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The Magic Touch: TADD DAMERON Orchestra

all selections composed, arranged and conducted by Dameron

Full personnel is as follows –

   Our Delight, Dial B For Beauty and Bevan’s Birthday

Joe Wilder (tp) Clark Terry (tp) Ernie Royal (tp) Jimmy Cleveland (tb) Britt Woodman (tb) Julius Watkins (frh) Leo Wright (as) Jerry Dodgion (as, fl) Jerome Richardson (ts, fl) Johnn Griffin (ts) Tate Houston (brs) Bill Evans (p) George Duvivier (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)

   Fontainebleau, On a Misty Night and Swift as the Wind

Charlie Shavers (tp) replaces Wilder; Ron Carter (b) replaces Duvivier; others the same.

   Other four selections played by

Terry, Cleveland, Dodgion, Griffin, Richardson, Houston, Evans, Carter and Jones, vocals by Barbara Winfield.


  1. On a Misty Night (2:45)

  2. Fontainebleau (4:09)

  3. Just Plain Talkin’ (4:51)

  4. If You Could See Me Now (3:15)

  5. Our Delight (2:46)


  1. Dial B for Beauty (2:57)

  2. Look, Stop and Listen (3:54)

  3. Bevan’s Birthday (3:29)

  4. You’re a Joy (3:41)

  5. Swift as the Wind (3:10)

   In a Down Beat interview early in 1962, one of the most important figures of the bop era, back in New York after a protracted absence and nearly a legend while still in his middle forties, discussed his future plans. “I’d like,” TADD DAMERON said, “to do an album of just lovely music.”

   He has done that here – and more. With the same careful sense of organization that marks all his work, he has provided us with a Tadd Dameron Retrospective: a series of second thoughts on pieces from various stages of his career, as well as five new and never-before-recorded works. Obviously there are classic Dameron pieces not included – but omissions are of course, inevitable in a single album covering this much ground. And what he has chosen to  include is thoroughly and satisfyingly representative. Incidentally, Tadd, who as a working pianist in those bop days, plays better than ever today, but prefers to be known as a composer. He claims to have become a working pianist solely by default, and has also said “I became an arranger only because there was no other way to get my music played.”

   That last comment has more than a hint of needless self-depreciation about it. At the large orchestra sessions for this LP, he was the essence of perfectionism, an assured composer-arranger-conductor who was as concerned with the smallest details of procedure (“Does everyone have pencils?”) as with the overall contour of the music. To note one of many examples, the unusual degree to which flutes are used shows that he is concerned with the eventual sound of his music, not simply with writing a melody.

   At least part of the reason for the perfectionist attitude is that this was no ordinary record date for Dameron. He refers to it bluntly as “a comeback”. Frankly dissatisfied with earlier efforts (“Turkeys, all of them. I’ve never been well represented on records”), he now has said, on listening to advance pressings of this music: “At last I’ll be heard.” One last, pertinent point. The five pieces of new music played her were for the most part composed in the Federal Hospital at Lexington, Kentucky, from which Dameron was released in 1961. Writing almost constantly, he was able to hear his music played by the twenty-two piece band at the hospital.

   Not surprisingly, the musicians on these recordings contribute some of their very best work. Men who make record says often as most of them do might easily, and quite understandably, take that “just another gig” approach that results in high-level competence, and no more. Of course, mere Philly Joe Jones (anyone present here would do as an example) is the sort of blessing for which most arrangers would be profoundly grateful. But that is not all that these musicians provide; on this album a truly rare sense of committed involvement is happily present at all times. Take this one example; the remarkable cadenza by Clark Terry that you hear on Swift as the Wind is only one of at least half take while a particular problem in instrumental voicing was being worked out;

   And Dameron has repaid that kind of commitment with his reaction to the music. Listening to his advance copy, his remarks were all of a kind. “Hear Bill Evans on the opening of Dial B For Beauty. He sounds like one of the flutes.” Or, “Philly Joe’s great on his number.” Or, “Joe Wilder’s beautiful on the next part.” For, aside from all the other purposes of this set, the music was designed to feature specific soloists, placing each of them in a context in which he performs best.

   On Misty Night, for example, is largely a vehicle for Johnny Griffin. It was originally recorded in the late ‘50s by a Dameron quartet (including Philly Joe Jones and John Coltrane) on Dameron’s last album prior to this one.

    Fontainebleau is the one example here of Dameron’s work in extended form. Deriving from his impressions of the French palace, it is in three sections: Le Foret; Les Cygnes; L’Aieu. The trumpet soloist is Charlie Shavers. The first piece of new music is the aptly named Just Plain Talkin’, a delightfully airy blues. The soloists, in order, are Jimmy Cleveland, Griffin, Evans, and Tate Houston.

   If You Could See Me Now, one of the loveliest ballads to come out of jazz, is probably Dameron’s most famous single piece. The vocalist, former Ellingtonian Barbara Winfield, sings in a manner reminiscent of the original Sarah Vaughan performance. This number and Our Delight represent the earliest period of Dameron’s career, the great days of bop. To quote Barry Ulanov: “He regarded bop as just a stepping stone to a larger musical expression. Yet no one who gives bebop serious consideration can omit Tadd from the list of prime exponents and wise deponents of this modern jazz expression.” The present version of Our Delight, designed to frature Julius Watkins and Bill Evans, is an able indication of how Dameron’s musical thinking has expanded since that time.

   Dial B For Beauty was originally recorded by Dameron in 1953with an orchestra featuring th elate Clifford Brown. Here the solo is played by the possessor of one of the purest of all trumpet tones, Joe Wilder.

   Look, Stop, and Listen, Dameron’s personal favorite on the set, was conceived as a tour de force for the incredible Philly Joe Jones, who superbly repays the comp0liment with one of his finest performances. The other soloists are Jerome Richardson and Clark Terry.

   Bevan’s Birthday, written for a young admirer, is a Latin flavored essay in writing for flutes, again featuring Joe Wilder. The new Dameorn ballad is You’re A Joy, with lyrics by Bernie Hanighen. Barbara Winfield is again the vocalist, and the tenor solo is by Johnny Griffin. The final piece, Swift s The Wind, contains a remarkable interlude which is a complete composition in itself. Besides the previously-mentioned superlative work of Clark Terry, there are excellent contributions from Jerome Richardson (on flute) and Bill Evans.

   Naturally, an album such as this was the subject of much pre-release speculation. Two initial reactions come from Miles Davis, who wanted to keep Dameron’s one advance copy, and from Dizzy Gillespie, who did borrow it “overnight” (but, as of this writing, had shown no signs of returning it). Others will undoubtedly call attention to the countless small wonders of composition, orchestration and soloing to be found here. But to me what is most notable is the lovely, gentle quality of the music that comes from a man who has every professional and private reason to be angry and bitter. But he has said: “There’s enough ugliness in the world. I’m interest in beauty.”

   More important for all of us, he has created beauty. “Dameron,” Max Harrison has written, “should have become one of the most prominent post-war composers and arrangers, for he is certainly one of the most gifted.” Perhaps now he will.


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Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER

Recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios

Album design: KEN DEARDOFF

Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO


235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York

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