Quincy Jones And His Orchestra, Live In Ludwigshafen 1961 – SWR Jazzhaus

Quincy Jones And His Orchestra, Live In Ludwigshafen 1961 – SWR Jazzhaus JAH-455, 75:49 ****:

A treasure-trove of superb big-band playing.

(Quincy Jones and His Orchestra featuring Benny Bailey; Freddie Hubbard; Melba Liston; Curtis Fuller; Ake Persson; Eric Dixon; Phil Woods; Sahib Shihab; Les Spann; Stu Martin; Carlos ‘Patato’ Valdes)

Before Quincy Jones morphed into “Q”, a one-man musical conglomerate,  during the general period before this recording was made, he had been a section trumpeter for several formations including those of Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and Art Farmer. Somewhat later, he was recording as leader, composer, conductor, and arranger for  big bands bearing his own name, including the one heard on this release.

At the time of this recording in March 1961, the band  had been travelling and recording in Europe, and a little later with a slightly different iteration played the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1961. However none of the other recordings from this period, contain the breadth of material of Live In Ludwigshafen 1961. This is a full-throttled aggregation playing straight-ahead jazz, from mostly recognizable material,with arrangements generally by Quincy Jones.

That old Benny Goodman war-horse “Air Mail Special” charges out of the gate with the reed section setting the theme with trombonist Ake Persson taking the first solo and followed in brief order by saxophonist Joe Lopes. Both rip the notes out of their instruments. “G’wan Train” by pianist Patti Bown and arranged by Quincy is a delightful feature for saxophonists Joe Lopes and Phil Woods, both of whom are pushed along by the punctuated drumming of Stu Martin.

Although there are no ‘gimme’ tracks on this discs, the gem of the session is Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments”. Just one month prior, Nelson had recorded The Blues And The Abstract Truth album which showcased  this composition and featured trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. Quincy arranged this sixteen-bar offering to take advantage of Hubbard’s presence in his band and he does not let him down. Playing with bite and ferocity, Hubbard shows off his style with self-assurance. Also along on this eleven-minute version of the tune is tenor saxophonist Eric Dixon. His lengthy solo that brings the themes together is reminiscent of Paul Gonsalves’ 27-chorus excursion on Duke Ellington’s Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue which was captured on the album Ellington At Newport in 1956. Perhaps not as thrilling as the Gonsalves effort, it is nevertheless quite monumental.

There are two other longer from numbers on this offering. Firstly Lester Young’s “Lester Leaps In” and a Phil Woods composition entitled “Banja Luka” named after the second largest city in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The former is an up-tempo swinger arranged by Ernie Wilkins with some stellar piano from Patti Bown. However it is really guitarist Les Spann who owns the tune as he roams over the guitar fret-board at will in single-note style. The latter is a more complex arrangement done in a laid-back swinging mode, with tenor saxophonist Budd Johnson laying down some many interesting choruses over the band. Both trombonist Curtis Fuller and French hornist Julius Watkins strut their stuff to fine effect.

This live-recording is a treasure-trove of superb big-band playing from a remarkably compelling organization. [Some of it – recorded in Belgium –  is also available on a live in 1960 video from Reelin’ in the Years…Ed.]

TrackList: Air Mail Special; G’Wan Train; Solitude; Stolen Moments; Lester Leaps In; Moanin’; Summertime; I Remember Clifford; Ghana; Banja Luka; Caravan; The Midnight Sun Will Never Set; Quincy Jones Introduces His Orchestra; The Birth Of A Band

—Pierre Giroux

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