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Marvin Stamm on Uncle Albert

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Jazz fans are quicker than most to slap around other forms of music. Some fans are convinced that rock destroyed jazz (not so) while others insist that jazz sold out for commercial reasons (not so, either). New music comes with each generation, and that's how it played out in the mid-1950s and into the '60s. [Photo above of Marvin Stamm by Marvin S. Orling]

Here's another revelation: Rock (and soul and disco) kept many jazz artists employed and meeting college tuition payments in the late 1960s and 1970s—especially with the advent of eight- and sixteen-track recorders, which allowed producers to engage elaborate orchestrations. Which in turn required great musicians.

Case in point: Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram. Recorded in November and December 1970 and January 1971, the album remains one of McCartney's finest post-Beatles albums (Band on the Run is, of course, another). Work on the album began just after the Beatles' breakup and before the founding of Wings.

The only single from the album to hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart was Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, a hugely under-appreciated folk-rock masterpiece. At 2:19 into the song, there's a short but significant flugelhorn solo. It appears right after the ballad portion and deftly unites the expanded verse with the more peppy, up-tempo chorus of the second half.

That solo was performed by jazz trumpeter Marvin Stamm, who was 40 years old at the time, was already a veteran of bands led by Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. [Photo above of Marvin Stamm and Woody Shaw in 1985]

Here's Marv's recollection of the Ram date...

“Leading up to the brass, woodwind, and string sessions, McCartney had, for six weeks, recorded the rhythm tracks with David Spinozza, Hugh McCracken and Denny Seiwell at Columbia Studios on E. 52nd St. Paul then worked with George Martin to fashion and arrange whatever he wanted to do with the orchestra musicians.

“Paul also hired Phil Ramone [above] and his A&R Recording studio on 7th Ave.—a big space with great sound—to overdub the orchestral instruments. Phil called the musicians, and the brass were hired for three sessions—overdubbing one tune per session.    “After we had recorded all the written brass parts to Uncle Albert, Paul came over to the trumpet section, which included Ray Crisara, Snooky Young, Mel Davis and me. Paul said he had a little horn tune he wanted someone to play. Mel Davis said, 'Let the kid play it,' meaning me. [Photo above of Paul McCartney at the Ram session]   “Paul told me that he wanted the solo to sound a bit like it was coming through an old radio cone. Then he sang it to me. I played it back to him several times until he said it was the way he wanted it. Then we recorded the solo. I played it on the flugelhorn. Then he and Phil did whatever sound alteration he wanted in the mixing session.   “Paul was great to work with. He knew exactly what he wanted from the musicians and was respectful and clear in relating it to us. This was unusual. Most rock stars in those days seldom listed the personnel on their albums. So for about a year, I was the most famous unknown trumpet player in the world. [Photo above of Paul and Linda McCartney]

“I'm sure I was flattered, but not much more than that. I didn't make much of it with people, since I have never cared to brag about stuff. I'm only telling you because you asked.

“When I did solo concerts, I sometimes referred to myself as 'The most famous unknown trumpeter,' and then proceeded to play the lick from Uncle Albert. The audience usually recognized it right away, loosening up the crown and drawing some laughs. [Photo above of Marvin Stamm by Marvin S. Orling]

“I didn't have kids at that time, and I don't know if they know now that the horn player was me. They love the music from our (their parents') period, but we didn't make a lot of my career with the kids. We kept our home life the center of our life—even though music was the center of my life.

“My kids have more appreciation of my career now than at that time. Even now, I'm really “Dad," and that's what is truly important."

JazzWax tracks: Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram was released earlier this year in remastered formats, and the result is excellent. You'll find it at Amazon here and here.

JazzWax clip: Here's Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, with Marvin Stamm's solo at 2:19...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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