J.J. Johnson’s Broadway Express

Over at Jazz Wax Marc Myers has a nice write-up on the J.J. Johnson recording, Broadway Express from 1965. As Myers notes, the sessions took place in December of 65′ and involved differing personnel. Broadway Express was sort of a non-jazz date with jazz musicians, but the arrangements, by guitarist Mundell Lowe, are fantastic. Also, don’t miss Chuck Israels comments in this post (you’ll need to scroll a bit) about another of Johnson’s forays into show tune material from a few years earlier, titled J.J.’s Broadway. It featured five trombones (J.J., Urbie Green, Lou McGarrity, Dick Hixon, and Paul Faulise), plus rhythm section.

From Broadway Express, here’s Johnson performing Lowe’s arrangement of Once in a Lifetime, from Stop the World I Want to Get Off on December 13, 1965:

Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known

Trombonist and proprietor of Hip Bone Music Michael Davis has been running his excellent Bone-to-Pick interview series for a while now. A little over a year ago, Davis featured the incomparable trombonist Bill Watrous. Watrous, who is full of stories, observations, and the occasional joke*, is a natural for this sort of thing, and that makes the interview fun to watch.

Cover Art

Sound Clip

How Long Has This Been Going On?

*The Carl Fontana Joke

Watch the entire interview if you haven’t already, but for the joke as told by Carl Fontana to Watrous, check out 32 minutes 13 seconds.

When recalling his earliest — and fairly obscure — LP solo recordings, Bill mentions one whose title seems to be a 60s zeitgeist send-up: Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known. Watrous remembers the arranger Walter Raim talked him into the project when he was in New York City doing other recording work. Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known had interesting instrumentation in addition to Watrous’s trombone, consisting of string quartet, vibes, guitar, bass, and drums, plus voices. “I still have a copy of this. You can’t get these anywhere,” says Watrous.

Well, over at my favorite used record store, Hymies, I did find a copy of, you know, Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known. It was recorded in 1969 for MTA Records in New York (not to be confused with the current label of that name). Despite the high concept title, the recording is a standards outing with Aquarius (from the 1967 musical Hair) added in. (Also, did Aquarius ever really become a standard?) To be sure, it’s easy listening, but as the liner notes mention, using a string quartet — as opposed to a huge string section — changes up the usual “easy listening” texture. The arrangements are interesting — the tracks on this LP could have easily been used for Mad Men music cues.

Lawrence Brown with Duke Ellington in Montreal 1964

Sure — there are lots of things on the internet that you probably wouldn’t want to see, and many things that you’d probably want to un-see. Yes, as time goes on, they’ll be more and more demand for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [iTunes] technology. What’s posted here, however, likely won’t fall into that category: It’s a 1964 performance by the Duke Ellington Orchestra in Montreal for a Canadian TV program called Le Jazz Hot.

Many of the Ellington stalwarts are here, including Cat Anderson, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, and trombonist Lawrence Brown. (The full personnel listing can be found here.) Not surprisingly, this YouTube clip is an excerpt of a DVD which is commercially available. Imagine that!

slidetrombonelb Interestingly, Lawrence Brown was not a huge fan of Duke Ellington, despite working with the leader for nearly thirty years. The gist of the resentment? It seems Brown felt The Duke’s charisma was used to manipulate, and that Ellington took credit for the musical creations of his band members. As a specific example, Brown said that he was the actual composer of the “A” sections of Sophisticated Lady, and that saxophonist Otto Hardwick had come up with the bridge. Certainly, some of Brown’s criticisms are a matter of perspective. Where, for example, does cajoling end and manipulation begin? The interdependent relationship between Duke and his orchestra members is widely acknowledged, yet, it’s likely that Lawrence Brown’s name should be included on any Sophisticated Lady byline.

Lawrence Brown did branch out on his own from time to time. The album Slide Trombone [iTunes], from 1955 and for Verve records, is one example.