Perfect Album: Pettiford in Hi-Fi


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Back in the 1940s and '50s, Oscar Pettiford was one of the finest jazz bassists and cellists in New York. In the mid-1950s, he formed a big band with top musicians and arrangers and recorded two albums for Creed Taylor's ABC-Paramount label. The albums were Oscar Pettiford Orchestra in Hi-Fi, Vol 1. and Vol. 2. The first was recorded in June 1956. The compositions and arrangements on each and every track remain spectacular.

The first of the three sessions for Hi-Fi Vol. 1 was recorded on June 11 and featured Ernie Royal and Art Farmer (tp); Jimmy Cleveland (tb); Julius Watkins and David Amram (fhr); Gigi Gryce (as,arr); Lucky Thompson (ts,arr); Jerome Richardson (ts,fl); Danny Bank (bar); Tommy Flanagan (p); Oscar Pettiford (b) and Osie Johnson (d). The songs recorded that day were Gigi Gryce's Nica's Tempo (Gryce's arrangement) and Lucky Thompson's Deep Passion (Thompson's arrangement).

The second recording session was held a day later on June 12. Harpist Janet Putnam was added and Whitey Mitchell was added on Smoke Signal (written and arranged by Gryce). The other songs recorded were Sunrise Sunset (written by Pettiford and arranged by Gryce), Not So Sleepy (written by Mat Mathews and arranged by Gryce) and Perdido (arranged by Thompson).

The final session was held on June 19. Dave Kurtzer (bar) replaced Danny Bank in the band. The songs were Speculation (written by Horace Silver and arranged by Gryce), Two French Fries (written and arranged by Gryce), The Pendulum at Falcon's Lair (written and arranged by Pettiford), and The Gentle Art of Love (written by Pettiford and arranged by Thompson).

As you can hear, the band is first rate and the music is romantic and majestic. The players sound terrific, especially Pettiford plucking the cello. As for the arrangements, they are gorgeous.

Oscar Pettiford died in 1960.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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