Dodo Marmarosa


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Michael "Dodo" Marmarosa was a marvelous, flexible pianist. He could cook passionately in the middle of a steaming hot band or ease into an ethereal mood with hardly anybody else in the room. Classically trained, Dodo hung out with young Erroll Garner when they were still figuring themselves out back home in Pittsburgh. He made great records with Artie Shaw, Slim Gaillard, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Wardell Gray, and Howard McGhee. What you have here is a chronological grab bag of recordings from Dodo's most promising years. The Barney Kessel All-Stars session, resulting in four sides issued on the Atomic label in 1945, is an exciting discovery, notable for the reeds and vibes of Herbie Steward and Johnny White. Seven months later, the pianist led a pared-down group in concocting another four recordings for Atomic. Dodo has said that he composed "Mellow Mood" when he was only 14 years old. This version, waxed when he was all of 20, exudes a calm sophistication. "Dodo's Blues" is honest and cool, with nice brushwork from Jackie Mills. "How High the Moon" bristles with hot percussion and a wild tenor sax solo by Lucky Thompson. The flip side is a ballad to end all ballads. If you didn't know it was Lucky pouring Alfredo sauce over "I Surrender Dear," you'd think it was Coleman Hawkins himself. The tenth and last side issued by Atomic offers a rare example of Dodo Marmarosa the vocalist. It's worth having as a tasty curiosity, as are two sides cut about a year later with Dodo backing Miss Dana, a singer who really belts out Fats Waller's "Black and Blue." The definitive Dodo is heard on five trio sides recorded for the Dial label in Los Angeles on December 3, 1947. "Bopmatism" has a slightly manic quality that will stay with you long after the piece has ended. "Dodo's Dance" is a giddy, high-velocity workout. "Trade Winds" delivers a much cooler mood, bringing to mind the very beat legend that Dodo once painted the inside of his bathtub green so his bath water would more closely resemble a tropical ocean. Dodo's meditative side is beautifully languid and precious as true love and peace of mind. "Dary Departs," a simple study in relaxed 4/4, is one of his greatest achievements. "Cosmo Street" turns out to be nothing more than a friendly version of Rodgers & Hart's "Lover." The disc ends with four Savoy sides made back home in Pittsburgh during the summer of 1950. Anyone familiar with Marmarosa's discography will be puzzled by the gaps in this picture. Dodo's unaccompanied "Tone Paintings" of 1947 definitely belong in the chronology along with "Deep Purple" and "Tea for Two," fine solos from early 1946. Although other volumes in the Classics series offer plenty of initially "rejected" material, we are told that this volume contains "only those tracks that were actually issued at the time." As for ten additional sides made in collaboration with Barney Kessel and six more with Lucky Thompson, it would be logical to expect them to appear on the Classics label under those artists' names. An excellent survey of Marmarosa's recorded works from 1946 and 1947 was issued in 1991 by Fresh Sound [FSCD-1019], bearing the title Dodo's Bounce.

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