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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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RED NORVO SMALL BANDS

The Complete V-Disc Recordings

Sounds of Yester Year DSOY 843

 

 


1. Something for the Boys
2. Abraham
3. Embraceable You
4. 1-2-3-4 Jump
5. Seven Come Eleven
6. In A Mellow Tone
7. Flyin' Home
8. Too Marvellous for Words
9. The Sergeant on Furlough
10. N.R.C. Jump
11. Lagwood Walk
12. Downhearted Blues
13. Blue Skies
14. Purple Feathers
15. Which Switch Witch
16. The Bass on the Bar Room Floor
17. Dinah
18. Bugle Call Rag
19. Just You, Just Me

Collective personnel
Red Norvo - Vibes
Helen Ward, Mildred Bailey, Carol Bruce - Vocals
Aaron Sachs - Alto sax, clarinet
Remo Palmieri, Tommy Kay - Guitar
Flip Phillips - Tenor sax
Charlie Shavers, Dale Pierce - Trumpet
Dick Taylor - Trombone
Danny Negri, Ralph Burns, Teddy Wilson - Piano
Al Hall , Clyde Lombardi - Bass
Eddie Dell, Specs Powell, Johnny Blowers - Drums

 

Red Norvo was one of the few jazzmen who espoused the xylophone as a jazz instrument. When he changed to the vibraphone in 1944, he generally resisted turning on the fans which gave the vibes their own vibrato, preferring a clean-cut sound which could sound brittle but which, in his hands, allowed for a wide range of expression.

By the time these recordings were made in the mid-1940s, Norvo was already established on the vibraphone, although he is not audible in the first two tracks, which are rather uncomfortably patriotic songs performed by Carol Bruce. In Something for the Boys, she asserts that "I'm always doing something for the boys, for they're doing something for me". Abraham is a hymn of praise to Abraham Lincoln.

Carol Bruce also sings Embraceable You, which starts with some vibrating vibraphone notes. The remaining tracks are mainly insstrumentals, except for Helen Ward singing Too Marvellous for Words (with a seductive tenor solo by Flip Phillips), and Mildred Bailey (Norvo's one-time wife) putting plenty of blues feeling into Downhearted Blues.

Nobody is credited with writing the arrangements but they are ingeniously varied: simple but effective. Red Norvo assembled some fine musicians for these sessions, and he adds some tasteful commentary on vibes in the background to some numbers as well as many solos. 1-2-3-4 Jump is an exciting piece with a mixture of mellow and outspoken tenor sax from Flip phillips and a good drum solo. Seven Come Eleven is well known as a Benny Goodman speciality and Aaron Sachs provides Goodmanesque clarinet in this number.

As the V-discs were 12-inch recordings, musicians had the chance to stretch out for more than the usual three minutes, and several tracks here are around the five-minute mark, which gives every member in each small group the opportunity for a solo. The most notable musician besides red Norvo on most tracks is Flip Hillips, who had begun to make his name with Woody Herman's band and then in Jazz at the Philharmonic.

These recordings were well worth digging out of the archives - especially the last three tracks, which feature the magnificent trumpeter Charlie Shavers and the elegant pianist Teddy Wilson. When so many other trumpeters are praised to the skies, I cannot understand why Charlie Shavers is stil under-rated. He could play the highest of notes with ease and always constructed his solos melodically. Bugle Call Rag is the most amazing of all: taken at a hectic pace which all the musicians manage to keep up with, Shavers, Norvo and Wilson being outstanding. The CD is worth buying for these last three tracks alone.

Tony Augarde

www.augardebooks.co.uk



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