NOTICE TO RIFFTIDES READERS: THIS ITEM IS UPDATED WITH INFORMATION ADDED SINCE THE ORIGINAL POSTING.
A Rifftides reader asks:
Can you point us to recordings of the Mandel arrangements you mentioned in your recent posting? (I’m having trouble locating “TNT”, “Keester Parade” and some of the others.)
With pleasure. I’ll give you sources for those and others. Click on the blue links to find the CDs.
Not his earliest, but some of Mandel’s best compositions and arrangements of the forties were for Artie Shaw’s superb—and short-lived—bebop band. “Krazy Kat” and “Innuendo” are in Artie Shaw and His Orchestra 1949 (Music Masters), along with Mandel’s arrangement of “I Get a Kick Out of You.”
His arrangement of Count Basie’s “Low Life” is on Count Basie: Low Life (Jazz Club). “Low Life” is also in the Mosaic boxed set The Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings, as is Mandel’s “Straight Life.”
“Not Really the Blues” is part of a Capitol Woody Herman compilation, Keeper of the Flame. Mandel once told me that Herman recorded the piece at a slower tempo than he had in mind. Mandel kicked it off considerably more briskly the other night in his JWC3 concert. Nonetheless, Herman’s is a great performance of a brilliant arrangement. The musicians in Herman’s Third Herd (mid-1950s) loved the chart so much that they often prevailed on the old man to play it two or three times a night. Later in the fifties, Herman recorded Mandel’s “Sinbad the Sailor” for the Everest label. If you buy the most recent reissue that contains “Sinbad,” the CD called Herman’s Heat & Puente’s Beat, be aware that the music is wonderful, but the album is a discographical mess; titles don’t match the tracks. “Sinbad” is listed as track 17. It is, in fact, track 13. Track 17 is Neal Hefti’s “The Good Earth.”
“Keester Parade,” “TNT” and “Groover Wailin’” are on Cy Touff, His Octet & Quintet (Pacific Jazz), one of the best albums by any medium-sized band. It is neck and neck in the Mandel sweepstakes with his arrangements in Hoagy Sings Carmichael (Pacific Jazz), a showcase not only for Carmichael but also for the alto saxophonist Art Pepper. The Touff session personnel included trumpeter Harry Edison, who was so impressed with “Keester Parade” that he later borrowed (ahem) Mandel’s melody and called it “Centerpiece.”
Also in the fifties, Mandel made arrangements of “Stella by Starlight” and his composition “Tommyhawk” for a Chet Baker sextet that included valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, and Bud Shank playing Baritone saxophone. They are in an album called Chet Baker Big Band (Pacific Jazz), in which the biggest band has eleven pieces. A master of writing for strings, some of Mandel’s earliest and loveliest work in that idiom was also for Baker—arrangements of “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “Love,” “I Love You” and “The Wind” in Chet Baker & Strings (Columbia). Mandel’s score of the 1958 film I Want To Live is on the movie soundtrack recording. The motion picture is available on DVD. He wrote superb arrangements of “Black Nightgown” and “Barbara’s Theme” for Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band (Mosaic) in the 1960s.
Mandel’s later career as a song writer and composer-arranger for motion pictures and television grew out of his years of writing for jazz groups. The pieces mentioned are remarkably fresh and undated.