This is a quintessential West Coast album on the quintessential West Coast (read, Los Angeles) jazz label, with the protean drummer gathering a who's who of L.A. jazzmen and arranger/composers for some adventures into the cool on a single 10" LP (on CD, these tracks appear on The West Coast Sound, Vol. 1). Only two years out of the Kenton band, the 33-year-old Manne proved to be a great catalyst, a master of coloristic effects, particularly with mallets, who was always swinging and lifting even the most cerebral harmonies onto his strong shoulders. With a sax section of Bob Cooper, Jimmy Giuffre, and Bud Shank alternating with Art Salt, Bob Enevoldsen on valve trombone, Marty Paich on piano, and Curtis Counce and Joe Mondragon alternating on bass, the star arrangers here produce a lot of intriguing sounds from such a limited core. Bill Russo borrows the Woody Herman/Four Brothers' "Early Autumn" sax ensemble sound for his fascinating "Gazelle," where the densely harmonized saxes float over Manne's brushes, as well as the swinging "Sweets" (dedicated to Harry "Sweets" Edison) and a cover version of "You and the Night and the Music." Shorty Rogers' "La Mucura" exchanges an Afro-Cuban element with straight-ahead cool, with Manne switching seamlessly from one idiom to another, and he brings a swirl of saxes gradually into focus on "Afrodesia." Rogers' "Mallets" naturally showcases Manne's signature capabilities with the mallets on tom-toms. Paich and Giuffre contribute one arrangement each; Paich's treatment of "You're My Thrill" contains a characteristic four-on-the-floor slice of cool, while Giuffre's "Fugue" is an abstract, basically atonal tangle of independent voices. Members of the East Coast jazz establishment basically ignored or pooh-poohed records like these -- and judging from the ill-informed comments on the Ken Burns Jazz series that this was, in effect, effete white music produced to sell records (yeah, right), they still do. Don't listen to 'em; dig it!
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