David Angel Jazz Ensemble – Out on the Coast – Basset Hound Music BHR 102-18 – 3 CD/ 64:35, 53:30, 48:07 – 2020 – ****1/2
There are regional major jazz talents that remain unknown for many reasons. In New York and Los Angeles they can keep busy composing, and recording in movie and television studios. Often times, they also teach in universities to supplement their incomes, and receive health insurance and future pensions. They largely remain under the national radar, but local musicians know of their talent and yearn to work with them. Such is the case with octogenarian west coast composer, David Angel.
David has had an extensive career spanning six decades composing for film and television in the studios of L.A. His work can be found on classic TV shows such as Bonanza, Lassie, and Streets of San Francisco. He has also has played saxophone in classical settings throughout southern California. More importantly for fans of jazz, David has led rehearsals of his compositions at the Local 47 Musicians Union Hall since the 1960s. His compositions merging West Coast jazz, classical, and Latinesque motifs have only been recorded a few times.
We reviewed his previous release from sessions in 1973 and 1975, that VSOP Records issued titled, Camshafts and Butterflies. That review was done in 2015. We ended the review hoping for a new project from David. Well, thankfully, now we have a 3 CD retrospective of Angel’s talents. The recording, done last year, pre-pandemic, Out on the Coast, features a totally different line-up for his most current ensemble. Whereas, the 70s line-up had Bill Perkins, Jackie Kelso, and Bob Cooper, all major talents who have passed away; the current grouping is made up of top notch talent, such as Gene Cipriano, Scott Whitfield, Tom Peterson, Ron Stout, and Bob Carr, among others, who are first call jazz musicians who live in greater L.A. The impetus for this retrospective came from Jim Self, bass trombone and tuba player, who both produced the project, and along with Carr provides the throaty brass bottom end on the selections.
There are 14 original Angel penned tracks, as well as eight standards. The ensemble has thirteen members, and fourteen when David’s tenor sax is added. Angel is noted for his exquisite “cool” style using contrapuntal layering, with a “sweetness” so loved by West Coast jazz fans of the 1950s and 60s Los Angeles based period. There is a sophisticated swing with classical overtones. Solos are economical, and never “showy.” As befitting a composer who had to quickly set a mood for scenes in a television show, there are rapid mood shifts that both intrigue and fascinate. This is somewhat complex music blending many motifs, with the one constant being an effortless swing that intoxicates.
Highlights, as expected, are numerous, as evidenced by the quality of these musicians, as well as the rehearsal time they had. Veteran saxophonist, Gene Cipriano, affectionately channels Johnny Hodges on Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss.” Guitarist, John Chiodini, gets plenty of space to add guitar flavor. The ballad, “Wild Strawberries” with soft classical leanings, has flugelhornist, Ron Stout, and Scott Whitfield’s use of the plunger on trombone, standing out.
Stephanie O’Keefe, on french horn, more than holds her own facing a rowdy trumpet on “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing.” “L’ilo Vasche” helps memorialize Angel’s teaching experience in Paris.
Luckily, Jim Self assists Angel with very informative liner notes that help the listener explore the inspiration that David had when composing his tunes, whether it be the time periods in his life or the musician he had in mind when writing the music. One thing is clear is that his rehearsals at the union hall must have been the highlights of the ensembles’ week.
It is certainly time to recognize the talents of David Angel. He is a hidden treasure that deserves acclaim, outside of his musical cocoon in Los Angeles. Hopefully, these three superb CDs will help spread the word.
David Angel Jazz Ensemble
David Angel – tenor sax, conductor
Phil Feather – alto and soprano sax, piccolo, flute and alto flute
Gene Cipriano – alto and soprano sax, clarinet
Jim Quam – tenor sax and clarinet
Tom Peterson – tenor sax, flute, alto flute
Bob Carr – baritone sax, bass clarinet
Jonathan Dane – trumpet and flugelhorn
Ron Stout – trumpet and flugelhorn
Stephanie O’Keefe – french horn
Scott Whitfield – trombone
Jim Self – producer, tuba, bass trombone
John Chiodini – guitar
Susan Quam – string bass
Paul Kreibich – drums
Out of the Coast 2
Prelude to a Kiss
A Flower is a Lovesome Thing
Out on the Coast 3
Autumn in New York
This Time the Dream’s On Me
Love Letter to Pythagoras
Waiting for a Train Part 2
More information on David Angel’s site on Bandcamp: