prior to the recording of In Hi-Fi, trumpeter Lex Golden was all but unknown outside Los Angeles where he led dance bands in the city’s nightspots. However, he’d had years of experience as a Hollywood studio musician working in film and television and this is demonstrated in the quality of his personal input here.

The band are no mean outfit either, with decades of studio and recording work between them. For example: Abe Most played with Tommy Dorsey; Richie Cornwell played the drums on Presley’s Love Me Tender; Gene Cipriano worked with Sinatra, Stan Kenton and many others; Ray Leatherwood recorded with Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London.

Golden used accomplished arrangers such as Marty Paich and band members Ray Sherman and Pete Carpenter to write these scores. His septet delivers a splendid performance, bringing to life the danceable, mainstream jazz current at the time. A couple of contrasting numbers are provided for balance, not least a thoughtful rendition of Yesterdays where the trumpeter sounds uncannily like Eddie Calvert – the man with the golden trumpet.

Fresh Sound use advanced technology to restore these old recordings and in most cases improve on the original sound. In this instance they’ve excelled. Each track is crystal clear and the album is a great listen. It comes with an informative booklet, mostly about Keene, with several photos of both bands.

[Solo For Seven] (1) I Won’t Dance; There’ll Never Be Another You; Soft Winds; Solo; Can’t We Be Friends; I Hear Music; Once In My Love With Amy; Let’s Fall In Love; Anna; A Lonesome Cup Of Coffee; Faces, Places And Things;
[In Hi-Fi] Around the World; Passepartout; Yesterdays; Flip-Flop; I Wished on the Moon; Llama’s Mama; Mule Train; Headshrinker; Jeepers Creepers; Gnu?; Sweet Sue; Lots O’Lex (60.54)

(1) Keene (cl) & Red Norvo (vib) on all tracks. Tracks 1, 2, 3, 8: Bobby Burgess (tb); Pepper Adams (bs); Dick Johnson (p); Ralph Pena (b); Dick Wilson (d). Same on tracks 5, 6, 7 but Red Mitchell (b); Shelly Manne (d). Tracks 4, 9, 10, 11: Milt Bernhart (tb); Bill Hood (bar); Paul Moer (p); Red Mitchell (b); Shelly Manne (d). Hollywood, 21 May 1957.
(2) Lex Golden (t); Pete Carpenter (tb); Abe Most (as, cl); Gene Cipriano, Lester Pinter (ts); Ray Sherman (p); Ray Leatherwood (b); Richie Cornell (d). Hollywood, 24 & 25 April 1957.
Fresh Sound Records FSRCD 1063