Jazz From the Northwest – Shelly Manne & His Men – Reel to Real

by | Apr 12, 2024 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Celebrating Shelly Manne…

Jazz From the Northwest – Shelly Manne & His Men – Reel to Real # LPRTRLP012 – Two 180 gm vinyl – Record Store Day Release (04/20/24) – Recorded live in 1958 & 1966 – ****1/2

(10/4/58 – Shelly Manne – drums; Monty Budwig – bass; Russ Freeman – piano; Herb Geller – alto sax; Stu Williamson – trumpet

9/7/66 & 9/15/66 – Shelly Manne – drums; Hampton Hawes – piano; Monty Budwig – bass; Frank Strozier – flute & alto sax; Conte Candoli – trumpet; Ruth Price – vocals on “Dearly Beloved” and “Surrey With the Fringe on Top”)

In the pantheon of drummer led small jazz groups that have had an extended tenure, such as Art Blakey had with his Jazz Messengers, Shelly Manne has never received the acclaim that he deserved. For a near decade, Shelly led a largely West Coast based group, affectionately named Shelly Manne & His Men. He also took on the task of running a jazz club in Los Angeles that both featured “his men,” as well as top touring musicians.

He has been credited as a founding member of the West Coast jazz movement that had a more “laid back, cooler sound” (often using french horns, tubas, cellos, and other non-typical jazz instruments), as opposed to the more aggressive harder edge jazz coming out of the East Coast.

That was a inaccurate description of the talents of Shelly Manne, however. An adventurous drummer, his talents ranged from bop, swing, avant-garde, and fusion. During the 1950s and 60s Manne was noted and celebrated for swinging hard in a straight ahead fashion. He was considered as an “ultimate colorist,” and was noted for his heavy use of the ride cymbal.

Another attribute was his kindness and consideration for younger musicians coming up in the rough and tumble atmosphere of the music business. Rock drummers sought out his counsel, showing real respect for his skills.

For the upcoming Record Store Day this April, the boutique label, Reel to Real, led by the “jazz detective,” Zev Feldman, and musician and jazz entrepreneur, Cory Weeds, is issuing an 180 gm two vinyl set, limited to a hand numbered 2000 copies, of Shelly with two different top grade quintets, one from 1958, and the other from 1966. Both live recordings, the first recorded at the first (!) Monterey Jazz Festival, and the second, recorded at Seattle’s Penthouse Jazz club during a week long gig there.

They present two different versions of jazz, recorded eight years apart. The Monterey festival gig had Manne with L.A. based musicians playing the then in vogue West Coast sound, swinging hard, with a cooler bop than was heard back East. The saxophonist, Herb Geller, later moved to Europe, where he spent the balance of his career. Russ Freeman, the pianist, went on to acclaim with Chet Baker. 

For the Seattle dates, Shelly enlisted a dream hard driving band consisting of Frank Strozier, Conte Candoli, and Hampton Hawes. Bassist, Monty Budwig, appears on both ’58 and ’66 sessions.

What stands out on these two live dates, eight years apart, is the steady guiding hand(s) of Manne. Hard driving and propulsive at times, and gentle and sophisticated on the ballads. The sophistication is shown especially on Bill Holman’s “Quartet (Suite in Four Movements”).

The acoustics are better on the club date, than the sound stage provided on the MJF tapes, but you get the outdoor Monterey “feel” even with the requisite airplanes flying over the fairgrounds venue, that concert goers have commented on for over 50 years. As an historical document of the very first MJF, it is great to have this recording.

Highlights of the MJF LP are the bop influenced solo of Herb Geller on “Stop, Look, and Listen,” and the drum “bombs” thrown to Stu Williamson and Geller, by Shelly on “The Vamp’s Blues.” Russ Freeman has some great blues piano choruses here, as well.

From The Penthouse September dates, there is lots to recommend. On “Summertime,” Frank Strozier is brilliant on flute, as he gives a stunning rendition on the theme. Conte Candoli’s solo here channels Miles Davis’ use of the mute. “Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise,” from Oscar Hammerstein, gets a complete bop re-imagining. “Secret Love,” done in a fast tempo, is a hard swinger, driven with high energy by Shelly, and another flute standout from Strozier, as well as a Monty Budwig rock solid bass line. 

On both sides of the Seattle date, vocalist Ruth Price has vocals on two short standards. Of interest, Ruth later opened The Jazz Bakery, the top jazz club in Los Angeles.

Completing the gate fold LP package is a full size 16 page booklet with essays, photos, and tributes to Shelly Manne from numerous musicians, both rock and jazz. 

Shelly Manne passed away in 1984 from a heart attack at the young age of 64. It’s time to show this great drummer some love. What better way than a Record Store Day purchase of this sumptuous vinyl package. With only 2000 copies being pressed, get in line early to see if your local record store has a copy for you…

—Jeff Krow

Jazz From the Northwest – Shelly Manne & His Men

Side A: Stop, Look, and Listen,  The Vamp’s Blues
Side B: Quartet (Suite in Four Movements)

Side C: Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise,  Summertime, Dearly Beloved
Side D: Funny, Secret Love, Surrey With The Fringe on Top

More information from Record Store Day

Logo Record Store Day

Album Cover for Shelly Manne - Jazz From The Pacific Northwest


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