Sunday, 26 April 2009

Lonely Street

I’m somewhat ambivalent about CD re-issues which are released within Europe without licence from the major label which owns them because copyright has lapsed after fifty years. I have many in my collection so to condemn these issues outright would be hypocritical. The alternative is to be Jesuitical – or to dance on the head of a pin or whatever the expression is – which, to be honest, is how I justify their place on my shelves.

Since such re-issues are legal within the European Community, I buy these releases where they contain material which is not otherwise available. And, strictly speaking, these CDs ought to be produced from original fifty-year old plus vinyl or shellac. It has been the case that these reissue houses will occasionally pirate legitimate releases from the likes of Mosaic –who have paid their dues – and put them out at minimal cost to themselves. The music may be more than fifty years old but the mastering certainly is not. This is hardly ethical.

Provenance is everything then to my pick-and-mix morality on this point. I would much rather a legitimate release existed. If not and this material languishes unissued somewhere in one of the major’s vaults, then a ‘copy of the LP’ seems to me a reasonable way to go. Second hand vinyl, after all, changes hands on Ebay sometimes for astronomical prices – and not a penny of this goes to the artists or their families.

Charlie Barnet’s album Lonely Street is a case in point. I have only ever seen one copy of the original album – in Ray’s Jazz in Foyles on the Charing Cross Road. It looked pretty dog-eared and was upwards of forty pounds. I couldn’t afford it. The new CD re-issue from Lonehill Jazz (a major Spanish operation in this field) claims this is the first time this album appears on CD. I can believe that. And I believe it, partly, because of the sound of the CD which sounds horribly processed in places- as though the life has been wrung out of the sound of the original vinyl in order to wring out the snap, crackle and pops. This is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But how else are you going to hear this wonderful music?

The CD comprises the entire album plus selections from two other Barnet LPs. This week I burnt a copy of just the tracks from Lonely Street to a CD (in session order, since the CD notes do not contain the album’s original running order and I cannot trace a copy of the original vinyl on line) for listening in the car.

The sessions comprise a standard big band for four of the tracks with some major hitters amongst the ranks and two sessions with strings. The discography I found on line which is printed below credits Russ Garcia as director. I am assuming, therefore, he arranged the pieces on this album.

Charlie Barnet was never quite carried along on the big band era’s ‘second wind’ to the extent that contemporaries such as Count Basie or Woody Herman were, nor even the ‘newer fellas’ like Ray Anthony. I doubt he had a regular road band by 1956, so this is strictly a studio session. Barnet’s name would still have been a draw, I suppose, to some extent, the inclusion of strings a necessary nod to the packaging of ‘mood’ albums during that period and a chance to hear Barnet stretch out on the soprano sax another reason for buying the record.

Barnet’s predilection for all things Ducal which was such a hallmark of his original band is in evidence here, too, with the inclusion of Billy Strayhorn’s Blue Rose – a composition the EKE band had only just recorded themselves for the first time that year for their Columbia album with Rosemary Clooney.

There seems, too, to be more than an echo of EKE’s Prelude to a Kiss in the brass work for the Barnet original Phylysse. And Barnet’s work on the soprano throughout, well, it is a sort of re-mix of the Apostolic succession, if you will, a shuffling of the laying on of hands in that it is Hodges coming out of Bechet coming out of Hodges - the New Orleans sound of Bechet’s soprano rippling like the lights on the Mississipi now streamlined and without vibrato.

Garcia’s writing for strings gives the album a sort of Hollywood B-Movie feel in places – the opening of Phylysse being a case in point. One is reminded of windswept autumn leaves crowding against the wet railings of some neglected yard. The album’s recording in November and December only adds to the gloom and seems suited perfectly to the maudlin sound of Barnet’s sax against the lachrymose strings.

Then there is the composition which gives the album its title. Lonely Street was the creation of Paul Villepigue. Please visit the web pages dedicated to his memory here. I shall return to his work –as I turn to his music – time and again in posts to come.

This album is an exquisite listening experience which Lonehill have at least made available to the public again. It is a prime candidate for re-issue on the Verve originals imprint – when I shall gladly buy a copy and see these musicians and writers are given the financial – as well as the artistic due – their remarkable accomplishments on this collection deserve. Until then, the album can be found here.

Album session details:
Conrad Cozzo, Carlton McBeath, Ralph Mullens, Dave Wells (tp) Bob Burgess, Dick Nash (tb) Willie Smith (as) Charlie Barnet (as, ss, ts) Bill Holman (ts) Bob Dawes, Ernie Small (bars) Norman Pockrandt (p) Bob Bain (g) Red Wooten (b) Alvin Stoller (d) Russ Garcia (dir) unidentified strings
Los Angeles, CA, September 24, 1956
20405-4 : The Moon Was Yellow
Verve MGV 2040
20406-11 Myna
Verve V 10036, MGV 2040
20407-6 You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
Verve MGV 2040
20408-10 Phylisse
Charlie Barnet - Lonely Street (Verve MGV 2040)* Charlie Barnet - Myna c/w Lonely Street (Verve V 10036)

Gene Duermeyer, Maynard Ferguson, Carlton McBeath, Ollie Mitchell, Ralph Mullens (tp) Dave Wells (btp) Roy Anderson, Bob Burgess, Dick Nash (tb) Dick Paladino, Willie Smith (as) Charlie Barnet (as, ss) Bill Holman, Bill Trujillo (ts) Bob Dawes (bars) Norman Pockrandt (p) Barney Kessel (g) Red Wooten (b) Alvin Stoller (d)
Los Angeles, CA, November 8, 1956
20460-5 Blue Rose
Verve MGV 2040
20461-4 Lemon Twist
20462-2 Lumby
20463-2 Hear Me Talking To You
Charlie Barnet - Lonely Street (Verve MGV 2040)

Dave Wells (btp) Charlie Barnet (as) Norman Pockrandt (p) Barney Kessel (g) Red Wooten (b) Alvin Stoller (d) Russ Garcia (arr, dir) unidentified strings
Los Angeles, CA, December 15, 1956
20464-10 I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues
Verve MGV 2040
20465-6 Serenade In Blue
20466-2 Lonely Street
Verve V 10036, MGV 2040
20467-7 Isn't This A Lovely Day?
Verve MGV 2040
* Charlie Barnet - Lonely Street (Verve MGV 2040)* Charlie Barnet - Myna c/w Lonely Street (Verve V 10036)

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