Alvino Rey: Swingin’ Fling & Ping Pong!

Gerry Mulligan finally gets name-checked in this reissue of a 1958 album led by one of the developers of the Electric Spanish guitar


Guitarists today should all be thankful to Alvino Rey. He worked closely with the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1935 in the development of the ES-150 – considered to be the first modern electric guitar.

He later organised a band that benefited from his big 1942 hit Deep In The Heart Of Texas and during the 40s Nelson Riddle, Bill May and Neal Hefti all wrote for him. His steel guitar created the band’s signature sound but his sidemen occasionally included top jazz musicians like Paul Desmond, Bud Shank, Bob Gordon, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims and Dave Tough.

Swingin’ Fling was recorded in Hollywood with the surprising addition of Gerry Mulligan. When it was first released back in 1958 his name was not mentioned on the sleeve note at all. He was referred to as “an agile baritone sax” possibly because of contractual reasons and one can only assume that he was doing somebody a favour. This reissue, which clearly says “Featuring Gerry Mulligan” on the cover, is the first time his presence has been acknowledged commercially.

The tunes are very short, averaging less than three minutes each, but Mulligan adds his considerable presence to the material, albeit briefly.

The month of recording is unknown but Mulligan worked on the West Coast on at least three occasions in 1958. In May he recorded the music for the film I Want To Live. In September he completed an album with Annie Ross and Art Farmer and in October he was recorded at the Monterey Jazz Festival with Billie Holiday, Buddy DeFranco and Benny Carter.

The less said about Ping Pong the better. It finds the band in easy-listening mode that will be of little interest to the discerning readers of Jazz Journal.

(1) [Swingin’ Fling] I Love Paris; How High The Moon; A Swingin’ Fling; Night Train; I Didn’t Know About You; Isn’t It Romantic; Speak Low; Rock Gently; Little White Lies; Softly As In A Morning’s Sunrise; Chukkar; [Ping Pong!] Twelfth Street Rag; Temptation; Aloha Oe; Mamma’s Gone Good Bye; Autumn Leaves; After You’ve Gone; The Peanut Vendor; The Man I Love; Sentimental Journey; Tenderly; Begin The Beguine; Blues In The Night (63.29)
(1) Rey & His Orchestra with Gerry Mulligan (bar). Hollywood, 1958.
(2) Rey & His Orchestra. Hollywood, 1960.
Blue Moon BMCD 907