THE TRIO: HAL GAYLOR, WALTER NORRIS, BILLY BEAN
Walter Norris (p) Billy Bean (g) Hal Gaylor (b) (on Che-low, Hal Gaylor also plays cello,)
Recorded in New York City; June 6 and 30, 1961
1. Groove Yard (5:18) (Carl Perkins)
2. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (4:53) (Harback – Kern)
3. The End of a Love Affair (5:07) (Edward Redding)
4. Scramble (3:18) (Walter Norris)
1. Out Front (4:08) (Billy Bean)
2. Che-Low (4:03) (Hal Gaylor)
3. For Heaven’s Sake (5:25) (Meyer – Bretton)
4. D. & D. (5:00) (Walter Norris)
This album marks the emergence of a new and most welcome addition to the venerable family of piano-and-guitar trios. The family’s membership already includes such trios as those of Art Tatum, Nat Cole, Clarence Profit, Oscar Peterson and Tal Farlow – a formidable lineage – and the tribal tradition of clarity and texture plus an attitude of a certain gentle reverence towards the “time” help to make it indeed a fine, friendly family with which to e associated. Here we have new blood in the strain; and also a different tangent to the family tradition and a fresh use of the heritage. (For this is a group, as its name proclaims, that seeks to put equal weight on the contributions of each member, rather than being a matter of a leader and his two sidemen.) Here we have THE TRIO – Hal Gaylor, Walter Norris, and Billy Bean.
On the assumption that it adds to the listener’s interest to know the genesis of a new group – what the individuals did previously and how and why they decided to merge talents – I submit for your perusal a brief history of the men and of The Trio.
Bassist HAL GAYLOR studied at McGill conservatory in Montreal and worked around that city for seven years before coming to the U.S. in 1956. Once here, he found himself placed under extremely varied circumstances: with the groups of Kai Winding, Stan Getz, Chico Hamilton, and others: as an accompanist for Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Peggy Lee; and as an orchestra member on an album of Verdi Duets with Eileen Farrell and Richard Tucker! Hal has been the group’s driving force since its inception and is also a talented architect, several buildings having passed under his T-square. He is married and has two small children.
WALTER NORRIS, the man at the piano, studied classical piano with John Summers for thirteen years and has worked quite extensively in the Los Angeles area during the past five or six years. Such leaders as Johnny Griffin, Shorty Rodgers, Jim Guiffre, Zoot Sims, Charlie Ventura, and Ornette Coleman have been fortunate in having Walter work and record with them. He is also a composer with a very distinctive style and the proud possessor of a wife and two daughters.
BILLY BEAN, the group’s guitarist, gained his early musical training in his hometown of Philadelphia (another feather hereby goes into the jazz-cap of that fecund city). He since has worked with such as Charlie Ventura and Charlie Barnet, has recorded with Bud Shank, Buddy DeFranco and Paul Horn, did two albums of guitar duets with John Pisano and is, beyond question, one of the people to watch in the guitar world.
In short, each of the three has had years of valuable experience but has, in large part because of the vagaries of the jazz-music business, remained without public recognition. Perhaps it’s better this way. Perhaps it’s better to wait for the concerted effort, to let the finished product of which you’re proud and sure be the thing which finally brings you before the public. Who knows? IN any event, Hal and Billy (who had first learned how well they hit it off together when they were both part of a rhythm section backing singer Tony Bennett) and Walter decided to try to create such a finished product together. Towards that end they all converged on the New York area at the end of 1960 – Norris from Los Angeles, Gaylor from “the road” and Bean from Philadelphia. Sink or swim.
There followed several weeks of playing, rehearsing, and planning (some of which I had the pleasure to observe) and finally a decision, for financial as well as musical considerations, to find a place where they could live with their families and rehearse together comfortably. Greenwood Lake was the choice. It’s a small, peasant resort-type settlement about fifty miles above New York City, well outside the high tension area and conducive to concentrate work. Finding a house large enough for nine persons proved no great problem and all that was left was to work away at music, which they did daily – four months worth. Along with this went many hours of leg work trying to sell “the product” in the big city, and it is, I believe, a credit to Orrin Keepnews’ ability and foresight that he decided Riverside should record a brand spankin’ new group on the strength of its music and not necessarily on the strength of its immediate sales appeal.
As for that music, or at least those examples of it that make up this debut album –
Groove Yard was written by the late, and most sensitive West Coast pianist, Carl Perkins. The tune has what might almost be termed “the Indianapolis sound” and has been recorded by several of the contemporary jazz groups – but never, I feel, to better advantage than here.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is of course a standard, but not too frequently done in recent years. It features the warm, singing tone of Norris’ piano and some really lovely chord substitutions – listen to the subtle ear-twister towards the end of the first eight bats. Notice also the lush sound of bass and guitar playing rhythm together; they become as two parts of the same instrument, with the guitar being an upper extension of the bass.
Rather than the elegiac approach one might expect toward The End of a Love Affair we are left, in The Trio’s rendition, with a distinct suspicion that at least one of the parties involved in the affair has moved happily to greener pastures. Hal’s clear, no-doubt-about-it-ness in his solo work is well displayed here with a special not due Billy, who knows how to utilize just the right rhythm sound to let the bass stand out.
Scramble is an aptly titled finger-buster which should help establish Walter Norris’ reputation as a composer of great originality – and should also make it clear why Billy Bean’s awesome notoriety as a guitar soloist preceded his arrival in New York by two or three years.
Out Front is Billy’s tune and it has a certain linear-softness to it which I find most pleasant. Play it again, fellas!
Next we hear Mr. Gaylor in the three-fold role of cellist, bassist and composer. Che-Low features him laying a pizzicato cello solo against a pre-recorded trio background (this trick is very difficult to duplicate in a night club!) and finding about as many “blue notes on that thing as you could shake a stick at … Uh-Huh!
For Heaven’s Sake recalls for me the days of the great Claude Thornhill band, dimly lighted dance halls, and the rustle of prom growns. It’s a very well constructed – and harmonized – melody with some real “wish I7d written it” spots in it. Again, the piano is featured.
Dinah and Delia Norris are the two young ladies who inspired D & D. The tune provides a fitting tribute to the girls, a further confirmation of Walter’s writing ability, and a string closer to a most worth-while and enjoyable record.
Jim Hall, in addition to being one of the foremost jazz guitarists on the scene today, is also – as what you have just read should make clear – one of the most incisive and articulate observers of what is going on in various parts of that scene.
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Album designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photographs by STEVE SCHAPIRO
(This recording is also available in Monaural Form on RLP 380.)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York