Savooooy Be Gooood

The Lighter Side of Bebop

Billy Eckstine gets two cuts: "(I Love the) Rhythm in a Riff," arranged by Budd Johnson and featuring, in addition to the leader's supple baritone scat, a dynamic Gene Ammons tenor solo monitored by a young and chipper Art Blakey; and "Oop Bop Sh'Bam," which has Eckstine's most effective valve trombone solo and more Ammons, backed by screaming brasses and decaying glissandi. Gillespie's "Sunny Side of the Street" has an impetuous Stuff Smith violin solo, a low-key cup-muted solo by the leader, and a vocal chorus that presumably qualifies it as jive ("life could be so fine/fine as Manischewitz wine"). The high, patronizing singing by Gillespie and Carroll on "Oo-Shoo-Bee-Doo-Bee" (on which Milt Jackson plays piano) reminds me of Mingus's remark that he never heard a black person say "groovy." This track appears to be belittling ofay shooby-doobies, but Babs Gonzalves (the former Lee Brown, who changed his name because Cubans met with less prejudice) is here to dispute any racial scat divide, shoobying himself into a lather and adding a new wrinkle to Ebonics ("I must have was touched in the head"), backed, as usual, by great players, including Hank Jones and Buddy Tate, who gets a tenor solo (following Maurice Simon's baritone) on Gonzalves's sexist version of "Ornithology," "The Boss Is Back."

Annie Ross also has a hot band with Milt Jackson (on vibes), Blossom Dearie (piano only), Percy Heath, and Kenny Clarke, and is in good voice on two standards, offering a variation on "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" and raising the tempo on "The Way You Look Tonight"; she ain't jiving, though. The obscure Emitt Slay Trio is vaudeville jive—"Mail Call" consists entirely of a letter, read with organ accompaniment, in which a soldier in Korea learns that his wife has a new friend. In compensation, we get Eddie Jefferson's entire 1952 Hi-Lo session with the Walt Harper Quintet (including drummer Cecil Brooks, father of C.B. III). In addition to his original take on "Honeysuckle Rose," with its rash fade, he does three vocalese adaptations of solos James Moody recorded in 1949: "The Birdland Story" (from "Blue and Moody"), "I Got the Blues" (from "Lester Leaps In"), and "Body and Soul," a clever companion piece to Jefferson's better-known adaptation of Coleman Hawkins's solo. As with Ross, his pitch isn't unerring, but it's on target more often than not and his feeling for bebop is uncanny. I don't know why I find his pronunciation, in "The Birdland Story," of the name Charlie so appealing; it's the beginning of a vivid snapshot of a bandstand incident in which Moody steals the show—"That's when the Yard looked round and said, go ahead and swing it Moody." It's neither ha-ha funny nor particularly jivey. But it's way cool.

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