Virgil Gonsalves Sextet & Big Band: Jazz In The Bay Area 1954-1959

Buddy Wise, Jerry Coker and the leader are among the soloists in this survey of the obscure but talented West Coast baritone saxophonist


The name of baritone saxophonist Virgil Gonsalves is certainly not one on everybody’s lips these days but that said this is another interesting reissue rescued from total obscurity by Fresh Sound. Hats off to Jordi Pujol, who has included everything Gonsalves recorded during a brief career in the jazz spotlight before he moved into other musical fields with groups like Bluesberry Jam. He was a leading light on the San Francisco scene in the 50s performing regularly at the Jazz Workshop, The Hungry i, Jumptown and the Black Hawk, the latter almost becoming a home-from-home.

After working with Alvino Rey and Tex Beneke, Gonsalves was offered a date in 1954 with Harry Babasin’s Nocturne label, featuring his sextet which included Buddy Wise and Bob Enevoldsen. Wise was an elegant soloist from the Wardell Gray school who had been with Gene Krupa throughout the late 40s and was heard on Lemon Drop, These Foolish Things and Disc Jockey Jump with the band. He makes several fine contributions here especially on Bounce and Out Of Nowhere, which has a hint of Gerry Mulligan’s Roundhouse in the coda. He passed away in Las Vegas a few months after this date making these his final recordings.

The leader, who was a “huge Mulligan fan”, reminds me very much of the great Bob Gordon, who died far too young. His soulful sound is a thing of beauty on Too Marvelous For Words, It Might As Well Be Spring and especially on Yesterdays. The ever dependable Bob Enevoldsen, who doubled clarinet, tenor and string bass, seemed to be constantly in the studios at the time. He is limited to his primary instrument here and his trombone lead creates an attractive ensemble sound.

In 1959 Gonsalves’ new sextet recorded four titles for the Omega label with memorable versions of Jackie McLean’s intriguing Little Melonae and Sharon, the latter an attractive Just Friends contrafact. They both have notable contributions from Dan Patiris on tenor and Mike Downs on trumpet while the leader really digs deep on a profound Lover Man.

This reissue includes five titles by the Rudy Salvini Big Band which includes Gonsalves in the sax section although he does not solo. Apart from long-time Kenton sideman Archie Lecoque (who, like Virgil, does not solo) and Jerry Coker, the personnel will almost certainly be unknown to most JJ readers. Coker had been a stalwart of Woody Herman’s Third Herd and his expressive Lestorian-style tenor illuminates Wail For Patrick, Yesterdays, Topsy Returns and Boot’s Boots

CD1: (1) Bounce; Out Of Nowhere; Too Marvelous For Words; It Might As Well Be Spring; Yesterdays; Love Me Or Leave Me; (2) Whitewash; Our Love Is Here To Stay; Lost World; I’ll Take Romance; Searle’s Corner; Viva Zapata; Half Mine; Goody-Goody; Gar-din; My Heart Stood Still; Fascinatin’ Rhythm; Bags’ Groove (54.32)
CD2: (3) Wail For Patrick; Smithsonian; Yesterdays; Topsy Returns; Boot’s Boots; (4) Little Melonae; Sharon; Oasis; Lover Man; (5) Stablemates; A Sunday Kind Of Love; Moment’s Notice; Steresis; Blue Bird (63.17)
(1) Bob Enevoldsen (vtb); Buddy Wise (ts); Gonsalves (bar); Lou Levy (p); Harry Babasin (b); Larry Bunker (d). Hollywood, California, 29 September 1954.
(2) Bob Badgley (vtb); Dan Patiris (ts); Clyde Pound (p); Ron Crotty (b); Gus Gustafson (d). Hollywood, California, November 1955.
(3) Rudy Salvini, Allen Smith, Al DelSimone, Wayne Allen, Billy Catalono (t); Van Hughes, Archie Lecoque, Chuck Etter, Ron Bertuccelli (tb); Charles Martin (as); Jerry Coker, Tom Hart, Howard Dudune, Charles Paterson (ts); Gonsalves (bar); John Marabuto (p); Dean Reilly (b); John Markham (d). Oakland, California, November 1956.
(4) Mike Downs (t); Dan Patiris (ts); Gonsalves (bar); Merril Hoover (p); Eddie Kahn (b); Al Randall (d). San Francisco, 25 May 1959.
(5) John Copola, Billy Catalano, Dick Mills, Mile Downs, Jerry Cournoyer (t); Leo Wright, Bob Davidson (as); Dan Patiris, Chuck Peterson (ts); Gonsalves (bar); Junior Mance (p); Eddie Kahn (b); Benny Barth (d). San Francisco, May 1959.
Fresh Sound CD1114