Red Norvo


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Volume eight in the Classics Red Norvo chronology opens with two extended jams from Timme Rosenkrantz's Town Hall Jazz Concert of June 9, 1945. A wild romp on "Seven Come Eleven" runs for ten-and-a-half minutes while "In a Mellotone" lasts more than a quarter-of-an-hour. This particular Town Hall event was audio-documented by Milt Gabler and the recordings eventually appeared on his Commodore record label. Unlike most of the concerts held at Town Hall during the '40s and organized by staunch traditionalist Eddie Condon, this gig resounded with music of a slightly more modern and bop-informed nature, with Specs Powell, Slam Stewart, Remo Palmieri, Teddy Wilson, and Red Norvo providing steamy support for trumpeter Shorty Rogers, trombonist Eddie Bert, clarinetist Aaron Sachs, and tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips, who cuts loose in ways that anticipate his behavior at JATP concerts a few years later. The inclusion of these two precious live jams makes this installment in the Norvo chronology extra special. Most of the rest of the material was recorded for the Capitol label in Los Angeles between October 13 and December 18, 1947. For the October 13 session the band, billed as "Ten Cats and a Mouse," engaged in a peculiar experiment, as everybody swapped instruments. This meant, for example, that Red Norvo played piano, Paul Weston blew the clarinet, Benny Carter played tenor sax, and Peggy Lee (the "Mouse") played drums! On the following day, the instruments all returned to their rightful owners and Kansas City legend Jesse Price was behind the drum kit. On November 28, 1947, Norvo's Septet included cool guitarist Barney Kessel and young saxophonists Dexter Gordon and Jimmy Giuffre, as well as visionary pianist Dodo Marmarosa. Both "I'll Follow You" and "Bop!" are more modern-sounding than anything Norvo had previously presented to the public. The fascinating overlap between bop and R&B is evident on the other two tracks from this date, issued as by Jesse Price and his Blues Band, with shout blues vocals by Price. For the two ultra-modern sessions from mid-December 1947, Norvo switched back to the drier sound of the xylophone in front of smooth ensembles playing arrangements (suitable for film noir soundtrack purposes) written by Johnny Thompson. Even the old "Twelfth Street Rag," handled here by an ensemble equipped with a pair of French horns, comes across as bracingly futuristic. One expects Art Pepper and Warned Marsh to come in at any moment. This excellent compilation closes with two previously omitted V-Disc jams from November 1944 and February 1945, originally issued under Paul Baron's name but featuring the vibraphone of Red Norvo.

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