October 3, 2014


Tadd Dameron

"Magic Touch

The first 2 installments of All That Jazz featured recordings that have been favorites of mine since I first bought them on vinyl over 30 years ago.  Today's edition features an album that was released in 1962, but just discovered and downloaded into my iPhone last weekend.

Bebop, the modern jazz movement that followed the Swing Era, began sprouting in the early 1940's and reached full flower post-War.  While the names, if not the music, of the leading bop musicians...Charlie "Bird" Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk...are known to many, the names of many of their colleagues are known only to the most serious jazz fans.  Among this group of musical pioneers was Tadd Dameron, a pianist who was also one of the top composers, and maybe the greatest arranger, in the bop idiom.   Although bebop was primarily played by small groups (most typically a "front line" consisting of one or two saxes and a trumpet and a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums), there were also bop big bands, most notably the band led by Gillespie.  Dameron's arrangements for Gillespie and others gave full voicing to the inventive harmonies of the new music, creating a richer tonal palette than had been heard from the great swing bands and earning him the designation (by Dexter Gordon) as the "romanticist" of bebop.  Dameron played in or led groups featuring some of the very best who followed immediately in the footsteps of Dizzy and Bird: Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro, Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane.

"Magic Touch" was recorded well after hard bop, west coast/cool, third stream and the early avant-garde had come onto the scene, and some elements of these later styles is heard here (such as the inclusion of a French horn and the extensive use of flutes, which weren't heard in bop's late 40's heyday).   The band gathered for the session is truly an all-star line-up, including trumpeters Clark Terry, Joe Wilder and Charlie Shavers; Jerry Dodgion, Johnny Griffin and Jerome Richardson on saxes; and the jaw-dropping rhythm section of Bill Evans (piano), Ron Carter and George Duvivier (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums).  The best known Dameron tunes on the album, "On a Misty Night," "Fontainebleau," "Our Delight" and "If You Could See Me Now" are also the best arrangements and performances here.  "On a Misty Night" (featuring Johnny Griffin on tenor) and "If You Could See Me Now" (with a vocal by Barbara Winfield, who has a slight, but pleasing lisp) are particular favorites.  Also interesting is to compare this relatively smoother version of "Our Delight" with the edgier 1940's Gillespie version.  Frankly, the other tunes aren't as memorable, but the quality of the arrangements and of the playing makes them worth checking out.

Posted by at October 3, 2014 9:03 AM

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