Sunday Wax Bits - JazzWax

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October 10, 2010


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Bill Kirchner

I see nothing strange about the pairing of Oliver Nelson and Steve Allen. Allen was one of mainstream show biz's staunchest advocates for jazz in the '50s and '60s. He did a number of jazz-oriented albums during that era, and his TV house bands were full of great jazz players, including Terry Gibbs (his frequent musical director), Frank Rosolino, and Joe Pass. And what other talk show host would have featured the Miles Davis Quintet in 1964? Go here:

Ed Leimbacher

I'll echo that. Why Allen gets no respect is a mystery. Albums of his I tried to sell were sneered at, his skills as songwriter, short story writer, essayist, pianist, novelist, comedian, actor, TV host, Jazz promoter, raconteur and more just ignored. Consider this: he was hip enough to give TV time to Miles and Elvis and Ella, Jack Kerouac and James Dean, Jonathan Winter and a young guy named Johnny Carson, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and many a musician more, and to hire Buck Clayton, Sweets Edison, Urbie Green, Yank Lawson, and Lou McGarrity for his studio band. But today, like nada.


Everything Bill says is correct, but it should be clear from the song selection that this wasn't a jazz project. Allen, who dabbled in everything, was a competent, if lightweight, jazz pianist, best known to jazz fans for improvising accompaniments to Jack Kerouac reading from "On the Road" and Slim Gaillard doing "Bop Fables." Chet Baker recorded an album of Allen songs which his biographer, de Valk, described as Chet's worst album (an exaggeration, but far from his best.) Chet himself only vaguely remembered recording songs by "some comedian." Allen also does the introduction to the film of Bill Evans being interviewed by his brother. In the intro Allen tries to explain why Evans is a deeper musician than Trini Lopez, although it's not clear why anyone who would be likely to be watching this would have trouble understanding that.

Doug Payne

The idea to pair Steve Allen and Oliver Nelson together came from producer Bob Thiele. Thiele also "reunited" Allen and Oliver for a second Soulful Brass album in 1970 on the Flying Dutchman label and he did this sort of odd pairing of people as far back as Ellington and Coltrane in 1962...proceeding to such wacky sounding pairings as Allen and Gabor Szabo, Lawrence Welk and Johnny Hodges and just about everybody and (wife) Theresa Brewer. They weren't all terrible choices - Welk and Hodges is terrific. And I'd have to say "Green Tamborine" is my favorite track on Soulful Brass, depsite the fact that there's little else to recommend it.

John P. Cooper

Steve Allen has no accessible legacy any longer, so what is possibly remembered about him was his crazy laugh, THE BENNY GOODMAN STORY, and that ball and chain that seemed to be ever present when he was somewhere.

Johnny Carson gets a lot of lip service, but he has a less accessible legacy than even Steve Allen.

Jack Parr = "who?"

John P. Cooper


Unless there is more than one Lawrence Welk and Johnny Hodges LP, it is not a Thiele production. The LP was on DOT and seemed to be the normal DOT producers, IIRC.

Sadly, it is not very good. Not good Jazz and not good easy listening. :(

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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