The David Angel Big Band – Camshafts and Butterflies – V.S.O.P. 127CD – 72:45- 1973, 1975 – ****1/2:</br>
Gulf Coast Jazz – Volume 1 – V.S.O.P. 125CD/ Rex/Andex, 54:39 – February, 1959 ****:
(1973: David Angel – alto, leader; Bill Perkins – alto, flute; Jackie Kelso – tenor, clarinet; Bob Cooper – tenor, oboe, English horn; Steve Kravitz – baritone, bass clarinet; Hal Espinoza – trumpet, flugelhorn; Jack Coan – trumpet, flugelhorn; Gary Rains – trumpet, flugelhorn; Bob Payne – trombone; David Dahlstein – trombone; Don Waldrop – bass trombone, tuba; Michael Mention – piano; Monty Budwig – bass; Charlie Meyerson – guitar; Chuck Flores – drums)
(1975: David Angel – alto, leader; Bill Perkins – alto, flute; Jackie Kelso – tenor, clarinet; Bob Cooper – tenor, oboe, English horn; Steve Kravitz – baritone, bass clarinet; Jack Coan – trumpet, flugelhorn; Stuart Aptekar – trumpet, flugelhorn; Ron Gorow – trumpet, flugelhorn; Bob Enevoldsen – trombone; David Dahlsten – trombone; Morris Repass – bass trombone; John Banister – piano; Bob Saravia – bass; Charlie Meyerson – guitar; Carl Rigoli – drums; Munyoungo Jackson – percussion)
(Gulf Coast: Ellis Marsalis, Jr. – piano; Harold Battiste – tenor sax; Alvin Batiste – clarinet; Richard Payne – bass; William Swanson – bass; Ed Blackwell – drums)
There are jazz labels that fall outside of the radar screen, yet are a prolific and valuable source of prime musical entertainment. Such is the case with Peter Jacobson’s V.S.O.P Records. Peter both issues CDs under his own label as well as CD reissues from LP sources of Mode, Andex, Tampa, Ava, Studio West, and others. He is an astute judge of quality material that jazz connoisseurs will appreciate. Many of these recordings were made in Southern California, as well as in other venues. We have one of each here that should find an eager audience.
We begin with David Angel’s big band, who made Camshafts and Butterflies in the mid-‘70s. David has been content to record with many of the best LA-based jazz artists in weekly rehearsal sessions at the Local 47 union hall. It’s certainly not about the money as his band seldom performs in public and records even less. His musicians have other gigs (mainly studio) that provide their living. They enjoy the challenge of playing creative Angel compositions that bridge classical and jazz motifs. David, himself, is satisfied with composing and arranging television soundtracks over the years ranging from Bonanza, Laugh-In, to variety shows from Jerry Lewis and Sonny and Cher. His work on television largely goes unaccredited, as for him it’s the music and not the adulation and accompanying business headaches.
Many of Angel’s compositions spotlight the band’s reed section, and on these ‘70s sessions the saxes and clarinets take lead. In addition to David playing alto, his big band featured Bill Perkins, Jackie Kelso, and Bob Cooper, all jazz heavyweights. The variety of themes that Angel’s arrangements explore is striking.
On “Early Morning Fog Bank/ Early Morning Sunrise” we are treated to Michael Mention on piano, exploring romanticism, bridging to some edgier moments, till the brass section lights up. Frosting on the cake is some sublime oboe from Bob Cooper. The title track has no solos and the classical ensemble blend will bring you into the symphony hall. “For B & D” (Strayhorn and Ellington) is straight-ahead swinging jazz with Cooper and Kelso featured.
The highlight of this CD to me is the track that Angel wrote to showcase the talents of Bill Perkins, “Perk’s Tune.” Here Perkins is on alto sax, as opposed to the tenor and baritone, for which he is better known. The haunting beauty of this composition will resonate with you long after the track ends. It would be an exquisite theme for a movie soundtrack.
Angel shows he is a composer for all seasons and genres as he puts his signature on a Muddy Waters’ inspired eight-bar blues, “Been Down So Long It Looks Up to Me.”
“Easy Jive” digs in early as David blows some funk on alto sax, before trumpeters, Jack Coan and Ron Gorow, step up. There is something for most every big band fan to appreciate on this CD. Don’t keep us waiting so long for the next David Angel CD…
TrackList: Early Morning Fog Bank/Early Morning Sunrise, Camshafts and Butterflies, For B & D, Perk’s Tune, Lady Putterling, Been Down So Long It Looks Up to Me, Easy Jive, Saturday Night at the Casa Tropical, One O’Clock Dump, Canadian Sunburst
First things first, I dug Gulf Coast Jazz- Vol. 1. Recorded in 1959 at the Cosimo Recording Studio in New Orleans by the American Jazz Quintet, made up of musicians who would all go on to distinguished careers in jazz, this session swings from beginning to end. Harold Battiste on tenor sax blends with clarinetist Alvin Batiste like a finely spiced gumbo. All the tracks were either written by Harold or Alvin.
Ed Blackwell on drums would go on to a more avant career prominently with Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, but here he asserts himself in a more low key manner. We all know how talented Ellis Marsalis is (and the fine job he did raising his talented sons…), but at the time of this recording he was more of a local sensation.
The quintet blends bop such as on Battiste’s tenor lines with clarinetist Alvin Batiste’s New Orleans’ flavor on “Fourth Month.” Blackwell propels the reeds to a higher level. On “Ohadi” the group takes off and the the energy rises into the stratosphere.
This material is being released for the first time well over a half century after it was laid down. (I wonder what else V.S.O.P owner, Peter Jacobson, has up his sleeve for future releases on his label. Inquiring minds want to know…)
TrackList: Punchin’, Monkey Do, Venetian Sky, Fourth Month, Capetown, Ohadi, Stephanie, Tribute, Nevermore, Three Musketeers, Apartment, Chatterbox
—Jeff Krow (both reviews)