Sam Most: "East Coast Jazz"


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A long-forgotten Sam Most album on the Bethlehem label has just been remastered and reissued. Recorded in 1955, I'm Nuts About Most...Sam That Is! was the ninth and final album in the series of “East Coast Jazz" LPs that Creed Taylor produced while at Bethlehem.

Creed launched the “East Coast Jazz" series in 1954 to distinguish the new music emerging in New York from the new jazz in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In addition, with the rise of the LP mid-decade, Creed was on the prowl for exciting musical concepts by his favorite artists to fill the label's longer album pipeline.

But Bethlehem's “East Coast Jazz" series had an additional purpose. The recordings shrewdly enabled Creed to stake his turf and brand his taste in jazz. Back in '54 and '55—before transcontinental jet tavel—Creed told me that traveling between the coasts as a producer wasn't economical. Each of Bethlehem's base of operations needed its own visionary. So while Creed headed up Bethlehem's New York outpost, Red Clyde produced the label's efforts in Los Angeles. The division of labor suited Creed perfectly. “As far as I was concerned, nothing was happening on the West Coast anyway," he told me.

By my count, there were nine albums in the “East Coast Jazz" series—and each remains a swinging gem. The last one was recorded in March 1955 by flutist Sam Most. Unlike the others, which just featured the artist's name on the cover along with “East Coast Jazz" in small type and the volume number, the Most album was called, I'm Nuts About Most...Sam That Is!, with “East Coast Jazz #9" in smaller type.

My guess is this was the first of the series of moodier 12-inch album covers that needed a more robust title than simply the artist's name. The ginger-tinted cover featured a squirrel photographed near Central Park (based on the famed hexagon cobblestones). By the end of '55, Creed had left Bethlehem for ABC Paramount, where he would start the Impulse jazz label in 1960. [Photo of Creed Taylor above by Chuck Stewart]

Half the Most album was recorded with Sam Most (fl,cl), Marty Flax (bar), Bill Triglia (p), Barry Galbraith (g), Burgher Jones (b) and Bobby Donaldson (d). Tracks: Cherokee, Don't Worry 'Bout Me, How Deep Is the Ocean, What a Difference a Day Made and Tea for Two.

On the next session, Oscar Pettiford (b) and Osie Johnson (d) replaced Jones and Donaldson. The tracks: Smiles, Broadway, 'Deed I Do, Falling in Love With Love and Rose Room.

What makes this album spectacular is the swinging quality of Most's flute and clarinet. Most had a groovy, highly lyrical style that seemed to sound better and better the faster the tune. Most is one of my favorites, and I can tell you the guy was incapable of recording a bad album. If this is your introduction to Sam Most, you'll be thrilled to know there are plenty more.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find I'm Nuts About Most...Sam That Is! (Verse Music Group) remastered at iTunes and here.

JazzWax note: Here's a list of the entire “East Coast Jazz" series...
  • Bobby Scott/1
  • Vinnie Burke/2
  • Joe Puma/3
  • Herbie Mann/4
  • Milt Hinton/5
  • Urbie Green/6
  • Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson/7
  • Hal McKusick/8
  • Sam Most/9
JazzWax clip: Here's a documentary on Sam Most and brother and clarinetist Abe Most...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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