Recent Listening: Fruscella & Moore

Tony Fruscella & Brew Moore, The 1954 Unissued Atlantic Session (Fresh Sound).

Fruscella was an enigmatic trumpeter with a deeply personal style, Moore a tenor saxophonist who once said that anyone who didn’t play like Lester Young was wrong. At a time when Dizzy Gillespie’s fiery playing was the general model, Fruscella was one of a few young trumpeters who concentrated on tone, lyricism and quiet melodic invention. Others were Don Joseph, Phil Sunkel, Miles Davis and Chet Baker. The Atlantic recordings that Fruscella and Moore made together in March of 1954 have never been released until now. Fruscella died in 1969, Moore in 1973.

The pieces are all blues except for one composition by pianist Bill Triglia. The CD contains nothing as captivating as Fruscella’s solo on “I’ll Be Seeing You” from the self-titled album he recorded for Atlantic the next year. Nonetheless, the trumpeter’s flowing lines and deep sound combine with Moore’s relaxation and swing in performances whose inventiveness surmounts the simplicity of the material. The rhythm section—Triglia, piano; Teddy Kotick, bass; Bill Heine, drums— is excellent in support. The underrated Triglia solos briefly and well. Fresh Sound rounds out the album with “Blue Bells” and “Roundup Time,” pieces that Fruscella recorded with Stan Getz in 1955 when he was in Getz’s quintet.

This is a valuable find. The album, all but a rumor for decades, was widely anticipated. Reports are that its first pressing sold out within weeks of release. Presumably, there will be another.

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  1. Holger Schrick says

    Who, please, was Don Joseph? I’ve found just a few sources (Tom Lord) about the musician.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      Joseph played trumpet with big bands led by Buddy Rich, Alvino Rey and Lucky Millinder in the 1940s. He kept a low profile in New York in the 1950s, sitting in at clubs where he and Fruscella sometimes jammed together. He recorded seldom, notably with guitarist Chuck Wayne and with Gerry Mulligan’s big band. In poor health, he repaired to Staten Island and private teaching. Joseph made a small splash with the Uptown Records album One of a Kind (1984), which was widely and favorably reviewed. Al Cohn and Red Mitchell were among the sidemen. Uptown has said that it may reissue the album as a CD next year. For rare video samples of Joseph’s understated cornet playing, go here and here.

      • says

        Don Joseph was a rare and brilliant improvisor. I had the joy of knowing him and playing with him at local Staten Island clubs and jam sessions when I was paying my “dues” and living on S.I. in the late 50’s.

        I learned many great standards from him on these gigs, One was, “Little Old Lady”, which I recorded on the cd, “HERE’S WHAT I LIKE”. We played shows, lounges, weddings, dances, you name it. One such place was Crochitoes, a pizza place that hired comedians, dancers (strippers) and singers on weekends. This was in South Beach, S.I. and we played there for 6-8 straight months in 1954-5. Between the shows we played jazz. I became very much under the influence of his melodic style during this time period and feel I owe my improvising and rhythmic phrasing to his influence on the way I improvise today.

        His teaching on S.I. also included a long stint as band director and full-time music appreciation teacher at Farrell Catholic High School. The kids loved him and he loved them.

        He had an keen interest in Literature, especially Shakespeare; and he would suddenly, at the drop of the hat, stand up on stage and recite long passages from memory in that deep Orson Wellsian voice with the conviction of a seasoned Shakespearian actor. He had us spellbound and dizzy with laughter as he added his own interpretations of Shakespeare.

        He became clean and healthy in the latter days of his life and was very content to live in relative seclusion with his trumpet and books on Staten Island.

        Don is always with me.

  2. Denis Ouellet says

    Great recording. Thanks. Don’t you love the Andorrans?

    Also on the Jazz Factory label Tony Fruscella The Complete Works, two CDs. The highlight for me is music recorded live at the Open Door in mid-1953 with Brew Moore, Bill Triglia, Teddy Kotick and Art Mardigan.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      I don’t know any Andorrans well enough to love them. Jazz Factory is part of the Fresh Sound family of labels based in Barcelona, Spain.

  3. Jon Foley says

    It’s good to have this music available after so many years; it means my collection of all existing Fruscella recordings is almost complete, with the exception of “Brooklyn Jam,” which I understand has terrible sound and is very expensive, and the three tracks recorded at his apartment with Dave Schildkraut. Not that you meant your list of trumpeters in that school to be exclusive, but I’d add Jon Eardley, Jerry Lloyd and Don Ferrara to that “Sons of Bix Beiderbecke” list.

    Drummer Bill Heine was a name just barely familiar to me so I looked him up online. He has a website. It’s worth looking at—he’s had quite an interesting life. Anyone who knew Ezra Pound, e.e. cummings and Dylan Thomas, played piano for Libby Holman, hung out with the early Beat writers, roomed with Willem de Kooning, is an accomplished painter, and played drums with Charlie Parker qualifies as an interesting guy to me. And he’s still with us, living in Woodstock, NY at the age of 82!

  4. says

    Thanks for the tip, Doug.

    Can’t wait to hear those recordings. I have all the live-sessions with Brew ‘n’ Fru, plus the obscure studio date with altoist Chick Maures. It was each participant’s initial studio date:

    Tony Fruscella (ldr), Chick Maures (as), Tony Fruscella (t), Bill Triglia (p), Red Mitchell (b), Dave Troy (d) – Vocarium Studios, New York City, December 10, 1948.

    There is a Tony Fruscella Discography on the internet; I haven’t checked if it’s complete, but it looks quite good.

  5. Allen Lowe says

    some notes on this whole subject – in the space of about one week (circa 1976) two separate people, in independent conversations, said the following to me about Fruscella:

    “He was playing that way BEFORE Miles was playing that way, and he had it together BEFORE Miles had it together” – drummer Sir John Godfrey

    “Tony did that stuff better than Miles” – pianist Bill Triglia

    Let me just add that Triglia, an old friend who died not too long ago, was, for my money, one of the truly great pianists of the bebop era, in the same post-Bud spread as Al Haig, Hank Jones, George Wallington, et al. His playing is heard to best advantage on the Joe Maini/Jimmy Knepper/Mingus thing on Debut; unfortunately he slipped into oblivion after the 1960s, though he continued to nurture many fine young musicians (one of whom, Jared Bernstein, is now Joe Biden’s chief economic adviser; I used to book Jared with Bill at a place called the Charcuterie in Manhattan in the middle ’70s). I met Bill through Dave Schildkraut, for whom Bill was a tireless advocate (but that’s another story). More fun to hear were Bill’s stories about working with Lester Young, and even more interesting were his tales of Bud Powell.