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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Complete Recordings

American Jazz Classics 99039



1. Who Cares?
2. Let's Fall In Love
3. Old Devil Moon
4. Cabin In The Sky
5. How Am I To Know?
6. That Old Black Magic
7. What Is This Thing Called Love?
8. I Brung You Finjans For Your Zarf
9. My Funny Valentine
10. Lullaby Of Birdland
11. Farewell To Alms
12. Tea For Two
13. Lullaby Of The Leaves
14. Sweet Georgia Brown
15. Tenderly
16. I Remember You
17. Skylark

Red Norvo - Vibes
Tal Farlow - Guitar
Red Mitchell - Bass


At first glance, the album cover may be misleading. You may think it means that the CD contains the complete recordings of the Red Norvo Trio. But in fact this is only a slice (albeit a very good one) from the work of various trios that Red Norvo led in the 1950s. The most famous trio included Charlie Mingus as bassist, who was with the group in 1950 and 1951. An LP by that trio called "Move" has been one of my cherished possessions for many years.

These recordings come from 1952 and 1955, when the bassist was Red Mitchell - a virtuoso on the double bass. He is an integral part of the trio, where the three musicians carried equal weight. Red Norvo had an interesting career: starting on marimba and xylophone and only moving to the vibraphone in the forties. He led many bands of his own but this group (in its various manifestations) was probably the highspot of his whole career.

This CD contains all the music from the LP Red Norvo with Strings (1955) as well as four tracks recorded at that session but never released, and another three 1952 tracks. Thus the album includes all the recordings by this particular line-up of the trio, making a total of 72 minutes of fascinating music. By the way, the title Red Norvo with Strings is a parody of the jazz albums with strings that were around at the time. The only strings on this album are those on the guitar and bass.

Brian Priestley compares Norvo's trio to the piano/guitar/bass trios led by such people as Nat Cole and Art Tatum. And indeed this trio has the integration and interplay characteristic of those groups. For example, in the opening track, Who Cares?, note how the guitar and vibes run down the scale together at the end of the tune. Red Norvo contributes a swinging solo on this track, but the most remarkable thing is the arrangement, which makes subtle use of all three musicians, both as soloists and accompanists. Similarly, listen to the counterpoint between the three instruments that introduces Sweet Georgia Brown.

The theme of Let's Fall in Love is stated by Tal Farlow at the top of the guitar's range and he adds a gentle solo. The trio often plays quietly, with due respect for dynamics, turning up the volume (but never to excess) for the more extrovert bits. In fact this is a sort of chamber jazz, which anticipates the subtlety of the Modern Jazz Quartet. The guitar accompanies the vibes solos and vice versa, while Red Mitchell lays down a solid foundation for all the music, as well as supplying cogent solos of his own. Most tracks include clever counter-melodies behind the main tunes. And Tal Farlow fills in for the missing drummer by beating on the body of his guitar in How Am I To Know? and What Is This Thing Called Love?

This is an album that is worth at least three listens: to hear what each musician is doing. But first just listen to the whole group and rejoice in its gloriously pure cohesion, its ability to swing with such minimal resources, and the vital contributions of all three members. Who said that the Bill Evans Trio was the first where the bassist was an equal partner?

Tony Augarde

www. augardebooks. co. uk

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