What Makes Sammy Swing
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Clark Terry (Trumpet), Phil Woods (alto Sax, clarinet, flute), Urbie Green (trombone), Seldon Powell (tenor baritone, bass clarinet), George Duvivier (bass), Dave McKenna (piano), Mel Lewis (drums)
(Released in 1964)
A Room Without Windows
You're No Good
My Home Town
A New Pair Of Shoes
The Friendliest Thing
Maybe Some Other Time
Something To Live For
Some Days Everything Goes Wrong
Album Notes: This is an exceedingly attractive record. Why? Because it presents a group of fine jazz men who have settled into some deep swinging grooves, and because the music they're playing is fresh, exciting and yet very much non-run-of-the-mill.
Jazz records often supply just one or the other of these attributes - either some very good musicians blowing some very uninspired numbers or else some interesting pieces attacked by a group of men whose ambitions tend to exceed their musicianship.
But here we a record in which the writing is on par with the playing. The musicians, all of them former jazz group standouts whose all-around musical ability permits them to work in the recording and television studios, obviously enjoy blowing the clever Pat Williams arrangements of Ervin Drake's score. Throughout they transmit not only good jazz passages but also a most refreshing and contagious joie-de-vivre. They are led by Clark Terry, the former Duke Ellington trumpeter, one of the most satisfying and exciting of today's jazz musicians, whose grasp of modern jazz combined with a healthy respect for the art's tradition set the mood and style of the entire septet.
As for the songs from "What Makes Sammy Run," they're decidedly off the usual beaten path that bears the name of Tin Pan Alley. In addition to their melodic and harmonic charms, they possess a quality unique in popular songs: a complete disregard for the much too traditional 32 bar structure. Yet so naturally do they flow that, according to Terry, the musicians never even noticed during the recording sessions that they were playing tunes of 20 bars, 36 bars, 40 bars, 56 bars and 60 bars.
Much of the enjoyably relaxed feeling that pervaded the playing of these songs can be credited to the light, tasteful, humorous, informal-sounding manner in which Williams arranged them for the group. "None of us had ever heard any of them before the date," Terry points out. "And yet we all felt comfortable because of the way Pat wrote them. You know he has the same rare quality that people like Duke and Billy Strayhorn have, treating each tune exactly as it should be treated. He writes for the song and for the musicians involved, instead of just writing for himself."
"Something To Live For" opens with a lovely trombone chorus by Urbie Green, then swings into passages by Terry on flugelhorn and Phil Woods on alto sax.
"A New Pair Of Shoes," done in waltz time, gets a humorous opening treatment from Terry and Green, then goes off into another swinging ensemble, proving again that good jazz men can swing in three quarter time.
"Some Days Everything Goes Wrong," the show's closer, highlights some delightful "tap-dance" drumming by Mel Lewis's brushes, Woods on clarinet, an instrument he is heard on all too infrequently, and Terry playing a plunger trumpet.
"Bachelor Gal," a song that was removed from the show before it opened in New York, but such a good piece of music that it's been included in this collection anyway, gets a light bossa nova treatment from the entire group.
"You're No Good" swings brightly, thanks again to the Pat Williams ensemble scoring, and features some fine Woods alto plus a tenor sax solo by Seldon Powell.
"Maybe Some Other Time" serves as a tour de force for Woods and his alto sax.
"Humble" is a rollicking 20 bar spiritual sort of number that features some highly effective ensembles, plus a couple of choruses apiece from Powell's tenor and Terry's flugelhorn.
"A Room Without Windows" is all Terry's as he growls close to the 56 bar melody throughout the first chorus, then takes off into some rousing jazz adventures.
"My Home Town," a joyous, romping, 40 bar rocker, offers more attractive writing by Williams (note the voicings) and some funky piano fill-ins from Dave McKenna.
"The Friendliest Thing," a 40 bar piece that's very reminiscent of Tea For Two, spots an airy, muted trumpet-flute duet by Terry and Powell.
I think you might enjoy playing this record a goodly number of times. It certainly will give anyone who likes tasty, relaxed jazz a great deal of highly enjoyable listening!
- George T. Simon
Jazz Commentator of the New Your Herald Tribune
Author of "The Feeling of Jazz"