Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Charlie Ventura/Flip Phillips: The Complete Verve/Clef Charlie Ventura & Flip Phillips Studio Sessions

As the pages of jazz history become increasingly crowded, a tendency toward over simplification has resulted in the cramping of otherwise disparate musicians into artifical categories based primarily on accidents of time and circumstance. A classic case in point is that of tenormen Charlie Ventura and Flip Phillips. Both were of Italian heritage, born within two years of each other in the mid 1920s; both were products of eastern urban centers, Philadelphia and Brooklyn; both emerged to national acclaim as featured soloists in two of the most prominent swing bands of the mid ’40s, Gene Krupa’s and Woody Herman’s; both attained further star status via their appearances with Norman Granz’s Jazz At The Philharmonic, Ventura during the early 1950s and Phillips from 1946 through1957; both recorded prolifically as both sidemen and leaders on scores of contemporaneous combo dates during the ’40s and ’50s; and, at least superficially, both reflected the influences of the same stylistic role models, primarily Ben Webster and Lester Young.

But as compelling as these similarities may be, there are enough differences between the two, both musically and temperamentally, to rend apart the slim threads of their historical coincidences. Granted the attractive polish of Ventura’s deep tenor tone on ballads, the brief popularity of his bravado setpieces and commercialized “bop for the people,” and even his ambitious embrace of the baritone, bass, and alto saxes- a rarity at the time. However, comparisons with Flip’s playing have to place these accomplishments on a much lower level of jazzmanship. Flip was then, and still is, a one-horn swinger whose flawless consistency and reliability have been the cornerstones of a career now in its sixtieth year. The possessor of a cinnamon toasty, softly contoured but full-bodied tone and an infectious sense of swinging time, especially on medium- to bright-tempoed romps, Flip draws the listener into each and every one of his performances, whether on record or in person. At a weekend-long concert appearance in March 1997, at age 82, Joseph Filipelli was still blowing the house down for the guys and making their ladies cringe with delight.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published