One of the first great improvisers on the xylophone and marimba, Red Norvo was also one of the few swing-era stars to make a successful transition to the harmonic and rhythmic challenges of bebop (he recorded with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in 1945). By that time he had switched up to a vibraphone--a more versatile instrument with its amplified sound and sustain pedal--but his steely rhythmic articulation always reflected his experiences as an acoustic mallet player.
THE RED NORVO TRIO WITH TAL FARLOW AND CHARLES MINGUS chronicles his 1950-51 recordings with the innovative guitarist and bass player, and are among the most influential examples of what has come to be known as chamber jazz. When economic conditions made touring with a sextet impossible, Norvo decided to dispense with a rhythm section. In Farlow and Mingus he found players who shared his fascination with sophisticated harmonies, and were able to hang with him at the brisk tempos he favored.
Thanks to their elaborately crafted arrangements, the trio created a full orchestral dimension and a powerful rhythmic thrust. On "Prelude To A Kiss," Mingus' rich arco work triggers several cunning thematic variations, while Norvo's tart dissonances behind Farlow's solo create a harmonic tension which is only resolved during his own improvisation--together, they create a series of fanciful motifs behind Mingus' solo. Denzel Best's "Move" is driven along by Mingus' articulate, up-tempo melodic variations, as Norvo and Farlow navigate his equestrian changes with imperturbable refinement. Farlow's witty percussive effects on "Night And Day" and Mingus' flamboyant bowing on "Time And Tide" make it seem as if the musicians are playing with roses between their teeth. From the classical grandeur of "I'll Remember April" to the boppish drive "Godchild" and "Swedish Pastry," the wit and technical range of this band is phenomenal.