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Trigger Alpert: 'Trigger Happy!'


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Bassist Herman “Trigger" Alpert had an illustrious career. A muscular time-keeper with a refined sense of swing, he began recording in February 1940 in Frankie Trumbauer's orchestra while touring with Alvino Rey's band. That's where Glenn Miller heard him play and, by the fall of '40, Alpert was a member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. When Miller went into the Army Air Force in 1942, Alpert was drafted into the Army. Miller traded several musicians to bring Alpert over to his Army Air Force Band.

After Miller's death in December 1944 and Alpert's discharge in 1945, he recorded largely in orchestras led by artists ranging from Coleman Hawkins and Artie Shaw to Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan. By the mid-1950s, with the advent of the 12-inch LP, Alpert began recording with small groups, most notably on a series of albums led by guitarist Mundell Lowe. They had met on recording dates for Buddy Weed, vocalist Jo Jo Johnson, Sauter-Finegan and Bobby Dukoff. By 1955, Mundy was recording for Riverside and scouting for the label, bringing artists like Bill Evans to the attention of Orrin Keepnews.

In 1956, thanks to Mundy, Alpert recorded his first and only album as a leader. Called Trigger Happy! Trigger Alpert's Absolutely All-Star Seven, the album was recorded for Riverside in October and featured Joe Wilder (tp) Urbie Green (tb) Tony Scott (cl,ts) Zoot Sims (as,ts) Al Cohn (ts,bar) Trigger Alpert (b) and Ed Shaughnessy (d). Arrangements were by Marty Paich, Tony Scott and Dick Hyman. What's most interesting is how beautifully the distinct sounds of each musician came together—from the tissue-soft pleading of trombonist Urbie Green to the dry-gin tone of clarinetist Tony Scott. It was a rare, magical union of instrumental personalities.

But this album is another one of those jazz mysteries. Despite recording an absolutely perfect string of tunes, there was no followup. With a wife and three children to support, Alpert began spending more time recording in studios for radio and TV as well as albums, and with demand high, all of the other artists on the Trigger Happy! date went their separate ways. [Above, Trigger Alpert in 2012]

The standouts on this album are Alpert's hearty bass and Scott's clarinet solos. As I've said in the past, Scott [above] is an acquired taste, since his playing at first listen often sounds a bit sour and struggling. But to me, this is what gives it its charm and makes him such an interesting player, especially here, with so many swinging smoothies behind him. Fortunately, Scott takes solos on most of the tracks. Also notable is I Don't Want to Be Alone Again, a ballad arranged by Scott. It's so tight that the reeds sound like an accordion.

If only producer Orrin Keepnews had locked these guys in a room and squeezed another two sessions out of them. Alpert died in 2013.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Trigger Happy! remastered here by Fresh Sound.

JazzWax clip: Here's Marty Paich's arrangement of I Like the Likes of You...

Here's Dick Hyman's arrangement of Trigger Fantasy...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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