JJ 03/64: Buddy DeFranco & Tommy Gumina – Polytones

Gumina is renowned for the Polytone guitar amp and 60 years ago Mark Gardner fell, perhaps inadvertently, on the source of the brand name. First published in Jazz Journal March 1964


DeFranco and Gumina formed the co­operative quartet heard on this record four years ago – hence the group’s highly organised music. Certainly the instrumentation of clarinet, accordion (in this case accordio-organ), bass and drums is well out of the usual combo rut. And furthermore these men do have a message worth picking up on.

Both soloists possess amazing tech­niques, Gumina’s being at times almost unbelievable. The way the accordionist manipulates the keys on Bus Driver, a frantic DeFranco original, is nothing short of incredible. As for Buddy, he has continued to improve, both in tone and the content of his playing.

In the main, the material on this album has been carefully chosen, except for the tiresome Gravy Waltz, which is rapidly becoming The Saints of modern jazz. I particularly enjoyed Buddy’s solo on Spring and his concise and swinging part in Horace Silver’s Nica’s Dream. Leonard Feather wrote the bluesy I Remember Bird – it didn’t make me recall Parker’s music, however.

Polytonality (the use of two keys at once) is entirely valid in the hands of DeFranco and Gumina, although the effect is better served by a fastish tempo. When employed on the slowish Spring it does not always sound right. Neither was I too struck with Gumina’s organ-like bit on My Man’s Gone Now – for a minute or two he had me thinking him a fugitive from Blackpool Tower.

There are many rewarding moments on this disc. Familiarity with it breeds respect and admiration.

The Monkey; My Ship; Gravy Waltz; My Man’s Gone Now; I Remember Bird (16 min) – Bus Driver In The Sky; Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year; Nica’s Dream; When I Fall In Love (16½ min)
Buddy DeFranco (clt); Tommy Gumina (ac­cordion); John Doling (bs); John Guerin (d). Hollywood, California, 1, 2 & 15/7/63.
(Mercury 20 005 MCL 12inLP 33s. 1d.)