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



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BUD SHANK

Four Classic Albums

Avid Jazz AMSC1071

 

 

CD1
The Bud Shank Quartet
Featuring Claude Williamson
1. Bag Of Blues
2. Nature Boy
3. All This And Heaven Too
4. Jubilation
5. Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me
6. Nocturne For Flute
7. Walkin'
8. Carioca
 
Bud Shank - Alto sax, flute
Claude Williamson - Piano
Don Prell - Bass
Chuck Flores - Drums
 
The Swing's To TV
9. When You Wish Upon A Star
10. Put Your Dreams Away
11. Thanks For The Memory
12. Tenderly
13. Danny Boy
14. Dinah
15. As Long As There's Music
16. A Romantic Guy
17. Steve Allen Theme
 
Bud Shank - Alto sax, flute
Bob Cooper - Oboe, tenor sax
Plus unlisted instrumentalists
 
CD2
The Swing's To TV
1. The Love Nest
 
Bud Shank - Alto sax, flute
Bob Cooper - Oboe, tenor sax
Plus unlisted instrumentalists
 
Bud Shank Plays Tenor
2. Thou Swell
3. Tenderly
4. Over The Rainbow
5. Long Ago And Far Away
6. I Never Knew
7. All The Things You Are
8. Body And Soul
9. Blue Lou
 
Bud Shank - Tenor sax
Claude Williamson - Piano
Don Prell - Bass
Chuck Flores - Drums
 
I'll Take Romance
10. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
11. Deep Purple
12. Out Of This World
13. What A Difference A Day Makes
14. Embraceable You
15. I'll Take Romance
16. These Foolish Things
17. Someone To Watch Over Me
18. You Are Too Beautiful
19. How Deep Is The Ocean
20. When Your Lover Has Gone
 
Bud Shank - Alto sax, flute
Don Prell - Bass
Jimmy Pratt - Drums
Ezio Leoni (Len Mercer), Guido Libano - Arranger, strings

 

Bud Shank, who died in 2009, was an alto saxophonist and flautist who helped boost West Coast cool-school jazz to importance in the 1950s. These four re-issues on Avid Jazz cover that period from 1956 to 1958 just when Shank was starting to enhance his name as a leader. These sides are an exemplary demonstration of his emerging style.

The two quartet albums The Bud Shank Quartet and Bud Shank Plays Tenor are the most representative of that 50s' cool school, and the origin of the West Coast aesthetic. Shank's alto style was certainly in the Art Pepper mode, and Claude Williamson was a bop-inclined pianist with a single-note percussive phrasing much in the Bud Powell manner. In the opening track Bag Of Blues, Shank gives a direction to his playing that is determined and unwavering. Williamson is not only supportive but shows some fire in his approach.

At this point in his career, Shank had also established a reputation as a flute player of note which perhaps may have overshadowed his alto work. On Nature Boy, his flute offering is extroverted yet somewhat inscrutable. In these albums, the only one that does not have some of Shank's flute prowess is the Plays Tenor sessions. However, later on in life Shank stopped playing flute entirely. In an interview that Shank gave to All About Jazz on October 1, 2003, he stated: "You can't be the best flautist and the best alto saxophonist no matter how hard you try. So one of them had to go, and that is (flute) what went (sic)".

But returning to his alto playing, he is fully engaged on that old Ellington chestnut Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me, and while Walkin' has had an association with the 1954 Miles Davis All-Stars recording, nevertheless the quartet offers a lengthy reading which demonstrates the superiority of the group and just how musically close they were.

The Plays Tenor album was a departure for Shank although he demonstrated an affinity for the instrument and brought a Lester Young/Zoot Sims sensibility to his playing. The recording is a treasure in that Shank never really returned to the instrument during the balance of his career. The set list is replete with standards, from the swinging opener Thou Swell to the melodic Over The Rainbow to the robust All The Things You Are. While there is no radical re-imagining of the material, Shank and Williamson play with lyricism and integrity throughout their solo efforts.

The two other albums in this re-issue are The Swing's To TV and I'll Take Romance, neither of which will send listeners into paroxysms of joy and wonder, but do offer some intellectual and distinctive readings of standards and other themes. In the former effort, there is a paring of good friends Bob Cooper and Shank and, in the latter, Shank is matched with a string section, perhaps hoping to capture a wider audience along the lines of the 1949/1950 releases Charlie Parker With Strings.

Cooper and Shank had been friends in Los Angeles from 1949, with Cooper responsible for Shank joining the Stan Kenton band for a couple of years in the early 1950s where he began to make a name for himself. This duo session was, in fact, a follow up to a 1957 album they released entitled Flute `n Oboe. The TV themes were, by any measure, popular standards thereby giving the group a base upon which to build some exploratory arrangements that take advantage of the pair's instrumental virtuosity. While some of the early tracks are turgid and soggy stuff, there are others where Shank is on either flute or alto and Cooper on tenor, such as Danny Boy, Dinah, As Long As There's Music and especially The Love Nest, that swing right along and capitalize on the mutually beneficial relationship between the two principals.

The eleven tracks on I'll Take Romance feature Shank on either flute or alto backed by a string section and some other instrumentation. The cuts are almost equally split between the two instruments, with Shank's flute in an ethereal zone with little bite and floating over the background, but nevertheless charmingly effective on Deep Purple and the title track I'll Take Romance. His alto work on the other hand is affectionate, flowing, yet never overly romantic or too far removed from his cool-school foundation. The best tracks are Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, the Latin-flavoured Out Of This World and the haunting You Are Too Beautiful.

Gene Lees in his book, Waiting For Dizzy: Fourteen Jazz Portraits said the following about Bud Shank: "But there are mysteries in jazz. One of them is Bud Shank..the change in Bud's playing is one of the most interesting examples of the relationship of personality to art that I have come across". For those readers who are interested in hearing the early Bud Shank, this is as good a place to start as any.

Pierre Giroux



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