Boss Sounds! // Shelly Manne (Atlantic SD 1469)

Driving a few miles north of Hermosa Beach, humming “Appointment In Ghana” as you motor along the Pacific Coast, you find yourself in Los Angeles, the first major city on your jazz journey. Being that this is the capitol of Southern California and its jazz mecca, there’s almost too many options to choose from. LA is such a huge area, with everything from Hollywood to the Inland Empire (my home!) being considered the LA area. Cannonball Adderley, Terry Gibbs, and Shelly Manne will be in Hollywood, George Shearing is making appearances in Claremont and Hollywood’s strip, Dave Brubeck is making appearances at two colleges in Long Beach and Fullerton, and Bud Shank is performing nightly at The Haig here in LA proper. In short, there’s almost too much jazz to listen to during this stop in LA.

Since you’re already in LA, you decide to drive a spot a few streets off of Sunset Blvd, which is technically Hollywood. Why? To catch a set of live music at Shelly’s Manne-Hole, a (somewhat disconcerting) pun on the owner’s name, the drum great Shelly Manne. The band on the stand tonight? Shelly’s own group. You park the car, which has now become a 1966 Chevy Bel Air, and step out into a beautiful June evening and inside the club.


The Music

The Tune: “Frank’s Tune”

Recorded: 20 June, 1966 at Shelly’s Manne-Hole, Hollywood, CA

Personnel:

  • Shelly Manne – Drums
  • Frank Strozier – Alto Sax
  • Conte Candoli – Trumpet
  • Russ Freeman – Piano
  • Monty Budwig – Bass

On this summer’s eve evening, Shelly Manne’s regular group holds forth from the jazz club owned and operated by drummer Shelly Manne himself. Having opened in 1960, Manne’s club has been keeping live jazz alive in Los Angeles now that all the old clubs from the 1950’s are happy memories. All that’s left is this club and The Lighthouse, which you just left. The club isn’t the only throwback to the good old 1950’s, though. Shelly Manne’s quintet is made up of guys that have been on the West Coast jazz scene since the 1950’s as well. Russ Freeman played in Chet Baker’s groups in the early and mid-1950’s, while Conte Candoli (an ex-Stan Kentonite like Shelly Manne) has been blowing hot trumpet with the best of the West for years. Ditto Monty Budwig, who would also gain some notoriety playing in Vince Guaraldi’s trio in San Francisco. That leaves saxophonist Frank Strozier, a young transplant from Memphis, Tennessee who spent time with Miles Davis, among others. All in all, this is a dynamic, loose yet tight jazz combo.

Settling into the simultaneously spacious (high ceilings) yet cramped (tight quarters, many tables) room, you order a ginger ale and immerse yourself into the music. The set played that night is stimulating, varied, but most importantly, fun and enjoyable jazz. Tunes range from modern reworkings of old-as-dirt ditties like “Margie” to a Latin-tinged swinger like “The Breeze & I” to originals by guys in the band.

“Frank’s Tune” is one of those originals, written, logically enough, by Frank Strozier. At almost 10 minutes long, this tune is by far the longest of this particular set and features a catchy, simplistic melody with a wonderfully simplistic set of chord changes. This streamlined writing and composing leaves plenty of room for the guys to roam and explore the nooks and crannies of the song, giving the tune a searchingly laid-back vibe. A perfect soundtrack for drinking a ginger ale in the corner of a cozy jazz club on a calm night in Hollywood in 1966.

The Cover

Raggy Waltz Rating: D-

It honestly deserves an ‘F’ for that weird out-of-focus thing that the title is doing. It gives me a headache every time I look at it for more than two seconds. I don’t know what they were thinking when they made, approved, and printed this, but obviously they weren’t in fact thinking. This is absolutely terrible. It doesn’t get much better with the blue man group on the front. Why are they blue? Why are given the crime-scene-esque white outline? It’s just not good artwork at all. Like at all. Maybe I should give it an ‘F’…

The Inside

Leonard Feather writes the solid liner notes, which include backgrounds on the players, the club, etc. The last paragraph includes a revealing quote from Shelly Manne about the music on the record that was probably a minor controversy when the album was released in 1966 but is now an intriguing and revealing look at the state of jazz in the late 60’s.

“The music is music of today, yet there is no attempt at pretention (sic), no social or religious or other extra-musical implication. As Shelly said: “Sure, our music has meaning, but the meaning is right there in the music. I know you won’t write the kind of liner notes that imply some deep, hidden meaning outside the music. An awful lot of people are bringing in extraneous factors as selling points nowadays. Jazz is still fun to me; we had fun making this album. I hope this is enough in itself.””

The Back

Another photo of the band, this time, Mr.s Budwig, Strozier, and Freeman. This could’ve been cool artwork if the photograph was in black & white or color. Anything but this.

The Vinyl

Atlantic’s stereo labels are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Maybe it’s because they the three most calming colors (green, white and blue), but I love looking at them. Pressed in 1966, the vinyl is still thick but lacks the deep groove.

As for the sound, the recording is clean and life-like. The acoustics of the spacious intamacy of the Manne-Hole has been captured by the recording engineers. It’s amazing how much live recording techniques progressed from the 1950’s to the 60’s. My copy belonged to a radio DJ, and apparently it was a much loved record, as there’s slight audible evidence of groove-wear. I don’t mind it too much, as it’s only noticeable when I put headphones on, and who regularly listens to their records with headphones, anyhow?

The Place of Acquisition

I got this record a few years ago at my local gem of a record store, Vertical House, here in Huntsville, Alabama. This album and I, however, go back almost exactly a decade. In May of 2010, I got selected by the American Legion to represent my high school at youth environmental conference in the El Dorado woods in Northern California. Yahoo. I wanted some new tunes to put on my iPod to listen to on the long bus ride up. I was into Shelly Manne and West Coast jazz at the time, so I looked him up on iTunes and found this album. “Frank’s Tune” was the longest track on the album, so I bought that song and that song only from the album.

I’m in the red hat, hiding in the back, earbuds in and “Frank’s Tune” playing during that late-nite bus ride in May of 2010.

It became the soundtrack to the late-nite bus ride from LA up through Bakersfield to a random place in the mountains an hour away from Lake Tahoe. So although I finally bought the entire album about 6 years after the fact, “Frank’s Tune” and that laid-back melody with its relaxed ambiance is forever linked to the memory of that high school trip.

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