On each of the previous Pete Fountain albums for Coral the propelling factor at the drums has been Jack Sperling. It is not inappropriate, then, that such a basic and yet highly important integer be showcased with a special spotlight. And to add color, special arrangements were written, and a hand-picked group of musicians rounded up for the occasion.
Don Bagley, who has appeared with Pete on at least one of his albums for Coral, and who is a Kenton big band alumnus, did the arrangements. Pete told me, gleefully, that after Bags" had completed a couple of arrangements for the date he brought them in to Bud Dant and said, Give me some more to do, man; my chops are fine!" Which, (in musicians' parlance) usually refers to physical condition in playing, and more specifically embouchure; but in this case it was the arranging ideas that were flowing easily; and, as you will hear, the results were as colorful and direct as Bagley's speech.
Rounding out the rhythm section and comprising the rest of the basic quartet with Pete and Jack are pianist Stan Wrightsman and bassist Morty Corbboth veterans of the jazz scene and no strangers to recording dates with Pete and Jack.
Among the other musicians heard in the big band passages are Bill Usselton on ten, saxophone; and just about the strongest" lead trumpet man in the business, the ever-in-demand Conrad Gozzo.
It's something of a tribute to Jack Sperling that I can't tell you minute biographical details about him. After I'd had a chance to give an advance dub of the album a listen we chatted long-distant (I here in New Orleans and he in Hollywood) and in my enthusiasm for the music I had heard and in discussing it I forgot to ask him where he was born, which shoe he ties first. how he likes his eggs (or if he even likes eggs!) and all that jazz. This we know: that he was with the Glenn Miller band that Tex Beneke took on the road right after World War II; that subsequent to that he became Les Brown's drummer and held that chair for several years on a steady basis, eventually relinquishing it to accept a position as staff drummer at NBC, but still working with Les on the Bob Hope TV shows. Needless to say he's an experienced, talented, and swinging drummer; and if you can corner him long enough between staff duties, recording dates, etc., I'm sure he'll be glad to fill you in with additional personal data...
Fascinating Rhythm serves as the Overture to the albuma preview of things to come, inasmuch as Jack holds a sort of question-and-answer session with himself through the use of his conventional drums, tom-toms, and small tuned drums.
Dancers will find the moderate tempo to their liking.
(La Cinquantaine) is taken at a slower, more deliberate tempo than the first Woody Herman versionwhich featured drummer Frankie Carlson: and much slower than the Third Herd version of the early 'fifties' with Sonny Igoe at the drums. Jack Sperling and bassist Morty Corb take the intro by themselves. Don Bagley has written a pretty score for the sax section in the first chorus, with Pete leading into the bridgeand again the first part of the second chorus, with tenor man Billy Usselton soloing on the bridge. Sperling and Corb finally take it out by themselves through the same door marked Rhythm" by which they had entered.
Big Crash From China
was one of the specialty numbers of the old Bob Crosby band for featuring drummer Ray Bauduc. Jack makes a solo entrance; then is joined by the other members of the quartet; Pete, Morty, and pianist Stan Wrightsman, for a stop chorus. The melody has a bluesy flavor to it, and made me feel as tho' it might be an inversion of the old Wang Wang Blues." Jack's brush work is crisp and deft, and punctuated by the bass drumbut all in all not nearly as crashing as the title might indicate.
was written by the prolific Neal Hefti to feature drummer Sonny Payne and flutist Frank Wess with the Basie band, and quickly has become a favorite with combo drummers as a head arrangement. Don Bagley has scored this for the full orchestra once more; and Jack takes the breaks during the first chorus with sticks on the hi-hat cymbal. Pete solos in the second chorus, with Jack and the orchestra splitting the third. From then on it's anybody's ball, with the chores pretty evenly divided.
Sing, Sing, Sing
is the number that broke it up at the Benny Goodman 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. Gene Krupa was the Goodman drummer, and set a pretty driving pace on the tom-toms compared with the easy lope of this new version. Jack actually plays melody, solo-wise, on the first chorus, excepting the bridgewhich is taken by bassist Corb. After the full band joins in for the second chorus there is some interesting conversational by-play between clarinet and drums. Notice the unison melody by Corb and Sperling just before the ending.
Hawaiian War Chant
salutes drummer Buddy Rich and his one-time boss Tommy Dorsey, Jack splits his attention between tom-tom savagery and driving rhythm on the conventional percussion. It's Quartetville once more with piano, bass and clarinet keeping pace with a driving tempo that bodes ill for the durability and longevity of any grass skirts that may be worn by the dancers.
Wire Brash Stomp
was a big hit for Gene Krupa shortly after he formed his own band back in '38; and now, through modern recording techniques, Jack gives it his multiple, tho' ,divided (sic!) attention. Stereo fans will see what I mean. There's just a hint of the heavy after-beat that has been so prevalent in recent dance arrangements catering to the teen-age set; and Jack's crisp and dexterous brush work is neatly laced with accents on bongos. Pete comes racing back from the water cooler and slides to a stop just in time for the finale.
is an original by Bags" and Jack, with some more tasty brush work from Jack against a stop-chorus from the band that will probably remind you of the delightful soft-shoe routines of the halcyon days of vaudeville. Pete takes a relaxed second chorus, spelled by a contrasting trombone on the bridge. Then it's full band once more, and everyone is homefr...er, I mean, Scott Free!
(sounds like a Los Angeles street name) is another echo of the Woody Herman-Frankie Carlson alliance, and was performed then by the Four Chips from Woody's band. (There sure were some wonderful things on those old Blue Label Deccas!) The traditional 6/8 of the Mexican dance is felt on and off in this rendition; but the urge to wail in 4/4 is predominant. Stan Wrightsman plays a fine chorus; and Jack's rhythms are masterful throughout.
was a Tommy Dorsey flagwaver used as a showcase for pyrotechnist Buddy Rich. After the opening fanfare and statements from the orchestra, the quartet takes over. Jack's re-strained yet driving rhythm isn't lost on Petewho makes melodic reference to fit in the release of that chorus. Notice, too, the timbre of Morty's bass-work on this one. Cognizant of Jack's distaste for extended drums solos (which tend to bore the listener and cease to prove anything after the first few minutes other than the drummer's endurance quotient) Don Bagley has scored with commendable brevity and the message is well delivered in less than two minutes. The cymbal-work is strategic, and Jack wraps it up with a snap-roll on both bass drums. Look out Astaire!
is another original, and as satisfying and smile-evoking as the New Orleans dish far which it was named. Clarinet and drums compare cooking ideas with laudable precision in reaching agreement as to the best way to make itand like, they DOya' know?
Big Noise From Winnetka
featured drummer Ray Bauduc and bassist Bob Haggartwith extra melody provided by some between-the-teeth whistling from The Hag." It was named for a feminine admirer of one of the boys in the Crosby band; and she would come into the Blackhawk in Chicago where the band was playing and spook" him ad infinitum. Since she hailed from the suburb north of Chicago, Winnetka, and was none too reticent in voicing her admiration, this bit of by-play was so-named as an inside rib." A feature of the original was Bauduc's drumming on the strings of Haggart's bass. In this version Jack also indulges in similar instrumental trespass. He states the melody on his tuned drums first, however, followed by Pete's clarinet with the melody line of the whistling in the older version. Morty Corb has his innings on bass; and the final score is 3-0 in favor of the trio.
If you haven't already been listening to the album, get with it. I'm sure you'll find, as I have, that the wiry meticulousness of Jack Sperling, the man, that is apparent to the eye is reflected in Jack Sperling, the drummer, as apparent to ear. In fact, if you'll forgive me, I'll say that this Sperling is marked Sterling"and let it go at that.