Quartet: Gigi Gryce (alto Saxophone) Thelonious Monk (piana) Percy Heath (bass) Art Blakey (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, October 15, 1955
Selection: Gallop’s Gallop (Monk)
Orchestra: Art Farmer (t) Eddie Bert (trb) Julius Watkins (fr-horn) Bill Barber (tuba) Gigi Gryce (as) Cecil Payne (bars) Horace Silver (p) Oscar Pettiford (b) Art Blakey (d) Ernestine Anderson (voc) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, October 22, 1955
Selection: Speculation (Horace Silver)
March 12th, 1955: Charlie Parker, a paradox of unrivalled creativity and self-destructiveness, died age 34 from pneumonia in the apartment of the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter in the Stanhope Hotel, New York. In an instant Parker was gone, but Bebop had far from run its course.
Memo: it’s never wrong to picture a couple of well-upholstered chicks on the front page of any publication aimed mainly at young men.
It is an article of faith that no two saxophonists sound the same, but the lyrical melodic alto lines of Gigi Grice and Art Pepper cause me a moment’s doubt. Far from it being a problem, it is a delight, as it offers an imaginary pairing of Pepper and Monk, East meets West. Is it a Gryce record or a Monk record? Who cares. Gryce at the age of thirty here swings sympathetically but surefootedly, unfazed by Monk’s playful but devilish tampering with rhythm and harmony.
The more sparse quartet is a more comfortable setting for me. The lush orchestration of the bigger line up has a more period feel, which harks back to the era of big bands, but the calibre of soloists Eddie Bert and Gigi Gryce keep it from drowning. A glance at the list of names in the line up is awe inspiring. It invites a very dry martini, lights down, a different time and place.
The Signal Gigi Gryce cover photo credited to Harold Feinstein, a photographer who worked from the 1930s to 1960s capturing the essence of New York City during a period of turbulent change. Most famous for his Fifties black and white images of Coney Island, he was described as “a photographer with the ability to reveal the familiar …in a beautifully new, in a strong and honest way.”. A glance at a retrospective of his work pulled something from memory – Johnny Griffin’s Blue Note, A Blowing Session?
I knew I had seen a couple of those pigeons before. A pretty good montage considering it predates Photoshop by at least three decades.
Vinyl: Signal S1201. mono RVG, not a label I have ever seen before.
Signal Records was a short-lived New York label formed in 1955 by Jules Colomby assisted by producer Don Schlitten, Harold Goldberg and jazz journalist Ira Gitler. After the label folded the masters for their few releases were sold to and reissued by Savoy Records, who released the Gryce recording as Nica’s Tempo (right)
Source: London suburban record store (don’t ask), where interesting things occasionally pop up, but usually pretty fully priced. On reflection, this one wasn’t too bad.
UPDATE June 25, 2013
Rudolf “Eagle Eye” spots the original original!
Well I’ll be hornswaggled. Below item on Ebay certainly looks 1955, the REAL deal. Deep Groove and over fifty years wear and tear. Now I am baffled what I have got.
LJC forensic examination:
Artists contractual acknowledgements and address changes appear in what I now reckon to be the Signal “second edition”. Both RVG master, pressed by two different plants, two different label designs, with two different cover designs, both different covers credited to Harold Feinstein.
(Pictures updated October 8th, 2017)