Four Horns And A Lush Life [TrackList follows] – Bethlehem

by | Aug 26, 2014 | Jazz CD Reviews

Four Horns and a Lush Life [TrackList follows] – Bethlehem mono BCP-47, 37:02 (Distr. by Naxos) ****:

(Russ Garcia – conductor; Frank Rosolino – trombone; Herbie Harper – trombone; Tommy Pederson – trombone; Maynard Ferguson – valve trombone; Stan Levey – drums; Red Mitchell – bass; Marty Paich – piano; Dick Houlgate – baritone sax)

The Four Horns featured here, as part of Four Horns And A Lush Life in this November 1955 release on Bethlehem Records, had an earlier incarnation in a June 1955 recording by Frances Faye for the label entitled I’m Wild Again. Conductor and arranger Russ Garcia has been able to blend the harmonics and the dynamics of the trombones into a performance that captures the ear and imagination of the listener.

With an album cover by Burt Goldblatt that on the surface looks fairly innocuous, but on closer examination shows hundreds of inter-twined nudes, the music contained therein is also more than it seems. The sly arrangements by the under-acknowledged Russ Garcia reveal some cooly precise sounds that are never overstated. The trombonists playing either in unison or soloing, are respected musicians fully in command of their instruments.

The music chosen for the session comes from the standard American songbook repetoire with only one original from Garcia namely the opening track “I’ll Never Forget What’s Her Name (The Lo-est)” which swings from the get-go and opens with the ensemble showing its form, followed by pianist Paich with a full chorus. Then the ‘bones take over with Ferguson, Harper, and Rosolino contributing 32 bars each before the out chorus. Only the most attentive ear will be able to make out the stylistic differences in the players and so the liner notes by Joe Quinn are very helpful in signalling who plays and when.  However some might be able to recognize Rosolino’s rapid staccato technique filled with triplets and arpeggios. Maynard Ferguson on valve trombone can also be detected as he plays trombone in much the same way he plays the trumpet; with fierce rhythm and high-octane force.

There are many great tracks on this album including “Dancing on the Ceiling” one of Rodgers and Hart’s lesser played tunes, which after the first chorus by the trombone ensemble, shifts into an exchange of sixteen bars among Pederson, Rosolino, Ferguson and Harper, in that order.  “Just One of Those Things” jumps out from the opening voicing by the trombones with the baritone sax of Dick Houlgate providing the bottom on the melody, all of which is picked up by Paich on piano for a full chorus. Harper, Ferguson and Rosolino trade-off solos which give texture to the arrangement. Another fine example of the Garcia touch and the excellent playing of the participants is “Lover, Come Back To Me”. This is the longest track on the album and is filled with Harper, Ferguson and Rosolino leading the way with two choruses each, which after a Levey drum break, the horns start an excursion of four bar exchanges with Pederson, Harper, Ferguson, and Rosolino in that order. This is truly some nifty stuff.

All in all this release is a captivating example of West Coast jazz that was predominant in the mid-1950s.

TrackList: I’ll Never Forget What’s Her Name (The Lo-est); But Beautiful; Dancing On The Ceiling; The Boy Next Door; Just One Of Those Things; Zigeuner; Limehouse Blues; Lush Life; Lover, Come Back To Me; Ramona; Someone To Watch Over Me; What Is This Thing Called Love

—Pierre Giroux

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