Aaron Bell

Music from "77 Sunset Strip"

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While best-known as one of Duke Ellington's 1960s constituents, Aaron Bell (bass) likewise led several combos boasting, among others, frontman Lucky Millinder (vocals), as well as instrumentalists Teddy Wilson (piano) and Lester Young (sax). Just prior to his work beside Sir Duke, Bell cut this seven-song selection of Music From "77 Sunset Strip" (1959) with the small, but impressive unit of jazz luminaries: Seldon Powell (flute/tenor sax), Eddie Costa (vibes), Ray Bryant (piano), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Oliver Jackson (drums) and Bell (bass) himself. The success of the prime time drama had already spawned a soundtrack album of tunes used in the show, but Bell's approach differed significantly as he chose only the most prominent melodies, such as the three variations of the program's theme. The chorus/vocal version is closest to Warren Baker's arrangement and the 'jazz' and 'blues' adaptations are equal, if not arguably stronger, as Costa and Burrell provide some tasty interplay over Jackson and Bell's swinging rhythm. "Caper at the Coffee House" is West Coast cool at its finest, retaining the same ultra-hip inquisition that had informed Baker's reading. The noir and quirky "Stu Bailey's Blues" stands out as Burrell and Bryant contribute to the jazzy vibe. Although the impact of a full horn section is conspicuously absent, the zenith of the whole affair is the bopping tempo pulsating through "Kookie's Caper." As a bassist, Bell instinctively latches onto the throbbing backbeat, driving it steadily behind the band. While not really an apt substitute for the original, Music From "77 Sunset Strip" is recommended for inclined parties.