When disc jockey Symphony Sid asks drummer Big Sid Catlett what song he, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker are going to play back in June 1945 (Dizzy Gillespie-Charlie Parker/Town Hall), Catlett draws a blank.
So Catlett throws the question to Diz: "What's the name of that thing, Dizzy—Tadd Dameron's tune?" Amid laughter, Dizzy tells him Hot House (see yesterday's post).
As soon as I heard Catlett mention Dameron's name, I knew I wanted to spend the day listening to him. And perhaps because it was only 60 degrees in New York yesterday—with hints of fall in the air—I also wanted to hear John Coltrane, who always sounds best to me in early autumn.
So I reached for Mating Call, which features Tadd and Trane along with John Simmons on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. I had forgotten just how beautiful that album is—Tadd, with those lush locked chords, and Trane, with those wails and scale runs. Fascinating combination of tones and techniques.
Mating Call has always been a bone of contention among critics, as Ira Gitler points out in the updated liner notes. Back in 1957, when the album came out, jazz critic Nat Hentoff wrote a review in which he wished there had been an extra horn on the date, "a gentler trumpet, say," he mused. Gitler says he tends to agree in retrospect.
But after listening to the CD six times yesterday, I'm not so sure. Tadd is so pretty and soft, and his writing is so shrewd (all of the songs on the album are Tadd's), that he in effect becomes that gentle sound Hentoff was looking for. Adding a trumpet would have robbed Dameron of the space he needed to make this album special.
Instead of hearing a round, punctuating trumpet, we get vast open stretches featuring Dameron, who fills the gaps with clean, delicate piano playing. Trane jumps on and off the flatbed Dameron provides, offering spirals of sound and giving Dameron plenty of room to be pretty. As a composer and player, Dameron was bebop's Billy Strayhorn, that's for sure.
Producer Bob Weinstock had envisioned the date as a quintet session, and why a trumpet wasn't added remains a mystery. The two go-to horn players at the time would have been Donald Byrd (with whom Trane recorded two months earlier on Paul Chambers' Whims of Chambers for Blue Note) and Lee Morgan.
But five days before the Mating Call session on November 30, 1956, Byrd was recording Hank Mobley with Donald Byrd and Lee Morgan (Blue Note) and preparing for a December 8 date with Doug Watkins on Watkins at Large (Blue Note).
Lee Morgan was tied up with Dizzy Gillispie's big band at a Birdland engagement that week and due in the studio on December 2 to record The Lee Morgan Sextet (Blue Note).
With the death of Clifford Brown in June 1956, Blue Note was furiously recording as many hard bop albums as possible to meet the demand for the new, more aggressive sound.
In all fairness to Trane, by the end of November 1956, he must have been suffering from trumpet exhaustion. Back on October 26, he had been locked in Rudy Van Gelder's studio with Miles Davis for a marathon recording session to mop up Miles' obligation to the Prestige label after Miles signed with Columbia Records.
On October 26, Trane and Miles recorded by my count a total of 14 tracks that would appear on subsequent releases—four on Cookin', four on Relaxin', four on Workin', one on Steamin' and yet another for what would become the Modern Jazz Giants LP.
More to the point, Mating Call was Tadd's date. Trane was enlisted to accompany Dameron, and Tadd may have waved Weinstock off.
The more I listened to Mating Call yesterday, the more I marveled at how rich and interesting the album is. There isn't a dull number on the disc (and how could there be, given that they all are from Dameron's pen). But the magic really is in the subtle interplay between Dameron's aromatic piano and Trane's strong sound. This album would have worked even if it were just a duo—Tadd and Trane.
At the end of my listening session, I realized that this album has much in common with John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (Impulse/1963). Except on Mating Call, Tadd is the vocalist, with Trane weaving in and out, setting up Tadd's beautiful ideas.
Dameron died in 1965. He wrote many jazz standards including Good Bait, Our Delight, Lady Bird and if You Could See Me Now. He also recorded a bunch of beautiful albums. Tadd was terribly underrated, never achieving the fame or fortune he deserved. I urge you to give Mating Call a re-listen.
Wax tracks: Tadd was an extraordinary composer, as Mating Call demonstrates. Listen to the minor opening and major resolution on the title track. Or the skippy bop beauty of Gnid, the patient ballad Soultrane, the loping On a Misty Night, the blues of Romas and the soaring Super Jet.
This is one gem of an album. If you only want to download one track, make it Gnid or On a Misty Night. But beware--you'll want to download the entire album. Or just buy the CD for about $8. The CD was remastered and re-released in May, and it sounds like a million bucks.
Wax mix: For a kick—copy Mating Call and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman into the same iTunes folder, mix up the order and let it play. You'll see what I mean about the two albums being of like mind and temperament. To be sure, Mating Call is much, much stronger work of art. But the pair create an interesting mesh.