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Burt Collins: Time, Space and Blues


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Sometime after March 1969, trumpeters Burt Collins and Joe Shepley went into the studio and recorded a masterpiece. I'm betting you've never heard the album—Time, Space & the Blues—because it has never been released digitally and is rare on vinyl. Pianist Mike Abene wrote many of the songs and all of the arrangements except one—Soft Landing, which was arranged by Johnny Carisi. In fact, this is as much Abene's album as it is Collins and Shepley's.

What makes this album special, in addition to Abene's highly inventive charts, is the ability to hear Collins out in the open. The trumpeter was in some of the most exciting bands of the post-war years, including Woody Herman, Johnny Richards, Manny Albam, Elliot Lawrence, Urbie Green and Slide Hampton. But he was socked away in trumpet sections. Not until 1969 did Collins finally record as a leader on Time, Space & the Blues. Lennon/McCartney Live, his only other leadershp date, was recorded a short tie laterwith virtually the same band, except Herbie Hancock was on piano instead of Abene, who wrote all the arrangements. 

There's no recording date for Time, Space & the Blues in Tom Lord's Jazz Discography or on the album or singles. I arrived at the post-March 1969 date by glancing at the songs on the album. One is Docking Maneuver and another is Module 3. Both are references to Apollo 9, which lifted off in March 1969 to work on aspects of the Apollo 11 flight to the moon scheduled for July.

Shepley first recorded with Collins on Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band in 1967. They soon formed Collins/Shepley Galaxy and recordedTime, Space & the Blues for MTA Records, a division of Decca, at Columbia's 30th St. studio. The session was produced by MTA head Bob Thompson. The band was impressive: Burt Collins and Joe Shepley (tp,flhrn); Bernie Glow (tp,piccolo-tp); Garnett Brown (tb); Paul Faulise (b-tb); Joe DeAngelis (fhr); Tony Price (tu); Jerry Dodgion (fl,sop); Michael Abene (p,arr,cond); Bob Cranshaw (b); Mickey Roker (d) and John Carisi (arr).

Here's how the songwriting breaks out...

Side A

Time, Space & the Blues (Shepley and Abene)
Apogee (Abene)
Blue Interlude (Shepley)
Docking Maneuver (Abene)

Side B

Module 3 (Johnny Carisi)
Soft Landing (Abene)
Susan Moon (Abene)
Fourth Dimension (Shepley)

The arrangements have a Gil Evans feel—heaving and sighing and creating an orchestral feel for Collins's darting trumpet and Shepley's moodier attack. In this regard, the album sounds like a cousin of the Evans-Miles Davis collaborations of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Hopefully, a label like Fresh Sound will re-issue this one coupled with Lennon/McCartney Live. Both are important big band recordings.

Collins died in 2007; Joe Shepley is still with us and can be found here. You'll find more on Mike Abene here.

JazzWax tracks: Collins-Shepley Galexy's Time, Space & the Blues was never issued on CD. The same goes for their Lennon/McCartney Live. You can find LP copies at eBay.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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