Selection: Stratusphunk (Russell)
On Stratusphunk: Art Farmer (trumpet) Hal McKusick (alto sax) Bill Evans (piano) Barry Galbraith (guitar) Milt Hinton (bass) Charlie Persip (drums) recorded NYC, April 7, 1958 at Pythian Temple Studios, 135 West 70th St.
On other tracks: Paul Chambers (bass) Connie Kay (drums); add Dick Hafer, Frank Socolow (tenor sax) Jay Cameron (baritone sax), recorded NYC, March 25 & 28, 1958
Starting musical life in the big bands of the ’40s, Hal McKusick’s discography as leader includes Triple Exposure (Prestige PRLP 7135/ Esquire 32-073, RVG recording at Hackensack), and runs only from 1955 through to 1959, at which point he largely immersed himself in music education, with the occasional sideman role. His light swinging tone sits somewhere near Paul Desmond.
In addition his musical interests, Hal turned to craftsmanship, taught himself woodwork, opened an antiques and restoration shop where he crafted special commission furniture pieces.
The LJC flirtation with jazz arrangements continues.
For this album, McKusick commissioned arrangements from George Handy, Jimmy Giuffre, George Russell and Ernie Wilkins, to show-tunes and compositions written by others, that late ’50s phenomenon of the “workshop jazz” concept.
Marc Meyers (JazzWax) interviewed McKusick in 2010 about the Cross Section Saxes album, here. I can do no better than to respectfully pinch some snippets:
JW: What did Bill Evans think of your concept for the working septet?
HM: He loved it. Bill was interested in getting inside the music, to put his own touch on it while at the same time contributing to the whole. He always sought perfection. When you played a date with Bill or brought him in on a recording session, he would want to know exactly what was going to happen and what you needed from him. Then he would fit himself in appropriately. On Cross Section–Saxes, Bill looked over the charts carefully to see what they were all about. Then he determined his role. It was a fascinating process and outcome.
JW: Which song on the album is your favorite?
HM: George Russell’s End of a Love Affair. I love the mood of it. The arrangement has this certain restlessness, too. It was a very East Coast sound, meaning you hear the energy and sophistication of the city–the close interaction of people, the hurrying, the ambition. That’s how the musicians felt. Each of us was striving to break new ground. It was an exciting, experimental time for jazz, and that was reflected in the music.
JW: How would you sum up Cross Section–Saxes?
HM: It’s a record with great musicians who had individual sounds. They all could read music brilliantly, listen carefully to each other, blend together and at the same time express their individuality. The arrangements gave us that opportunity. It’s a gem of an album in that regard.
JazzWax tracks: Cross Section–Saxes is out of print and sells for ghastly sums. … (LJC: not so ghastly, see Collector’s Corner) )
Evil Silver Disc to the rescue? Not quite. According to All-Music:
“Most of this music was reissued on the CD Now’s the Time (1957-1958), although two brilliant arrangements by Jimmy Giuffre (“Yesterdays” and his own “Sing Song”) were, unfortunately, omitted from that compilation, making it worth the effort to search for this elusive Decca LP.”
So much for additional “bonus tracks” on CD, this time around it’s the LP that delivers the goods. “Elusive Decca LP“. That feels extra good.
Vinyl: Decca DL 79209 Mood/ Jazz in HiFi
Deep groove original, 143gm weight. US Decca is something I’d not seen in the UK, very early stereo, workmanlike engineering though not quite Decca, New Malden (New Malden, our answer to New Jersey). The Decca Mood Jazz J9200 series seems to have been launched in 1958, according to The Billboard:
If the arrangements are brilliant, it features some of the most convoluted liner notes ever written, by Burt Korall, a jazz drummer and author of “Drummin’ Men: The Heartbeat of Jazz” – The Swing Years, and the Bebop Years.
Tip-off on this record came from comments on a previous post. Never heard of or see before, only copy to be found was in the US. Deep breath. The record cost me $10, but carried a $25 postal charge. Postal charges, don’t they hack you off? However in a way, it was OK, in that it slipped under the customs threshold. (See comments regarding customs duty thresholds, below)
Update: Reference question in comments below (Ahem, let me Google that for you) yes, there are reissues of Cross Section – Saxes on vinyl both from France and Japan, seen here, by MCA.