the voice of: MARTY BELL, the Quartet of: DON ELLIOTT
Marty Bell (vcl); Don Elliott (vib) (bongos on Side 2 #1; tp on Side 2 #4); Bob Corwin (p) Vinnie Burke (b) Jim Campbell (drs) (No vocal on Side 1, #3 and 5; and Side 2 #3 and 5) New York; January 17 and 23, 1956
1. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (2:31) (Hart – Rodgers)
2. I Thought About You (3:00) (Mercer-Van Heusen)
3. Moonlight in Vermont (3:56) (Suessforf-Blackburn)
4. The Girl Next Door (3:12) (Martin-Blane)
5. According To Moyle (3:26) (Don Elliott)
6. S'posin' (2:53) (Razal-Denniker)
1. This Can't Be Love (2:00) (Hart-Rodgers)
2. The Love of My Life (2:57) (Mercer-Shaw)
3. I Found A New Baby (4:55) (Plamer-Williams)
4. You Go To My Head (3:22) (Gillespie-Coots)
5. September Song (3:08) (Anderson-Weill)
6. Me and You (2:08) (Duke Ellington)
This album marks the debut on records of a most promising and rhythmic new jazz voice, that of MARTY BELL. Working with him on eight selections and taking off on their own on four other numbers is the swinging quartet led by one of the most exciting young jazz talents of today: DON ELLIOTT.
The words "working with," in the above paragraph are very deliberately used in place of anything like "accompanying". For the goal here is unified effort. The instrumentalists are not on hand to chomp along behind the singer, or even to support or to push him; the intention is for them to be with him. This is something that can in some small part be achieved by careful attention to recording balance. But it's much less a matter of what dials are adjusted in the control room than of what happens in the studio itself. The basic requirements, which may seem simple but certainly are not, are to have a unified but flexible group of musicians, and - above all - a singer who is capable of being completely a musician.
Marty Bell, who was a trumpet player before he turned to singing, is exactly that sort of rarely among singers. He is very definite about considering his voice to be a part of total musical effect. "Phrasing like a horn" is what he's after, but this should by no means be taken as indicating that Marty is among those vocalists who try to actually imitate a horn. On the contrary, he feels most strongly about the importance of giving the lyrics the meaning their writer meant them to have.
There is an apparent conflict-of-interests problem that has always faced the jazz singer. It can be stated about like this: if you sing it too straight, you're just not dealing in jazz; but if you all-out in search of improvisation and sound, at the expense of the words, you're apt to wind up too far away from the function of a singer. On the evidence of this LP, Bell seems to have gone a long way towards finding his personal version of the rare effective compromise that is the only way of beating this problem. He does it here with a fairly light but sturdy and swinging sound, and an easy, consistent command of the beat that ought to win him a sizable following in a hurry.
Finding a group to provide the proper more-than-accompaniment didn't seem an easy task, until someone came up with the name of Don Elliott (perhaps on the theory that multi-talented Elliott should be able to do absolutely anything well). It turned out that in 19947 Marty had sat in frequently with a group that Don had led in Miami while studying arranging at the University there. Don was as pleased with the idea as everyone else; and the album was set up as a balance between quartet and quartet-plus-voice members.
Surprisingly enough, this happens also to be a debut record for the Elliott group. Don himself has of course made quite a number of albums, in front of a wide variety of personnel, in the past few years. He has been leading his own quartet quite successfully for some time now, but the regular playing unit, as such, had never been recorded before. The fault may lie with Elliott's celebrated and rather incredible virtuosity; critic Leonard Feather has called him "one of the most genuinely versatile figures in modern jazz", and most of his LPs have used augmented, pick-up groups as background for his work on one or more of his many instruments. (Don can handle just about everything except reeds, although at the start of his career he concentrated on trumpet and he is now best known on vibraphone and mellophone.)
Born in Somerville, New Jersey, on October 21, 1926, Elliott took up piano at the age of six, played in bands steadily through and after high school, studied at Julliard, and was both a trumpet player and an Air Force gunner during World War II. He first attracted major attention with the George Shearing Quintet, in 1950, on vibes, which he had started playing in 1947. He then played with Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, Terry Gibbs and Buddy Rich; since 1953 he has been a consistent Down Beat and Metronome poll winner, and many of the country's top jazz spots, including Basin Street and The Composer in New York. Bob Corwin and Jim Campbell have been with Don for some time, as their smoothly integrated work should indicate; the brilliant bassist Vinnie Burke joined them shortly before this record date.
Marty Bell was born on March 26, 1925 (the place was Newark, N.J., although he grew up in New York City), and started playing trumpet when he was about 15. His singing career began just a few years later, while he was part of an Army band based at Newport News, Virginia - Shorty Rogers was a section-mate, and the group also included jazzmen Lenny Hambro and Arnold Fishkin. At some point Marty rather casually began singing a chorus here and there, something he had always liked to do, and met with such encouragement on all sides that he stayed with it. In 1946 he joined Johnny Bothwell's band, both playing and singing. (At this time an observing writer for the trade paper The Billboard noted that Marty "might well develop into quite a performer.") For several years thereafter he toured, as a singer, with the big bands of Billy Butterfield, Sam Donahue and Freddy Slack. With that experience under his belt, he made the break away from band vocalizing and has been working as a single. He has also pretty much given up the trumpet, although the horn still comes in handy for saving his voice at rehearsals and run-throughs, Marty's unique device being to play his vocal parts at such practice sessions.
Bell's repertoire here consists largely of strong and not-overworked standards, in what are basically his own arrangements. The emphasis is decidedly on numbers from the late '30s and early '40s, a period rich in the lilting medium-tempo numbers he would appear to prefer. The only non-standard item is the rhythmic Me and You, recorded by Duke Ellington in 1940, with an Ivie Anderson vocal, and thereafter undeservedly neglected.
Of the quartet-only numbers, Moonlight in Vermont and September Song spotlight the lyrical qualities of Elliott's vibes; New Baby demonstrates the group's relaxed drive. The original, According to Moyle, is dedicated to one of stand-out disc jockeys, Will Moyle, of WVET in Rochester, N.Y.
Don Elliott can also be heard, on trumpet, on a ten-inch Riverside album:
Six Valves: DON ELLIOTT and RUSTY DESRICK, with Dick Hyman, Mundell Lowe, Eddie Safranski, Don Lamond (RLP 2517)
Other modern jazz on ten-inch LP includes:
SARA VAUGHAN with John Kirby (RLP 2511)
A Woman in Love: BARBARA LEA sings with Billy Taylor and Johnny Windhurst (RLP 2518)
RANDY WESTON plays Cole Porter (RLP 2508)
RANDY WESTON Trio, with Art Blakey (RLP 2515)
Riverside’s new twelve-inch series of HI-FI jazz offers such outstanding releases as:
THELONIOUS MONK plays Duke Ellington; with Oscar Pettiford, Kenny Clarke (RLP 12-201)
“Get Happy” with the RANDY WESTON Trio – featuring Down Beat’s “New Star” pianist of 1955 (RLP 12-203)
MUNDELL LOWE Quartet, with Dick Hyman, Trigger Alpert, Ed Shaughnessy (RLP 12-204)
A High Fidelity Recording (Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve)
Produced by Bill Grauer and Orrin Keepnews
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover photograph by Carole Reiff Galltly
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.