Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shelly Manne

Shelly Manne
June 11, 1920 – September 26, 1984

by Claudio Botelho
Once in a while, I listen to some oldies and, in one of those days, I came across Shelly Manne’s “Checkmate”, which explores John Williams musical themes for a TV series named likewise. It’s a quintet, comprising a piano (Russ Freeman),   a tenor sax (Richie Kamuca), a trumpet (Conte Condoli), a bass (Chuck Berghofer) and Manne himself on drums. The program was composed by John Williams, long before his “shark” days, for a TV series named “Checkmate”. The recording was released by Contemporary, in the year of 1961.  Incidentally, by that time, as a composer of great musical themes, John Williams was already John Williams…
Remastered in 2002, the recording was, then, launched in CD format. The quality is much more than acceptable, being its swing and dynamics marvelous.
The group worked as a monolith; the solos are very well distributed between everybody and the listener never had time to distract himself, as the music spurs continually, and its ever changing colors takes his breath away. Nobody overpowers anybody, but there is clearly a command from a chief, which reigns supreme but, at the same time, allowing everybody to speak freely, while careful and fiercely enhancing the efforts of them all.
Well, it seems to me Manne was unique: What a control; what expertise with the mallets and what musicality! His playing is always rounding off; never allowing blank spaces, in a most harmonic way!
If you like the traditional quintet form, go to his recordings at the Black Hawk or at his own Manne Hole and listen to the epitome of the West Coast jazz, along with his unique way to propel a team. If you’d rather listen to piano trios (like me), do yourself a favor and choose any of his recording with Andre Previn and Leroy Vinnegar and discover, as a bonus, how gifted was Previn in those days; much more jazzy than in his late years as a  musician of this gender. Who knows, maybe his mind are now more classically music oriented…
Well, it’s been some 26 years since he left us, but those among us – jazz lovers -, specially the drums addicts, who, for any reason whatsoever, do not know his prowess, own themselves to know his art. Please, do me a favor and try listening to this giant. And, be sure: he was THE DRUMMER; one who is not and will never be superseded…

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