Back in the early 1960s, big bands led by jazz stars of the 1940s and '50s still packed clubs in Hollywood. The Summit was one of them. Owned and co-managed by Jimmie Maddin from 1958 to 1962, the Summit was at the corner of Wilcox and Sunset and could host up to 200 people. Maddin ran it with Tommy Bee, a major jazz disc jockey in L.A. at the time, and the club featured top artists like John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Yusef Lateef. In January 1962, Louie Bellson took a powerful big band into the club and recorded over three nights for Roulette.
Like many of Bellson's recordings from the early 1960s, this one features Bellson at the top of his game. The all-star band over the three nights collectively featured John Audino, Jimmy Zito, Conte Candoli, Frank Huggins, Ray Triscari, Uan Rasey and Al Porcino (tp); Nick DiMaio and Mike Barone (tb); Ernie Tack (b-tb); Arthur Maebe (fhr); Red Callender (tu); Joe Maini and Bill Green (as); Carrington Visor and Bill Perkins (ts); Teddy Lee (bar); Gene Estes (vib); Lou Levy (p); Tony Rizzi (g); Jimmy Bond (b) and Louie Bellson (d).
Interestingly, solos are held to a minimum as the band surges forward as a collective unit, with an emphasis on Louie's drumming. The terrific band is able to pull this off thanks to superb arrangements by Benny Carter (Amoroso), Marty Paich (St. Louie) and Shorty Rogers (With Bells On). A handful of solos surface by Candoli, Maini, Perkins, Levy, Zito and Visor. Wally Heider, the date's engineer, would go on to record numerous top rock albums later in the '60s and '70s at his San Francisco studio.
Among Bellson's other superb Los Angeles albums from this period are The Brilliant Bellson Sound (1959), Louis Bellson Swings Julie Styne (1960), Around the World in Percussion (1961) and Thunderbird (1963).
JazzWax note: You can read my 2007 two-part interview with Louie Bellson here.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Louie Bellson: Big Band Jazz From the Summit and Small Band Unreleased Studio Session (Fresh Sound) here. The big band portion runs from Who's Who to The Diplomat Speaks.
JazzWax clip: From Bellson's From the Summit album, here are three tracks...
A special JazzWax thanks to David Langner.