NEAL HEFTI and His Jazz Pops Orchestra
Stereophonic...S9 6039...1962...7 1/2 ips...4 Track...Stereo
(REPRISE LP R9 6039)
BOX: Good..split at two corners
TAPE: VG+...plays well...$12.00
CUTE - Neal Hefti...NTG
MOAN IN' - NTG
PETITE FLEUR - NTG
LI'L DARLIN' - Neal Hefti...NTG
In jazz, somehow, the very mention of a Pops concept has rarely failed to provoke howls of outrage from jazz critics and purist fans. When they weren't looking down their noses at the idea of a musical popularization of certain jazz compositions, they were screaming "Prostitution!" — or worse.
Neal Hefti, whose eminence as a jazz trumpeter-arranger-composer certainly is beyond question, doesn't quite see eye-to-eye with the purist position. To Neal, music is music. Either it's good—or it's not. His conception of this set, he says, was to produce "A good music album," It's as simple as that.
"I was striving," he said, "for something good to come into being through my own jazz concepts."
The last two words are key ones. Jazz, of course, in the context of the large orchestra
is and must be a happv marriage of writing and individual solo work. But we find Hefti
on the Cute track taking the original recorded jazz flute solo played by Frank Wess
with the Count Basie band and transcribing it for his five-man flute section to play in
And thus we see how a musician's improvised jazz solo against the background of an arrangement is turned into part of another arrangement — and in both instances, incidentally, by the same arranger-composer, Neal Hefti. In discussing the album, Neal observed, "People are going to challenge certain tunes.
'You call that jazz? they'll say. But jazz has been everything from rock'n'roll to Aaron Copland. Remember that particular scene in Copland's Billy the Kid?"
Hefti's originality is evident in every track cut at the two sessions during which the album was recorded. In Coral Reef — the first record ever made by Hefti leading his own band (in 1951) and that one earned him the first of four gold records he has to his to his credit - you'll hear the unison flutes approximate his own trumpet solo on the original recording, Again, the montuno or chant with inison saxes in the middle of Take Five is fashioned after the Paul Desmond solo on the Dave Brubeck Quartet hit record. On L'l Darlin', The Wendell Cully trumpet solo from the original Basic record is played by vibist Emil Richards.
One & Two O'clock Jump, a jazz highpoint of the set, is in Neat's words, "A little gift to Count Basie and Harry James." Soloists are Larry Bunker on vibes, Ted Nash on flute, and Lew McCreary on trombone. In particular, though, listen for the alto sax chase between Charlie Kennedy (up first) and Joe Maini as they trade four bars apiece. They are followed by the fratelli Candoli (Conte and Pete) in similar four-bar exchanges with Conte using a cap mure and Pece a buzz mute. Note, too, how the original Walter Page-Count Basic duet on bass and piano is duplicated here by bassist Al McKibbon and vibist Larry Bunker. On Cute, star drummer Shelly Manne (who split the sessions with an equally formidable percussionist, Earl Palmer) demonstrates some tight teamwork during the breaks with bongoist Aquabella before the flute section enters with Wess' original solo.
In the jazz solo department there are several excellent samples of what can happen when a seasoned jazzman is cut loose to improvise within an arrangement. Altoist Joe Maini infuses Ernest Gold's Exodus with the fire of jazz feeling; similarly, his compañero, Jack Sheldon, steps out and wails on Andre Previn's Like Young. With such a talent-laden trumpet section it was certain there would be some glowing moments of solo jazz. Conte Candoli and Gerald Wilson, in solos on Petite Fleur and Moanin' respectively, more rhan defend their solid jazz reputations — they enhance them.
Neal Hefti's name has always been linked with big band jazz of an imaginative stripe. He brought his imaginative stripe. He brought his original jazz concept to Woody Herman's Herd in the 1940s, then to the Count Basie band during the 50s, Today he is putting his creativity to work for himself. Jazz Pops is the resultant offering.
16 | 45 | 33 1/3 | 78