“Backward Glances” – #6


          All my LP records were in storage in NJ (beginning in 1994), and I have recently been reunited with the survivors here in Oz after a depressing trip to The States (NW NJ) in late 2016. Ergo, this occasional series as a celebration of being able to hear some of my favorite music again!


I guess that I can blame my late father[1] for my interest in jazz, especially in the big bands. I grew up listening to WNEW-AM (“1130 on your dial”) which featured that sort of popular music, be it on “The Milkman’s Matinee” or “The Make-Believe Ballroom” DJ shows. That was the only station we ever listened to, always “on”… I missed out completely on the various serials for kids on other stations that my friends always talked about – no shoot ‘em ups or radio comedy for me growing up at home in NJ. That sort of listening took place at my grandparents’ place after massive Sunday dinners: Jack Benny, and Ozzie & Harriet were the usual fare! I was an outsider at school from the very beginning, then, but that was OK with me! I also missed out on the beginnings and developments of rock ‘n’ roll, and had to do much back-listening at a later time in life. Even the “house” bands for the Cavalcade of Stars early traveling shows of Alan Freed were initially big bands (even Basie’s!) for a while in an attempt to make such entourages “current”. Calling them a “Rock & Roll band” did a disservice to all involved. It was at least a gig for good musicians whose style of playing was fading from public appreciation and view, but could read fly shit on a piece of toilet paper if asked! I still remember Stan Freberg’s delightful send-ups of R&R/pop material and its recording sessions – “The Old Payola Roll Blues” anyone here? That “cling-cling-cling jazz” on the piano? But that’s another topic for another day.

For me growing up (both physically and musically), the Prestige label’s “Swingville[2]” series of LPs contained lots of well-produced and desirable music by older musicians. They were generally small groups gathered in the VanGelder studio in Hackensack, NJ rather than with a working band… of which there were few and far between. I was (mainly) in college at the time… I even went over from Montclair to Bergenfield to cherry-pick their warehouse of jazz and blues LPs  one time! Even before that, there was an all-star big band gathered in the studio in and released under the name of The Prestige Blues-Swingers. This was issued in 1958 on Prestige 7145 as “Outskirts of Town” and had arrangements by Jerry Valentine, one-time arranger for Earl Hines, and later the Billy Eckstine bands. There were six tunes in all, three originals (“Blue Flute”, “Blues a-Swingin’”, and “I Wanna Blow, Blow, Blow”) and three from mid-forties bands (“I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town”, “Jelly, Jelly”, and “Sent for You Yesterday, Here You Come Today”).

The fine liner notes were from Ira Gitler and there are short bios of all the listed musicians:

Art Farmer, Idrees Sulieman (tpt); Buster Cooper (tbn); Jerome Richardson – as/fl; Pepper Adams (bari); Ray Bryant (pno); Tiny Grimes (gtr); Wendell Marshall (bs); Osie Johnson (dms); Jerry Valentine (arr).


A rather impressive gathering of mainly post-bop talent in sort of a precursor to the Jones/Lewis rehearsal band or Mulligan’s big band of later decades who could all read like nobody’s business! All the musicians had spent time in recent sessions in Rudy’s studio with other leaders, and all knew their way around the lay of the land there! I am not sure who the producer was from the notes, though, or my internet searches… it’s still readily available on LP and CD, though. One that almost slipped under the door to obscurity!


PETER B. LOWRY                                                                                    Sydney (2018)

[1] Charles Stokes Lowry – sugar broker par excellence and big band fan! Very functional alcoholic (as were many survivors of Prohibition), all around good-guy and not much of a real father.

[2] Who came up with such awful, of-their-time names – Swingville, Moodsville, Bluesville… at least the folk series was named “Prestige International”, and their attempted R’n’B label was Tru-Sound!

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