Monday, March 7, 2016

Paul Gonsalves & Ray Nance, 1970

I recently published here a post about the 1956 collaboration between Duke Ellington and Rosemary Clooney that resulted in the excellent Columbia album Blue Rose. About 14 years later, in August and September of 1970, two of the musicians that were a part of the Ellington band during those sessions with Clooney, Paul Gonsalves and Ray Nance, came together in New York City for the two dates that produced the album Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin', which was fortunately reissued on CD by the Black Lion label in 1990, though that release isn't always easy to find. Born in Chicago in 1913, Nance learned to play the piano and the violin before taking up the trumpet, as he himself told critic Stanley Dance, because "I wanted to hear myself on a louder instrument in a way I couldn't do with the violin in the orchestra." After working with Earl Hines and Horace Henderson, Nance joined Ellington in 1940 and stayed until the 1960s, distinguishing himself as a master of the growling trumpet, but also as a violinist and a Louis Armstrong-influenced singer. Gonsalves, who was born in Boston in 1920 and whose parents came originally from the islands of Cape Verde, was about seven years younger than Nance and didn't become an Ellingtonian until 1950, although by then he'd already made a name for himself via his work with orchestras led by Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. The warmth of his tone on the tenor saxophone was undoubtedly inspired by Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, but he developed a recognizable style that can be heard at its very best on an epic solo he took during Ellington's version of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.

The multitalented Ray Nance
As I've mentioned, the Nance-Gonsalves colaboration we're discussing today materialized over the course of two different sessions. On the first of these dates, they're joined by Raymond Fol on piano, Al Hall on bass, and Oliver Jackson on drums, and the quintet goes through a very appealing selection of tunes, mostly written by the Duke and Billy Strayhorn. Nance alternates between trumpet and violin and even offers a sample of his tuneful, gravelly singing on the title track of the album and on the light-hearted "I'm in the Market for You." Gonsalves plays some very lyrical, breathy, Webster-infused tenor saxophone throughout the whole date. For the second session, the group is augmented by Norris Turney on alto saxophone and flute, and the great Hank Jones replaces Fol at the keyboard. That second meeting spawned "B.P. Blues," a lovely Ellington-penned blues tune that kicks off the album, but for the most part, the numbers chosen, such as "Don't Blame Me" and a very beautiful reading of Matt Dennis's "Angel Eyes," are standards not written by Ellington or Strayhorn. The CD reissue, which reprints the original liner notes by producer Alan Bates, is rounded up by two selections ("I Cover the Waterfront" and "Stompy Jones") not included in the original LP. Although this marvelous session is currently out of print on CD, until someone decides to make it more easily available once again, it's certainly well worth picking up a used copy—that is, in the event that one is lucky enough to find the disc at a reasonable price.


latino bar said...

about Ray Nance

Anton Garcia-Fernandez said...

Cher Latino Bar,

Merci pour avoir partagé ces articles si intéressants sur Ray Nance, qui a toujours été un des mes jazzmen favoris! Je parle français un peu et alors j'ai lu d'autres articles que vous avez publiés dans votre site (sur Beny Moré, Ernesto Lecuona, etc.) et je les ai trouvés également intéressants.

Je vous remercie de m'avoir contacté et vous félicite pour votre site!

Anton G.-F.
Jazz Flashes