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Phil Sunkel: Jazz Concert Grosso

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Phil Sunkel
Phil Sunkel was a swinging trumpeter and cornetist who never overblew his horn. Like Dick Collins, Sunkel was a tone guy who had a knack for picking choice notes and playing them beautifully, whether working up the scale or down. Sunkel began recording in the mid-1950s and led his first session—Phil Sunkel's Jazz Band—in June 1956 for ABC-Paramount. He then was a sideman on many superb dates, including Aaron Sachs's Clarinet & Co., The Gerry Mulligan Concert Band, Billy VerPlanck's Jazz for Playgirls, Lee Konitz's You and Lee, Gil Evans's Out of the Cool and Peggy Lee at Basin Street East.

But Sunkel was also a brilliant composer. A prime example of his writing skills is Jazz Concerto Grosso, an album of just three songs that was recorded for ABC-Paramount in October 1957. The title track featured Phil Sunkel (cnt), Nick Travis, Al Stewart, Don Stratton and John Wilson (tp), Frank Rehak (tb), Bob Brookmeyer (v-tb), Eddie Bert (b-tb), Don Butterfield (tu), Dick Meldonian (as), Cliff Hoff and Bill Slapin (ts), Gene Allen and Gerry Mulligan (bar), Milt Hinton (b) and Osie Johnson (d).

The other two tracks—Something for the Ladies and Song for Cornet—featured Sunkel (cnt), John Wilson (flhrn), Bob Brookmeyer (v-tb), Jim Reider (ts), Gerry Mulligan (bar), Wendell Marshall (b) and Harold Granowsky (d).

The music throughout the album swings and is smartly arranged, with a contrapuntal core. I wish I could tell you more about Sunkel but the web is all but bereft of news or information about him. Hopefully readers will fill in the blanks.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Jazz Concerto Grosso here, on the final three tracks. The balance of the album is comprised of Phil Sunkel's Jazz Band, also a superb recording.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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