05/12/10 By Bruce Klauber
Buddy Bregman's Swingin' Standards: An Overlooked Gem
An overview of one of the great, "lost," jazz recordings.
Buddy Bregman Swingin’ Standards: An Overlooked Gem
The 1950s and early 1960s could be called the golden age of the jazz LP. Certainly, we all know of the wonderful catalogs of Prestige, Riverside, Verve, B;ue Note, Contemporary and Bethlehem labels, but some great jazz recordings on labels other than the aforementioned fell through the cracks in terms of recognition. Perhaps the particular label wasn't readily identified with jazz, and/or distribution and marketing was a problem. No matter. There are several gems to be found on obscure record labels like Crown, Tops, Baton, Baronet, and a company called World Pacific, later renamed Pacific Jazz.
Founded by Dick Bock and drummer Roy Harte in 1952, World Pacific made their first splash by recording the Gerry Mulligan quartet, featuring Chet Baker in 1952. In subsequent years, until Liberty Records bought World Pacific in 1965, Bock recorded the best of the west coasters. Pacific Jazz remained a force in the jazz world until the early 1970s, maybe best known for issuing the first recordings of Buddy Rich’s big band formed in 1966.
Arranger Buddy Bregman was not a hard-core jazzer or a bonafide west coaster. Rather, he scored for films and television, including "The Pajama Game," and wrote charts for mainstreamers like BIng Crosby. Ultimately, he became more involved in jazz, and is best known for scoring the Ella Fitzgerald "songbook" series for Verve records. He is very much with us today at the age of 80, still scoring for Broadway, films and television.
In 1959. though always busy and in-demand, he was just another journeyman arranger looking for a payday.
"Buddy Bregman: Swingin' Standards," a World Pacific release from 1959, may have been just another days work for all involved, but the results are classic and maybe some label somewhere will consider putting this singular outing on compact disc. Indeed, this recording is featured on Bregman’s own site, www.BuddyBregman.com, as on overlooked gem,
This was issued on CD several years ago with remastered sound, but you'll have to look carefully for it, as it was issued on the Lone Hill label out of Spain, and current waiting time for ordering--if you can get it at all--is two months. It deserves a better fate.
No less than Fred Astaire said in his notes to the project, "It is to my mind, an album in which every item is a special attraction. All of Buddy's special arranging and conducting comes out in full force. It's a fine dance album."
And a dance album it is--the group, in fact, is called "The Buddy Bregman Dance Band"—but with soloists like saxophonists Bob Cooper, Richie Kamuca, Bill Holman and Bill Perkins; trombonist Frank Rosolino, trumpeter Conte Candoli; and guitarist Jim Hall, the jazz quotient is very, very high.
Holding these all-stars together was none other than the ubiquitous drummer, Mel Lewis, likely on holiday from the Terry Gibbs Dream Band, whose playing is a textbook example of how to interpret a chart, how to play for dancing, and how to play big band jazz drums.
I would suggest that every drummer of every age study Lewis’ playing carefully on “Swingin’ Standards.”
If I were a university jazz instructor, I would have these drum charts transcribed and file under the word "definitive."
The tunes, of course, are all warhorses—“My Buddy,” “In a Mellow Tone,” “Too Close for Comfort” and “Just in Time” among them—but Bregman’s bright and inventive orchestrations, the wonderful solos and the happy sense of swing throughout is ample evidence that this date wasn’t just another payday for all involved.
All involved must have taken the LPs title to heart: They are, indeed, swingin the standards.
It would be wonderful if those involved in the CD issue of this recording would do everything possible to ensure its wide release.
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