Thursday, 23 July 2015

Checkmate by Shelly Manne

Purchased from the excellent Jazz House Records, this looks gorgeous, clean, almost new. It's a 1962 British mono pressing of a US Contemporary album which is legendary for its sound quality, and is also sought after (by me) for the John Williams TV score it contains (yes, that John Williams). Beautifully quiet run in groove... 

The LP was recorded by Howard Holzer not Roy DuNann,who was the famed Contemporary recording engineer — sort of a West Coast Rudy Van Gelder. But “Howard Holzer was a genius, too,” according to Lester Koenig’s son. (Lester Koenig ran Contemporary.) Apparently Holzer was mentored by DuNann. 
I love the sax, which turns out be be Richie Kamuca (“one of the most overlooked of the Lester Young disciples to emerge in the fifties” — Mosaic newsletter). Russ Freeman’s piano is delicate and adroit. Kamuca does a lot of work — and great work — here. He gives a small combo a big band sound.  Kamuca has a huge sound. 

This is a terrific record. Sharp, fresh, keening trumpet — Miles Davis influenced —  by Conte Candoli. Wonderful sound quality. Kamuca is gorgeous. Some very interesting drumming, which isn’t surprising. And moody bass by Chuck Berghofer —also propulsively rhythmic. A real winner.

Shelly Manne and His Men  Play the Music of John Williams from the TV Series
Checkmate (Vogue LAC 12315 — originally on Contemporary)

(Image credits: the cover is from EIL, the labels from Discogs. The labels don't actually represent the British Vogue pressing, annoyingly, but images of these are not to be found on the internet. Yet.)