Hal McKusick in 1956 - JazzWax

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December 21, 2010


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Larry Kart

What would the schedules of Milt Hinton and Osie Johnson have been like for that year? :)

What's crazy is that I own or remember have listened to twenty-one of those twenty-seven recordings.

A sleeper here, if you ever find a copy, is Tommy Shephard's "Shephard's Flock." Shephard is in the out-of-Dorsey, Buddy Morrow mold, not really a jazz soloist, but it's a nice one trumpet (Nick Travis) ten-piece mini-big band band, and they play some fine Al Cohn, Manny Albam, and Nat Pierce charts with the exquisite care that often was the norm in those circles at that time. In fact, the "mellow" premise of the date give it a different and arguably more attractive feel than some of the neo-Basie "shouting" things that these studio regulars were producing at that time. IIRC, Cohn's "Darn That Dream" and Albam's "Prelude To a Kiss" are especially nice.

Bill Kirchner

There were several sessions and arrangers who went into that first Johnny Mathis album for Columbia. In addition to Manny Albam, other arrangers included Gil Evans, John Lewis, Teo Macero, and Bob Prince.

That album (produced by George Avakian) is as close to jazz singing as Johnny Mathis ever got. Though I hasten to add that having played in an orchestra backing him at Radio City Music Hall about 20 years ago, I found that he remains one classy singer.

Ed Leimbacher

Well, Marc, you've done Johnny Mandel... how about Johnny Mathis? His early career had many major Jazz names attached, as Mssrs. Kart and Kirchner have kommented. I always liked that Two Guitars by-the-fire smoocher myself; I can remember spinning it under the right circumstances once or twice...

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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