Sunday, February 19, 2017

Artie Shaw on 7" Bell

The last ensemble Artie Shaw led was a version of the Gramercy Five (his name for all of his small groups) that he formed in 1953, and which lasted for about a year. This was an excellent band, composed of younger musicians who leaned toward modern jazz: Tal Farlow on guitar, Joe Roland on vibes, pianist Hank Jones (who was already something of a seasoned veteran by then), Tommy Potter on bass, and drummer Irv Kluger. The group recorded for several labels, including for Norman Granz's Clef/Verve. But the Gramercy Five's two Bell records, recorded in September, 1953, are in some ways their most unusual.

Bell (one of several labels which used that name over the years) issued conventional 10" 78s and 7" 45s, but they are most remembered for their odd, 7" microgroove 78s, which are kind of hybrids between regular 10" 78s and 45s. The labels and sleeves state, "Full length playing time equal to ten inch record," and "For Best Results Use L.P. Needle." So the question is - why make these odd little records? My theory is that these 7" 78s were issued so that younger record buyers who only had 78 RPM record players could buy the "cool" new 7" records, like their 45-buying friends.

In any case, this late Artie Shaw session is musically excellent, and the records sound pretty good. I'm somewhat in awe of Shaw's casual virtuosity here, and the other musicians play very well, especially Tal Farlow, who is particularly fluid and creative. Bell 1023, with "Besame Mucho" and "That Old Feeling," is pretty close to mint condition, while Bell 1027 - Shaw's original "Stop and Go Mambo" and "Tenderly" - is a little more worn.

Besame Mucho

That Old Feeling

Stop and Go Mambo


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