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Bob Corwin and Don Elliott

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Bob Corwin
The closest pairing on the East Coast to the West Coast's Chet Baker and Russ Freeman was Don Elliott and Bob Corwin. Playing together, Elliott and Corwin were breezy, delicate and highly melodic. They could swing wwith ease, and both had an extraordinary ear for harmony. If you're familiar with Elliott, then you know he was a master of many instruments. On The Bob Corwin Quartet: Featuring the Trumpet of Don Elliott (1956) for Riverside, Elliott was on trumpet and Corwin was on piano. They were backed by Ernie Furtado (b) and Jimmy Campbell (d).

The album was Corwin's first leadership date and Elliott's initial album as a trumpet soloist. Corwin had been gigging with Elliott in New York since mid-1955 and recorded with him in early 1956 as a sideman on The Voice of Marty Bell (Riverside) and Janet Brace's Special Delivery (ABC Paramount).

Born in 1933 in Hollis, N.Y., Corwin began playing piano early but viewed the instrument as a way to make a few bucks in college while taking pre-dental courses. Elliott heard Corwin at a club and asked him to join a quartet he was forming. Corwin agreed to take the job, but just for a week so he could pull down enough money for rent. But after two weeks, Corwin realized that he wanted to play piano, not fill cavities.

After recording this album with Elliott, Corwin married singer Arlene Nover and played local gigs. At some point in the late 1950s, he divorced his first wife and married Mandy Mercer, Johnny Mercer's daughter, in 1960. Said Mandy in Gene Lees' Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon Mercer, “I admired Bob....I loved running around with him and not being Johnny Mercer's daughter. I was his wife. We'd go and hang out with all these jazz musicians like Phil Woods. He worked with these guys, and I liked hanging around with him. I knew Bill Evans. I knew Daddy's friends and then I got to know Bobby's friends."

In 1957, Corwin continued to record with Elliott on his Pal Joey album and on The Voices of Don Elliott. Corwin also recorded on Phil Woods's quartet album with Gene Quill called Phil Talks With Quill as well as on Woods's Warm Woods album. He's also on Herbie Mann's African Suite in 1959. Interestingly, he recorded on Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Lowe in 1959 and accompanied Anita O'Day on Anita O'Day in Tokyo 1963 and Peggy Lee's Mink Jazz that same year. Also In the 1960s, Corwin was the intermission pianist at Condon's, guitarist Eddie Condon's club in New York, and at the Playboy Club. At some point Corwin relocated with his wife to Los Angeles.

What's noticeable on this album with Don Elliott is Corwin's impeccable time and the influence of Bud Powell and Dodo Marmarosa. Cowin, as they used to say, was on the money.

Bob Corwin is still with us today and hopefully will create a Wikipedia page.

Here's Corwin's gorgeous piano behind Anita O'Day in Tokyo in 1963 singing Night and Day...



And here's Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved.

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