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



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LOUIS BELLSON

Four Classic Albums Plus

Avid AMSC 1066

 

 

CD1
Just Jazz All Stars
1. Eyes
2. Rainbow
3. Sticks
4. Shadows
5. The Jeep Is Jumpin'
6. Passion Flower
7. Punkin'
8. Johnny Come Lately
 
Louis Bellson - Drums
Willie Smith - Alto sax
Wardell Gray - Tenor sax
Harry Carney - Baritone sax
Clark Terry - Trumpet
Juan Tizol - Valve trombone
John Graas - French horn
Billy Strayhorn - Piano
Wendell Marshall - Bass
 
Concerto For Drums
9. Concerto For Drums
10. Basically Speaking, Duvivier, That Is
11. Love For Sale
12. The Man I Love
13. Charlie's Blues
14. I'll Remember April
15. Buffalo Joe
16. Stompin' At The Savoy
 
Louis Bellson - Drums
Charlie Shavers - Trumpet
Zoot Sims - Tenor sax
Don Abney - Piano
George Duvivier - Bass
 
Drummer's Holiday
17. Blues For Keeps
18. For Louie's Kicks
19. I'm Shooting High
 
Louis Bellson - Drums
Charlie Shavers - Trumpet
Eddie Bert - Trombone (track 17)
Ernie Wilkins - Alto sax (track 17)
Teddy Lee - Baritone sax (tracks 17, 18)
Nat Pierce - Piano (track 17)
Ray Brown - Bass (tracks 17, 19)
Vincent Forchetti - Trombone (track 18)
Red Press - Alto sax (track 18)
Ed Wasserman- Tenor sax (tracks 18, 19)
Lou Stein - Piano (track 18)
Bill Cronk - Bass (track 18)
Hank Jones - Piano, remainder of personnel unknown (track 19)
 
CD2
At The Flamingo
1. Flamingo Blues
2. Driftwood
3. Opus 711
4. Broadway
5. Medley: Love Is Here To Stay/Flamingo/Makin' Whoopee
6. Sweet Georgia Brown
 
Louis Bellson - Drums
Harry Edison - Trumpet
Don Abney - Piano
Charles "Truck" Parham - Bass
 
The Hawk Talks
7. Basie
8. Charlie O
9. Jump It, Man!
10. Greetings
11. The Hawk Talks
12. Festivale
13. Mambo … la Louis Bellson
 
Louis Bellson - Drums
Charlie Shavers - Trumpet (tracks 7-10)
Seldon Powell - Tenor sax (tracks 7-10)
Lou Stein - Piano
Wendell Marshall - Bass
Nate Brown - Flute (tracks 11-13)
Sid Brown - Bass clarinet (tracks 11-13)
Sabu Martinez, Alexander Delaunay, Cyril Jackson, Joe Commodore, Mike Alexander, Ray Claverey, Alphonse Marshall - Percussion (tracks 11-13)
 
Drummer's Holiday
14. T-Bones
15. How Many Times

Louis Bellson - Drums
Charlie Shavers - Trumpet
Teddy Lee - Baritone sax (track 14)
Vincent Forchetti - Trombone (track 14)
Red Press - Alto sax (track 14)
Ed Wasserman- Tenor sax
Lou Stein - Piano (track 14)
Bill Cronk - Bass (track 14)
Ray Brown - Bass (track 15)
Hank Jones - Piano, remainder of personnel unknown (track 15)

 

I have spelt Louis Bellson as he is listed on this album, although he preferred his first name to be spelt Louie, apparently so that people wouldn't pronounce it "lew-iss" (as Louis Armstrong often pronounced his own first name). This double CD includes the contents of four LPs plus five of the eight tracks from Drummer's Holiday. Every track comes from the 1950s and they all put Bellson with small groups - between a quartet and a nonet, although I'm Shooting High and How Many Times are by "the Louis Bellson Orchestra" whose personnel is unknown except for five of the musicians.

Although he is featured here with small groups, Bellson was best known as a big-band drummer - most famously with Duke Ellington but also with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Harry James. The first LP - Just Jazz All Stars - dates from 1952. The Ellington influence is clear from the fact that Bellson uses the Duke's right-hand man, Billy Strayhorn, as well as including several Ellington alumni and playing three numbers from the Ellington bandbook.

Bellson was a composer and arranger as well as a drummer, and he includes two of his own compositions here: Eyes and Shadows. Bellson's drums are only featured in Sticks and here we have an example of one of my hesitations about Bellson. He was indisputably a fine technician but he had a tendency to repeat himself in solos, and several phrases in this track are identical with some he used in his renowned Skin Deep solo with the Ellington band. The outstanding soloist on this session was Willie Smith, whose smooth alto sax supplies valuable solos on several tracks. Clark Terry's immediately-recognisable sound also decorates some tunes.

Concerto for Drums from 1954 starts with the title-track, a five-minute-plus drum solo by Bellson which again repeats a few of his favourite licks. The next track is a feature for bassist George Duvivier, although Don Abney's piano makes some interesting solo statements. Trumpeter Charlie Shavers is featured on The Man I Love and two tunes he wrote himself - Charlie's Blues and Buffalo Joe, while tenorist Zoot Sims solos fluently in Love For Sale. Shavers and Sims swap brilliant fours in Buffalo Joe.

The tracks from Drummer's Holiday, tacked on at the end of each CD, are clearly recorded and allow us to savour Bellson's clean, precise drumming. Charlie Shavers is again the outstanding soloist.

Louis Bellson at the Flamingo was recorded in November 1957, after Bellson's quartet had appeared at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. The quartet included trumpeter Harry Edison who, like Bellson, sometimes sank into his own clich‚s. Because this was such a small group, Edison and Bellson get plenty of opportunities to swap fours.

The Hawk Talks was an LP of two halves, with a quintet on four tracks and a percussion-heavy line-up on the last three. The quintet again has the superlative Charlie Shavers plus tenorist Seldon Powell, who ensure that this is a really exciting session. The last three tracks from this LP use two woodwinds plus the rhythm section and seven miscellaneous percussionists to make a very cluttered sound. It is rather ungainly and is unlikely to appeal to even the most ardent fan of percussion.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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