THE METRONOMES: SOMETHING BIG
Paul Beason (1st tenor) Julius Robinson (2nd tenor) Conrad Moore (baritone) Charles “Woody” Woodford (bass)
are acc. by Junior Mance (p) Les Spann (g) Henry Grimes (b) Grady Tate (drs) Melba Liston (arr. cond)
Plaza Sound Studios, NYC; 1962
On Green Dolphin Street (2:15) JLP(S9)-78
Back Door Blue (2:44) - Rvs 4523
I Remember Clifford (3:19) -
‘Til I Met You (2:24) -
Monk’s Mood (4:04) -
This Could Be the Start of Something Big (2:45) - -
Love Is the Thing (2:38) -
Night in Tunisia (2:13) -
Tour De Force (5:10) RLP-3508
I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart (8:08) RLP-3510
Arthur Harper (b) Roy McCurdy (drs) replace H. Grimes, G. Tate
‘Round Midnight (3:54) JLP(S9)-78
Blue (3:50) -
This album presents for the first time THE METRONOMES, a vocal group with a fresh and altogether appealing spirit, and with much more than a suggestion of jazz feeling in their approach and sound.
These four young men from Philadelphia – Paul Benson, Julius Robinson, Conrad Moore and Charles (Woody) Woodford – have a background of experience with rhythm-and-blues and spiritual groups. More than anything else, a mutual conviction that most recent vocal groups have been treading a routine, stereotyped path – and a mutual desire to do something about this – brought them together a couple of years ago. Taking their time, they gradually worked up a valuable unity and ease together, and began to attract some attention in home-toon engagements.
Then, just when they were beginning to feel that things were perhaps moving a bit too slowly, a magic extra ingredient was added. This ingredient was the brilliant young arranger, Melba Liston, whose contributions make this group, in effect, a mathematical impossibility – a five-man quartet. (or, to be strictly accurate, four men and one woman). For, during quite a lengthy period preceding the recording of this album, Miss Liston worked, experimented, arranged, re-arranged, coached, bulled and drilled. All the vocal and instrumental arrangements here, and a good deal of the choice of repertoire, are the result of her efforts; and so (as The Metronomes themselves insist) much of the credit for what is unique here must go to Melba.
The selections run a tough and intriguing gamut that includes two of the most haunting (and trickiest) compositions of pianist Thelonious Monk: a wordless vocal on Monk’s Mood and Babs Gonzales lyrics to the classic ‘Round Midnight. There’s Dizzy Gillespie’s Night in Tunisia; a raucous blues by Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson; racing version of Steve Allen’s Start of something Big; two examples of Jon Hendricks’ modern lyric phrasing (including Benny Golson’s beautiful I Remember Clifford); guitarist Freddie Green’s bluesy ‘Til I Met You; and the often-played, seldom-sung On Green Dolphin Street, by now something of a jazz standard.
For the story of the Metronome-Liston alliance in action, t seems most logical to turn to the versatile Miss Liston, who originally gained attention by being accepted as a trombonist (rather than merely as a “girl trombonist”) with the orchestras of Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. In Melba’s own words …
“We first met while Quincy’s band was working at Peps, in Philadelphia. They did a guest spot at the club, singing mostly standards, and we all noticed that they had a very nice blend and what seemed a quite relaxed and swinging style. Next thing I knew, Jimmy Turner, their manager, was calling again and again: Will you write some music for my guys? … did you write? … when do we start rehearsing?, etc.
“So, starting in about the Summer of ’61, almost every Sunday afternoon would find the group, sometimes a whole rhythm section, a big tape recorder and a case of beer crowding into my not-much-more-then-one-room apartment.
“The first session was spent in finding their ranges and in tearing apart the arrangements they had. I really felt like a villain: they’d be so proud of a number (“We arranged this ourselves!) and then I’d proceed to change this and that until there was hardly anything left of the original idea. I think they must have hated me …
“Our first real progress came with Green Dolphin Street, Tunisia, and ‘Round Midnight – their choices. I worked out a system of putting each part on tape and then playing all four parts back for them. After 4 to 6 hours of rehearsal they’d take the tape back to Philly and work each evening and return the next Sunday with the number darn near perfect – they thought. When they first got the message that they were only singing a sort of outline, with many little things still to be inserted, they almost quit me: We’ll never get through. . What does she think we are … Nobody sings like that, with notes rubbing all up against each other … We’re not instrumentalists.
“Paul, the boldest, would do most of this speaking up, maybe because he never did have too much trouble with his parts. Julius is so shy. When we’d start working on his parts his wyes would take on a frightened look – but when we’d put everything together he’d be so anxious to get at it that he’d nearly yell his parts. I think Conrad is the most even-tempered. He has very good ears and memory. He’s quite witty, too; and also writes good lyrics – although I didn’t find this out until the material for the date was all set. (Maybe next time we can do some of the jazz songs he has put words to.) Woody? He’s the sassy one: learns fast, remembers well, then settles back to heckle the others until he drives me to saying some very non-musical phrases. This cracks everyone up, and relaxes them too; so that the remainder of the rehearsal usually goes very calmly.
“That’s the kind of way we spent a good many Sundays before the record was made (and after, too). I know there were days the boys got even more into things than on the record, but I think there’s plenty here for people to listen to and dig …”
NOTE: JLP(S9)-78 “The Metronomes: Something Big!”
Produced by Orrin Keepnews; notes: no information. Recording Engineer: Ray Fowler.
Cover designed by Ken Deardoff and photos by Steve Schapiro.
RLP-3508 “The Compositions of Dizzy Gillespie”
RLP-3510 “The Compositions of Duke Ellington, Vol.2”
JLP(S9)-78 (Orpheum) RLP-3508 RLP-3510
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, INC.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York