Pete Jolly and A&M

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Pete Jolly
Between 1968 and 1970, West Coast pianist Pete Jolly recorded three albums for Herb Alpert's A&M label. Each had a different sound, tapping into Jolly's smooth mood feel, his aggressive jazz keyboard style and his inventiveness on electronic instruments. All three were produced by Herb in Los Angeles.

In late 1967, Herb's success with the Tijuana Brass occupied much of his time, both in the studio and on tours. Psychedelic rock was the rage, but to A&M's credit, the label rejected acid records that referenced LSD or trips. As A&M's general manager Gil Friesen told Billboard in Aug. 1967, “There are five or six acid records brought here everyday. We turn them down. It's just not our bag." A&M had produced the Merry-go-Round, a psychedelic-lite band whose sole release was a bad trip, peaking at No. 190 on Billboard's album chart.

Moving forward, A&M focused instead on the young bachelor market that favored easy-going music after work or while unwinding over drinks with friends or a love interest. For the jazzy set, Herb hired New York producer Creed Taylor away from Verve. In the fall of '67, A&M released albums by Burt Bacharach, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Wes Montgomery, Claudine Longet and Jimmy Rodgers. The groundbreaking Montgomery and Jobim albums—A Day in the Life and Wave, respectively—were produced by Creed under his new CTI imprint at A&M.

The following year, Herb signed and produced Jolly by leveraging Creed's sophisticated approach. Their first album together was Herb Alpert Presents Pete Jolly, with the Marty Paich Orchestra, which included Pete Jolly (p,accor), John Pisano (g), Chuck Berghofer (b), Earl Palmer (d) as well as Stu Williamson (flhrn), Bud Shank (as,fl), Vince DeRosa (fhr) with an orchestra and strings. As 1960s easy listening music goes, this album is breezy and engaging, with a shrewd Jolly framed warmly by Paich.

In 1969, A&M recorded Jolly live at Donte's in North Hollywood. Songs on Give a Damn included Little Green Apples, What the World Needs Now and The Look of Love. The band featured Conte Candoli and Jay Daversa (tp), Bob Edmondson (tb), Bob Brookmeyer (v-tb), Pete Jolly (p), Chuck Berghofer (b) and Nick Ceroli (d), with Dee Barton handling the brass arrangements. Jolly's attack is more spirited and pronounced here, backed by what was essentially a portable version of the Paich sound.

Seasons, Jolly's third album for A&M, in 1970, was the most experimental of the three forthe label. Arranged by Bill Holman, the soft, funky session featured Jolly on Wurlitzer electronic piano, accordion, musette, sano vox and Hammond organ. Jolly was joined by John Pisano (g), Chuck Berghofer (b), Paul Humphrey (d), Milt Holland and Emil Richards (perc) plus a brass section that was dubbed in later on one track, Indian Summer.

By then, Herb had leveraged his approach to pop rock, with a focus on the Carpenters, the brother-and-sister group whose albums would wind up saving the label. Jolly returned to A&M in 1980 to play accordion on Herb's Grammy-winning Rise. Pete Jolly died in 2004.

JazzWax clips: Here's Lonely Girl from Herb Alpert Presents Pete Jolly...



Here's Jolly playing The Trolley Song on Give a Damn...



And here's Jolly playing the title track from Seasons...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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