Quincy Jones Big Band: Complete 1960 European Concerts

Containing numerous takes of the same tune, this four-CD set could be one for completists, but it does offer repeated chances to hear leading players


I remember buying Quincy Jones’ Birth Of A Band! LP soon after it was released in 1959 and playing it constantly for the next several weeks. It was an all-star date packed with great soloists like Joe Newman, Clark Terry, Jimmy Cleveland, Phil Woods and Zoot Sims performing stimulating arrangements of vibrant new material.

The band really had its own, fresh identity and a few months after the recording Jones was invited to take it to Europe to tour in Harold Arnold’s blues opera Free And Easy, starring Harold Nicholas. The musicians had to learn the entire score by heart to play and act freely on stage. Some of his stellar sidemen like Ernie Royal, Joe Wilder, Urbie Green and Sam Woodyard did not want to leave their busy New York lives so Quincy recruited his friend Swedish trombonist Ake Persson together with expatriates Benny Bailey and Joe Harris as replacements.

The show was scheduled to appear in France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany before bringing Sammy Davis Jnr. into the Nicholas role for its transfer to London and eventually Broadway. Unfortunately business was so bad in Paris that the final curtain fell in February 1960. Quincy managed to keep the band alive by booking concerts around Europe for the rest of the year.

What we have here are five well-recorded concerts of the band playing the same repertoire at each venue with just the running order changing. For that reason I think this release will appeal mostly to completists. As an example there are four examples of Birth Of A Band (with Jerome Richardson and Budd Johnson going toe- to-toe on tenors), four Moanins (great Clark Terry), four Walkins (Phil Woods, Ake Persson and Jimmy Cleveland all impressing) and three Cliffords (Terry’s feature again until he left the band when Benny Bailey took over).

Incidentally, Terry’s autobiography reveals that he left Duke Ellington, where he was earning $210 per week, to join Quincy’s band as the straw boss at $350. He returned to New York around March 1960. He immediately joined the Tonight Show Band, becoming the first black musician on staff at NBC thanks to pressure from the National Urban League.

The sleeve claims that this reissue presents all known live recordings during the band’s 1960 European tour. There is one more, however, because they were recorded with Nat King Cole on the 19 April at the Olympia Theatre in Paris – issued on Frémeaux (F) FA 5494.

CD1: (1) Birth Of A Band; Everybody’s Blues; Moanin’; Tickle Toe; Stockholm Sweetnin’; I Remember Clifford; Walkin’; (2) Birth Of A Band; Moanin’; Lester Leaps In; The Gypsy; Tickle Toe; Everybody’s Blues; Big Red (70.40)
CD2: (3) Moanin’; Tickle Toe; I Remember Clifford; Whisper Not; Everybody’s Blues; Birth Of A Band; The Gypsy; Ghana; Walkin’ Big Red (59.48)
CD3: (4) I Remember Clifford; Walkin’; Parisian Thoroughfare; The Midnight Will Never Set; Everybody’s Blues; Stockholm Sweetnin’; My Reverie; Ghana; Big Red (55.28)
CD 4: (5) Cherokee; Chinese Checkers; Birth Of A Band; I Remember Clifford; Ghana; Big Red; My Reverie; Parisian Thoroughfare; Moanin’; Soul; The Midnight Will Sun Never Set; Everybody’s Blues; Airmail Special; Airmail Special (encore) (67.32) 
(1) Clark Terry, Benny Bailey; Leonard Johnson; Floyd Standifer (t); Jimmy Cleveland, Quentin Jackson, Melba Liston, Ake Persson (tb); Julius Watkins (frh); Phil Woods, Porter Kilbert (as); Budd Johnson (ts); Jerome Richardson (ts, picc); Sahib Shihab (bar); Les Spann (elg, f); Patti Brown (p); Buddy Catlett (b); Joe Harris (d); Quincy Jones, Al Cohn, Ernie Wilkins, Billy Byers, Melba Liston (arr). France, 14 February 1960. (2) as (1) Belgium, February 1960. (3) as (1) Sweden, 16 February 1960. (4) as (1) Roger Guerin (t) replaces Terry; omit Johnson. Switzerland, 20 May 1960. (5) as (1) Roger Guerin, Clyde Reassinger (t) replace Terry & Johnson; Harold McNair (ts, f) replaces Johnson. Switzerland, 27 June 1960.
Essential Jazz Classics EJC55760