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Drop Me Off In Harlem

Paul Gormley Quartet

 "THE MUSIC OF DUKE ELLINGTON" - VOL. 1

 

Liner Notes by Floyd Levin  the author of the acclaimed book "CLASSIC JAZZ –A Personal View of the Music and the Musicians" published by the University of California Press.

 

From the time he made his first recordings in 1924, Duke Ellington left a trailblazing path of recorded gems that will continue to provide an avenue of inspiration to succeeding generations of jazz musicians.    Critics, collectors, and fans generally agree that Ellington's most creative period took place between 1940 and 1944. This Ducal period, the rich source from which much of this CD's program was selected, brought forth a sustained flow of memorable recordings. (The program here also wisely includes selections from the Duke's productive eras before and after those years.)

 

A portion of the credit for all these accomplishments should be shared with various Ellington band members -and, especially, Billy Strayhorn, an extravagantly gifted composer, arranger, and pianist who, for years, worked with Ellington as an employee, collaborator, and friend. Naturally, this CD includes a pair of Strayhorn masterpieces.

The combined biographical sketches of these four acclaimed jazzmen would fill a sizable volume. Because of space limitations, only part of their elaborate credits are included here:

Leader-bassist PAUL GORMLEY'S first teacher was his father "Stormy" Gormley, a prominent Southern California jazz bassist.  Although mostly self-taught, Paul has also studied with Fred Hughart, Burt Turetzky, and veteran jazz bassist, Artie Shapiro. He has played and recorded with numerous jazz greats over the years, including: Woody Herman, Vido Musso, Joe Williams, Dick Cary, Mundell Lowe, Gene Estes, Bobby Sherwood, Jack Sheldon, Terry Gibbs, and more.   Paul has toured Japan with Percy Faith, Billy Vaughn, and Peanuts Hucko's Benny Goodman Tribute Big Band, and performed in South America with Ray Conniff.   In his role as Producer of this CD, Paul selected the personnel, chose the music, arranged the tunes, and did the mixing. Guitarist

LARRY KOONSE, also born into a musical family, began playing his instrument when he was only six years old. At 15, he recorded his first album with his guitarist father, Dave Koonse.  For the last two decades, since graduating as a Bachelor of Music from the University of California, he has worked as a member of the John Dankworth Quartet with Cleo Laine, toured with Mel Torme', Terry Gibbs, Bob Brookmeyer, and toured Japan as a featured artist with the Percy Faith Orchestra.  Larry has been a featured soloist with the L.A.  Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has been a faculty member at the California Institute of the Arts for the last 15 years.

SAM MOST, one of the first great jazz flutists, is also a member of a musical family; he is the younger brother of clarinetist Abe Most. At 18, Sam began his career playing saxophone in Tommy Dorsey's orchestra.  After appearing with groups led by Boyd Raeburn and Don Redman, he changed to flute. When he was 23, Sam's first recording "Undercurrent Blues" established him as the first bop flutist. The following year he won Down Beat Magazine's Critics "New Star" Award and recorded with Paul Quinichette's All- Stars. Sam later toured South America, India, and the Far East as a member of Buddy Rich's Orchestra. He received international acclaim following the release of his landmark recordings on the Xanadu label in the late '70s. Sam is also the author of two highly regarded instructional books. PAUL KREIBICH has been playing the drums since he was nine years old. He studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass., Los Angeles City College, and Orange Coast College.  Paul toured and recorded with the late Gene Harris from 1995 through 2000, and performed extensively throughout the U.S., Japan, Europe, and South America with Ray Charles' Orchestra, the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Gerald Wiggins Trio, Rosemary Clooney, and Anita O'Day, among others.  His recording credits include sessions with Diana Reeves, Spike Robinson, Vic Lewis, Conte Candoli, Lennie Niehaus, etc. As an educator, Paul currently is the Applied Music Instructor at California State University at Fullerton, and has taught at Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y., Michigan State University, U.S.C. Music Department, Valley College, the L.A. Unified School District, etc.

THE MUSIC

Paul Gormley's well-crafted arrangements balance crisply written passages with appropriate space for articulate solos - that swing!  We hear Ellington tunes spanning a broad gamut of moods and tempos.  They shift gracefully from hushed sensuality ("Warm Valley, "In a Mellotone," and "Lotus Blossom") to steamy torrid tempos ("Cotton Tail" and "Main Stem.") Paul Gormley's Quartet establishes an intimate setting for the music featuring their one-man woodwind section, Sam Most, playing clarinet, alto flute, bass flute, and regular flute. The four eminent players, in perfect sync with each other, gracefully generate the spirited hard-driving enthusiasm that catapulted the full Duke Ellington orchestra to super-star status.

Our opening title tune, "Drop Me Off in Harlem," from 1933, is the earliest number on the program. This ageless masterpiece was featured in the Cotton Club reviews, propelled sepia chorus lines, and thrilled European fans during the band's first European tour. It provides an ideal   introduction to our players and their perceptive interpretations of Ellington's music.

"Self Portrait (of a Bean)," the most recent composition, is from a 1969 Impulse album, "Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins." It was Duke's introspective tribute to the great saxophonist (nicknamed "Bean") during their only meeting on record.  Many of Ellington's later projects have received little attention since their initial releases. This, probably the first recording of the tune since its original appearance 35 years ago, is a dual homage to a pair of jazz giants.  Like most of these numbers, it spotlights Larry Koonse's delicate guitar fluency. The perennial set-closer,

"Cotton Tail," based on the harmonic sequences of "I Got Rhythm," featured tenor saxophonist Ben Webster's explosive solo on the 1940 Ellington recording. Made during the peak of the Swing Era, it created the format for modern style big band jazz. Paul Gormley's "Cotton Tail" arrangement, like its precursor, avoids an introduction. It leaps directly into the main theme with drummer Paul Kreibich at the helm, deftly combining subtle precision with a strong rhythmic momentum while unobtrusively building a resounding background to the proceedings.

"Warm Valley" will long be remembered as a launching pad for alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges' floating phrases that permanently established the number in 1940. On this version, Sam Most's poignant alto flute, sustaining Hodges' tenderness, is supported responsively by Paul Gormley's sensitive bass lines. Preserving the chordal character of the medium tempo 1917 chestnut, “Rose Room," Ellington's riffish "In a Mellotone" has been a jam session standard for many years. Switching to the clarinet, Sam Most provides the counterpoint to Larry Koonse's melody line reminiscent of the Big Bands' effective sectional exchanges with Gormley, and Kreibich generating the lilting pulse of a Swing Era rhythm section.

"Lotus Blossom" is an expressive Billy Strayhorn song that Ellington recorded as a piano solo in an album, "And His Mother Called Him Bill," shortly after Strayhorn's death in 1967. At Duke's funeral seven years later, the cathedral organist also played a moving rendition of the number, one of Ellington's favorites.  Sam Most uses his bass flute to richly emphasize the melodic depth of Strayhorn's lovely composition. With Larry Koonse's guitar paralleling the mood, they create a memorable, almost mournful, closure.

"Just Squeeze Me" was originally recorded as "Subtle Slough," an instrumental by Barney Bigard's small Ellington unit.  Lyrics were added after a few years, and, when sung by Ray Nance from the Ellington trumpet section, another popular hit emerged.  Our Quartet's finger-snapping version here is beautifully bracketed by soloist Paul Gormley's warm bass choruses. (On almost every tune you will hear Gormley's linear melodic statements and improvisations that embellish without losing the melody.) "Main Stem" was recorded by Ellington in 1942, and, when re-released two years later, it gained additional prominence.  This sweeping, surging number is appropriately energized by the Paul Gormley Quartet.  Their series of rapid blues riffs and the rhythmic patterns in the melody confirm the value of this gem-like Ducal achievement. (Notice the last few choruses of unison guitar and flute creating the sound of two horns.) "Do Nothing 'Till You Hear From Me" was adapted from the Ellington band's instrumental, "Concerto for Cootie." Lyrics were added a few years later by Bob Russell (who also converted Duke's "Never No Lament" into the hit, "Don't get Around Much Anymore"). I doubt if "Do Nothing 'Till You Hear From Me" has ever before been clad in such a plush rhythmic and melodic setting.

These sixty-two tranquil minutes provide an opportunity to hear four remarkable West Coast jazzmen taking us on a musical tour that provides a fresh glitter to timeless melodies; some of which have not shimmered on the musical horizon for years. Repeated playings will reveal the true strength of these cerebral performances. You will find that there is far more here then what initially meets the ear.

 

 

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