The MUNDELL LOWE Quartet
Mundell Lowe (g) Dick Hyman (p, org, celeste on #6) Trigger Alpert (b) Ed Shaughnessy (drs)
New York City; August 27 (Side 1) and October 4 (Side 2), 1955
1. Will You Still Be Mine? (5'33") (Adair-Dennis)
2. I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans (4'32") (Dietz-Schwartz)
3. I'll Never Be the Same (p) (5'08") (Malneck-Signorelli-Kahn)
4. All of You (3'36") (Cole Porter)
5. Yes, Sir, That's My Baby (p) (2'37") (Kahn-Donaldson)
6. The Night We Called It A Day (3'33") (celeste) (Adair-Dennis)
7. Bach Revisited (2'58") (Dick-Garcia)
8. Cheek to Cheek (4'52") (Irving Berlin)
9. Far From Vanilla (3'30") (Mundell Lowe)
On this LP a talented quartet led by guitarist MUNDELL LOWE creates some highly interesting, inventive, often intricate and always melodic jazz. Their music is exciting - because of the swinging drive on most numbers, and the fascinating and thoughtful interplay between instruments on all of them. It's also extremely pleasant, easy-listening jazz - because these men just couldn't play jagged or unrelaxed music, and because Lowe is a particularly fine hand at the clean and beautiful sounds the guitar is so capable of.
These days, quite a few musicians - such as Tal Farlow, Jimmy Raney, Johnny Smith, Barney Kessel - are putting the electric guitar to most impressive and varied use. And Mudell Lowe, as this album should clearly indicate, is rapidly staking out a claim to recognition as a very top- ranking member of this distinguished company.
His approach is very much his own. ("I admire men like Farlow and Raney and Smith, but I don't want to play exactly like any of them.") For one thing, his sound is somewhat mellower than most guitarists, avoiding both shrillness in the upper register and that booming effect that can so easily crop up in the low tones on an amplified instrument. This certainly does not keep him from swinging crisply and vividly on up-tempo numbers, nor from achieving the full richness of ballad. Also, although Lowe is the featured performer here, he does not attempt to stand out alone and unaided. The quartet's unique sound gains much of its effectiveness from being so thoroughly integrated.
The high level of the supporting cast is notable, too. Dick Hyman is an outstanding young modern-jazz pianist; he also qualifies here as among the ever few to succeed in playing light and forceful jazz organ, making it serve very much like a horn in this instrumental set-up, and interweaving with Lowe most deftly. Trigger Alpert, whose experience goes back to the are-war Glenn Miller band, is a thoroughly skilled and creative technician on bass, and young Ed Shaughnessy is a drummer of rare taste and sensitivity. All are largely occupied with TV and radio studio work at this time, although the Quartet has worked as a unit on a number of club dates.
Like just about all modern guitarist, Mudell can say that "Charlie Christian was a great influence in shaping my approach." That pioneer modernist was, of course, a thoroughly revolutionizing force. From Christian derives not only the current prevalence of the electric guitar in jazz, but also the whole concept of a precise, single-note style, rather than the older whole-code technique. Almost single-handedly he free the guitar from its limited jazz role as entirely a part of the rhythm (allowed to chomp out only an occasional few-bar break), making possible its present added function as a melodic solo voice.
Christian died young, early in 1942. At that time, Mundy was not quite twenty, but he had been a professional musician for nearly eight years. Born in Laurel, Mississippi, in April, 1922, he learned music from his father, a minister who "played guitar and fiddle." By the age of twelve, Lowe was fully committed to music; that year he went on the road with a hillbilly band. His travels with such groups led as far as Hollywood (where he spent a few years playing minor movie roles). Then he went back on the road with dance bands; later he settled down for a while in the jazz joints of New Orleans' Bourbon Street. There followed a brief 1941 hitch with Jan Savitt, and then the Army. As a rifleman in the Pacific area, he served with John Hammond, who was to help shape his post-war career. Mundy recalls that he was discharged on December 22, 1945, and almost immediately wired Christmas greetings to Hammond. It had been John who (among many other important jazz activities) had arranged for Christian to join the Goodman band in 1939. Now he replied to Lowe's telegram by phoning to ask if he were interested in joining Ray McKinley. Mundy stayed with the McKinley band for a year and a half, building for himself a background of solid experience. Since then he has remained in the New York area, recording frequently and working in clubs on occasion, but sticking primarily (after all those youthful years on the road) to the steady work offered by those two later-day havens for many a top-flight jazzman: radio and TV. He has been back in the big-and world only once: in the Summer of 1953, "for a vacation" from the studios, he played briefly with Sauter- Finegan.
As for the repertoire here, two tunes are by Matt Dennis, whose compositions have long been strong favorites of Lowe's. (In the Summer of 1955, when singer-composer-pianist Dennis made his television debut, the trio supporting him consisted of Lowe, Alpert and Shaughnessy.) The Night We Called It a Day, a lovely ballad that was an early Jo Stafford vocal with Tommy Dorsey and has since been unduly neglected, is affectionately and moodily resurrected here; Will You Still Be Mine? is familiar enough to qualify as a "standard". This true of most of the other numbers here; yet none of them have become hackneyed through over-use. (Yes, Sir, That's My Baby can be called something of an old war-house, but it's one that rarely gets bent in a jazz direction.) All of You is a relatively new Cole Porter item that, like the rest of the Quartet's material, seems most happily suited for the bright working-over it receives her. As for the two originals: Bach Revisited was written by Richie Garcia, another notable modern jazz guitarist; Far From Vanilla, an attempt to carry a blues pattern "as far out as we could take it," picked up its title from Lowe's explanation that the number is "about as far from vanilla as you're going to get."
Lowe can also be heard on the three other High Fidelity 12-inch Riverside LPs –
Guitar Moods by Mundell Lowe (12-208)
New Music of Alec Wilder; composed for Mundell Lowe and his Orchestra (RLP 12-219)
A Grand Night for Swinging: Mundell Lowe, with Billy Taylor, Gene Quill (RLP 12-238)
Unique Dick Hyman arrangements are featured on –
Counterpoint for Six Valves: Don Elliott and Rusty Dedrick (RLP 12-218)
Alpert is featured on –
Trigger Happy: Trigger Alpert’s absolutely All-Star Seven: with Tony Scott, Zoot Sims, al Cohn, Joe Wilder, Urbie
Green, Ed Shaughnessy; playing arrangements by Scott, Dick Hyman, Marty Paich (RLP 12-225)
A High Fidelity recording (Audio Compensation: RIAA curve.)
Produced, and notes written by Orrin Keepnews.
Cover by Paul Weller. Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios).
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.