SMOOTH AS THE WIND : BLUE MITCHELL
WITH STRINGS AND BRASS : ARRANGEMENTS BY TADD DAMERON AND
BENNY GOLSON ORCHESTRA CONDUCTED BY BENNY GOLSON
On Peace, four Heaven’s Sake, Nearness of You, Strollin’
Blue Mitchell (tp) Clark Terry (tp) Bernie Glow (tp) Burt Collins (tp) Britt Woodman (tb) Julian Priester (tb) Willie Ruff (frh) Tommy Flanagan (p) Tommy Williams (b) Charlie Persip (drs) and large string section with Harry Lookofsky as concertmaster.
Other six selections
Jimmy Cleveland (tp) Urbie Green (tb) Philly Joe Jones (drs) replace those previously listed; others the same
Smooth As the Wind (5:10) (Tadd Dameron)
But Beautiful (3:35) (Burke – VanHeusen)
The Best Things in Life Are Free (3:18) (DeSylava – Brown –Henderson)
Peace (3:53) * (Horace Silver)
For Heaven’s Sake (3:29) (Meyer – Bretton)
The Nearness of You (3:19) (Washington – Carmichael)
A Blue Time (4:52) (Tadd Dameron)
Strollin’ (3:16) (Horace Silver)
For All We Know (3:24)* (Lewis – Coots)
I’m a Fool to Want You (3:37)* (Herron- Ssinatra – Wolf)
(* arranged by Golson; other arrangements by Dameron)
The strong, lyrical trumpet tones of RICHARD “BLUE” MITCHELL, as heard here in a rich, deep strings-and-brass setting, seem to us to be among the most truly beautiful sounds ever heard. And before this recording was even completed, we had striking evidence that we were not alone in this belief. When Blue finished the ‘take’ of the intriguing Tadd Dameron composition, Smooth as the Wind, that opens this album, there were a few seconds musicians who had accompanied him burst into spontaneous applause. Set down in cold print, this may seem a little like the big scene from a rather corny movie; but while it was taking place, this instinctive reaction on the part of these skilled and discerning professionals formed an overwhelmingly moving experience.
This feeling of literally uncontrollable pleasure in the presence of a rare musical talent at its very best could be clearly sensed throughout the recording session; it can almost be heard on the record itself, contributing to making this unusual album one of the most satisfying and stirring we have ever been able to present …
Ever since Mitchell’s first LP was issued by Riverside in 1958, there has been steadily-growing awareness of the stature of this remarkably firm-toned, imaginative young trumpeter. His featured role with Horace silver’s quintet has also helped bring him increasing recognition; but it has long been felt that something other than the usual small-group jazz framework was needed to present Blue with full effectiveness – particularly to emphasize the rich, forceful grace and strength at ballad and lightly-swinging tempos that is probably the most impressive of his qualities.
It was Cannonball Adderley, a fellow-Floridian and old friend of Blue’s, who first advanced the idea of recording him with “a few strings.” In further discussions with Blue and Benny Golson, the concept of full-scale brass and string backing was developed, and the pivotal suggestion of calling on Tadd Dameron was made.
Dameron, long an important figure in modern jazz, is a brilliant and original writer, regarded by many of today’s best young arrangers (including Golson) as their major influence and inspiration. His adventurous, richly detailed and always thoroughly sympathetic scoring of most of these selections, including his own two new compositions, is clearly the core of this album. Three equally impressive arrangements, and a masterful job of leading the orchestra through these performances, were the contributions of Golson, himself a top-rated writer, tenor saxophonist and co-leader of the highly-regarded “Jazztet.”
Despite the best of intentions, jazzman-plus-strings dates often tumble into the pitfall of contrived, mechanical, slickly “commercial” scoring and playing, producing syrupy and leaden results. But here the cards are certainly stacked the other way, for at least four good reasons. There is the vast ability of the arrangers, both of whom know Mitchell well, admire him, and demonstrably understand how to write specifically for him. The instrumentation balances the firmness and bite of brass against the lush sweep of the strings. The personnel emphasizes men who can swing as well as being able to execute difficult scores with ease (special notice should be taken of the value of violinist Harry Lookofsky as shepherd of the string section). Plus, of course, the magnificent way in which Blue rises to the challenge of the occasion with soaring, singing music that makes it most difficult to believe his claim that he “started out nervous and stayed nervous” throughout. (If that is true, let us recommend a large dose of nerves for all record dates.)
Finally, a note on the order of selections here. As many alert listeners recognize, the programming of an LP often resembles the application of makeup, with judicious placing used to point up the strongest numbers and “hide” the weak spots. But here, except for the lead-off choice of the applauded Smooth as the Wind, with its dramatically compelling opening, no clear-cut decisions were possible. There are surely no weak spots. Eventually, after much juggling, programming was done on a basis of varying tempos and continuity of mood; any of these ten are as likely to be your particular favorites as those we have arbitrarily positioned up front.
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, New York