Lullaby of Birdland // Various Artists (RCA Victor LPM-1146)

Continuing with the theme of ‘arranger jazz’, here’s an album that is exactly that:  an arranger’s jazz album, taken to the extreme.  So far, I’ve spotlighted albums that featured different tunes by an arranger, made for a small group of musicians.  But what if different arrangers and groups made an album of one song…

The Music


The Tune:  “Lullaby of Birdland”

Recorded:  14 September, 1954

Personnel:

  • Andre Previn-  Leader and Piano
  • Shorty Rodgers-  Leader and Flugelhorn
  • Bob Cooper-  English Horn
  • Bud Shank-  Flute
  • Jimmy Guiffre-  Baritone Sax
  • Milt Bernhart-  Trombone
  • Jack Marshall-  Guitar
  • Joe Mondragon-  Bass
  • Shelly Manne-  Drums


The Tune:  “Lullaby of Birdland”

Recorded:  23 December, 1954

Personnel:

  • Al Cohn-  Leader and Tenor Sax
  • Gene Quill-  Alto Sax
  • Sol Schlinger-  Baritone Sax
  • Joe Newman-  Trumpet
  • Billy Byers-  Trombone
  • Sanford Gold-  Piano
  • Buddy Jones-  Bass
  • Osie Johnson-  Drums


The Tune:  “Lullaby of Birdland”

Recorded:  17 August, 1955

Personnel:

  • Quincy Jones-  Leader
  • Gene Quill-  Alto Sax
  • Hal McKusick-  Alto Sax
  • Jack Zoot-  Tenor Sax
  • Al Cohn-  Tenor Sax
  • Sol Schlinger-  Baritone Sax
  • Billy Byers-  Trombone
  • Urbie Green-  Trombone
  • Chauncy Welch-  Trombone
  • Bernie Glow-  Trumpet
  • Jimmy Nottingham-  Trumpet
  • Ernie Royal-  Trumpet
  • Nick Travis-  Trumpet
  • Milt Hinton-  Bass
  • Don Lamond-  Drums
  • Hank Jones-  Piano
  • Billy Mure-  Guitar

Whew-wee.  If that was a lot for you to read, imagine how much fun that was to type.  ANYwho, if you couldn’t tell, this is a rather interesting and unusual album.  Taking George Shearing’s tune “Lullaby of…”, well you know what the tune is by now, twelve different arrangers gathered 12 different groups and recorded their own interpretations of the same tune.  It’s actually a fresh idea and one that would’ve been interesting to continue with different tunes and artists in later albums.  Despite this seemingly fertile category of concept album, I’m not aware of any other examples of this type of album.  From the 1950’s and 60’s, that is.  If you know any, let me know.

RCA Victor grabbed a few interesting names representing almost all areas of modern jazz circa mid-1950’s to work their magic on “Birdland”, and the results are an excellent way to show how the arranger can make or break a song.  The three tunes above are great examples of jazz arranging for a small combo.  Each one sets it’s own mood and has it’s own flavor.  Shorty Rodgers and Andre Previn (with his jazz hat on and his classical hat half-way on) represent the burgeoning West Coast ‘cool’ sound, utilizing such common jazz instruments as English horns to form a unique sound.  The guys on this track read as a who’s who of West Coast musicians, and the track features classical music overtones.  It’s certainly one of the more original arrangements on the album.

Al Cohn leads a small group of his own that swings like a big band.  He takes liberties with the melody and adds fanfares and flares here and there.  His own solo is concise and to the point, and the whole tune is over in two and half minutes.

Quincy Jones’ (see, I told you jazz was connected!) version is tied for most original.  Much like his work with Clifford Brown on the previous post, Jones’ writing is laid-back and swaggering, yet there’s a lot going on in the music.  The use of a flugelhorn, the muted trumpets, and the modern harmonics and dense chords are great effects used by Jones that surprisingly doesn’t appear anywhere else in the album.  It’s one of the more modern-sounding tracks on the album.  Also, who is Jack Zoot, the guy on tenor sax?  Possibly Zoot Sims in contractual hiding?

These three tracks represent some of the better tracks.  Much of the music on the album sounds rather dated and slash or sounds unremarkable from other tracks on the album, just highlighting all the more how important the arranger can be.  And with an album like this, you can’t hide behind your band!

The Cover

Lullaby BirdlandCollege Jazz Collector Rating:  C-

The best part about this cover is the fact that it shows the actual New York club Birdland.  Other than that, it’s very boring.  I don’t know who the two guys are, either.  The more I look at the cover, the more I want to lower my rating to a D+.  Mercy.

The Back

IMG_9987Count Basie’s paragraph -it’s too short to be called liner notes- are glowing, if not brief.  As he says, he’s no writer, bless his heart.  Thankfully, what the album lacks in liner notes it makes up for in the info department.  Each session’s personnel and recording date is included, as well as a portrait of the leader of the date.

The Vinyl

I had some real issues taking the pictures of the labels.  Couldn’t avoid the glare, couldn’t get right lighting, etc etc.  The record is deep groove, like a proper 1950’s record should be.  The classic RCA Victor logo of the dog listening to his master’s voice graces the label, in color no less.  Despite looking pristine, the record has the audible signs of being played frequently or played with a worn needle.  The fidelity was probably not the crispest already, but the worn grooves don’t help the sound much.  The music is still interesting, though.  That’s the price we record collectors pay for collecting vintage vinyl.  Keeps things fun!

The Place of Acquisition

Checking my local record store out, I saw that there were numerous boxes on the floor with the label ‘Collection of St. Louis Radio DJ Leo’ on them.  I forget the last name, but they were all jazz records, so I decided to check them out.  This album piqued my interest, so back home it went.  Apparently, the record enjoyed heavy radio play.

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